Happy June 1 day! Today marks the final day that any trades or releases result in all future prorated bonus money accelerates into 2021. Starting on June 2 any trade or release will now see only this years prorated money (and any future guarantees) stay on the teams 2021 salary cap and all future money will now go to the 2022 salary cap. This should open the door to more trades in the NFL but for now let us take a look at the teams who will be set to open up cap room now that the rules have changed.
Broncos- $10 million
The divorce between tackle Ja’Wuan James and the Broncos was very public as James got caught in the crosshairs between the NFL and the NFLPA’s fight over workouts. The Broncos have about $20 million in cap room while carrying James’ $13 million cap charge and would have saved $4 million with a standard release. I believe the reason they used the June 1 in this case is because of the potential grievance liability that will come from his injury guarantees. James had $15 million in injury protection remaining in his contract and should file a grievance to try to recover it. Even if it is a longshot it will still count for $6 million in the short term which would have actually cut down on the Broncos cap room, so using the June 1 keeps their cap sky high in to keep open the possibility of a trade. James will now count for $3 million on the cap plus whatever grievance if filed, in 2021 with a $6 million charge in 2022.
Bears- $9 million
The Bears released Charles Leno in early May and used the June 1 designation to help deal with salary cap issues. The Bears were carrying Leno at $11.3 million for the last month and that number will now cut down to $2.3 million, a savings of $9 million. Had the Bears used a traditional release the savings would have been around $6 million. The Bears only have about $200K in cap room so they desperately needed this $9 million to get Justin Fields under contract. Leno will count for $2.8 million in dead money in 2022.
Vikings- $7.9 million
In one of the least publicized moves of the offseason, the Vikings used the June 1 on tight end Kyle Rudolph back in March. In all the years of tracking contracts on OTC no June 1 release has gotten me more emails and tweets than this one with everyone wanting to know why Rudolph is still listed on the Vikings. That should stop now that he will see his cap number drop from $9.3875 million to $1.45 million. This added cap room should give the Vikings more than enough breathing room they need for the season as they already had around $6.5 million in space with their first round pick under contract. Could they use the added room to try to move someone this year? I guess it is possible but I would expect them to just carry it over to 2022. Rudolph will count for $2.9 million in 2022.
Eagles- $4 million
The Eagles made use of the June 1 on two players- Alshon Jeffery and Malik Jackson. This was arguably the most creative use of the June 1 in the history of the NFL with the Eagles renegotiating the contracts of the players at the end of the 2020 season in order to lower their cap numbers by millions of dollars so they could carry them at a low number from March to June. Without that renegotiation they never could have used the June 1 and been cap compliant. The Eagles have just $3.7 million in cap room right now and this will get them to $7.7 million. Jackson will cost $3.611 million on the Eagles 2021 cap while Jeffery will count for $5.59 million. The numbers in 2022 are huge- Jackson at $9.03 million and Jeffery at $5.4 million. The Eagles 2022 dead cap of $14.4 million from these two is more than 20 teams currently have in 2021.
Panthers- $3.5 million
Tre Boston was informed of his release early in the winter but the Panthers waited until the start of the new league year so they could designate him a June 1 cut. Boston has been sitting on the Panthers cap at $6.216 million and that will reduce to $2.666 million giving Carolina an additional $3.55 million in cap room. The Panthers offseason has been a bit of a salary cap roller coaster and in hindsight the use of the June 1 here was not really needed, but this gave them some added flexibility if things had gone different during free agency. Boston will also count for $2.66 million on the Panthers 2022 salary cap
Saints- $1.1 million
Drew Brees retired early this offseason but nothing was made official due to the salary cap consequences. Instead, as expected, the Saints reworked Brees’ contract down to lowest possible number it could be so they could carry him on the active roster through the offseason. When they process the retirement he will count for $11.15 million on the cap this year and $11.5 million next year. The Saints cap is still a mess and this won’t help them much but every little bit helps. Look for them to restructure more contracts in the summer, either via extension or kicking the can on another player or two.
49ers- $1.1 million
This was essentially the same situation as Brees with Weston Richburg being the retired player in this case. Richburg reworked his deal early in the offseason to provide the 49ers with the most operating room in free agency. He will count for $3.5 million on the cap in 2021 once the retirement is made official.
As a side note technically none of these will impact the cap until June 2 but I decided to process the releases early to save some time. The retirements will not be reflected until they are made official with the NFL.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.