With the 2017 NFL regular season now well past the half way point, we'll turn the page ahead to 2018, taking a look at players on each NFL team primed for a contract extension, or possibly headed toward a release next spring.
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Tyvon Branch (S, 30)
He was having an outstanding season quarterbacking the Cardinals secondary before an unfortunate ACL tear against the Seahawks. He'll carry a market value near $5M per year into the offseason.
Corey Peters (DT, 29)
Having his best season to date in a contract year for the Cardinals. He'll need a slight increase on his $3M per year average (Chris Baker, $5.25M)
Carson Palmer (QB, 37)
It's more likely Palmer retires, but either way the two sides should consider a split this offseason. Palmer carries a $20.625M cap figure in 2018 which includes a $1.5M roster bonus due on the 5th league day. Releasing him prior to that leaves behind $6.625M in dead cap, clearing $14M in cap space.
Levine Toilolo (TE, 26)
Signed this past offseason to a 3 year, $12M contract Toilolo has been used primarily in the run game (only 9 receiving targets through 10 weeks). His $4.5M cap figure in 2018 may be too rich, and the Falcons can clear $2.5M of it with his release.
Ryan Jensen (C, 26)
One of the lone bright spots on this 2017 Ravens' offense, Jensen is one of the top-rated centers in the league according to PFF, set to become a UFA this offseason. He'll be targeting J.C. Tretter's $5.5M AAV next spring.
Lardarius Webb (CB, 32)
Signed a 3 year $6.3M contract this past offseason but hasn't held his weight for the Ravens through 2017. His release next spring represents $1.75M in savings, and Baltimore will need all the cap they can find.
E.J. Gaines (CB, 25)
Gaines has battled injuries since coming over from the Rams this summer, but appears to be a strong fit across Tre'Davious White going forward. He aligns well with Dre Kirkpatrick's $10.5M AAV extension in Cincy, but values a bit less currently.
Tyrod Taylor (QB, 28)
Taylor's Week 11 benching is likely the writing on the wall for 2018, where he carries an $18.08M cap figure, $8.64M in dead cap ($9.44M savings). Depending on the statuses of Kirk Cousins & Sam Bradford, Taylor may be the best available free agent QB come March.
Andrew Norwell (G, 26)
He's been consistently above average for almost 4 full seasons in Carolina, and almost certainly won't be allowed to test the open market without an offer. His basement will be David DeCastro's $10M AAV, with fellow lineman Trai Turner's $11.25M AAV in sight.
Jonathan Stewart (RB, 30)
Stewart's accepted restructured salaries a few times in his 10 year Panthers career, but with limited cap space in 2018 it may be time for the two sides to part ways. His release would give Carolina a much needed $3.75M in cap back.
Mitch Unrein (DE, 30)
He's quietly been a major part of the Bears defensive success this season in a contract year, and should be strongly considered for a multi-year extension averaging $3.5M-$4M per year.
Mike Glennon (QB, 27)
Signed to compete for the starting role but lost it within a month of the 2017, the Bears can clear at least $11.5M in 2018 cap space by releasing him next spring (the dead cap for his $2.5M roster bonus will offset if he signs with a new team).
Tyler Eifert (TE, 27)
The oft-injured Bengal is one of the top playmakers in the league when available, and was inline for a major extension statistically (or the franchise tag) in 2018, but will now likely be offered an incentive-laden deal to secure the team from paying for an injured player.
Andy Dalton (QB, 30)
He'll likely be the most surprising player we include here, but with the Bengals on track to miss the postseason, a team-wide shakeup may be forthcoming, starting with Dalton. Trading or releasing him after 2017 leaves behind $2.4M in dead cap, clearing $13.9M in 2018 space. With A.J. McCarron headed toward restricted free agency (a situation that could bring offer sheets from other teams), the Bengals may look to push money his way rather than continue down the Dalton path.
Danny Shelton (DT, 24)
To be honest the Browns don't have a clear-cut extension candidate available this offseason. Shelton will be eligible for the first time next spring and certainly appears to be on the right track. With a plethora of cap-space at their disposal, a front loaded "early" extension may be a good idea here. Ibraheim Campbell (S, 25) also falls into this idea.
Kenny Britt (WR, 29)
Arguably the biggest free agent contract bust of 2017, the Browns will likely cut Britt loose from his 4 year contract after 1 year & $10.5M. They'll clear $3.25M in not needed cap space for doing so.
DeMarcus Lawrence (DE, 25)
He's exploded out of the gate in 2017, amassing 12 sacks and 37 tackles in 9 games. A dismal 2016 keeps his calculated value lower than his current play is asking for ($9.2M), but Lawrence is likely a $12M+ player this time next year.
