Free agency is a time for teams to bolster their rosters and make moves to compete for championships.
10. Jamal Adams (Remaining Contract: Three Years, $45 Million)
The Seahawks traded a 2021 first round pick (Alijah Vera-Tucker), a 2021 third round pick which the Jets used to move up and take Vera-Tucker in the first round, a 2022 first round pick (Offensive Rookie of the Year Garrett Wilson) and safety Bradley McDougald for Jamal Adams and a 2022 fourth round pick (Coby Bryant). Seattle not only overpaid to acquire Adams, but the team also overpaid to keep him too.
Adams’ $18,110,000 cap hit in 2023 accounts for over 8% of the team’s total cap space this season. For a player that only played in one game last season before suffering a torn quad that sidelined him for the rest of the year, taking a bite into the cap worth nearly 1/10th of the total pie is no small loss. Keeping Adams is the only choice, however. Though he may not be as productive as his time in New York and he may not be ready for the start of next season, cutting Adams would create a dead cap space penalty of $23,890,000.
9. Shy Tuttle (Remaining Contract: Three Years, $19.5 Million)
When the Carolina Panthers offered defensive tackle Shy Tuttle a three year, $19,500,000 deal at the start of the 2023 free agency, the move was as much about keeping Tuttle off of New Orleans’ defensive line as it was putting him on theirs.
Though he has shown flashes of potential through his four seasons with the Saints, Tuttle only recorded two sacks and three quarterback hits through the 2022 season after creating none in either category through the 2021 season. In those two seasons, Tuttle started 29 games.
Tuttle’s four year stint in New Orleans did feature moments of greatness, including a forced and recovered fumble, 14 total pass deflections and an interception his rookie year. Locking down a defensive tackle on a three year deal who has struggled to maintain his starting role on a struggling New Orleans defensive line might be a move that the Panthers come to regret.
8. Ronnie Stanley (Remaining Contract: Three Years, $47.5 Million)
Baltimore Ravens longtime left tackle has a lengthy injury history that has limited his ability to stay on the field. The former sixth overall pick in 2016 has left the Ravens in a conundrum as the team has done their due diligence in sticking to their guy. Unfortunately for Baltimore, their guy has only played 18 games in the last three seasons, forcing the Ravens to lean on a revolving door of backup tackles.
Cutting Stanley would sting just as badly as keeping him. If cut through the 2023 season, Stanley’s contract would create a $35,754,750 dead cap penalty.
7. Christian Kirk (Remaining Contract: Three Years, $65 Million)
Kirk was one of several wide receivers to catch a bag from the Jaguars’ front office during the 2022 offseason. After creating a career high in every statistical category, Kirk put together a 1,000 yard campaign in 2022 with Trevor Lawrence throwing him the ball. However, despite putting up career highs, Kirk only caught 62% of his targets and created situations that left Lawrence in tight spots.
With teams watching more tape on the WR1’s game, Lawrence is going to need a more consistent receiver to keep the Jaguars in contention for the future. While yes, Kirk will still have a premiere roll on the offense in the slot, having Calvin Ridley out wide is going to be a huge addition for this Jacksonville offense.
6. Chandler Jones (Remaining Contract: Two Years, $34 Million)
Jones was a dominant force to be reckoned with in Arizona, but after creating five sacks week one of the 2021 season, Jones only created 4.5 sacks with the Raiders throughout the entire 2022 season. Age, defensive scheme and injury have all contributed to the 33 year old edge rusher’s regression.
Playing in one of the league’s worst pass rushes is sure to regress his skills even further. Unfortunately for Jones, no hope is on the horizon for Las Vegas to turn their ship around defensively. The best he can hope for is to be traded or cut to a defense that boasts a stronger line, decreasing how much the team would have to lean on him.
5. Jonnu Smith (Remaining Contract: Two Years, $15 Million)
Neither Hunter Henry nor Smith have been game changing assets for the Patriots since the team overhauled its tight end room during the 2021 offseason. Smith received the worst of it, never finding a consistent spot on the Patriots offense which resulted in him being dealt to the Falcons for a 2023 seventh round pick (Jovaugh Gwyn).
After signing a four year front loaded contract with the Patriots, Smith caught only one touchdown after starting his career with a promising outlook in Tennessee. Atlanta now holds Smith’s contract and will look to pair him with former first round pick Kyle Pitts.
4. Michael Thomas (Remaining Contract: Two Years, $24.5 Million)
Thomas put together one of the most dominant seasons in NFL history in 2019, accruing 149 catches on his way to an Offensive Player of the Year award and what many believed to be the peak of a generational talent’s career. That peak was cut short, however, after a string of lingering foot and ankle injuries threatened to end the career of one of the league’s most talented receivers.
The worst part of Michael Thomas’s five year, $100M contract is in the rear view mirror for New Orleans, but the question remaining is the same question Saints fans have been asking themselves for years – can Michael Thomas stay healthy?
After adding Offensive Rookie of the Year finalist Chris Olave and a plethora of hidden gem talents such as Rashid Shaheed, James Washington and the team’s sixth round pick in 2023 A.T. Perry, New Orleans no longer has to rely on Thomas to be the player he was in 2019 and before. With the Saints no longer needing Thomas as a cornerstone of the offense, creating a cap hit of $25 million over the next two seasons seems like a heavy price to pay for a WR2, if not WR3.
3. Matthew Stafford (Remaining Contract: Four Years, $121.5 Million)
Stafford is 35 years old and just suffered the worst injury of his career after suffering a spinal contusion that threatened to end the former Super Bowl winning quarterback’s career. His best years are more than likely behind him, and while his career may see a resurgence in 2023, the Rams drafted an insurance policy in the former NCAA national champion quarterback Stetson Bennett.
Los Angeles is finally feeling what is only the beginning of the brunt of their “all-in” move from a few years prior. Stafford’s regression through age and health is only the beginning of that fall from grace. With the team owing him $121.5 million over the next four years, it’s hard to envision a world where the Rams don’t swallow their pill and cut the aging star
2. Deshaun Watson (Remaining Contract: Four Years, $220 Million)
The Browns took a swing for the fences trading for Deshawn Watson in the 2021 offseason. The front office got the guy they felt could lead their team to a championship – flaws, lawsuits and all.
After not playing for almost two full seasons through sitting out and suspension, the race for Watson seemed like a two horse race between two NFC South teams until the Browns swooped in and made Watson an offer he couldn’t refuse. The result thus far has only resulted in 1,000 yards and nearly as many interceptions as touchdowns.
Until he knocks the rust off of his game and returns to form as the player that he once was, Watson will remain a bad deal for Cleveland.
1. Russell Wilson (Remaining Contract: Six Years, $239 Million)
The Broncos made a win now move by trading for Wilson and it has been nothing short of an all out disaster for the franchise. Not only did Wilson barely throw more touchdowns than he has bathrooms in his home last season, but the team reportedly had infighting that resented Wilson and his private team of trainers and staff.
Under new head coach Sean Payton, Wilson should be subject to have a different sort of season, but if an offensive guru and future Hall of Fame head coach can’t fix the 34 year old, Wilson’s $245 million deal with $165 million guaranteed might go down as one of the worst contracts not only now, but in NFL history.
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