15 NFL free agents set for a big payday

Every year, there a number of players in contract years who make themselves a ton of money. Players like Josh Norman, Nick Foles and Olivier Vernon showed out in their final year before hitting free agency and cashed in. Raheem Mostert would have been a great candidate to be on this list, but he signed a nice deal just before the Super Bowl.

To be clear here, these are players who have yet to earn that big payday in the pro football. Obviously, Tom Brady, Phillip Rivers and Jadeveon Clowney will land huge contracts, but they have already raked in a ton of cash. With NFL free agency just three weeks away from opening, let’s take a look at players looking to earn a big pay raise.

Cowboys logoDak Prescott, QB, Cowboys
It has been a long time coming, but Dak Prescott is going to get a massive pay increase this offseason. The former 4th-round pick made just over $2 million in 2019. He could very well be in line to land a deal that pays him close to $40 million per season. Even if Dallas decides to use the franchise tag on him, he would likely earn over $25 million in 2020.

Chiefs LogoChris Jones, DL, Kansas City Chiefs
Meet the top defensive player not named Jadeveon Clowney in this free agent class. Jones has been nothing short of a game-wrecker in Kansas City and was an integral part of that defensive resurgence in 2019. There is some buzz about him being an option for the franchise tag. The Chiefs may also look to trade him after that, which they did last year with Dee Ford. He made roughly $1.3 million during his Super Bowl run. On the open market, he could command close to $20 million per year on his next deal.

Ravens logoMatt Judon, EDGE
There has already been some buzz about the Ravens franchise tagging Judon and looking to trade him. He has not been as prolific as Ngakoue, but he does have 29 sacks in four seasons. As a fifth-round pick, he made right around $2 million this year. The franchise tag would see him make around $16 million in 2020, but he could also sign a long-term deal for at least $14.5 million per year.

Buccaneers logoShaquille Barrett, EDGE, Buccaneers
Nobody made more money for themselves in 2019 than Barrett. The 27-year-old signed an incentive-laden deal with the Buccaneers, maxing out at $4 million. He went on to lead the NFL in sacks and now seems poised to land a contract somewhere in the range of $17 to $20 million per year. That type of leap is nothing short of incredible.

Titans logoDerrick Henry, RB, Titans
Heading into the season, I was very pessimistic about Henry’s chances of landing a long-term deal in Tennessee. After he led the NFL in rushing this season and almost carried the Titans to a Super Bowl. He made about $1.1 million this season. He will almost definitely 10 times that in 2020.

Saints logoTeddy Bridgewater, QB, Saints
Many thought Bridgewater would attempt to land a big payday in the 2019 offseason. Instead, he signed a one-year, $7.25-million deal to stay as Drew Brees’ backup. His 5-0 stint as the starter when Brees got hurt earned him a ton of money. Expect him to sign a deal north of $20 million per year in New Orleans or elsewhere.

Jaguars logoYannick Ngakoue, DE, Jaguars
If somehow Jacksonville lets Ngakoue walk, some team is going to hand him a monster deal in free agency. He has 38 career sacks in four seasons. As a former third-round pick, Ngakoue has well outplayed his contract. He made around $2 million in 2019. He should make upwards of $17 million per year going forward.

Chargers logoAustin Ekeler, RB, Chargers
As a former undrafted running back out of West Colorado State, Ekeler flew under the radar for a while. He is not a bellcow back, but came just shy of 1,000 yards receiving in 2019. He earned a meager $645 thousand this past season, but he should probably earn himself around 10 times that on average, in the $7 million range. At 24 years old, he is hitting free agent at a prime point for running backs.

Falcons logoAustin Hooper, TE, Falcons
He has flown under the radar a bit, but Hooper has turned into one of the top 10 tight ends in the NFL. As a 2016 3rd-round pick, he played at the final season of his rookie deal. The 25-year-old should have plenty of suitors and should more than quadruple the $2 million he made in 2019.

Vikings logoAnthony Harris, S, Vikings
People have started to learn his name, especially after he finished tied for the NFL lead in interceptions this season. As a former undrafted free agent in 2015, Harris is in line for a massive pay bump. He earned roughly $3 million this year on a one-year deal. The 28-year-old will likely land a deal four times that.

Panthers logoTre Boston, S, Panthers
Working as a mercenary the past three seasons, Boston is in line for a longer deal with some more financial guarantees. He has 11 interceptions in that time frame. He turns 28 this summer and should be looking to cash in after another good season. After earning $2.275 million last year, he should be looking into the $9 million per year range at least on his next deal.

