It is that time of the year in the NFL with the calendar hitting the “magical” June 1 date, which for salary cap purposes is more or less, the final day that teams will worry about the salary cap ramifications of cutting a player, unless he has future guaranteed salary, in 2023. Starting on June 2nd the way that we account for releases on the cap changes. All future prorated money accelerates into 2024 if a player is cut rather than impacting the team in 2023. A few teams who used the “post June 1” designation on a handful of players will pick up some salary cap space on June 2. Here is a look at who will gain cap room this Friday.
Dolphins- $13.6M from the release of Byron Jones.
Miami will pick up a huge amount of much needed cap room now that Jones is officially off the books for the team. Prior to this we had estimated the Dolphins with just $1.3 million in cap room which certainly was not going to be enough to function this season. Jones had signed a lucrative e five year, $82.5 million contract with the Dolphins as a free agent in 2020. Jones started 30 games for the Dolphins, missing all of the 2022 season with an injury. Miami has to account for prorations from his $10.5 million signing bonus and a $13.25 million restructure bonus. His cap number will drop from $18.35 million to just $4.751 million for 2023. Miami will carry $10.053 million in dead money in 2024 for Jones. Jones may qualify for some added injury protection provided in the CBA and he sounds as if he is physically unable to resume playing in the NFL.
Browns- $10.915M from the release of John Johnson and Jadeveon Clowney
The majority of savings for Cleveland come from the release of Johnson who signed a three year, $33.75 million contract as a free agent in 2021. Johnson’s release saved the Browns $9.75 million on the salary cap, with his cap number dropping from $13.5 million to $3.75 million. Most of the damage comes in 2024 when Johnson will count for $8.85 million on the cap. Though the numbers are not staggering they are a good example of the result of over prorating a contract for a player who doesn’t make it past the initial guaranteed years of the contract. The Browns prorated 78% of Johnson’s first two years which is a very high percentage for a player who fails to make year 3.
Clowney will save the team just $1.165 million with his cap hit dropping from $2.765 million to $1.6 million. He will count for $4.8 million on the Browns 2024 salary cap. Both of these charges were planned from day one as the Browns structured his contract in a way they were also going to use a June 1 release on him this year. The Browns had just under $5 million in room prior to these two coming off the books so they should now be solid for the rest of the season. Both released players are still free agents.
Cowboys- $10.9M from the release of Ezekiel Elliott
One of the least surprising outcomes of the offseason, this one had the makings of a June 1 release on the day the contract was signed in 2019. Elliott was able to play his hand by threating a contract holdout after his 3rd season in the NFL which paved the way for Dallas to offer a contract extension with about $38 million in new guarantees. Elliott had one last Pro Bowl kind of season left in him before the Cowboys wound up with three years of underwhelming play at a bloated cost. Dallas probably used the contract too often for cap relief, featuring a $7.5 million signing bonus, $13 million option bonus, and $8.6 million restructure bonus. Elliott’s cap number will drop from $16.72 million to $5.82 million. He will also count for $6.04 million on the Cowboys 2024 salary cap. Elliott is currently a free agent.
Commanders- $8.37M from the release of Chase Roullier
Washington waited until May to release Roullier, likely wanting to make sure he was able to pass a physical before being cut. Roullier signed a four year, $40.5 million extension with Washington in 2020, but his career wound up being riddled with injury, playing just 10 games total in 2021 and 2022, which were technically the first two years of his extension. He had received a $9 million signing bonus and the team prorated an additional $4.5 million last year because of their salary cap situation. His cap number will now drop from $12.42 million to $4.05 million and his 2024 cap number will also be $4.05 million. Washington is in need of cap room with just $4 million right now most of which will vanish once rookies are signed.
Cardinals- $4.215M from the releases of JJ Watt and Rodney Hudson
The Arizona Cardinals strategy the last few years was to acquire some great players who were past their prime, basically a strategy out of the Jets “very successful” 1993-1994 playbook. Watt would play in 23 games in two years while Hudson played in 16 games. Both players signed revised contracts with the Arizona to allow them to use the June 1 designation to help with the salary cap situation so the relief here is minimal. Watt’s cap number will drop from $3.565 million to $2.4 million, a savings of just $1.165 million. Hudson’s cap figure will drop from $4.81 million to $1.76 million, a savings of $3.05 million. Hudson will almost surely receive an injury payment of $2.05 million which will knock the teams salary cap savings down by another $1.23 million but for the time being I don’t believe that counts on the cap. Watt will have a $4.8 million cap charge in 2024 while Hudson will have a $3.52 million cap charge. Watt and Hudson are both retired.
