NFC North Potential Cap Casualties

One player from each division rival that could be on a new team in 2021. 

The Packers aren’t the only team in the division trying to get into a manageable cap situation before the new league year begins on March 17. Green Bay has already parted ways with offensive tackle Rick Wagner and inside linebacker Christian Kirksey, with more expected moves looming. Here is one player from each NFC North rival that could be a cap casualty heading into the 2021 season. 

Chicago Bears, TE Jimmy Graham

There’s no denying that Jimmy Graham had a nice season in his first year with the Bears. The 6-7 tight end was a huge red zone threat for whoever was playing quarterback, hauling in eight touchdowns in 2020. With the Packers, Graham had five touchdowns combined in two seasons. He also had a solid catch percentage in Chicago of 65.8%, better than his career average (64.4%). 

If the Bears move on from Graham, they can save about $7 million going into free agency and the draft. While he’s the starter on the depth chart, Chicago drafted tight end Cole Kmet for a reason, and he looked good in the back half of the 2020 season. The Bears’ top five most expensive contracts all come on the defensive side of the ball, with Graham’s contact seventh behind only Chicago’s left tackle. The core of the defense isn’t going anywhere, so moving on from Graham is the most predictable option. 

Minnesota Vikings, S Harrison Smith

I know, this one is surprising. Harrison Smith is one of the best safeties in the NFL, but he may be too rich for the Vikings to afford. Cutting Smith would save Minnesota $10,250,000 with no dead cap hit. Given how expensive quarterback Kirk Cousins’ contract is, and one that’s loaded with guaranteed money, the Vikings are going to need to get creative with restructures or good players like Smith will see the door. 

Now the other safety in the tandem, Anthony Harris, is a free agent this season. But it’s hard to see the Vikings being able to retain both Smith and Harris, given Harris has a projected franchise tag of roughly $11 million. Smith tied his career high with five interceptions in 2020, with 10 passes defensed and 89 total tackles. A secondary-needy NFL team is going to pay him big money for that kind of production, but if the Vikings can’t get some restructures done, he may be on his way out of the NFC North. 

The Vikings turned to the draft to fix the cornerback position, and it was a rough season as the young corners acclimated to the NFL. It’s possible the Vikings could do the same thing at the safety position in 2021 opposite whichever starter they’re able to retain. 

Detroit Lions, CB Desmond Trufant 

Cornerback Desmond Trufant has the third most expensive base salary on the Lions roster, behind only newly acquired quarterback Jared Goff and pass rusher Trey Flowers. Neither of those players are going anywhere, and Trufant’s unfortunate injury luck in 2020 makes him a viable cut option. While Detroit brought him in to replace Darius Slay after his trade to the Eagles, Trufant was only able to play in six games this past season, though he did have one pick and one sack. 

The Lions would have to eat $6 million in dead cap, but the team would also save a little over $6 million, which might be a fair trade. Detroit also drafted cornerback Jeff Okudah third overall in the 2020 NFL Draft, so they may feel comfortable turning to younger players at the position and giving Trufant a fresh start elsewhere. 

 

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Maggie Loney is a writer for Cheesehead TV and podcaster for the Pack-A-Day Podcast and Pack's What She Said. Find her on Twitter at @MaggieJLoney.

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Comments (8)

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mnbadger's picture

March 02, 2021 at 12:47 pm

Aren't there four teams in the NFC North? What about our beloved Pack Attack? Did you forget the Packers, unlikely. Just not willing to chop one of our own? Likely.
CLinsley isn't really a cap casualty, he may not be resigned. Same with the backfield and Kenny K. Only casualty that picks up real dollars is Preston Smith, and I would hate to see him go. I guess I'm with you Maggie. GPG

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WestCoastPackerBacker's picture

March 02, 2021 at 05:16 pm

Green Bay already had it's cap casualties, not that there won't be more. But they already cut Kirksey and Wagner and saved $10M.

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Dzehren's picture

March 02, 2021 at 07:09 pm

Who else will be a cap casualty from GB other than Wagner and Kirksley? We knew these were 1 year deals last year....

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Mike Rossmeier's picture

March 02, 2021 at 07:14 pm

Most every time I've seen the Packers with an opening for a big play - who's the Viking who snuffs it? ...Harrison Smith. That guy is a great ballplayer. I'm not buying for a second they will cut him this year.

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mrtundra's picture

March 03, 2021 at 07:54 am

vikings just cut their big TE, Rudolph. I'd love to see H. Smith leave, as well. Watching the great minnesota defense slip away, right before our eyes..

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kimberlyjose's picture

March 03, 2021 at 02:53 am

One player from each division rival that could be on a new team in 2021

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Fabio's picture

March 03, 2021 at 03:22 am

It appears the Saints are negotiating trading for Malcolm Brown. I think he could be the ideal player to help Clark ..... Greetings from Italy
GPG

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MarkinMadison's picture

March 03, 2021 at 07:20 am

Kyle Rudolph was cut by the Vikings.

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