2015 Release Candidates: AFC East

Most clubs have fairly set rosters at this point, as OTA, minicamp, and preseason performances won’t do much to alter roster composition. The majority of key releases came in March, but there are still several scenarios where certain contributors could lose their roster spot in the coming months. For the most part, we’ll focus on situations where the cap savings would be in excess of $1MM.

Because free agency has already passed, financial ramifications won’t play a huge role in these decisions; there aren’t a ton of high-profile free agents on which to spend that saved money, so these calls will mostly be made based on performance. However, any cap space saved through these potential releases could be rolled over into 2016, so that’s something clubs have to consider.

Buffalo Bills:

  • Matt Cassel, QB: Just weeks after acquiring Cassel from the Vikings, a report indicated that Buffalo had interest in extending the veteran quarterback, if only for the purpose of making his 2015 cap charge more palatable. But Cassel’s performance during recent OTAs has some wondering if he’ll even survive final roster cuts. The Bills do have two younger QB options in EJ Manuel and Tyrod Taylor, but neither has ever had any sustained success in the NFL. Buffalo could clear nearly $5MM by releasing Cassel. Prediction: not released.
  • Bryce Brown/Anthony Dixon/Fred Jackson, RB: With LeSean McCoy and rookie Karlos Williams virtual locks for Buffalo’s 53, one of the aforementioned running backs will probably be cut before the seasons starts. Bills GM Doug Whaley has been adamant that Jackson won’t be released, and Dixon is a key special teams contributor. Brown has the lowest cap charge (by far), but he’s probably the worst fit given the team’s current makeup. Prediction: Brown released.
  • Manny Lawson, LB: Lawson had a poor season in 2015, grading as the second-worst defender on the Buffalo roster, accordin to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). But with the Bills switching back to a 3-4 defense, Lawson could have a better shot to stick on the roster, as he performed capably under former DC Mike Pettine‘s 34 look. Plus, the club would incur $750K in dead money in each of the next two seasons by releasing Lawson, as opposed to a 2015 cap hit of $3.1MM, so the savings wouldn’t be overly consequential. Prediction: not released.
  • Chris Williams, G: After signing a four-year deal last March, the 29-year-old Williams made just three starts for Buffalo before being placed on injured reserve with a back injury. He’s still recovering from said injury, and didn’t participate in OTAs. The former first-round pick has never lived up to his draft status, and now that the Bills have added Richie Incognito (via free agency) and John Miller (via the draft), the club could save nearly $2.5MM by cutting him. Prediction: released.

Miami Dolphins:

  • Dion Jordan, DE: There’s no financial reason for the Dolphins to release Jordan — given that he’s suspended for the entire 2015 season, he won’t count against Miami’s books. But given the former third overall pick’s repeated off-the-field troubles, Miami might just want to rid themselves of Jordan altogether. They wouldn’t incur any dead money by doing so, as Jordan’s suspension voided his remaining guarantees. Prediction: released.
  • Kelvin Sheppard, LB: Sheppard wasn’t a big part of Miami’s defense last season, seeing time on just 121 snaps. He’s currently set to act as Koa Misi‘s backup at middle linebacker, but his cap hit is $2MM; the club could save $1.5MM of that by releasing him. Perhaps if undrafted free agents Mike Hull and Zach Vigil impress during training camp, Sheppard’s role could be in jeopardy, but for now, he’s probably safe. Prediction: not released.

New England Patriots:

  • Had both receiver Danny Amendola (link) and linebacker Jerod Mayo (link) not restructured their respective contracts in March, they would have likely been released. As such, the Patriots don’t have any other high-profile release candidates.

New York Jets:

  • Calvin Pace, LB: Pace played the fourth-most snaps among Jets defenders in 2015, but he wasn’t overly effective, grading as the eighth-worst 3-4 OLB among 46 qualifiers, per PFF. New York would only keep $125K in dead money on their books by releasing the 34-year-old, as opposed to a $2.25MM cap hit by keeping him. Perhaps if the Jets like what they see from third-round rookie Lorenzo Mauldin, Pace’s role could be in jeopardy, but he’s probably safe. Prediction: not released.
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