Broncos- $3.75M from the release of Brandon McManus
McManus was just recently released and this felt more like a decision where the team was so close to June 1 anyway that they decided to use the designation here. McManus’ cap number will drop from $4.98 million to $1.23125 million in both 2023 and 2024. McManus quickly signed a contract with the Jaguars worth $2 million following his release from Denver. The Broncos had about $7 million in cap room prior to this.
Now that free agency is more or less finished, I wanted to go back and take a look at what teams added and lost the most this offseason and how much things have changed for teams when it comes to future cap considerations. For this analysis I will look at all contracts that have an annual value of at least $1.08 million per year and only includes players that were on a roster at the end of 2022 (practice squad included). The numbers also include trades along with free agent signings. Contracts include players signed through the 29th of March so it will not include the most recent signings like Calais Campbell. Also note that for roster losses we are only including players who signed with other teams not outstanding free agents who remain unsigned.
Teams added, on average, $31.7 million per year in contract value. The median addition was $30.2 million. Not surprisingly the team that added the most was the Chicago Bears. The Bears came into the offseason with nearly $100 million in cap room for the year and added nearly $75 million in ontract value.
Following the Bears were the Broncos who went on a big spending spree and wound up adding $64.2 million per year in contracts to the team. The Texans and Raiders were neck and neck for 3rd and 4th place with $63.9 million and $63.4 million respectively added to the team. Both also led the NFL in total players added at 16, five more than the next closest team, so they were adding a number of lower cost players. This has been a trend for the last three years for the Texans and looks to be one for the Raiders as well.
The Falcons are at $56.7 million and counting. At an average cost of $7.071 million per player they were the team that had the highest average per player. While I would not say they swung for the fences they certainly were taking an approach much different than Houston.
The most surprising team was the cap starved Saints who deferred as much as they could to the future to add $55 million in contracts to the team. While a large portion of that is attributed to Derek Carr they still continued to add to their team in hopes of competing for the playoffs.
On the other end of the spectrum there were six teams that added under $10 million of talent. The Bucs only added $8.7 million which was pretty much expected as their salary cap was wrecked from running it back two times following their Super Bowl win in 2020. The Chargers just added one player, linebacker Eric Kendricks, at $6.625 million. This was a bit surprising for a team that clearly is all in on 2023.
The Jaguars went on a massive spending spree in 2022, but in 2023 not so much with just $3.4 million added to the team. The Ravens are mainly in limbo because of their contract dispute with Lamar Jackson as their only gain was WR Nelson Agholor at $3.25 million. Speaking of teams in limbo, the Packers added a grand total of $2.355 million in talent to the team.
Finally we had the Rams who added nobody in free agency but they did bring in Hunter Long as a throw in on the Jalen Ramsey trade. His contract averages $1.24 million a year so technically he qualified, but realistically this team added $0 to the team this year. I’m not sure if that has ever happened before. It probably has but it’s a rough offseason for Rams fans hoping for some help.
The team that was picked apart the most were the 49ers who lost 12 players this year at a total of $84.845 million in annual contract value. While over $20 million of that is attributed to Jimmy Garoppolo, they did have a tighter cap situation this year and were very targeted in who they decided to acquire and had to let many of the depth leave here.
The Eagles were next with $74.8 million in talent losses across 10 players. They did not have a starting QB leave the team so this was arguably the most impactful group of major losses teamwide. The Raiders were 3rd with $69.6 million in losses though that includes Derek Carr who they did not want back at all so they probably don’t look at it as meaningful.
The Chiefs lost 10 players at a total of $52.4 million and they were followed by the Saints who were basically reshuffling the chairs on the deck as they lost $50.8 million in talent. The final team to lose at least $50 million in annual contract value were the Rams who re-signed almost nobody.
