There’s a number of star NFL players who find themselves on shaky ground heading into the start of training camp later this month.
We already know about the drama Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson has caused. But he’s not alone on this list.
Could the Jacksonville Jaguars move on from a former top-five pick? Maybe the New York Jets release one of the biggest free-agent busts in modern NFL history.
It’s in this that I look at five star players who could get proverbial pink slips during training camp later in July.
DeSean Jackson, wide receiver, Philadelphia Eagles
This one seems rather clear cut. Either the Eagles are going to accept Jackson’s apology after he shared anti-Semitic messages on social media or they are going to release him. Jackson has apologized twice after sharing quotes that were initially attributed to Adolf Hitler. It’s been a major story as the NFL prepares to open training camps.
If the Eagles decide to move on from the former Pro Bowl receiver, it would actually cost them against the cap. Though, the team could very well look to strip the receiver of his bonuses, saving cap space in the process. Jackson is set to count $8.61 million against the cap in 2020.
Malcolm Butler, cornerback, Tennessee Titans
Butler’s contract makes it nearly impossible that the Titans would outright release the former Super Bowl hero without spreading the cap hit throughout the next couple years. Releasing the veteran corner would cost the team $12 million against the cap. If they were to spread it out, the resulting cap hit would be $8 million.
This is made a bit more difficult by the fact that Tennessee doesn’t necessarily need to rely on an aging and regressing Butler in 2020. The Titans signed fellow veteran Johnathan Joseph during the spring. They also have youngsters Adoree Jackson and Kristian Fulton on the roster. Coming off a 2019 campaign that saw him regress a great deal, it would not be a surprise if the Titans moved on from Butler.
Leonard Fournette, running back, Jacksonville Jaguars
This one is intriguing in that the Jaguars put the former No. 4 overall pick on the trade block during the spring. They were unable to move him. No real interest on the trade market. That’s somewhat surprising in that Fournette, 25, put up 1,674 total yards at a clip of nearly five yards per touch last season.
Personality clashes with the Jaguars’ front office has played a role in this relationship souring. Could they decide to move on from Fournette and save $4-plus million against the cap? It’s more than possible.
Kawann Short, defensive tackle, Carolina Panthers
There’s a lot of layers that go into this. Short, 31, had been among the most disruptive interior defensive linemen in the NFL throughout his career prior to last season. The two-time Pro Bowler appeared in just two games throughout the 2019 campaign after suffering a torn rotator cuff. While Carolina would take on a $17.4 million dead cap hit by releasing Short, it can spread that out throughout the next couple years.
Defensive coordinator Phil Snow joins Matt Rhule’s coaching staff with the Panthers after working under him at Baylor. There’s no built-in relationship here. Meanwhile, Carolina exhausted the seventh overall pick in April’s draft on fellow defensive tackle Derrick Brown. While it remains a long shot, there’s a chance Short will be released during camp.
Le’Veon Bell, running back, New York Jets
A one-year train wreck. That’s the best way to describe Bell’s performance in his first season with the Jets. The former All-Pro performer averaged just 3.2 yards per touch. He doesn’t have the best relationship with embattled head coach Adam Gase, who actually preferred Tevin Coleman to Bell in free agency last spring.
The overriding issue here is Bell’s contract. He’s set to count $15.5 million against the cap in 2020. New York would incur a $17 million dead cap hit by releasing Bell. As with others on this list, that could be spread out a bit. Even then, it would be a bitter pill for general manager Joe Douglas to swallow. In no way does that mean Bell is guaranteed a roster spot. Things simply are not going great between the running back and his franchise right now.