As a short offseason primer, I’m going to list three moves I believe each team should make this offseason, one in three different categories.
Re-sign: I will pick one unrestricted free agent each team should consider bringing back at the right price. This will only apply to UFAs and I will include players who are likely to get the franchise tag.
Let him walk: I will pick one unrestricted free agent each team should allow to test the market and not prioritize bringing back. Again, this only applies to UFAs.
Cut: I will pick one player on each team’s roster who is not set to become an UFA but should be cut for either cap or performance reasons. Some of these players might be put on the trading block, though.
I’ll start with the AFC and, later in the week, review the NFC.
Re-sign: Zach Brown. The Bills signed Brown to a one-year deal and he was their leading tackler. He’ll be just 28 years old this upcoming season, so he’s worth retaining on a multi-year deal.
Let him walk: Lorenzo Alexander. Though Alexander is coming off one of his best seasons, he will be 34 years old. It would not surprise me if he looks to cash in and the Bills need to spend money elsewhere.
Cut: Corey Graham. Though Graham had a solid season, the Bills might have to part ways with him to gain some cap space if they are planning to pursue free agents. The Bills cannot afford to restructure deals to accomplish that.
Re-sign: Kenny Stills. Though Stills is far from being an elite receiver, he’s coming off a solid season with 42 receptions and nine touchdowns. If he’s willing to take a low-cost, three-year deal, he’s worth bringing back.
Let him walk: Jordan Cameron. This is an easy decision. Cameron never lived up to the short-term deal he signed and the Dolphins are better off looking elsewhere for tight end help.
Cut: Mario Williams. While I didn’t think the two-year deal Williams signed last year was a bad one, he didn’t live up to expectations.
Re-sign: Donta Hightower. The Patriots are likely to franchise Hightower if they don’t come to terms on an extension, but he is the one pending free agent they need to keep around.
Let him walk: Logan Ryan. On the other hand, the Patriots shouldn’t focus on keeping Ryan, who is likely to want to cash in on free agency. Their resources are better spent negotiating an extension for Malcolm Butler, who is a restricted free agent.
Cut: Danny Amendola. His $7.8M cap number is too high given his limited production the past season. I could see the Patriots approaching him about a pay cut, though.
New York Jets
Re-sign: Tanner Purdum. The Jets’ long snapper is the only UFA I would prioritize bringing back. The position he plays means the Jets won’t have to commit a lot of money.
Let him walk: Ryan Fitzpatrick. It’s clear that Fitzpatrick is not the long-term answer and the Jets need to move on.
Cut: Ryan Clady. There was talk that the Jets would ask Clady to take a salary reduction but that doesn’t seem likely to happen. His injury history makes his $10.5M cap hit too much for the Jets to justify keeping him.
Re-sign: Ricky Wagner. Though I’m not positive it will happen given how the Ravens don’t have a lot of cap space, if the Ravens are planning on keeping at least one player, Wagner is their best option.
Let him walk: Brandon Williams. The talk is that Williams is looking to approach the $10M APY mark on a new contract. If that is the case, there’s no sense in the Ravens trying to retain him. Williams is a good player but paying that much for a 3-4 nose tackle is risky.
Cut: Elvis Dumervil. After posting 17 sacks in 2014, Dumervil’s production has declined and he missed eight games this season. He has no guaranteed money left so the Ravens won’t owe him anything by cutting him.
Re-sign: Kevin Zeitler. He is by far the best of the Bengals’ UFAs and is somebody they shouldn’t let depart. Though I could see them franchising Andrew Whitworth, using that money to extend Zeitler is a better option.
Let him walk: Dre Kirkpatrick. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Kirkpatrick want to test the market in hopes of cashing in on a big contract. Given his inconsistent play, I think the Bengals are better off taking a pass.
Cut: Rey Maualuga: Though the Bengals don’t need to cut players to clear cap space, they could save $3.6M with no dead money by moving on from Maualuga.
Re-sign: Terrelle Pryor. There is speculation that the Browns will place the franchise tag on Pryor, but it would be better to sign him to a short-term deal and keep open the possibility of rewarding him with a larger extension if he continues to play well.
Let him walk: Isaiah Crowell. Crowell is strictly a rotational back and the Browns can afford to let him explore the market. They could always bring him back if he doesn’t find an offer he likes and is willing to take a low-cost deal.
Cut: Robert Griffin III. Early indications point to the Browns keeping RG3, but if they find a better option in free agency before the third day of the league year, they can cut him to save $6.9M in cap space.
