I hope you didn't get too attached to anyone on your favorite team last season because there's a 50% chance they could be cut over the next few days in what's expected to be a bloodbath around the NFL.
Now that the salary cap for 2021 has been set -- it's $182.5 million -- the league's 32 teams have until 4 p.m. on March 17 to get under the cap. What this means is that there are going to be a lot of surprising cuts between now and then and the craziness started on Thursday when the Chiefs released BOTH of their starting tackles (Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz).
I'm not sure if Andy Reid watched the Super Bowl, but offensive tackle is probably the one spot where the Chiefs shouldn't be cutting corners. Fisher and Schwartz missed the Super Bowl due to injury and it showed as Patrick Mahomes got beaten up for four straight quarters.
We'll cover the Chiefs cuts and plenty more in today's newsletter, so let's get to the rundown.
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1. Today's show: NFC West deep dive
Over the past few weeks, the podcast has been doing a deep dive on the offseason needs for every team in the NFL and for Thursday's show, we covered the final four teams we had yet to hit (Seahawks, Rams, 49ers and Cardinals).
For the final installment of our team-by-team series, Will Brinson got rid of Ryan Wilson and me so he could bring in two-time Super Bowl winner Bryant McFadden, and I have to say, I wasn't offended. As a former NFL cornerback, no one is more qualified to talk about a team's secondary than McFadden and that's exactly what he did for nearly half the podcast. The reason McFadden spent so much time talking about secondaries is because there are two teams in the NFC West -- the Cardinals and 49ers -- who are going to have to revamp their back lines of defense this offseason.
With Seattle, nearly the entire conversation revolved around Russell Wilson and whether the Seahawks should actually trade him. As for the Rams, they might actually be the favorite in the division now that they've upgraded at quarterback.
To listen to today's episode -- and if you're a fan of any team in the NFC West, you will definitely want to -- be sure to click here.
2. Compensatory picks: Patriots get best pick thanks to Tom Brady's exit
The one advantage that comes with losing free agents during the offseason is that if you lose enough of them, the NFL eventually makes up for it with extra draft picks.
The league hands out compensatory picks every year and those picks were released on Wednesday. Although the exact formula the league uses to award picks hasn't been released, we do know that it basically comes down to this: a team that loses more or better compensatory free agents than it acquires in the previous year is eligible to receive compensatory draft picks.
For instance, the Patriots lost Tom Brady during the 2020 offseason and since they lost the most talented free agent, they were rewarded with the highest compensatory pick, which is the 96th overall pick in the 2021 draft. Overall, the Patriots were awarded two compensatory picks, which was tied for the fourth-highest number in the NFL. Only the Cowboys (four), Falcons (three) and Packers (three) were awarded more.
Here's a look at all the picks handed out:
Third-round compensatory picks
96. New England Patriots, 97. Los Angeles Chargers, 98. New Orleans Saints, 99. Dallas Cowboys, 100. Tennessee Titans, 101. Los Angeles Rams, 102. San Francisco 49ers, 103. Los Angeles Rams, 104. Baltimore Ravens, 105. New Orleans Saints
177. Green Bay Packers, 178. Dallas Cowboys, 179. Atlanta Falcons, 180. San Francisco 49ers, 181. Kansas City Chiefs, 182. Atlanta Falcons, 183. Baltimore Ravens
216. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 217. New Orleans Saints, 218. Atlanta Falcons, 219. Green Bay Packers, 220. Chicago Bears, 221. Carolina Panthers, 222. Minnesota Vikings, 223. Philadelphia Eagles, 224. Philadelphia Eagles, 225. Carolina Panthers, 226. Dallas Cowboys, 227. Chicago Bears
3. Chiefs release both of their starting tackles
If you watched the Super Bowl, you may have noticed that Patrick Mahomes spent nearly 90% of the game running for his life, which I'm only bringing up now, because I'm starting to feel like he might be spending 90% of the 2021 season running for his life after the Chiefs dumped BOTH of their starting tackles on Thursday.
Let's take a look at the Chiefs cuts:
- Eric Fisher: The Chiefs starting left tackle had been in Kansas City since 2013 when the team made him the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft. Fisher started 15 games for the Chiefs during the 2020 regular season, but didn't play in the Super Bowl after tearing his Achilles during Kansas City's AFC title game win over Buffalo.
- Mitchell Schwartz: During his five-year run in Kansas City, the Chiefs right tackle went four straight seasons without missing a game. However, that streak ended in 2020 when Schwartz missed the final 10 games of the season due to a back injury.
Both guys sat out the Super Bowl due to injuries and as you probably noticed in that game, things got ugly for Mahomes. If you're wondering why the Chiefs would make two drastic moves like this, it all comes down to money. Going into the week, the Chiefs were roughly $22 million over the salary cap, but that number is now down to roughly $4 million because the releasing Schwartz and Fisher will save them about $18 million in cap space.
The Chiefs have to be under the cap by March 17, which means they'll still have to make a few more moves between now and then. One obvious move that will likely be coming in the near future is the restructuring of Mahomes' contract, which could create millions more in cap space.
4. Here's what happens when you're $100 million over the cap
When the offseason started, the Chiefs were in bad shape with the salary cap, but they definitely weren't in the worst shape and that's because that honor went to the Saints, who were roughly $100 million OVER the cap when their season ended back in January (The exact number was about $101.6 million)
It's not easy to shave $100 million off your cap, but that's what the Saints have had to do this offseason and with less than a week to go until the start of free agency -- when they have to be in cap compliance -- the Saints are inching closer.
