The one-and-done nature of free agency is becoming more apparent every year.
With the salary cap going up more and more each year, teams are willing to up the average salary to lure a free agent but keep the skill guarantee as low as possible. The reason is simple: The team can get a one-year look at the player but not suffer a huge cap hit if he is released the next year. Plus, the team can budget for the expected dead money in next year's cap.
From last year's unrestricted free-agent class, Brandon Browner, Bruce Carter, Rahim Moore, Antonio Cromartie and Owen Daniels have been released after one year on multiyear contracts. Brian Hoyer isn't expected to be around the Houston Texans much longer after the signing of Brock Osweiler. Oakland Raiders safety Nate Allen had his four-year, $23 million contract terminated, and he re-signed a one-year deal at $3 million.
Some one-and-dones are predictable. Last year, the New York Jets gave Darrelle Revis a five-year, $70 million contract, Cromartie four years at $32 million and Buster Skrine four years at $25 million. All of Cromartie's guarantees, however, were in the first year.
Most vulnerable are free agents who are getting their third contracts, veterans in their early 30s and players who make between $4 million and $5 million a year with all the guarantees in the first year. Another group to watch is street free agents who receive more than $5 million a year. From last year's class, Andre Johnson, Dwayne Bowe, Curtis Lofton and Cary Williams are gone. Trent Cole had to take a pay cut in Indianapolis.
Here are a few one-and-done candidates who could be cut in 2017:
The Buccaneers would do well in the draft if they can get a cornerback and a defensive end in the first two rounds. The Ayers signing covers them if they don't find the right pass-rusher. If they do hit on a DE, Ayers could be in trouble next offseason -- he signed a three-year deal worth $19.5 million, but all of the skill guarantees are in the first year. He has a $3 million injury guarantee in Year 2, which the Bucs could get out of if they find the right young player.
This was another smart move by the Buccaneers. They get a quality cornerback on a two-year, $13.5 million deal, but if they use a first- or second-round pick on a cornerback, they can move on from Grimes after this season. Only $7 million is guaranteed in the first year.
Johnson protected himself by getting a $2 million skill guarantee in 2017, but if age catches up to him, he might not make it. Johnson turns 34 in November. His three-year, $21 million deal had a $5.25 million signing bonus.
The Bears guaranteed only $6.5 million of Massie's three-year, $18 million contract. They can play this two ways. If they draft a right tackle or want to move Kyle Long back to tackle, they could get out of Massie's contract after a one-year look.
Only Mebane's first-year payout is guaranteed -- $2.5 million to sign and a $3 million base salary. He is 31. He received a little more than most run-stopping defensive tackles at $4.5 million a year. The Chargers can see how he plays in Year 1 and move on after the season if it doesn't work out.
No longer a defender who can command a $10-million-a-year contract, Ngata re-signed with the Lions for two years at $12 million. He's 32 years old and will be kept on a year-by-year basis. He received a $4 million signing bonus and a $2 million base, all guaranteed. The Lions can get out of the deal by cutting him and taking a $2 million cap hit next offseason.
Okung, who negotiated his own deal, signed a five-year contract worth $53 million, but there is no guaranteed money. If the Broncos can land a left tackle in the draft or find one who can fit into their cap next year better than the four-year option at $48 million, they can let Okung go without any cap hit in 2017.
Penn has done well in his first two years with the Raiders, but he turns 33 this month and has to be judged on a year-by-year basis. The Raiders guaranteed $5.5 million this year, but he didn't receive a signing bonus and has nothing guaranteed for 2017.
Wallace is the classic street free agent being judged on a year-by-year basis. The Vikings released him from his contract worth $12 million a year. The Ravens gave him $4.5 million to sign on a two-year, $11.5 million contract. All that is guaranteed is the signing bonus, so he has to play well to make it to next year, when he has an $8 million cap number.
This one is fascinating. Beachum turned down $8 million a year to stay with the Steelers, but he's coming off a knee injury. It's a one-year deal at $4.375 million that could turn into a five-year deal at $45 million if they want to keep him instead of Luke Joeckel, who might not receive the fifth-year option to stay with the team. They have the entire season to make the selection.
With only $4 million guaranteed in the second year, the Eagles can take a one-year look at the former No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft. Bradford got better as the season progressed in 2015, but the Eagles covered their bases by visiting the top quarterbacks in this draft and signing Chase Daniel to a three-year, $21 million contract. They paid $18 million this year for Bradford but can get out of the deal if it doesn't work for $22 million total. Plus, you figure someone will sign Bradford for $4 million next year if he's released, offsetting a $4 million loss.
Cornerback was a fluid position for the Rams this offseason. They lost Janoris Jenkins to the New York Giants and kept Trumaine Johnson with the franchise tag. To cover themselves at cornerback, they signed Sensabaugh to a three-year, $15 million contract. With no signing bonus, Sensabaugh will make $4.5 million next year, but he has to be on the roster next March to get $2 million in skill guarantees. The Rams can get out of the deal after one season.