AFC and NFC Cut Candidates Gregg Rosenthal
Jeremy Maclin, WR, Baltimore Ravens: Signed in a headline-grabbing move last summer, Maclin (40 catches, 440 yards, three touchdowns) was outplayed by Mike Wallace (52 catches, 748 yards) in 2017. The team could be starting from scratch again at the position if general manager Ozzie Newsome -- in what is planned to be his last free agency period in that role -- cuts Maclin, who is due $7.5 million.
Broncos receivers. The Denver Post noted that Emmanuel Sanders could be placed on the trade block this offseason. Fellow starter Demaryius Thomas, meanwhile, is scheduled to have a $12 million cap charge.
Michael Crabtree, WR, Oakland Raiders: Crabtree’s signing has worked in Oakland’s favor overall, but his trajectory took a nose-dive last season. How much rebuilding does Jon Gruden really want to do?
Jordy Nelson OR Randall Cobb, WR, Green Bay Packers: This is shaping up as an either/or scenario. Green Bay handed receiver Davante Adams a big extension in December, and it would surprising to see the Packers bring back their top three receivers for more than $35 million.
Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys: Bryant’s status for 2018 was already going to be a big offseason storyline before Cowboys VP Stephen Jones said Dallas would “look at” Bryant’s future and Jerry Jones admitted the team needed more from its top receiver. (Bryant posted a career-low yards-per-catch figure of 12.1 in 2017, finishing with 838 yards and six scores.)
Dwayne Allen, TE, New England Patriots: Bill Belichick barely gave up anything in trade compensation to get Allen from the Colts last offseason, which is good, because he barely produced (10 catches for 86 yards) for a player making so much money. The Patriots would save $5 million by cutting him.
Physical receivers such as Crabtree, Bryant and Thomas seem to age better than fast wideouts like Cobb, Sanders and Maclin. Most players lose some speed as they enter their 30s, but size, strength and competitiveness do not diminish as rapidly. Meanwhile, Dwayne Allen could be an interesting reclamation project for the Ravens on an inexpensive deal. The former third round tight end is still 27 years old and caught eight touchdowns in 2014.
Measuring future strength of schedule by incorporating prior year win rate is lazy, inaccurate and inefficient. But like most things in the NFL, because it has been an accepted method from years past, there is a strong reluctance to shift from this process. You don’t need any math at all to understand this method must be flawed. In the case of 2018 strength of schedule, the traditional method of calculation looks at 2017 W/L of teams to predict 2018 strength of schedule. Seems nonsensical, particularly when you consider the small sample and high variance in a 16-game season.
In addition to the annual series against their AFC North rivals, the Ravens will face the Broncos, Saints, Raiders, Bucs and Bills at home, as well as the Falcons, Panthers, Chiefs, Chargers and Titans on the road. Two of these teams changed head coaches this offseason and four others are likely to be starting new quarterbacks next season. Other personnel changes, player development/regression, new coordinators, injuries and turnover luck should also be considered when guesstimating the strength of future schedules.
23. John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens
Super Bowl victories: 1
Super Bowl defeats: 0
Career playoff record: 10-5
Career regular season: 94-66
Harbaugh has the unusual distinction of owning a Super Bowl victory over his brother, Jim, who was the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers when the two met to decide the championship of the 2012 season. Harbaugh is a clever coach who is among the few to do reasonably well against New England’s Bill Belichick, with three victories in eight meetings this decade. But after reaching the playoffs his first five seasons, Harbaugh’s Ravens have missed in four of the past five.
Harbaugh is clearly behind coaching legends Bill Belichick, Bill Walsh and Vince Lombardi in the pecking order. However, DeCourcy may have downgraded the Ravens head coach too much due to recency bias. Harbaugh’s playoff record is among the best and a case can be made that he has done more with less compared to coaches such as Tony Dungy, Mike Tomlin and Mike McCarthy. Notably, Brian Billick is ranked 29th out of 32.
The Bears are coming off another last place finish in the NFC North, but this one feels different. There is a feeling of optimism in Chicago with their young quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, a two-headed running attack led by Jordan Howard, and a solid defense. The Bears have made it clear their mission this offseason is to make Trubisky comfortable. Chicago started this by firing John Fox and bringing in offensive mind and relatively unknown Matt Nagy as their new head coach. Nagy was the offensive coordinator of the Kansas City Chiefs for the past two years, and Chicago then brought in Mark Helfrich as their offensive coordinator from the college ranks.
According to OvertheCap, the Bears have more than $40 million in salary cap space and can free up additional space with several relatively painless releases. Possession receiver Jarvis Landry would be an excellent fit in their ball control offense. The Ravens will point to their track record of success when negotiating with the coveted free agent wideouts, but that pitch is harder to make after missing the postseason for three consecutive years.