2021 Titans face big salary cap questions

Sports

JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA – SEPTEMBER 19: Dede Westbrook #12 of the Jacksonville Jaguars makes a catch against Malcolm Butler #21 of the Tennessee Titans during the first quarter of a game at TIAA Bank Field on September 19, 2019 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

Let’s talk Titans, 2021 and the salary cap… It is not an easy conversation to have, largely because we do not know what the cap is going to be.

The 2020 salary cap was $198.2-million dollars, but due to Covid-19 it could drop as low as $175-million which would be extremely troubling for a number of teams.

There is some belief with the vaccine out and the hope of full stadiums in the fall, the players and owners will negotiate a higher number than that $23.2-million drop. The NFL usually puts out the cap number in February or March so teams can plan accordingly for free agency.

That takes us to the Titans who came in about $3.4-million under the cap this year, that is good news, they can carry that number over to next season.

Where the league sets the cap will determine just how much the Titans will have to tighten their belts. They can of course restructure deals like Kevin Byard’s, Taylor Lewan’s or Ryan Tannehill’s but we are going to address this strictly from the slash and burn scenario.

There are players the Titans can part ways with and save considerably against the cap. Yes, they are core players and often, good players, but the roster is not the best 53, it is the best 53 they can fit under the cap.

These numbers are provided by spotrac.com, they are not my own. These are the cap hit each player would have if on the team and the dead money the team would be charged if they released them.

These are the players I expect to be under the most scrutiny.

WR – Adam Humphries

2021 Cap Hit – $9.75-Million

2021 Dead Money – $5.0-Million

Cap Savings – $4.75-Million

S – Kenny Vaccaro

2021 Cap Hit – $7.0-Million

2021 Dead Money – $3-Million

Cap Savings – $4.0-Million

C – Ben Jones

2021 Cap Hit – $7.25-Million

2021 Dead Money – $1.0-Million

Cap Savings – $6.25-Million

CB – Malcolm Butler

2021 Cap Hit – $14.2-Million

2021 Dead Money – $4.0-Million

Cap Savings – $10.2-Million

Yeah, I know, it is crazy right?

I will just say this, with Humphries’ injuries and limited production his first two seasons I do not see any way he returns unless it is on some kind of restructured deal.

It was a big year for Amani Hooker and that makes Vaccaro a player that could be on thin ice with the potential to save the team $4-million. It is also hard to be over $20-million in cap spending at the safety position.

Jones of course has been a durable leader on the Titans offensive line, but he has very little dead money and he is not getting any younger. This may be a year where the Titans elect to take a center in the draft and lower the price on what is a pricey offensive line.

I thought Butler had a very good season in a tough year for the defense, but this is much like Jurrell Casey last year. If the Titans want to save $10-million in one big move, this is it. They have Kristian Fulton and Adoree Jackson returning next year and could elect to re-up Desmond King at a much lower number. Spotrac has King’s market value at about $6-million.

The bread and butter of this team is the offensive line, so while the team could save over $9-million on Taylor Lewan’s contract and over $7-million on Rodger Saffold I find it very hard to imagine they would consider tinkering with some of their most valuable assets and the assets that they protect.

So if the Titans waived all four of those players they would free up $25-million in cap space. Of course waiving those players means replacing them. The teams can also restructure deals and move cap money down the line for when the new TV deals hit and I would expect most teams to do that.

I hope all these guys are back and get every penny they signed for, but this is a business, there is a salary cap and the Titans have to find a way to get under it next year and it will likely require some uncomfortable and unpopular decisions.

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