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Cap Casualty Candidates: Ravens, Browns, and Bengals have more moves to make

Cincinnati Bengals v Cleveland Browns Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Cap Casualty series continues at an even more rapid pace as usual, as I preview the AFC North just as more cuts start rolling in. The Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns already made moves this week and more are coming. Here’s a preview of three teams in the North, as I already previewed the cash-strapped Pittsburgh Steelers.

That preview, as well as all the others, is linked at the bottom of the page.

Baltimore Ravens

Effective 2020 Cap Space: $31.4 million

Most Savings: Brandon Carr, CB, $6 million

The Ravens have been another team with an early cap cut, removing safety Tony Jefferson from the roster last week to save $7 million against the cap. Jefferson tore his ACL last season and was replaced by Chuck Clark, who played well enough to earn a three-year extension last Monday.

Baltimore looks to be in a good position to compete for the Super Bowl next year without any huge moves, but essentially all of their starting linebackers are free agents (notice that a year ago they parted with Za’Darius Smith, Terrell Suggs, and C.J. Mosley) as well as cornerback Jimmy Smith and nose tackle Michael Pierce. They let go of a team legend and two of their top players anywhere on the defense and so re-signing Matt Judon (9.5 sacks, 33 QB hits, 14 TFL) is not a guarantee. But I think the franchise tag has to be in high consideration.

So the Ravens do have some work to do. Is $31 million enough to do it?

Note that cutting or trading 36-year-old Marshal Yanda will save $7 million, but he was still a high level player in 2019, so that is unlikely — though he could retire. They really made the one obvious move already, but perhaps we can talk about one or two.

Brandon Carr, CB, $7 million cap hit, $6 million saved if team doesn’t pick up option

Carr turns 34 in May but here he is 12 years into his career and he’s never missed a game. He’s played in 192 of a possible 192 games. That’s amazing. Is Carr a great player? He’s earned a fantastic amount of money, especially given that he’s not a great player, but he’s been reliable and capable. According to PFREF, Carr gave up zero touchdowns in 2018, but he allowed five in 2019 — and PFF gave him just an average coverage grade.

Odds of picking up his option: Medium. Working for him is depth — the Ravens have two starters in Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters, but do they need the $6 million badly enough to cut an experienced starter and risk turning to a young player who hasn’t started? Do they want to re-sign Jimmy Smith and do they believe they can? I guess I could bump it to the high side of medium.
Would he help the Chargers: I mean, he could slide in for a year, but this is not the direction LA wants to really go in, age wise.

MOVES:

Somewhat Bold: Don’t pick up Carr’s option

Cap Space: $37.4 million

Reserve tackle James Hurst will be suspended four games for violating the PED policy but he played well in over 100 snaps at left tackle last season. Is missing a quarter of the year enough to release your top reserve lineman to save $2.75 million? For now, I’ll say no, it isn’t. If Yanda retires, that’s another $7 million off the cap but it leaves a huge hole on the offensive line. I think they also gotta keep Judon and a franchise tag there would cost $16.2 million. That leaves only $21.1 million to play with, so a long-term deal with Judon would be preferable.

Cincinnati Bengals

Effective 2020 Cap Space: $44.8 million

Biggest Savings: Andy Dalton, $17.7 million

Few teams have such obvious savings on the way as the Bengals do with the upcoming trade or release of Andy Dalton. Yes, the team could decide that they don’t need the space that badly and that Dalton would help them transition to the Joe Burrow era ... but why? That seems like such a Bengals move to do, to “Marvin Lewis” Dalton way beyond his best years, but we’ve seen plenty of rookie QBs succeed without a mentor. Then Cincinnati can address some of their needs and outgoing free agents, because I believe they have major bounceback potential in 2020.

Andy Dalton, QB, $17.7 million cap hit, $17.7 million in savings

All things considered, Dalton wasn’t that bad in 2019. I mean, he was bad, but you can see how he’s decent enough when the team around him is decent enough. Do I think Dalton would be an upgrade for the Colts over Jacoby Brissett? Yes. Do I think that Dalton should bridge the gap for the Chargers? Probably not.

