Loading scores...
Offseason Lowdown

Cut Candidates: NFC West

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

We’ve shifted 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, the AFC South here, the AFC West here, the NFC East here, the NFC North here, and the NFC 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.

ARIZONA CARDINALS

LE Darnell Dockett
Cap number: $9.8M
Cap savings: $6.8M
Cash savings: $6.8M
Dead money: $3M
Coming off a torn ACL that saw Dockett miss the entire 2014 season, the Cardinals asked the soon-to-be 34-year-old to take a pay cut down to $2.5M with the ability to earn another $1.5M available via incentives. Dockett balked at the offer and instead was released by Arizona last week. 2014 fifth-round DE Ed Stinson drew praise from coach Bruce Arians as a rookie, and the Cardinals also used a third-round pick last year on DE/OLB Kareem Martin. Dockett has lost juice as a pass rusher, but the team wants him back as a veteran leader. Dockett has drawn interest from the 49ers. He’d be lucky to get $5M on the open market.

CB Jerraud Powers
Cap number: $5.35M
Cap savings: $4.35M
Cash savings: $4.35M
Dead money: $1M
With Antonio Cromartie a free agent, Powers will likely be back in the desert to play out the final year of his contract. He received positive marks in coverage last season as the Cardinals’ slot corner. But the Cardinals prefer bigger corners, and Powers stands just 5’9/190. Arizona is high on special teams ace CB Justin Bethel as a defensive player. Expect GM Steve Keim to eye cornerback help in free agency and the draft with it looking unlikely that Cromartie will be back opposite Patrick Peterson.

C Lyle Sendlein
Cap number: $4.275M
Cap savings: $3.15M
Cash savings: $3.15M
Dead money: $1.125M
Sendlein graded out as Pro Football Focus’ second-worst center out of 41 qualifiers last season, finishing ahead of only the Rams’ Scott Wells. He received extremely poor marks both as a pass protector and run blocker. Entering the final year of his contract and due a $3M base salary as a soon-to-be 31-year-old, Sendlein is a prime candidate to be cut.

WR/KR Ted Ginn
Cap number: $4M
Cap savings: $2.5M
Cash savings: $3.25M
Dead money: $1.5M
Cutting Ginn was Arizona’s first order of business this offseason. The 30-year-old (in April) played just 163 snaps on offense last season, catching zero touchdowns and dropping three passes. He’s still an effective return man, though he’s more dangerous on punts. It’s simple with Ginn; he’s a mere gadget deep threat on offense but brings big-play ability to the special teams unit. He’s just not worth a $4M cap hit. The Panthers and Browns are rumored to be interested in Ginn.

LG Ted Larsen
Cap number: $2.435M
Cap savings: $2.2M
Cash savings: $2.2M
Dead money: $235K
Larsen won the Cardinals’ starting left guard job out of training camp, leaving 2013 No. 7 overall pick Jonathan Cooper to play just 189 offensive snaps as a sophomore. Larsen and RG Paul Fanaika were two of PFF’s bottom-11 guards in 2014 out of 78 qualifiers. It’s a position that needs to be upgraded this offseason, and seeing Cooper take that step and secure a starting job would be a nice jumping-off point. Larsen is a replacement-level talent who wasn’t re-signed by the lineman-needy Bucs as a free agent prior to last season. He’s best-suited for an interior reserve role.

FS Rashad Johnson
Cap number: $2.233M
Cap savings: $1.9M
Cash savings: $1.9M
Dead money: $333K
Johnson played over 1,100 defensive snaps as the Cardinals’ starting free safety last season with the team being extremely cautious with Tyrann Mathieu coming off a torn ACL. Mathieu should be locked in at 100 percent heading into 2015 and ready to take over as an every-down player. Safety is one of Arizona’s deepest positions, with Johnson, Mathieu, SS Tony Jefferson, and 2014 first-rounder Deone Bucannon. Johnson is more of a special teams player than starting safety. The Cardinals will likely make a decision on Johnson before he’s due $550K in bonuses.

ILB Lorenzo Alexander
Cap number: $2M
Cap savings: $1.55M
Cash savings: $1.55M
Dead money: $450K
Alexander missed all but three games in 2013 with a Lisfranc injury and played just 53 defensive snaps across 16 games last season. Signed to be a core special teams player, Alexander missed nearly as many tackles as he made while covering kicks. He also turns 32 in May. Alexander simply doesn’t bring much to the table and can be replaced by a minimum-salary player.

TE John Carlson
Cap number: $1.65M
Cap savings: $1.6M
Cash savings: $1.6M
Dead money: $50K
Coach Bruce Arians needs his tight ends to be blockers. That’s not Carlson, as he was Pro Football Focus’ third-worst blocking tight end out of 67 qualifiers last season. He saw his snaps dip the final half of 2014 in favor of Darren Fells. Carlson also dropped seven of his 53 targets in the passing game. The former second-round pick turns 31 in May and has a lengthy concussion history. Arizona used a second-round pick on well-rounded TE Troy Niklas last spring.