Panthers logoJames Bradberry, CB, Panthers
Another member of the Panthers secondary in line for a big jump, Bradberry is one of the better cover corners in the NFL. Carolina will likely keep him in house and hand him a handsome raise. He made just under $1 million this season. He should be making upwards of $13 million per year by next season.

Texans logoD.J. Reader, DL, Texans
As a former 5th rounder, Reader has flown under the radar. He made just over $2 million in 2019 but he outplayed that paycheck by a wide margin. He won’t reset the market by any means as mostly a run stuffing option. I think we will likely see him land a deal worth around $10 or $11 million per year. He is due for a nice payday.

Lions LogoGraham Glasgow, G, Lions
Interior linemen don’t often move the needle, but finding a player capable of keeping your quarterback upright is invaluable. Glasgow has started 58 games out of a possible 64 over the past four seasons. He is 27 years old and should find himself making about $10 million per year after earning just $2 million in 2019.

NFL Draft Podcast – AFC Free Agency Primer and Draft Implications

After breaking down the NFC last week, it is time to discuss which AFC free agents will impact the 2020 NFL Draft. The Patriots await Tom Brady’s free agent decision while the rest of the division hopes to close the game and patch up their offensive lines. Tennessee’s incredible run came courtesy of a number of players that are not under contract for 2020. Houston, Indianapolis and Jacksonville all enter free agency with at least one major player it needs to bring back. The reigning Super Bowl champs have to figure out what they will do with Chris Jones. Meanwhile, Los Angeles might need to rebuild its whole offense. In the North, the Ravens have some difficult decisions to make regarding Matt Judon and Michael Pierce. The Browns, Bengals and Steelers all need reinforcements in the trenches. Catch up on all the major pending free agents ahead of the scouting combine! Listen to the latest episode now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.

Potential NFL Cap Casualties

For 12 NFL teams, the focus remains on the playoffs. For the other 20 teams though, it is time to start thinking about the offseason. With a little (ok a lot) of help from Spotrac.com, I went through and determined the players on the 20 teams not in postseason action most likely to be cap casualties this offseason.

Falcons logoAtlanta Falcons
Tyson Jackson, DE
Roddy White, WR
Matt Bryant, K
Jacob Tamme, TE
Total Savings: $13.45 million
The first year of the Dan Quinn era got off to a good start, but there were some veterans on the team who definitely did not contribute to what their pay grade indicates they should have. Tyson Jackson failed to register a sack this season and has a $6.35 million price tag attached to him. Roddy White showed his age and is not worth the 6 million and change it would cost to keep him. Matt Bryant has been good but at age 40 he is reaching the end of his career and Atlanta can find a cheaper option. Tamme is a back up on the team and would save over a million if they cut him.

Ravens logoBaltimore Ravens
Ladarius Webb, CB
Dennis Pitta, TE
Total Savings: $11.5 million
Ladarius Webb just turned 30 and is on the downside of his career. Dennis Pitta has not been able to stay healthy over the past few years and is not worth the $7.2 million he counts against the cap next season. They will probably restructure Joe Flacco’s contract as well, as it would save them over $11 million in cap space. Maybe with the money, Baltimore can invest in a wide receiver.

Bills logoBuffalo Bills
Mario Williams, DE
Total Savings: $15.5 million
Paying $19.9 million for any player is ridiculous, especially when you can cut him to save that much. Rex Ryan has already made it clear that Williams will not be back. Look for the team to restructure Marcel Dareus’ contract as well to save an additional $6 million.

Bears logoChicago Bears
Antrel Rolle, S
Total Savings: $3 million
Rolle is 33 now and the Bears need to infuse some youth on this defense. Chicago actually has a ton of cap space to work with already (roughly $59 million). The Bears could create a ton of room as well if they can restructure Jay Cutler’s deal. It would save them about $13 million in cap space, giving them $75 million to spend.

Browns logoCleveland Browns
Dwayne Bowe, WR
Josh McCown, QB
Karlos Dansby, LB
Total Savings: $11.78 million
Cutting Dwayne Bowe doesn’t save a ton compared to what his cap hit was supposed to be, but he was so terrible in 2015, he needs to go. Josh McCown does not have a spot on this team either. Dansby is 34 and saves $5 million in cap space if he is cut. The Browns could rework Joe Haden’s deal to save an extra $7 million as well.

Cowboys logoDallas Cowboys
No one
Total Savings: None
This seems lame but really the Cowboys have no one to cut that will make a huge difference. At least no one they can afford to lose. I think Dallas will restructure Tony Romo’s and Tyron Smith’s deals though in order to free up close to $21.4 million in cap space.