Re-sign: James Harrison. As long as Harrison is willing to keep taking short-term, low-cost deals, it’s worth the Steelers keeping him around. (Note: I didn’t suggest LeVeon Bell because it may be better to let him play under the tag, given that he has missed so many games with injuries and suspension).
Let him walk: Lawrence Timmons. Though a popular player, Timmons’ play has declined and the Steelers need to move on, unless he’s willing to take a low-cost deal.
Cut: Ladarius Green. He was a disappointment this past season and not worth the $6.1M cap hit he’ll have.
Re-sign: Nick Novak. There is no harm in bringing Novak back on a short-term deal, though the Texans should consider rookie kickers to bring in for competition.
Let him walk: AJ Bouye. Though Bouye is coming off a great season, the Texans are still in good shape with Kareem Jackson and Johnathan Joseph in the secondary.
Cut: Derek Newton. Sadly, Newton’s season-ending injury means he may never play again. It would mean the Texans would have to give him an injury settlement, though there is a chance Newton may opt to retire.
Re-sign: Mike Adams. He turned out to be one of the best free agent signings the Colts made in recent years and is playing well enough to warrant retaining on another short-term deal.
Let him walk: Erik Walden. I never understood the Colts’ fascination with Walden. He clearly fits the definition of Just Another Guy and there is no reason to extend him.
Cut: Kendall Langford. Though the Colts don’t need to release anybody to clear cap space, they could move on from Langford to free $3.75M in space if so inclined.
Re-sign: Prince Amukamara: The Jaguars signed Amukamara to a one-year deal and he played well in 2016. He is worth keeping on a long-term deal.
Let him walk: Luke Joeckel. He never panned out at offensive tackle and was lost for the season to injury while transitioning to guard. There isn’t a reason for Jacksonville to bring him back.
Cut: Jared Odrick. He has been a disappointment since the Jaguars brought him in as a free agent and the Jags will save $8.5M in cap space by letting him go.
Re-sign: Sean Spence. He proved useful in a rotational role and on special teams, so the Titans should be able to retain him on a cheap deal.
Let him walk: Kendall Wright. He has never come close to the level he reached in 2013, when he caught 94 passes for 1,079 yards. The Titans need to move on from him.
Cut: Harry Douglas. Though the Titans have a lot of cap space, it makes little sense to keep Douglas around at a cap hit of nearly $4.5M.
Re-sign: Kayvon Webster. Though he reportedly wants to test the market, the Broncos shouldn’t rule out bringing him back at the right price, given his value on special teams.
Let him walk: Sylvester Williams. It’s for the best to let Williams test the market and find another player who will come at a deal more in line with his value. Bear in mind, though, that the Broncos shouldn’t overspend on a nose tackle, so if they find no other option and Williams is still available, it’s OK to retain him on a low-cost deal.
Cut: Donald Stephenson. We’ve discussed it many times: Stephenson does not justify a $5M cap hit or $4M in salary that becomes fully guaranteed a couple days into the league year.
Re-sign: Eric Berry. It’s become clear that Berry needs to be part of the Chiefs’ long-term plans. They really need to get an extension done rather than playing the tag game with him.
Let him walk: Dontari Poe. I will say I was wrong to suggest that the Chiefs would put the franchise tag on him. Not only is it clear that won’t happen, but the Chiefs are better off letting somebody else overpay for him.
Cut: Jamaal Charles. Though Charles had several great seasons with the Chiefs, the injuries he has sustained means he’s no longer worth retaining.
Los Angeles Chargers
Re-sign: Manti Te’o. Though he missed 13 games because of injuries, that should allow the Chargers to bring him back on a one-year, low-cost deal to see if he can bounce back.
Let him walk: Melvin Ingram. I expect Ingram will want to cash in on a big contract, given how many other pass rushers have scored big deals. The Chargers are not in a position to give him such a massive deal.
Cut: Steve Johnson. The Chargers’ cap space is better utilized on players other than a 31-year-old receiver coming off a season-ending injury.
Re-sign: Latavius Murray. As long as Murray is fine with taking a low-cost deal, he’s worth bringing back. But he’s somebody the Raiders don’t want to overpay.
Let him walk: DJ Hayden. He’s been a disappointment and the Raiders are better off moving on, though it might be fine to bring him back on a one-year deal if he generates no interest in free agency.
Cut: Sebastian Janikowski. Seabass had a quality season but if the Raiders find themselves in need of space, cutting him to save $4M is an option.