He’s gonna be 33, he’s really experienced, and he’s only paid as about an average starting QB, which is virtually what he is. That, to me, gives him enough trade value if the rest of the dominoes fall correctly.

Odds of release or trade: Extremely high. Don’t be silly Bengals, this is the Joe Burrow era already. Sell Burrow jerseys tomorrow, even if it’s illegal, which I don’t know if it is. I think Dalton for a sixth or a pick swap — though at the moment I’m having a hard time finding a trade partner. Who wants Dalton bad enough to trade for him? Would the Bears want to give Andy Dalton a shot at their offense over Mitch Trubisky? Do the Dolphins need him more than they need Ryan Fitzpatrick? It may be that he is just released and waits until a QB injury opens a door for a starter.
Would he help the Chargers: LA could be on the short list of teams that Dalton would like to play for next season, but I’m not sure that he’s on their short list. When you’ve already got Tyrod Taylor for $5 million, it makes it hard to justify another QB who couldn’t cut it as a starter but is decent if you have no other choices. So no, I don’t think he would.

William Jackson III, CB, $9.6 million cap hit, $9.6 million saved if released

Jackson has shown the highs and the lows over his four years, a career that began with him missing all of 2016. The team picked up his fifth-year option in 2019 after he was getting a decent amount of praise around the league, and they don’t need money, but he went from really good to okay to potentially downright awful ... much like the Bengals!

Is it him (there was also a shoulder issue) or is it team morale and do you want to give up on a 27-year-old who has flashed excellence at a position where you rarely find excellent players?

Odds of release: This is one of the toughest ones I’ve encountered so far. They don’t need the money but Jackson hasn’t looked like he could stop many players over the last two seasons. That’s a lot of money for a player who is potentially not even a starter. Maybe you can shop him on the trade market but Cincy also has a penchant for sticking with their own players and not dipping into outside free agency. I kind of like that but at this level, it’s kind of insane. You have a lot of money and honestly one or two outside players could really elevate Burrow’s rookie campaign. I don’t think I would keep Jackson at this salary, but I don’t think anyone knows what Mike Brown/Duke Tobin will do.
Would he help the Chargers: Were he available, Jackson is a good player to target as a reclamation project.

Cordy Glenn, OT, $9.5 million cap hit, $9.5 million in savings

The team took Jonah Williams in the first round last year and he missed his entire rookie season, but how do the Bengals know that Williams won’t be another Billy Price, the former first round rookie guard/center who at this point may be released despite it not saving them any money? I think at this point we also know that Bobby Hart isn’t the answer. Glenn has missed 10 games in 2017, three in 2018, and 10 in 2019. Overall, he’s missed 28 games in the last four years.

Odds of release or trade: You want to give Burrow every chance possible but Glenn is turning 31, he’s oft injured, and his play hasn’t been what it used to be. I could see a team trading for him simply because $9.5 million actually isn’t a lot for a starting tackle, but there’s all those risks I mentioned. He was also surprisingly suspended for a game last season. I don’t know what they’ll do, I’m on the fence again. I’ll lean towards keep.
Would he help the Chargers: Yes, I think they should be willing to take a shot depending on what his value turns out to be around the league.

Bobby Hart, OT, $6.8 million cap hit, $4.8 million in savings

If you’re keeping Glenn, I think you’re cutting Hart. If you’re cutting Glenn, maybe you keep around the depth just in case.

Odds of release: Good, I think he’s worth moving on from and looking for a replacement. How hard will it be to find the next Hart?
Would he help the Chargers: Not the right direction to go in.

C.J. Uzomah, TE, $5.8 million cap hit, $3.7 million in savings

I mean, do they love his blocking that much because nothing about Uzomah’s receiving skills scream “$6 million tight end.” On the other hand, Zac Taylor was there when they gave him a three-year extension last year, does he see something in Uzomah that I don’t?

Odds of release: I would say yes, but I’m really torn on all these moves as far as predicting Cincinnati. They’re like George Costanza, doing the opposite. (But in this case, it doesn’t improve their lives usually.)
Would he help the Chargers: Backup TE is not a huge need.

Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, $11 million cap hit, $8.2 million in savings

Another former first round pick in the secondary, Kirkpatrick has been up and down, but more down recently. He missed 10 games last season after missing three the year before.

Odds of release: Looks to me like they should, you just wonder what they’d even do with the money.
Would he help the Chargers: Eh, they could attempt to place him opposite of Casey Hayward but it wouldn’t be the move that makes them significantly better.

Gio Bernard, RB, $4.7 million cap hit, $3.4 million in savings

I think we’re all pretty familiar with running backs. Bernard is okay, but he’s no longer this okay.

Odds of release: I’m more comfortable here to say release. He had 83 touches last season and scored zero times. He’s not thriving in Taylor’s offense.
Would he help the Chargers: No.

Shawn Williams, S, $4.8 million cap hit, $4.4 million in savings

Williams led the team in tackles but by now we should all know that tackles aren’t much of a stat. Go back a year and Williams had five interceptions with an NFL-high 131 return yards but again, the deeper stats showed a player who also gave up seven touchdowns. His coverage looks really bad. It’s not surprising, this team was awful, changing up the roster by major margins wouldn’t be a terrible idea.

Odds of release: Even though I kind of expect Cincy to again keep status quo everywhere, I’ll say they do release Williams. It’s the right time to switch it up and I wonder if they’ll go safety in the second round.
Would he help the Chargers: No. They need better coverage guys.

B.W. Webb, CB, $4.5 million cap hit, $3.5 million in savings

Just another Cincinnati player coming off of a bad season.

Odds of release: Decent? He’s not been good, give some other guys a shot.

Would he help the Chargers: No.

MOVES:

Not Bold: Release or trade Andy Dalton

Cap Space: $62 million

Not Bold: Release Bobby Hart, CJ Uzomah, Gio Bernard, and BW Webb

Cap Space: $77 million

Somewhat Bold: Release Shawn Williams, William Jackson III, Dre Kirkpatrick. (Yes, I know I have decimated their secondary. Oh no! How ever will they rebuild the NFL’s 28th-ranked pass defense by DVOA?! Do we really want to tear down a 2-14 team?!?!) I would lean against a Jackson release coming, though a Williams and/or Kirkpatrick one seems possible.

Cap Space: $99.5 million

In this universe, the Bengals could attempt to sign one of the high end free agent offensive linemen, such as Brandon Scherff or Anthony Castonzo (though I assume the player they’d actually target is more like Germain Ifedi), and a cornerback like Byron Jones or James Bradberry or really whomever they want. In the universe we live in, we can’t expect the Bengals to be active players in free agency. At least here they could re-sign Darqueze Dennard, A.J. Green, and Tyler Eifert and see if that works somehow.

Cleveland Browns

Effective 2020 Cap Space: $61.9 million

Biggest Savings: Olivier Vernon, DE, $15.5 million

I think we’d all personally like a shot at rebuilding the Browns this time around and honestly, I think most of us could do a better job of what they’ve done. Dear Kevin Stefanski, please demand major changes and don’t be afraid to say goodbye to veterans.

Cleveland started making moves on Monday with new GM Andrew Berry, who cut four players including safety TJ Carrie. That may mean that there are not a ton of cuts left to come, but I think we can all agree that Berry is not done putting his stamp on this roster and erasing much of what John Dorsey did.

Olivier Vernon, DE, $15.5 million cap hit, $15.5 million in savings

Right off the bat you have to ask yourself if Vernon should be paid like a top-15 edge rusher, which he is being paid as in 2020. He turns 30 in October, he’s missed 15 games over the last three seasons, he may have really been feeding off of Myles Garrett before his suspension and do you need to pay $15 million for that if another player could do it? I suspect the mere suggestion of releasing Vernon is partially controversial, but I don’t think I see a $15 million player here.

Odds of release: On the low side of medium, I guess. I’m not convinced they’re entertaining the thought, but I’d like to allocate those resources elsewhere.
Would he help the Chargers: You could maybe stick him in there with Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram and improve the front-seven but I assume he’d be looking for starter compensation.