Detroit Lions
Brandon Pettigrew, TE
Rashean Mathis, CB
Total Savings: $5.15 million
With rumors circulating that Calvin Johnson might retire, the Lions could have even more cap room. Eric Ebron has taken over for Pettigrew at tight end and Mathis is 35 already. Detroit desperately needs to infuse some youth and spend some draft picks on their secondary. If Megatron stays, don’t be surprised to see his deal restructured, as it would save the Lions over $12 million.


Indianapolis Colts
Andre Johnson, WR
Trent Cole, OLB
Erik Walden, OLB
Total Savings: $15.25 million
All three of these players are coming off disappointing seasons. Cole and Johnson had the worst seasons of their careers while Walden failed to make much of an impact.


Jacksonville Jaguars
Chris Clemons, DE
Dan Skuta, OLB
Total Savings: $7.6 million
Neither one of these guys has to go and I wouldn’t be surprised if they both stayed. They are just the two most likely players to get cut. Clemons only started seven games this year and registered just three sacks. Skuta was also a spot starter and with both Telvin Smith and Dante Fowler projecting as the starters for next season, he is more of a surplus at this point.


Miami Dolphins
Quinton Coples, OLB
Greg Jennings, WR
Total Savings: $12.75 million
Neither of these players did much in 2015. Jennings has been replaced in the offensive by both Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker. Coples was a midseason signing with no track record. Cutting him costs the Dolphins nothing and saves them $7.75 million. Look for them to rework Ndomakung Suh’s and Ryan Tannehill’s deals to save about $25.1 million.


New Orleans Saints
Marques Colston, WR
Total Savings: $5.5 million
Colston started to show his age this year and will likely not be returning. The Saints won’t cut Drew Brees, most likely, but they will force him to take a pay cut for sure. He counts $30 million against the cap next year and the Saints cannot afford that.


New York Giants
Victor Cruz, WR
Total Savings: $8 million
The Giants can afford to keep Cruz, but at 29 with a long injury history, New York will likely let him walk. The Giants can also restructure Eli Manning’s deal to give them an additional $12.4 in cap space. That would give New York close to $60 million in cap room for the upcoming offseason.


New York Jets
Antonio Cromartie, CB
Breno Giacomini, RT
Geno Smith, QB
Total Savings: $13.5
The Jets are very deep in the secondary and with Cromartie already at 31 years old, New York can let him walk. Cutting Giacomini, who has been underwhelming, would let the Jets draft a tackle in the first round to fix that spot. Getting rid of Smith only saves $1 million, but it lets the Jets move on from a terrible draft pick. If the team needs money to make a big deal in free agency, Darrelle Revis’ contract can be reworked to save over $12 million.


Oakland Raiders
Sebastian Janikowski, K
Total Savings: $3.6 million
Janikowski is 37 now and has one of the highest cap numbers for kickers in the league. Like Jacksonville, Oakland doesn’t need to cut him, but if they cut someone, I think he is most likely. The Raiders already have $64 million in cap room.


Philadelphia Eagles
Brent Celek, TE
Total Savings: $5 million
Over the last two years, Brent Celek has clearly become second fiddle to Zach Ertz. He turned 30 this year as well, which doesn’t help his case. I think Philly will rework Byron Maxwell’s deal to save some additional space.


San Diego Chargers
Donald Brown, RB
Total Savings: $3.5 million
With Bradon Oliver, Melvin Gordon and Danny Woodhead already in San Diego, Donald Brown probably gets ruled as excess. Look for San Diego to rework Philip Rivers’ deal to save north of $11 million in cap space too.


San Francisco 49ers
Colin Kaepernick, QB
Erik Pears, RT
Total Savings: $15.5 million
With Anthony Davis potentially coming back in 2016, the 49ers won’t need the 33-year old Pears anymore at right tackle. We’ve also likely seen the last of Colin Kaepernick in the Bay Area. Cutting him will save the Niners $13.4 million in cap space.


St. Louis Rams
No one
Total Savings: None
Similar to Dallas, the Rams don’t have anyone they would like to cut to save money. We could see Robert Quinn’s deal restructured though to save St. Louis about $5.3 million.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Vincent Jackson, WR
Logan Mankins, LG
Total Savings: $16.8 million
Over the past two seasons, Vincent Jackson’s production has dropped off. Granted this season he was hurt, but he will be 33 in 2016 and Tampa needs to continue to build a young foundation. Releasing him saves the Bucs almost $10 million. Logan Mankins was great for a stop-gap solution but he is not the long term answer. Rather than keep him on another year, save $7 million and cut him now.


Tennessee Titans
Da’Norris Searcy, SS
Total Savings: $5 million
Searcy is not the answer at safety and the Titans do not need to have him count that extra $5 million against the cap while they find his replacement. The Titans need to draft well to get back into playoff contention.