The Chargers were the only team with less than $10 million in losses as they lost just $3 million in contract value. Seattle was next at $10.3 million, followed by the Falcons at $12.8 million and the Bears, Giants, and Dolphins around between $13 and $15 million each.
When we get into our net changes we can get a better idea of the teams that on paper should be significantly better and those who may be worse. The Bears top the list with a net gain of $61.4M on the season, nearly $20 million more than the next closest team which was the Falcons at $43.8 million. The Texans and Broncos remain in the top 5 at $34.8 and $30.1 million, but the changes come after that with the Seahawks, Giants, and Dolphins replacing the teams like the Saints and Raiders that both added and lost a lot on the year.
The Eagles were a massive loser on the year dropping $62.4 million in contract value overall. While they were able to retain some players it certainly played out like we assumed with the 2022 team basically being a WYSIWYG kind of roster for at least one more season. The Rams had a net loss of $48.9 million followed closely by the 49ers at $46.7M.
Obviously these three teams view themselves very differently with the Rams voluntarily just tearing it apart while the other two believe they should be competitive. If I had to guess I would say the 49ers view the bigger addition of Javon Hargrave as more meaningful than the smaller multiple losses while the Eagles will believe that their core is intact and that they can fill out their losses in the draft.
The Jaguars, Ravens, and Packers are the other teams with at least $20 million in net losses in the offseason. The Jaguars are interesting because they still have the Trevor Lawrence rookie window but my opinion of free agency is that you essentially operate in two year windows in free agency and when you go as crazy as the Jaguars did in 2022 that really eliminates the chance to go back into it in 2023. The Packers are clearing things out after their Rodgers extension mistake and the Ravens are going to get criticized no matter what the outcome is this year.
Here is the summary data for the free agent gains and losses.
Net APY Change
Impact on 2024
There are a number of different ways to look at decisions made this year and how they impact 2024. For example the Falcons had the largest net change in cap position by adding over $98 million in chargers to the 2024 salary cap and were 3rd in the NFL with a net gain of $24.5 million in prorated charges next year, but despite all of that they rank 15th in the NFL in projected cap room.
The teams that really fit the “all in” framework for 2023 are those who added significant charge to 2024 and are not in a great salary cap position. The top team is the Saints in that regard. They are 32nd in the NFL in projected cap room, saw their cap get about $82 million worse than it was at the start of free agency and added over $30 million in prorated charges to 2024 already. Those were both 2nd in the NFL.
The Dolphins are about $10 million over the 2024 cap and added $76 million in cap charges to 2024. They were 11th in prorated charges added at $16.5 million but that number is actually worse if we factor in the dead money from the June 1 cuts. I didn’t do that here since it only impacts a few teams so far.
Denver is just $4 million under and they added $80 million in cap charges and about $16 million in net prorated bonus money gains. The Chargers are going to fall into this group as well. They are 30th in the NFL in projected cap room and added a massive $39.87 million in prorated charges to their 2024 salary cap. Overall they added $59 million in cap charges to 2024 which is incredible considering they signed just one player in 2023. They are all in with the same team that lost in the wildcard round. Typically that is not a formula for success so they really need the draft to be a massive hit.
The two teams with the biggest focus away from 2023 and mainly on 2024 are the Rams and the Titans. The Rams improved their salary cap position by $58 million and shed over $12 million in prorated money from 2024. They are up to 18th in the NFL in projected cap space with $55 million and should be open to more dealing during the season.
The Titans shaved $28.5 million and are doing a rebuild that should have started last year. They are 3rd in the NFL in projected 2024 cap room with $128 million and should take any and every phone call for Derrick Henry and Ryan Tannehill from now until the trading deadline.
Here is a graph illustrating the changes and a table with the data.
The Miami Dolphins have entered the restructuring phase of the offseason, converting $18.32 million of Edge Bradley Chubb’s 2023 salary into a signing bonus, per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.
Chubb’s 2023 salary cap charge dropped by $14.656 million from about $22.2 million to $7.54 million. Chubb’s salary for the year was already guaranteed. The move will increase Chubb’s salary cap number by $3.664 million in each remaining year of his contract, which runs through 2026.
