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Offseason Lowdown

Cut Candidates: AFC West

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

With the Super Bowl behind us, 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 to 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. I already took a look at the AFC East here, the AFC North here, and the AFC South here.

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.

DENVER BRONCOS

OT Chris Clark
Cap number: $1.626M
Cap savings: $1.4M
Cash savings: $1.4M
Dead money: $226K
The Broncos are in okay shape with the salary cap, but they also need to re-sign Demaryius Thomas and look into new deals with fellow free agents Julius Thomas and Terrance Knighton. Demaryius is priority No. 1, 2, and 3. Orange Julius has a troubling injury history and may prove to be more a product of Peyton Manning. Denver may opt to try and re-sign TE Virgil Green instead and bring back Knighton, letting Julius walk. Let’s now get to Clark. The Broncos signed Clark to a two-year extension back in September 2013, so he’s entering the final year of his deal. He filled in well for LT Ryan Clady during the 2013 season, and entered 2014 as the starting right tackle. Clark ended up getting benched when the Broncos reshuffled their offensive line midway through the year. He’s a swing tackle-type. What may save Clark is that fellow OL mates Orlando Franklin and Will Montgomery are free agents.

WR Andre Caldwell
Cap number: $1.55M
Cap savings: $1.35M
Cash savings: $1.35M
Dead money: $200K
Caldwell is a decent depth player and a nice player to have around, but he just doesn’t contribute much. He played just 186 offensive snaps this past season, catching 5-of-16 targets for 47 scoreless yards. Caldwell also doesn’t bring much to the table on special teams. Second-year WR Cody Latimer should be ready to push for playing time in three-wide sets with Wes Welker a free agent and Caldwell a cut candidate.

Editor's Note: For everything NFL, check out Rotoworld's Player News, and follow @Rotoworld_FB and @NickMensio on Twitter.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

WR Dwayne Bowe
Cap number: $14M
Cap savings: $5M
Cash savings: $11M
Dead money: $9M
The Chiefs have one of the worst cap situations in the league, as they’re currently over the 2015 projected salary cap. Bowe has three years left on a five-year, $56M deal. He’ll turn 31 next September and caught zero touchdowns this past season, posting a pedestrian 60-755-0 receiving line. The Chiefs need to clear money to lock up OLB Justin Houston. Cutting Bowe would result in a sizable dead-money hit and leave the Chiefs even thinner at a position where they already need a ton of help, but Bowe isn’t worth the money he is making. Releasing Bowe as a post-June 1 cut would result in $11M of 2015 cap space instead of $5M, but that money wouldn’t be available until after June 1. The Chiefs will likely ask Bowe to take a pay cut. If he declines, there’s a good chance he gets his walking papers. Bowe may be fine with that in order to get away from Alex Smith.

OLB Tamba Hali
Cap number: $11.965M
Cap savings: $9M
Cash savings: $9M
Dead money: $2.965M
Hali had managed at least 8.5 sacks in five-straight seasons before 2014 when he saw his total dip from 11 in 2013 to six. Teammate Justin Houston likely had a lot to do with it, as he was getting to the quarterback faster than nine-year veteran Hali. Hali will be 32 next season and has one year left on a five-year, $57.5M deal. The Chiefs need to re-sign Houston and used their first-round pick on OLB Dee Ford last year. Hali has already said he’s open to a pay cut; he wants to stay in Kansas City “to win a championship.” One of Hali or Dwayne Bowe is going to have to leave, possibly even both.

DE Mike DeVito
Cap number: $5.4M
Cap savings: $4M
Cash savings: $4M
Dead money: $1.4M
Devito was a top-four run-stuffing 3-4 defensive end at Pro Football Focus in 2013, but he tore his Achilles’ in Week 1 this past season and will be 31 in June. Now on the wrong side of 30, coming off a serious injury, and entering the final year of his contract, Devito is a prime cut candidate. The Chiefs handed DE Allen Bailey a $25M contract extension in November and have veterans Vance Walker and Jaye Howard willing and able to handle Devito’s position at a much cheaper price.

QB Chase Daniel
Cap number: $4.8M
Cap savings: $3.8M
Cash savings: $3.8M
Dead money: $1M
Daniel has received the Week 17 start in back-to-back seasons with the Chiefs, game-managing his way to a 1-1 record. In those two starts, Daniel completed 37-of-57 passes for 357 yards, one touchdown, and zero interceptions. That’s Alex Smithian work from Daniel with a 6.2 YPA average. The Chiefs used a fifth-round pick on Aaron Murray in last year’s draft and also have Terrelle Pryor in the fold. As mentioned above, the Chiefs need to clear money. Cutting an expensive backup quarterback behind a starter who has stayed relatively healthy in recent years is one of the easiest ways to save some cash. Daniel is a poor man’s Smith as a small, popgun-armed passer with above-average athleticism.

