Just when we thought the NFL cuts were all but over, we were hit with a bunch of big names that are fresh on the market after Thursday. Headlining that group of players was none other than Arian Foster.
It all started with the release of Charles Johnson which got the ball rolling on Thursday. This was a huge shock and the most unexpected move of the bunch. Now in his 9th season with the Panthers, Johnson played a pivotal role on that tough Carolina defense that helped lead them to the Super Bowl. Cutting Johnson saves the Panthers $11M against the cap. The emergence of Kony Ealy made the move easier, although the Panthers will likely address defensive end early in the draft. Johnson should have no trouble finding a new home, the Giants and Falcons come to mind.
The next domino to fall was Arian Foster. The all-time leading rusher in Houston Texans franchise history became expendable with his extended injury history. Alfred Blue showed signs of flashes last season, but the Texans will likely draft an RB in the draft. As an undrafted free agent, Foster had an incredible run in Houston and was among the best backs in the league during his tenure. Rahim Moore was also let go by the team.
After the horrendous season Baltimore suffered this past season, they move into rebuilding mode. A day after handing an extension to franchise QB Joe Flacco, they cut their leader on the defense in Daryl Smith. In his three year tenure with Baltimore, Smith was a tackling machine and helped ease the blow left behind by the retired Ray Lewis, along with the up and coming C.J. Mosley. Cutting Smith saves the Ravens $2.6M in cap room. The 12-year veteran may be able to stick around for another season or two.
Just two years into his big $30M contract, Zane Beadles was let go by the Jaguars despite starting all 32 games in his two seasons with the team. His play didn’t match his contract which led to his release. Jacksonville also cut defensive end Chris Clemons. The moves save the Jaguars a combined $9.5M against the cap. The Jaguars have the deepest pockets this year in free agency – the team is poised to make some big moves. This is a young team on the rise.
The Chargers cut Donald Butler just two years after giving him a lucrative seven-year, $51.8M contract. Butler’s play declined following the extension, and the play of younger guys such as Manti Te’o and Denzel Perryman made him expendable. I could see a team like the Colts scooping him up.
The Cowboys are also expected to cut Brandon Carr, another guy who signed a big contract just a few years ago, but hasn’t kept up the consistent play that matches a contract of that magnitude.
As the free agency period draws closer, stay tuned for updates and our NFL Free Agency preview.