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6 star NFL players who could be surprise cuts

Vincent Frank
Leonard Fournette
Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the 2020 NFL Draft is in the rear-view mirror, teams are figuring out their depth charts. Rosters are almost all at 90 right now. It also has us thinking. Which big-name veteran players could ultimately be impacted by said draft and free agency?

A certain star defensive tackle in North Carolina may no longer have a role under new Panthers head coach Matt Rhule. Meanwhile, the drama-filled tenure for a Pro Bowl pass catcher in Philadelphia could be coming to an end.

Here, I look at six big-name NFL veterans who could be surprise cuts ahead of the 2020 season.

Kawann Short, defensive tackle, Carolina Panthers

Carolina’s decision to select reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year Derrick Brown No. 7 overall in last month’s NFL Draft could act as writing on the wall for Short. The two-time Pro Bowler appeared in just two games last season due to injury. It’s an open question whether he’s a fit in new defensive coordinator Eric Washington’s scheme.

Sure, releasing the 31-year-old veteran would come with a significant dead cap hit. A total of $17.36 million to be precise. However, the Panthers can spread that across the next two seasons by designating Short a post-June 1 cut. It just makes too much sense.

Alshon Jeffery, wide receiver, Philadelphia Eagles

Drama. That’s been the name of the game between this high-priced receiver and his team. There’s no telling just how bad it is behind the scenes after reports suggest he was the unnamed Eagles player to call out quarterback Carson Wentz. This could be a determining factor in the Eagles’ decision to potentially take on a $26.1 million dead cap hit by releasing the veteran.

As with Short above, the Eagles could spread that across two years. It would save them just $2.5 million this year and $5-plus million in 2021. Philadelphia’s selection of Jalen Reagor in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft coupled with the acquisition of Marquise Goodwin could lead to the team biting the bullet and moving on from Jeffery altogether.

Melvin Ingram, EDGE, Los Angeles Chargers

Ingram has been consistently product ever since the Chargers made him a first-round pick back in 2012. The three-time Pro Bowler has recorded seven-plus sacks in each of the past five seasons. However, he put up a five-year low 12 quarterback hits last season and is set to count $16.63 million against the cap in 2020. Los Angeles can get out of the deal with a mere $2.63 million dead cap hit.

The Chargers are also in a bit of a pickle in that they have to think long and hard about handing Joey Bosa what would be the richest contract in NFL history for a defensive player. They don’t want that situation to draw on. If releasing Ingram means getting a Bosa deal done in short order, that’s the decision Los Angeles will have to make.

Leonard Fournette, running back, Jacksonville Jaguars

It’s by now well known that the Jaguars have been trying to trade this former top-four pick over the past several weeks. Despite Fournette putting up nearly 1,700 total yards last season, there’s been no real market for him. That’s due to his status as a free agent following the 2020 season and perceived issues as it relates to a lack of maturity.

Jacksonville has made it clear that a change in culture is needed. It added multiple layers to this by moving on from big-name veterans in trades over the past couple months. The Jags would save north of $4 million against the cap by releasing the enigmatic running back.

Ryan Kerrigan, EDGE, Washington Redskins

Washington has spent heavily on the defensive end position recently, selecting Chase Young No. 2 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft and picking fellow EDGE rusher Montez Sweat in the first round last year. These are the two future bookends for new head coach Ron Rivera and Co.

A defensive-minded coach, Rivera likes his edge rushers a certain way. Julius Peppers with the Carolina Panthers comes to mind first. Despite his success (average of 10 sacks in nine NFL seasons), Kerrigan may no longer have a real role in D.C. While Washington might look to trade him, the veteran’s $11.7 million cap hit for 2020 would be a sticking point. In the end, these Skins can save that $11.7 million against the cap by releasing the 31-year-old four-time Pro Bowler.

Gabe Jackson, guard, Las Vegas Raiders

Las Vegas tried its hardest to move Jackson during the 2020 NFL Draft. Unfortunately for Jon Gruden, nothing came to fruition on this end. It makes sense in that Jackson, 28, is set to count $9.6 million against the cap in 2020. Teams simply don’t have the cap room to make a move of this ilk for an interior lineman at this point in the offseason.

Adding to the intrigue here is the fact that the Raiders selected an impressive John Simpson in the fourth round of the 2020 NFL Draft. The Clemson product could start immediately next to veteran Richie Incognito, making Jackson expendable in the process.