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

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

OLB Aldon Smith
Cap number: $9.754M
Cap savings: $9.754M
Cash savings: $9.754M
Dead money: $0
The 49ers are about $500K under the salary cap at the moment and need to clear some money somehow whether it’s in the form of releasing players or converting salaries into “signing” bonuses and kicking the can down the road. Smith is a long shot to be cut, but his past off-field issues and inflated salary make it that the 49ers will at least discuss it. When on the field, Smith is a nightmare edge rusher. Expect the 49ers to keep him and part ways with veteran OLB Ahmad Brooks to make room for second-year OLB Aaron Lynch. Smith will play out the final year of his contract and head toward free agency next offseason. If he can keep his head straight, Smith should command major dollars.

ILB Patrick Willis
Cap number: $8.268M
Cap savings: $7.425M
Cash savings: $7.846M
Dead money: $844K
Willis is another long shot to be released. He’s the leader of the defense, but just turned 30 last month and has chronic toe issues. Willis missed the final 10 weeks of the season after needing surgery. He’s expected to be ready for the start of training camp, as is fellow ILB NaVorro Bowman (knee). ILB Chris Borland shined as a rookie in place of Willis last season and would likely be a starter for many other teams, but the 49ers will likely try to make another run in 2015 with their current veteran-laden defense.

OLB Ahmad Brooks
Cap number: $7.055M
Cap savings: $1.509M
Cash savings: $7.3M
Dead money: $5.546M
Brooks is likely as good as gone. He was reportedly close to being traded prior to the trade deadline, then lashed out at then-DL coach Jim Tomsula, who is now the new head coach, prior to a November game. Brooks missed a couple team meetings throughout the season, leading to two separate benchings. Second-year OLB Aaron Lynch is ready to take over opposite Aldon Smith. Brooks turns 31 in 12 days. He could reunite with ex-49ers GM Scot McCloughan with the Redskins.

TE Vernon Davis
Cap number: $6.968M
Cap savings: $4.9M
Cash savings: $4.95M
Dead money: $2.068M
Davis is coming off a career-worst season that saw him post an awful 26-245-2 receiving line across 14 starts. The downfall was swift after he caught 13 touchdowns in 2013. After his huge 2013 season, Davis sat out OTAs last spring in hope of a new contract. He didn’t get one and then went on to hit a wall as a 30-year-old. Now 31, Davis is clearly in the decline phase of his career. He’s entering the final year of his contract, but GM Trent Baalke said at the Combine that Davis will be back in San Francisco this season. We’ve seen coaches and GMs lie before, but chances appear slim that Davis will actually be cut. Look for Davis to become a bigger part of the red-zone offense this season.

WR Stevie Johnson
Cap number: $6.025M
Cap savings: $6.025M
Cash savings: $6.025M
Dead money: $0
Acquired from the Bills last May, Johnson went on to post a 35-435-3 receiving line as the 49ers’ No. 3 receiver in their run-heavy offense. There was a report over the weekend that the 49ers had released Johnson, but it proved to be premature. The 49ers are talking with the 28-year-old about a pay cut. If he refuses, he’ll likely hit the streets. Johnson isn’t going to take the top off a defense, but he’s a crisp route-runner with a solid pair of mitts. With Michael Crabtree a free agent, the 49ers don’t have much of anything behind Anquan Boldin at receiver. Johnson isn’t worth $6M-plus.

T/G Jonathan Martin
Cap number: $1.042M
Cap savings: $1.042M
Cash savings: $1.042M
Dead money: $0
Rescued from Miami via trade, Martin started nine games at right tackle for the 49ers last season. He was his same ineffective self that he proved to be with the Dolphins, getting destroyed in both the pass and run games. Martin is a minimum-salary player.

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

DT Brandon Mebane
Cap number: $5.7M
Cap savings: $5.5M
Cash savings: $5.5M
Dead money: $200K
The Seahawks don’t have many, if any, bad contracts. Mebane is probably overpaid, but he was one of the better defensive tackles in the league for the Super Bowl-champion Seahawks in 2013 before having his 2014 season cut short by a torn hamstring in Week 10. He’s expected to be healthy for minicamp. The Seahawks have an excessive amount of talent on the defensive line, and could use some extra cash to hand out a couple more contract extensions and sign a free agent or two. Mebane just turned 30 and is entering the final year of his contract.

DT Tony McDaniel
Cap number: $3.625M
Cap savings: $3M
Cash savings: $3M
Dead money: $625K
Another part of the Seahawks’ defensive line rotation, McDaniel had a down season after being a big contributor on a one-year deal in 2013. He received a new two-year contract last offseason, but wasn’t very consistent. As mentioned above, the Seahawks have depth up front and could add to it this offseason. Seattle will make a call on McDaniel before he’s due a $500K roster bonus.