Odell Beckham, Jr, WR, $14.2 million cap hit, $14.2 million in savings

Jarvis Landry, WR, $14.5 million cap hit, $10 million in savings

Outlandish suggestion? My opinion is that if a team is willing to trade for one of these players, I’d entertain that. Let me throw this scenario at you: Cleveland drafts Jerry Jeudy with the 10th overall pick. Insane? It’s the Browns! Not only that, they probably want to transition to a 2021 or 2022 without at least one of OBJ or Landry’s contracts.

Odds of release or trade: I’m actually going to say one of these deals happens and the one I’d want to happen is Landry. He’s coming off of — and I can’t believe this — five straight Pro Bowl appearances, but I’ve never been quite that high on his value. He makes some unbelievable catches and he’s fairly reliable (but he had 11 drops in 2018 and five in 2019), I just don’t think you can’t find what he does for much cheaper. Landry’s really going to be one of your two-to-three highest paid players every year? If a team is biting on a third round pick for Landry, I jump on that. I would not be surprised to see Cleveland get into this excellent rookie receiver class and move on from one of these players to save cap space for now and the future.
Would either help the Chargers: A Keenan Allen-Mike Williams-OBJ trio??? Hmmm... But no, that’s not going to happen. Neither is Landry.

Sheldon Richardson, DT, $13.6 million cap hit, $8.3 million in savings

If on the roster on the third day of the league year, $6.5 million of his salary becomes guaranteed. Richardson is a good player — is he that good?

Odds of release: I’m going to put them on the low side, but a release would also not be that surprising to me. New coach, new direction, and the Browns aren’t afraid to get active in free agency when they have money to spend.
Would he help the Chargers: Yes.

Chris Hubbard, OT, $7.2 million cap hit, $4.8 million in savings

Hubbard drew praise as a backup in Pittsburgh and so some team was going to take on a chance on him. That team was the Browns and that result so far has been that Hubbard is not a starter.

Odds of release: High.
Would he help the Chargers: He could be a reserve, spot starter, sure.

Christian Kirksey, OLB, $9 million cap hit, $6.6 million in savings

He missed nine games in 2018 and 14 games in 2019.

Odds of release: It’s too much money for a player who hasn’t been on the field, but Kirksey may be a prime target for a renegotiation.
Would he help the Chargers: He might slot in okay and come at a cheap one-year cost, but it’s not a priority as far as I can tell.

MOVES:

Not Bold: Release Chris Hubbard, Morgan Burnett ($3.3m), Terrance Mitchell ($3m), Christian Kirksey

Cap Space: $72.1 million

BOLD: Trade Jarvis Landry

Cap Space: $82.2 million

Calm Odell down after you trade Jarvis Landry: Priceless.

This space helps them retain some outgoing players (Greg Robinson, Joe Schobert among them) but perhaps Cleveland is still a curious destination for high-end free agents. We certainly know that the Browns aren’t afraid to spend and they probably don’t need $82 million in space, but it’s not really about the money. These moves, in my estimation, make them better. And they do need to get better.

Chargers Interest:

Christian Kirksey, Chris Hubbard, Cordy Glenn, and William Jackson could all be interesting options to consider. I don’t think Sheldon Richardson will be released, but he’d also be one to keep an eye on. I guess I also don’t really know if I expect Glenn to be released, but he seems more likely. I mean — I don’t know at all who will get released! But these are my guesses, hopefully I get lucky and get a few right.

PREVIOUSLY:

Read: Colts, Titans, Texans, and why a Jacoby Brissett trade makes sense

Read: The entire AFC East and what cap cuts/trades they may need to make

Read: The Vikings might need to trade Kirk Cousins

Read: The Steelers could struggle to keep the band together

Read: The Jaguars have the most cuts to make

Read: The Falcons may have to part with Desmond Trufant and/or Keanu Neal

Read: The Bears should trade Mitchell Trubisky

Read: Lions, Packers have few moves to make