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Offseason Lowdown

Cut Candidates: AFC East

by Nick Mensio
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

We’re shifting into offseason mode here at Rotoworld. In a salary-cap league with non-guaranteed contracts like the NFL, the offseason is a time teams rid themselves of players not living up their pay scale. Every year, handfuls among handfuls of players are asked to take pay cuts or simply released outright. Before free agency opens March 10, I’ll highlight names from each team who may be on the roster bubble. According to several reports, the salary cap is expected to rise to roughly $142 million in 2015. Terms to know are "cap number", "cap savings", "cash savings", and "dead money". Cap number is how much Player X will count against Team X's salary cap. Cap savings is how much Team X will clear in salary-cap space by cutting Player X. Cash savings is how much Team X will save in terms of sheer cash, and it can be formulated by Player X's base salary + bonuses. Dead money is how much Player X will count against Team X's salary cap, even if he is released. We’ll kick things off with the AFC East.

Mensio’s Note: For detailed salary cap and contract information, go check out OverTheCap.com. Salary figures and cap numbers are from them. I’d also like to give a shout-out to self-proclaimed salary cap enthusiast Andrew Cohen for answering several questions for me. Follow him on Twitter here.

BUFFALO BILLS

OG Chris Williams
Cap number: $3.35M
Cap savings: $725K
Cash savings: $2.475M
Dead money: $2.625M
Before now-former coach Doug Marrone opted out of his contract and new coach Rex Ryan brought in OC Greg Roman, I had OG Kraig Urbik in this slot. The Bills could still cut Urbik, who fell out of favor under the old coaching staff, but he’s a better fit for Roman’s power-blocking scheme. Williams, on the other hand, inked a four-year deal last offseason but is a finesse player and isn’t going to go out and maul anyone in the running game. While the Bills’ offensive line was a massive weak spot in 2014, a unit of LT Cordy Glenn, LG Cyril Richardson, C Eric Wood, RG Urbik, and RT Seantrel Henderson isn’t a bad group to start with for Roman. Expect the Bills to look for blockers in free agency and the draft.

TE Scott Chandler
Cap number: $2.85M
Cap savings: $2.25M
Cash savings: $2.3M
Dead money: $600K
With one year left on his contract, Chandler should be an easy decision. He’ll be 30 next season and saw his numbers dip in 2014 despite improved quarterback play from Kyle Orton. Chandler also isn’t much of a blocker. Even with his huge frame (6’7, 260), Chandler doesn’t score many touchdowns and isn’t a threat in the red zone. The Bills could really use a playmaking tight end.

OLB Keith Rivers
Cap number: $2.2M
Cap savings: $1.7M
Cash savings: $1.7M
Dead money: $500K
Rivers, 29 in May, isn’t a fit in coach Rex Ryan’s 3-4 scheme. He’s always been a 4-3 outside linebacker. The former No. 9 overall pick played just 238 defensive snaps for DC Jim Schwartz in 2014.

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MIAMI DOLPHINS

WR Mike Wallace
Cap number: $12.1M
Cap savings: $2.5M
Cash savings: $6.9M
Dead money: $9.6M
Wallace had a fine season all things considered. He was fantasy’s No. 18 receiver, finishing the year with a 67-862-10 line. Ryan Tannehill simply can’t throw the deep ball, which is Wallace’s specialty. And Wallace allegedly complained several times during games about not getting the ball. It all came to a head in Week 17 when Wallace pulled himself out of the game before halftime because he wasn’t seeing targets. Wallace is entering the third year of a five-year, $60 million contract, one that is virtually impossible to trade due to the massive cap number. The Dolphins need to do something with Wallace, as they can’t let him decide when he will and won’t play. That doesn’t set a good example for the other players in the locker room and makes the coaches look bad. I don’t see Miami cutting Wallace for the simple reason that they don’t have much else at the position behind Jarvis Landry. Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson are easier cuts than Wallace.

WLB Dannell Ellerbe
Cap number: $9.85M
Cap savings: $5.65M
Cash savings: $8.45M
Dead money: $4.2M
One of ex-GM Jeff Ireland’s many mistakes, Ellerbe was Pro Football Focus’ 50th-ranked inside linebacker out of 55 qualifiers in 2013, receiving extremely poor marks in run defense. The Dolphins moved Ellerbe to the weak side in 2014, and he ended up playing just one game before tearing up his hip. Ellerbe will turn 30 next season, and hip injuries are never good for athletes that need to quickly change direction. Jelani Jenkins and Dion Jordan are in-house options for the Dolphins at WLB.

WR Brian Hartline
Cap number: $7.35M
Cap savings: $3.15M
Cash savings: $5.95M
Dead money: $4.2M
Hartline is one of the most overpaid players in the league. This should be an easy call for GM Dennis Hickey, though we suspect the Dolphins will first approach Hartline about a pay cut. He’s not going to get $6M annually anywhere else. Hartline doesn’t score touchdowns and saw his role scaled back considerably in 2014 with Jarvis Landry overtaking him as the No. 2 receiver. Hartline averaged 0.99 yards-per-route. That’s worse than Riley Cooper’s mark of 1.02. Pack your bags.

CB Cortland Finnegan
Cap number: $6.475M
Cap savings: $5.475M
Cash savings: $5.475M
Dead money: $1M
Finnegan was a decent find for the Dolphins after the Rams cut him last offseason, but his play fell off after a decent start to the season. He battled injuries, will turn 31 next month, and finished as Pro Football Focus’ No. 74 corner. The Dolphins have former second-round pick Jamar Taylor and slot CB Jimmy Wilson behind No. 1 CB Brent Grimes, though we suspect Miami will be eyeing help at the position in the spring.