So how do you shave $100 million off your salary cap? Let's take a look at the Saints' moves.
- Players who got cut. The Saints released Janoris Jenkins on Thursday, making him the sixth big name to be dropped by the team. Over the past four weeks, the Saints have also released punter Thomas Morstead, offensive lineman Nick Easton along with tight end Josh Hill. Emmanuel Sanders was released on Wednesday. The Saints are also reportedly releasing Kwon Alexander, which will save another $13 million against the cap. Total savings for those moves: $43.9 million.
- Players who restructured their deal. The Saints have been busy restructuring player deals this offseason with Wil Lutz, Cam Jordan, Malcolm Jenkins, David Onyemata, Demario Davis and Andrus Peat all reworking their contracts. Total savings for those moves: $29 million.
- Drew Brees special. Although we don't know if Brees is going to retire, we do know that he restructured his contract. The quarterback was set to have a $25 million salary for 2021, but that was restructured down to $1.075 million. Total savings for this move: $24 million.
The total savings of all of those moves is $96.9 million. However, according to Over the Cap, the Saints are still $25 million over the cap and that has happened because they've also ADDED money to their salary cap this offseason. For instance, they hit Marcus Williams with the franchise tag, which is expected to add roughly $10.6 million to their cap. Basically, the Saints have made a lot of moves and they're still going to have to make even more between now and March 17 to get under the cap.
5. Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson big winners under new fifth-year option rules
When the NFL and NFLPA approved the new collective bargaining agreement last year, one big thing that changed is how the fifth-year option is handled in rookie contracts. Under the old CBA, the fifth-year option was handed out based on where you were picked in the draft. If you were a top 10 pick, your fifth-year salary paid you the average of the 10-highest salaries at your position. If you picked between 11 and 32, you were given the average of the third through 25th-highest salaries at your position.
Thanks to the new CBA, there will be some major changes. Under the new rules, a player will get the franchise tag amount if they've been voted to two or more Pro Bowls in their first three years. If you get voted to one Pro Bowl, you get the transition tag amount. Also, if you play 75% of your team's snaps or more in two of your first three seasons, you get the average of the third- through 20th-highest salaries at your position. You also get this number if you average 75% or more of your team's snaps over all three seasons or play 50% or more in each of your first three seasons.
If you meet none of those thresholds, then you get the average of the third- through 25th-highest salaries at your position.
With that in mind, here are the players from the 2018 draft who will have the highest fifth-year options:
Jackson is definitely the big winner and that's because he's slated to get the highest fifth-year option number even though he was the last pick in the first round back in 2018. All NFL teams have until May 3 to decide if they want to exercise the fifth-year option and you can bet all five guys on the list above will get their option picked up.
You can see the full list of fifth-year option numbers over at Pro Football Talk.
6. Highlights from Dak's press conference
I'm not sure if there's an official NFL record for longest offseason press conference that doesn't have to do with a retirement, but if there is, the Dallas Cowboys might have set it on Wednesday. The press conference to announce Dak Prescott's new contract went on for more than 90 minutes and that was mostly due to the fact that no one loves to hear himself talk more than Jerry Jones.
Here are a few quick highlights from the press conference:
- Dak wants to retire a Cowboy. Prescott made it clear that he would like to stay in Dallas forever. "This is the right fit. Never in a million years did I imagine not being a Cowboy once I put on the Star," Prescott said. "I'm excited to be here and never leave. This is my home, I'm not leaving and this is only the beginning." I'm guessing Prescott is only going to stay with the Cowboys forever if they're willing to pay him an exorbitant amount of money on all his future contracts like they did with the one they just negotiated.
- Prescott thanks Alex Smith. Prescott has spent the past five months rehabbing from a gruesome leg injury and one reason he's been optimistic about his return is because Smith came back from a similar injury. "I have to thank Alex Smith," Prescott said. "At that moment when you're sitting there and you have an injury like that ... to see somebody who has already done it -- and did it actually in worse circumstances -- that allowed my mind to go 'I can do this.'"
- No regrets from Jerry. Although Jones could have saved millions if he would have gotten the Dak deal done at any point over the past two years, the Cowboys owner doesn't regret that he had to pay so much due to his procrastination. "The truth is most anything that I've ever been involved in that ended up being special, I overpaid for, every time, to the end," Jones said. "Anytime I've tried to get a bargain, I got just that, it was a bargain in a lot of ways and not up to standard."
- Jones also said something about circumcising a fly, but I don't think anyone actually knows what he was talking about.
7. The Kicker: 'Jeopardy!' contestants stumped by Andy Reid clue
If I somehow ever end up on "Jeopardy!," I would most likely get smoked. However, I can say for a fact that I would have earned at least $1200 on Tuesday's show and that's because there was a clue about Andy Reid that none of the contestants were able to figure out.
Not only was there a clue read by host Katie Couric, but there was also a PICTURE included in the clue.
Here's what the clue said:
"After 21 seasons as a head coach, in 2019, this Kansas City Chiefs leader finally got to enjoy the last game of the season."
If you click here, you can get a good look at three stumped contestants trying to figure out who Andy Reid is. In related news, my new goal this offseason is to get on "Jeopardy!," so if you need me, I'll be reading the encyclopedia.