Hanna's production has been hampered by Witten's refusal to get old and washed up. Hannah holds a $3.5M cap figure in 2018 and his release would clear $2.75M of it. Witten signed an extension that holds a $6.5M cap hit from 2018 thru 2021, and wil cost the Cowboys nothing to get out of each year. Witten's release would obviously garner more financial benefit for the Cowboys, but he may still have enough left in the tank to warrant another season.
Matt Paradis (C, 28)
He's eligible for restricted free agency next spring, but the Broncos should bypass that with a nice "bridge extension" (also known as the Patriots extension in modern day). David Andrews 3 year $9 million deal with New England should be the target.
Menelik Watson (OT, 28)
He refuses to stay healthy for a full season, and fairs poorly in pass protection when he's active, making his $7.4M cap figure in 2018 questionable. Denver can clear almost $4.8M against their 2018 cap by releasing him.
Tahir Whitehead (LB, 27)
Whitehead's had a somewhat quietly nice season for the Lions in a contract year (52 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT). Dont'a Hightower's $8.875M AAV is a likely starting point for this deal. Ezekiel Ansah should also be considered here, though his production has slipped thus far in 2017.
Eric Ebron (TE, 24)
The Lions have given Ebron every chance in the world to become a mainstay weapon for Stafford, but it just doesn't appear to be in the cards. His $5.194M salary for 2018 fully guarantees on the 1st league day, so this would likely be a February release.
Morgan Burnett (SS, 28)
The veteran has been one of the better safeties in football for the past 4 seasons. Now in a contract year, Burnett will be staring down Reshad Jones & Kam Chancellor's $12M AAV. He's valuing just south of that currently.
Randall Cobb (WR, 27)
Still a valuable asset when healthy, Cobb just hasn't produced at a level that warrants a $12M+ cap figure. With $9.5M to be saved per his release, it's likely Green Bay will strongly consider this move next March (especially if an extension for Davante Adams is in the cards).
Johnathan Joseph (CB, 33)
The veteran defensive back is having a solid campaign in his contract year, and should be strongly considered for a new deal this offseason. While Houston will certainly prefer to get younger and cheaper in most regards, the Texans will likely part ways Kareem Jackson (below), bringing a need for a veteran presence like Joseph to remain in the fold. Jadeveon Clowney will also be a strong extension candidate as he holds a $13.846M salary in his final year.
Kareem Jackson (CB, 29)
Jackson will need to flourish in the 2nd half of 2017 to secure his $9M cap figure for 2018. One of the worst-rated cornerbacks in the league this season, the Texans can clear $6.75M in cap by releasing him next spring.
Rashaan Melvin (CB, 28)
Melvin has been a bright spot in a dim year for the Colts. He's a Top-15 rated CB according to PFF, operating on a minimum $775,000 salary in his contract year. After bouncing around a bit the past few seasons, Melvin may have found a home for the short-term. 9
Margus Hunt (DT, 30)
The Colts took a low-money chance on Hunt this offseason but will likely look to get younger and better here going forward. His release would clear all of his $2M cap figure for 2018.
Allen Robinson (WR, 24)
The 2nd round pick out of Penn State was hoping to regain his 80 catch, 1,400 yard, 14 TD performance of 2015 before hitting the IR early this season. With fellow wideout Marqise Lee also on an expiring deal, Jacksonville may choose to stick with one going forward and let the other walk next March. He's a $13M WR when looking at 2015, and an $8M WR based on 2016, so the Jaguars will need to decide how much they trust Robinson's ceiling going forward.
Chris Ivory (RB, 29)
Ivory's $7M cap figure for 2018 was going to be a problem even before the Jaguars drafted Leonard Fournette this April. With $4M to be saved per his release, Ivory will find himself in need of a job next spring. Many believe QB Blake Bortles and his $19.053M salary next year belong in this category as well (we're not so sure).
Alex Smith (QB, 33)
Yes, the Chiefs mortgaged a lot of their future drafting Patrick Mahomes this April. But the fact of the matter is Alex Smith is playing the best football of his NFL career in a system that appears to fit him well. He's due $17M in 2018, but carries a $20.6M cap figure. With the Chiefs in awful cap status next year, cutting Smith to save $17M would be good for business, but signing him to a restructured extension with a lower 2018 cap figure may be the best for both worlds. He carries a $22M calculated market value.
Allen Bailey (DE, 28)
Bailey battled injuries in 2016 and hasn't shown the production worth his $8M cap figure for 2018. The Chiefs can clear a much needed $6M per his release next spring.
Tre Boston (FS, 25)
After falling out of favor in Carolina, Boston has made the most of his 1-year deal with the Chargers. Tashaun Gipson's $7.2M AAV could be a baseline for him in a multi-year deal.