DT Randy Starks
Cap number: $6M
Cap savings: $5M
Cash savings: $5M
Dead money: $1M
Starks, 31, has no guaranteed money left on his deal and saw his snaps dialed back in 2014. He was still an effective pocket-pusher on the interior, but the Dolphins are already projected to be over the roughly-$142 million salary cap. Working in Starks’ favor is fellow DT Jared Odrick is headed for free agency, and the Dolphins would have nothing behind Earl Mitchell at the position if they cut Starks and are unable to re-sign Odrick.

WR Brandon Gibson
Cap number: $4.26M
Cap savings: $3.26M
Cash savings: $3.26M
Dead money: $1M
Gibson blew out his patellar tendon in Week 8 of the 2013 season, but was healthy in time for the season opener and ended up playing in 14-of-16 games. However, his production was way down thanks to decreased snaps and minor groin, hamstring, and knee injuries. Gibson finished dead-last in PFF’s yards-per-route metric with a pitiful 0.94 mark. Owed a prohibitive $3.225M salary, Gibson is a lock to get his walking papers. He should resurface in the league elsewhere because he can play all over the formation, but he’s nothing more than a No. 4 receiver.

P Brandon Fields
Cap number: $3.903M
Cap savings: $3.113M
Cash savings: $3.508M
Dead money: $790K
Fields is scheduled to have the second-highest cap number among the league’s punters for 2015. As mentioned above, the Dolphins are already over the cap, so slashing Fields’ contract should be an easy call. On top of the high salary, Fields is coming off an awful season where he finished 24th in net average (38.6 yards).

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

ILB Jerod Mayo
Cap number: $10.6M
Cap savings: $4.6M
Cash savings: $7M
Dead money: $6M
Mayo ruptured his patellar tendon in Week 6 and was sent to I.R. In stepped Jamie Collins and Donta’ Hightower as the Patriots’ full-time inside linebackers. The New England defense then took major steps forward. Mayo is a one-dimensional downhill run-stopper who comes off the field in sub-packages, while Collins and Hightower play every snap and can cover and play the run. It just doesn’t make sense economically to keep Mayo around, especially when he’s due the second-highest cap number on the team behind Tom Brady. Mayo is a fine leader, but the NFL is a business.

DL Vince Wilfork
Cap number: $8.433M
Cap savings: $7.567M
Cash savings: $8M
Dead money: $867K
I don’t think the Patriots will do Wilfork dirty again this offseason. I see him coming back in 2015 despite the hefty money hit. Wilfork restructured his contract a bit last March and settled for two “option” years in 2015 and 2016. He held up his end of the bargain this season and was nails against the run, remaining a key cog in New England’s well-oiled machine on defense. He doesn’t put stats on paper, but gobbles up two blockers on every play, allowing the Patriots’ linebackers to crash down and make plays. Wilfork will be 34 next season but is still playing at a high level.

WR Danny Amendola
Cap number: $5.7M
Cap savings: $2.1M
Cash savings: $4.5M
Dead money: $3.6M
Amendola has never seemed to be on the same page with Tom Brady. His snaps were snipped in 2014 and had just one regular-season game where he posted more than 35 receiving yards. Amendola’s salary is scheduled to rise another $1 million in 2015. Brandon LaFell and Julian Edelman are locked in as the top two receivers. The Patriots can get more out of Amendola’s money elsewhere.

TE Michael Hoomanawanui
Cap number: $1.38M
Cap savings: $1.2M
Cash savings: $1.2M
Dead money: $180K
A strict blocking tight end, Hoomanawanui graded out near the bottom of Pro Football Focus’ run-blocking metrics. The Patriots can find someone to do what he does for the league minimum.

NEW YORK JETS

WR Percy Harvin
Cap number: $10.5M
Cap savings: $10.5M
Cash savings: $10.5M
Dead money: $0
The Jets are one of three teams, along with the Dolphins and Redskins, scheduled to have two receivers in the top-20 at the position in terms of cap number for 2015. Harvin’s $10.5M hit is set to be the eighth-highest among receivers, while Eric Decker will count $6.5M. Unlike the Dolphins and Redskins, the Jets can afford it, as they have one of the better cap situations in the league. While I couldn’t see Harvin coming back with former OC Marty Mornhinweg, I do like Harvin’s outlook under new OC Chan Gailey. Gailey has done wonders with electric players like Harvin in the past. (See: Kordell Stewart and C.J. Spiller.) He knows how to get guys in space, and Harvin is that exact type player. We could see the Harvin of the Minnesota days under Gailey if he can stay healthy.

RB Chris Johnson
Cap number: $5.25M
Cap savings: $3.5M
Cash savings: $3.5M
Dead money: $1.75M
Cutting Johnson should be easy for new GM Mike Maccagnan. He’s nothing more than a role player at this stage of his career, and the Jets can get the same production for much cheaper. Johnson was also arrested last week on gun charges. He’s a malcontent with little left in the tank. If the Jets want to spend some money at running back, they should entertain the idea of C.J. Spiller, who had by-far his best season as a pro under new play-caller Chan Gailey with 1,703 total yards in 2012.

OLB Calvin Pace
Cap number: $2.25M
Cap savings: $2.125M
Cash savings: $2.125M
Dead money: $125K
The Jets really need to find a young edge rusher. Pace has been a solid veteran for them the past seven seasons and can still put numbers up, but he’s going to be 35 next season. He hasn’t missed a game in four years and has 15 sacks across the past two. As mentioned above, New York is in fine shape with the salary cap, so it can afford to hang onto Pace. But he can’t be counted on for 800-plus snaps again in 2015. Edge rusher is right behind quarterback on the Jets’ offseason needs list.

Nick Mensio

Nick Mensio has been covering the NFL for Rotoworld since 2012. He can be found on Twitter at @NickMensio.