Teams around the NFL have already started to purge their roster in order to prepare for free agency—which begins in just over three weeks. The New York Giants released some big names in Victor Cruz and Rashad Jennings on Monday, clearing out $10 million in cap space alone.
The Detroit Lions may be looking to do something similar before free agency, and on the surface, it appears they could really clear some room:
Teams with the ability to create the most cap space via cuts-— Jason_OTC (@Jason_OTC) February 14, 2017
However, as first pointed out by Scott Warheit, most of that cap space would come from cutting three players they would never cut: Matthew Stafford ($16.5 million savings in cap space), Ezekiel Ansah ($12 million) and Glover Quin ($5 million).
That being said, there are still a few players out there that may get the axe to make a little room on the roster. Here’s a look at three.
Note: All cap figures are taken from OverTheCap.com.
2017 cap hit: $7.7 million
Savings if cut: $5.7 million
Ngata still has something left in the tank. He was one of the Lions’ better defensive lineman in 2016. However, the 33-year-old is not playing at a level that commands $7.7 million a year.
The problem for the Lions is that they don’t have anyone else on their roster. As of right now, Ngata is one of only two defensive tackles under contract for 2017. Detroit really needs Ngata as part of the team for one more year, just so they can start to build for the future. It’s much more likely that the team tries to renegotiate a contract rather than cutting him outright.
2017 cap hit: $2.35 million
Savings if cut: $1.35 million
Bademosi was key in creating the second-best special teams unit in the league for 2016. As a gunner, Bademosi was only matched by his counterpart, Don Carey. Together, they limited opponents returns to just 6.0 yards per punt return, good for fifth-best in the league.
But as a result of such focus on special teams, the Lions’ depth at cornerback struggled. Bademosi was forced into some playing time on defense and it was a role he clearly was not comfortable with. The Lions turned some heads when they signed Bademosi to a two-year contract for $4.5 million, a high number for a special teams player. Though Bademosi met expectations at special teams, the Lions may choose to prioritize defense in 2017 and save a little cash on the side.
Still, this seems like an unlikely move. That isn’t a ton of savings for getting rid of a key special teams player.
2017 cap hit: $661,089
Savings if cut: $568,911
Michael Burton wouldn’t save the Lions much money if Detroit decided to move on, but it would cost them less than $100,000 if they did. Burton played two or fewer offensive snaps in the Lions’ final seven games. For Detroit’s regular season finale and their playoff game, Burton wasn’t even part of the active gameday roster.
It appears Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter has no use for a fullback in his current system, so there’s really no point in keeping Burton around at any salary. Though Burton has been quite successful when called upon, it appears the Lions no longer need him. They might as well reclaim some of that money and spend it on a position that still exists.
As you can see, the Lions will probably not be clearing a lot of cap space prior to free agency via cuts. However, they could make some room with a Matthew Stafford contract extension or some restructuring of some of their bigger contracts like DeAndre Levy ($8.225 million cap hit in 2017). Still, the Lions currently sit at around $32.8 million in cap room right now (according to OverTheCap.com). Don’t expect to see that number move much before free agency.