Brandon Mebane (DT, 32)
His cap figure rises to $5.5M in 2018 and the Chargers can clear $4.5M of it per his release.
LaMarcus Joyner (CB, 26)
The former 2nd round pick is having his best season thus far in a contract year, though a recent injury has limited snaps. With E.J. Gaines now in Buffalo, Joyner has a chance to cash in with the Rams next spring. He holds a mild $8.6M calculated market value but should be pushing for Darius Slay's $12M mark.
Aaron Donald (DT, 26)
With 5 sacks, 22 tackles, and 3 forced fumbles in just 8 games, Donald will once again be pressing for his mega-deal this offseason. He carries a $6.892M 5th-year option salary for 2018, but holds a $16.1M calculated market value, though it's more likely a deal closer to $20M per year is locked down when it's all said and done.
Tavon Austin (WR, 26)
The Rams turned a few heads when they penned Austin to a 4 year $42M extension last August. With new options in place for Goff to spread the ball around to, Austin and his $8M cap figure for 2018 probably won't be necessary going forward. They can clear all $8M by trading him, or $3M to release him next spring.
Jarvis Landry (WR, 24)
The Dolphins offense leaves a lot to be desired in 2017, but Landry continues to show hiw value as a WR1 in this league. A candidate for a franchise tag next year, Landry will enter the winter with a calculated market value north of $14M, though he'll likely be seeking to push past DeAndre Hopkins' $16.2M mark.
Julius Thomas (TE, 29)
Acquired from Jacksonville this offseason, Thomas remains nowhere near the offensive weapon he was with Peyton Manning in Denver. All $6.6M of his 2018 cap figure can be cleared per his release.
Anthony Barr (LB, 25)
When healthy, Barr is one of the best edge linebackers in all of football. On pace for nearly 90 tackles, the Vikings will liklely need to pony up Chandler Jones ($16.5M) plus money to keep Barr in the fold. He holds $12.3M 5th-year option salary in 2018.
Latavius Murray (RB, 26)
Jerick McKinnon is due to be a free agent, and Dalvin Cook will be recovering from a torn ACL, but the Vikings should still consider moving on from Murray and his $6.35M cap figure for 2018. A release can clear $5.15M in space, aiding their need to sign a QB or two next spring.
Malcolm Butler (CB, 27)
Admidst trade rumors & what looks like a very gaudy free agent contract for colleague Stephon Gilmore, Butler remains the Patriots' most deserving extension candidate - albeit unlikely. Butler's production remains inline with that of Xavier Rhodes, who signed a $14M per year extension with the Vikings recently.
Martellus Bennett (TE, 30)
Unless Bennett makes a serious impact the final 7+ weeks of 2017, his $6.45M cap figure in 2018 will likely be too rich for New England. It's possible a restructure to his current deal ($2M roster bonus, or $3.6M base salary) could work for both sides as well.
Drew Brees (QB, 38)
Brees is on pace for his lowest passing yardage total (4,250) and TD total (23) as a Saint. But with the team winning, and Brees holding a whopping $18M in voided dead cap next season, it makes sense for the two sides to work out an extension. In doing so, $6M of the dead cap will fall into 2018, while the rest will push back accordingly. Peyton Manning's $15M salary his final year in Denver seems like an appropriate target.
Coby Fleener (TE, 29)
Fleener's on pace for just 40 targets in 2017, making his $8M cap figure next year hard to consider. New Orleans can clear $6.4M in 2018 cap by designating him a Post June-1st release.
Odell Beckham, Jr. (WR, 25)
While the ceiling is the sky for Beckham talent-wise, injuries and a lack of consistency have kept his calculated market value at bay ($14.3M). Antonio Brown's $17M AAV is the obvious target here, but it may be a tough get.
Brandon Marshall (WR, 33)
The Giants may part ways with plenty of veterans this spring, but we'll start with Marshall, who never found his footing before losing his year to injury in week 5. $5.1M of his $6.1M cap figure for 2018 can be cleared per his release. Dwayne Harris (WR, 30) & Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (CB, 31) may also find themselves on the block.
Demario Davis (LB, 28)
One of the higher rated linebackers in football this year, Davis was released, then re-signed by the Jets this past offseason. He's on pace for 130 tackles, and 5 sacks while playing every snap in 2017 and should be considered as a multi-year option to center the Jets D going forward. Jerrell Freeman's $6M AAV deal could be a baseline.
Buster Skrine (CB, 28)
One of the worst-graded cornerbacks in all of football holds an $8.5M cap figure for 2018. The Jets can clear $6M of that per his likely release.