WR Donnie Avery
Cap number: $4.05M
Cap savings: $3.55M
Cash savings: $3.55M
Dead money: $500K
This should be an easy decision for GM John Dorsey. Highly injury-prone throughout his career, entering the final year of his contract, and turning 31 in June, Avery won’t be kept at his current salary. The Chiefs need to overhaul their receiving corps and inject some serious talent into the position. A No. 4 receiver on a good team, Avery has been forced to start 17-of-23 games he’s appeared in the past two seasons in Kansas City as the No. 2 guy opposite Dwayne Bowe. He missed 10 games in 2014 with a serious groin injury. Avery is most known for being the first receiver selected in the 2008 draft at No. 33 overall by the Rams, ahead of guys like Jordy Nelson and DeSean Jackson. He’s best suited for an occasional deep threat role on the outside.

ILB Joe Mays
Cap number: $4M
Cap savings: $3M
Cash savings: $3M
Dead money: $1M
Signed to a two-year, $6M deal last offseason to be the downhill run-stopper next to ILB Derrick Johnson, Mays tore a ligament in his wrist during the preseason and spent the first 12 weeks of the season on short-term I.R. Upon his return, Mays started just three games behind Josh Mauga and James-Michael Johnson. Overpaid from the start, Mays should be an easy snip for the Chiefs.

WR A.J. Jenkins
Cap number: $1.337M
Cap savings: $1.337M
Cash savings: $1.337M
Dead money: $0
The 49ers’ first-round pick in 2012 at No. 30 overall, Jenkins hasn’t translated to the NFL. Acquired by the Chiefs in August 2013 in exchange for fellow first-round bust WR Jon Baldwin, Jenkins has caught 18-of-30 targets for 250 scoreless yards across 482 offensive snaps the past two seasons. He was unable to climb a shallow depth chart and may be in danger of falling out of the league soon.

OAKLAND RAIDERS

QB Matt Schaub
Cap number: $5.5M
Cap savings: $5.5M
Cash savings: $5.5M
Dead money: $0
The Raiders have one of the best cap situations in the league, but are extremely short on talent and depth. The first order of business for GM Reggie McKenzie will be ridding himself of overpriced, over-the-hill veterans like Schaub. Schaub, 34 in June, inked a two-year, $13.5M deal last March to be the Raiders’ starter. He ended up getting benched before the season and attempted just nine passes on the year as Derek Carr’s backup. Schaub went 5-of-9 as a passer, tossing a pick-six, and taking three sacks. He’s as done as they get and should have a tough time finding a job this summer.

DE LaMarr Woodley
Cap number: $5.35M
Cap savings: $5.35M
Cash savings: $5.35M
Dead money: $0
Another whiff by McKenzie, Woodley started six games before landing on season-ending I.R. with a torn bicep. When he was in the lineup, Woodley was a complete non-factor as the starter opposite Justin Tuck. He managed just five tackles and zero sacks. Along with wide receiver and cornerback, defensive end is at the top of the Raiders’ needs list. Woodley will be 31 next season. He’s at or near the end of the line. Woodley is ineffective both as a pass rusher and in run defense.

DT Antonio Smith
Cap number: $4M
Cap savings: $4M
Cash savings: $4M
Dead money: $0
Smith was one of McKenzie’s better signings last offseason. He started all 16 games at 33 years old and finished second behind only Ndamukong Suh in quarterback hurries among the league’s defensive tackles. As good as Smith was as a pocket-collapser, he was just as bad in run support, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ worst defensive tackle in that area. Smith is just too light to hold up against the run. Considering the Raiders are in good shape money-wise, they may choose to keep Smith as a veteran presence who plays on passing downs. But his role needs to be reduced.

RB Maurice Jones-Drew
Cap number:
$2.5M
Cap savings:
$2.5M
Cash savings:
$2.5M
Dead money:
$0
Along with Matt Schaub, MJD will be the easiest cut in the league this offseason. Signed to a three-year, $7.5M deal last March, Jones-Drew has no more guaranteed money left on his contract. MJD started Week 1 for the Raiders, but the coaching staff quickly realized what everybody else already knew; the soon-to-be 30-year-old is done. He managed just 96 yards all season on 43 carries and failed to find the end zone. The Raiders will move forward with Latavius Murray and likely sign or draft another running back with MJD a goner and Darren McFadden a free agent. Jones-Drew was one of the better running backs in recent memory, but the beating he took in Jacksonville has caught up to him. He wants to continue playing, but it’s hard to see him getting another shot.

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS

OLB Jarret Johnson
Cap number:
$7.5M
Cap savings:
$5M
Cash savings:
$5M
Dead money:
$2.5M
Johnson took a pay cut before the 2014 season and currently carries the fourth-largest cap number on the Chargers as he enters the final year of his contract. He’ll turn 34 before next season and brings absolutely nothing to the table as a pass rusher off the edge. Johnson seems to realize he’s slowing down, as he admitted after the season he’ll consider retirement. The Chargers have Melvin Ingram on one edge, and 2014 second-rounder Jeremiah Attaochu showed some pass-rush juice during his rookie year when he wasn’t on the trainer’s table.

TE John Phillips
Cap number:
$2.117M
Cap savings:
$1.45M
Cash savings:
$1.45M
Dead money:
$667K
Phillips is purely a blocking specialist as the Bolts’ No. 3 tight end. He tore his ACL in December 2013 and played just 202 snaps this past season. The Chargers can find a rookie to do Phillips’ job next year at a much cheaper price behind Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green.

Nick Mensio

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