The new NFL league year kicks off on March 17, but there will be plenty of news over the next 12 days.
The San Francisco 49ers have a lot of work to do with several key players up for free agency. The No. 1 priority for general manager John Lynch is to re-sign left tackle Trent Williams. The All-Pro was named the best offensive lineman in the league by Pro Football Focus last season and could command a deal in the $20 million per season range.
Over the Cap projects that the Niners will have $12.3 million in cap space, but that figure could change once the NFL confirms what the salary cap will be for the 2021 season. The 49ers can also get some more cap space with releases and restructures. Two players to keep an eye on are center Weston Richburg and pass rusher Dee Ford. The pair are dealing with nagging injuries and could be cut sooner than later. Ford’s situation is trickier.
If he can’t pass a physical before April 1 that shows he’s healthy enough to play, Ford’s $11.6 million salary for 2021 becomes fully guaranteed. If he’s deemed healthy enough to play, the Niners can get out of the contract without any dead money on the books.
Several other NFL teams are up against the limit and need to get creative this offseason to get under the cap. There are five franchises that are well over the limit heading into the new league year, per Over the Cap.
Arizona Cardinals’ owner Michael Bidwell was on SiriusXM NFL radio recently and made a prediction for the offseason.
“I think there is going to be a seismic shift in talent across the NFL. You’ve got teams that are projected to be well over the cap. You’ve got teams to be projected well under. I know every free agent or potential free agent out there is thinking they’re not going to get released, but there are going to be a bunch of surprises for people here in a few weeks when everybody has to get under the cap and free agency starts.
My guess is I see a big shift, a seismic shift in terms of the talent moving around.”
The Jacksonville Jaguars and new head coach Urban Meyer lead the league in cap space with a little more than $82 million available. The next four teams with the most cap space are:
Because of the loss in revenue due to the pandemic, we could see some starter-level talent free agents take one-year deals in anticipation of the cap rising again for 2022. Players like Williams, Chris Godwin and Justin Simmons will still get paid big bucks with so many teams having an abundance of funds available this offseason.
It’s going to be a wild few days leading up to the official start of free agency.
The Russell Wilson drama looks like it will continue for a while. ESPN’s Dianna Russini says although the Seattle Seahawks aren’t actively shopping the quarterback, but haven taken calls on Wilson.
I was told the Seahawks are not “shopping” Russell Wilson but calls made from other teams inquiring have been answered. https://t.co/NjQAydY012
— Dianna Russini (@diannaESPN) March 4, 2021
Wilson reportedly gave a list of four teams to Seahawks management that he would be willing to accept a move to if he is traded.
Russini was on The Pat McAfee Show and had this to say:
“It’s a real thing where Russell Wilson is not happy there,” Russini said. “His agent is gonna deny that they are demanding a trade … (but) I know there’s been calls made on both sides, going to Seattle and from Seattle to other teams.”
The 49ers certainly wouldn’t mind seeing Wilson moved out of the NFC West.
There seems to be some contention between Wilson, Pete Carroll and John Schneider. It remains to be seen when this situation will come to a head.
There is another veteran cornerback who will be on the open market come March 17. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that the Detroit Lions will release Desmond Trufant.
Lions have informed starting CB Desmond Trufant that he will be released at the start of the league this year later this month, per source.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 4, 2021
The 30-year-old had 20 tackles, one interception and a sack in six games for the Lions last season. PFF gave Trufant an overall grade of 38.4.