Khalil Mack (DE, 26)
Mack's production (and the Raiders D as a whole) has slipped a bit in 2017, dropped his calculated value from over $20M, to $19.6M. Either way, Mack is aligning to becoming the highest paid defensive player in the history of football.
David Amerson (CB, 26)
He's battled a foot injury in 2017, and his cap figure actually decreases $2.5M next season in comparison to 2017, but the Raiders can still use the $6M in space garnered per his release to help feed bigger fish.
Alshon Jeffery (WR, 27)
Alshon's 1-year showcase has worked in his favor, as the prospective free agent is on pace for 130 targets, 60 catches, 900 yards, and 8 TDs. While the numbers aren't elite, Jeffery can still expect a raise from his $9.5M 2017 salary. He currently values just north of $10M.
Nick Foles (QB, 28)
The Eagles backup holds a $7.6M cap figure in 2018, and $5.4M in dead cap.
Torrey Smith (WR, 28)
Smith has been a nice piece to the Eagles puzzle, but Philly will need to void his remaining two years at $5M each due to cap trouble.
Brent Celek (TE, 32)
Celek's been a solid TE for 11 seasons in Philly, but the Eagles will likely need the $4M in cap to be saved per his release.
Ryan Shazier (LB, 25)
He's battled injuries in each of his first 3 seasons with the Steelers, but is fills up the stat sheet when he's healthy. Shazier holds an $8.7M 5th-year salary in 2018, a cap figure that can be reduced with a long-term extension. He's on pace to become the highest paid inside linebacker in the game.
J.J. Wilcox (S, 28)
He's been bumped down the depth chart this season to the point where his $3.125M cap figure for 2018 is almost certain to come off the board. The Steelers need every dollar than can find in the coming months.
Jimmy Garoppolo (QB, 26)
The 49ers made the big splash this trade deadline to acquire the rights to Garopplo, who is set to hit free agency next March. With enough cap space to field 5 teams, the 49ers have options here, a Brock Osweiler-type 4 year $72M deal with hopes he's the QB you want him to be, a "bridge deal" similar to the 2 year $30M contract the Bills negoitated with Tyrod Taylor this past March, or a franchise tag expected to chime in around $25M.
Zane Beadles (OL, 30)
With ample cap space, any release in 2018 will likely be for "football" reasons. Beadles is a depth lineman at best and $4M+ cap figure seems too rich for that role next year. $3.5M of that can be saved per his release.
Justin Coleman (CB, 24)
The undrafted free agent out of Tennessee pushed Jeremy Lane out of a starting slot-corner role in 2017 (and almost off the team via a failed trade). He's eligible for restricted free agency, putting Seattle in the driver's seat to make him an affordable multi-year offer. With the secondary quickly aging around him, Coleman appears to be a nice piece going forward.
Richard Sherman (CB, 29)
The Seahawks were actively shopping their veteran CB prior to 2017. With Sherman now recovering from a torn ACL, and set to enter a contract year in 2018, the $11M in cap to be saved might be a better business option for them.
Mike Evans (WR, 24)
Evans (and the Bucs offense as a whole) is on pace for a step back from 2016, but should still find 80 receptions, 1,000 yards and 7 TDs. He's projecting toward a 5 year, $78M contract, but should push past $16M per year with a strong finish to the year. He's under contract in 2018 with a $13.25M 5th-year salary.
Doug Martin (RB, 28)
Martin hasn't come close to regaining his strong 2015 performance, and might need to break out in the next few weeks of 2017 to secure his roster spot next spring. He holds a $6.75M salary/cap figure, all of which will come off the board per his release.
Avery Williamson (ILB, 25)
Williamson and Wesley Woodyard make for quite a nice center of the Titans' D. Set to hit free agency next spring, Williamson should be targeting Brandon Marshall's 4 year $32M deal in Denver as a baseline.
Da'Norris Searcy (SS, 28)
Searcy's role has been reduced in 2017, putting his $4.925M cap figure in question. The Titans can clear $3.8M of it per his release.
Kirk Cousins (QB, 29)
We're not entirely sure what the financial future for Cousins holds - or where for that matter. We know this much, statistically speaking over the past two seasons when compared to the highest paid QBs in football, Cousins is valuing toward a contract around $27M per year. We know that a transition tag for 2018 is worth $28.78M, and a 3rd franchise tag would be worth $34.47M. Barring a late season injury or a rapid decline in his production, one of these options seems like the right option, maybe?
Jordan Reed (TE, 27)
Reed is an All-Pro caliber TE when on the field, but he's yet to come close to a 16-game season in 4+ years with the Redskins. His 2018 cap number jumps to a daunting $10.3M, nearly $5M more than he accounted for in 2017. Washington can clear $8.5M in 2018 cap space by designating him a Post June-1st release.
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