TE Zach Miller
Cap number: $3.391M
Cap savings: $2.391M
Cash savings: $2.82M
Dead money: $1M
This will be the easy cut for GM John Schneider. Miller re-worked his deal last offseason to remain in Seattle. But he once again couldn’t stay healthy and played in just three games after needing two separate surgeries on his ankle. He’s played all 16 games in a season just once in the past six years. Due a $1.75M roster bonus, cutting Miller will be a no-brainer move. The Seahawks will move forward with Luke Willson and possibly target Jordan Cameron of Julius Thomas in free agency.

ST. LOUIS RAMS

LE Chris Long
Cap number: $12.5M
Cap savings: $7.5M
Cash savings: $10M
Dead money: $5M
Much is made about Sam Bradford being overpaid, but Long is right up there on the Rams. After handing RE Robert Quinn a mega-extension this past year, the Rams have two of the four highest-paid 4-3 ends in the league. St. Louis loves its pass rush, but Long should be asked to take a pay cut. He missed 10 games last season with an ankle injury and managed just one sack. Long also turns 30 later this month. He’s never been an elite pass rusher, as he’s more of an effort-type player who relies on hard work and his quick jump off the snap. That tends to lead to a lot of offsides penalties. The Rams aren’t going to cut Long because his veteran leadership is valued in a young locker room. But if Long were to hit the open market, he wouldn’t command more than $5-6 million annually, and certainly wouldn’t come close to the $21.75M he’s due over the next two seasons.

LT Jake Long
Cap number: $10.5M
Cap savings: $8M
Cash savings: $9.25M
Dead money: $2.5M
Why the Rams haven’t yet released Long is anybody’s guess, but his days should be numbered in St. Louis. Billed as damaged goods in the 2013 offseason, Long inked a four-year, $34M deal with the Rams. Both of his seasons in St. Louis ended on I.R. with back-to-back ACL tears. 2014 No. 2 overall pick Greg Robinson has already been named the left tackle, but the Rams have said they may consider Long at right tackle or kick him inside to guard. Nobody’s buying it. The Rams would be better off giving Long’s money to a natural free-agent guard like Mike Iupati. Long has landed on season-ending I.R. each of the past four seasons. There isn’t much left in the tank.

DT Kendall Langford
Cap number: $7M
Cap savings: $6M
Cash savings: $6M
Dead money: $1M
Langford was cut by the Rams last week. He was actually one of GM Les Snead’s better signings since taking over in St. Louis, but Langford lost his starting job to Defensive Rookie of the Year Aaron Donald and wasn’t worth the inflated salary. The Rams have expressed interest in bringing 29-year-old Langford back at a cheaper rate, but he’s likely to find a starting job elsewhere as a scheme-versatile lineman. He visited the tackle-needy Lions earlier this week.

C Scott Wells
Cap number: $4.75M
Cap savings: $3.75M
Cash savings: $3.75M
Dead money: $1M
If Langford was one of the Rams’ better signings the past couple years, Wells has easily been one of the worst. He’s missed 13 starts since inking a four-year, $24M deal and graded out as Pro Football Focus’ worst center among 41 qualifiers last season. He just turned 34 in January and can’t cut it as a pass or run blocker anymore. The Rams are reportedly considering holding onto Wells for the time being because they have nothing behind him on the depth chart. Barrett Jones isn’t a legitimate starting option in the NFL despite what large sections of the Rams community wants to believe.

WR Chris Givens
Cap number: $1.666M
Cap savings: $1.542M
Cash savings: $1.542M
Dead money: $124K
Givens led the Rams in receiving as a 2012 rookie with his 42-698-3 line to go along with five 50-plus-yard grabs. He was easily Sam Bradford’s favorite target. Most expected a second-year leap in 2013, but Givens was exposed as a one-trick pony deep threat. His targets then took a sharp hit this past season, as they plummeted from 77 in 2013 to just 17 in 2014. He only played 200 offensive snaps as the Rams’ No. 4/5 receiver.

SLB Jo-Lonn Dunbar
Cap number: $1.346M
Cap savings: $1.346M
Cash savings: $1.346M
Dead money: $0
Dunbar was a nice find for the Rams prior to the 2012 season. He was nails against the run and brought a nastiness to the defense that it had been lacking for several years. But he drew a four-game suspension to open the 2013 season and was eventually released by the Rams before being re-signed after his ban. Dunbar was then arrested in Miami last summer and saw his snaps decline this past season with the Rams using more three-safety looks after the acquisition of Mark Barron. The Rams are rumored to be looking for linebacker help in the draft.

RB Isaiah Pead
Cap number: $1.285M
Cap savings: $941K
Cash savings: $941K
Dead money: $344K
Pead is maybe the biggest bust of the Rams’ draft classes under Les Snead and Jeff Fisher. The 50th overall pick in 2012 received just 17 carries across his first two seasons and was never able to take control of the backfield. He then tore his ACL last summer and missed the entire 2014 campaign. Pead was viewed merely as a special teams player by the Rams before getting hurt. ACL injuries are much easier to come back from now more than ever. Pead is in dire need of a fresh start. He just turned 25 in December.

Nick Mensio

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