Chubb’s 2024 cap number will now be $26.89 million and his 2024 salary will be fully guaranteed around the start of the NFL league year. Chubb’s production this year may dictate whether the Dolphins restructure his contract again or let it ride. The current restructure will add $10.992 million in dead money to the 2025 league year which still leaves the Dolphins with a reasonable $16.386 million dead money figure if they were to have to release him that season. Chubb only received injury guarantees in 2025 so Miami seems to have this as a designated decision point for the team, but a similar salary conversion in 2024 would bring the dead money up over $30 million which would come close to virtually guaranteeing his position on the team in 2025, so this is a big season for him. Miami acquired Chubb for a 1st round pick and signed him to a $22 million a year extension. Chubb only produced 13 tackles and 2.5 sacks in half a season with Miami.
Our estimates for the Dolphins have them $700,000 over the 2023 salary cap. That number may be a little misleading as the Dolphins only have 43 players under contract, the fewest in the NFL. Any exclusive rights player they tender will cost the team at least $750,000 per player as will any undrafted player who is signed after the draft. So they still have a ways to go with their cap if they plan on adding any players this offseason. Miami reportedly will designate CB Byron Jones a post June 1 release which will open up over $13 million for draft pick signings and in season needs.
In the last few days you have probably noticed a number of changes to every teams estimated salary cap space for 2023 and I just wanted to take a second to explain what all the changes have been as I have gotten more than a few questions about it.
Right now we are working with an estimated salary cap of $225 million for each team in the NFL and this is the same number that we have been using since last year. This number could go up or down by a few million (the NFL thus far has only said the cap may exceed $220 million) but it should be a fair estimate. This week we added what should be the official 2022 carryover figures for each teams adjusted salary cap. Sometimes these have some minor changes but will most likely remain constant.
The other thing that we added were estimates for adjustments to every teams salary cap. These adjustments come from incentives that were earned but not counted on the 2022 cap, incentives that went unearned but counted on the 2022 cap, per game bonuses that were not earned, guaranteed salary recovery, termination pay that went unfiled and so on. These numbers are not official and may change by a lot but I think it is better to show some of the changes when we know that some changes could have a big impact on cap room, such as Geno Smith earning his incentives this year. We did not yet include the workout bonus hold. That will reduce each teams cap by close to $1 million when we add it on.
This week we also began adding the futures contracts which have been signed so far. This is where the bulk of the cap changes came from. In the modern NFL teams no longer carry large rosters year over year so there are big changes in roster size from the end of the regular season (or when a playoff team is eliminated) to the first week of the offseason. For the most part teams will sign most of their practice squad players to a “futures” contract and those numbers are now much bigger thanks to the 2020 CBA which finally saw the minimum salaries rise for inexperienced players.
The minimum for an NFL player in 2023 will be $750,000 so that eats the salary cap away very quickly. Because of that for teams that have less than 51 players under contract, the best way to estimate the cap room for each team is to take 51 and subtract from it the number of players under contract and multiply it by $750,000. That will reduce the shock of future signings’ impact on the salary cap.
On the salary cap page you can also view each teams “effective” cap space. This takes into account those future signs for you and also adds in the impact of the teams rookies who they will draft. This is probably the best estimate for how much room teams have to spend but teams have plenty of time to work around that number since rookies will often not hit the salary cap until mid summer.
One other thing to note during the offseason is that the numbers we have will differ from the occasional official NFL reports you see on Twitter or the NFLPA reports. While our numbers will always differ (those are official sources!) it is usually more glaring in the offseason. Typically this is from two things. One are restructures of contracts that we are not yet aware of, but the bigger one is the treatment of void years.
In order to present the most likely salary cap impact we will present the salary cap charges to reflect that the contract is set to void, unless it is a contract that is designed for a post June 1 release. For example we currently have Tom Brady’s salary cap charge at $35.1 million, which is the number it will be if the contract voids on the final day of the league year. The official figure until that date would be $10.8M plus whatever the void salary is (his cap could probably be as high as $50M or as low as $12M depending on what they have in there as a placeholder). When situations change we will change those numbers accordingly.
It is June 1 and in the NFL June 1is a big date as it is the final day that will see all future prorated money accelerate as “dead money” if a player is released. Starting tomorrow any player who is released will only have his current season’s prorated money count against the salary cap and the rest will be deferred to 2023. A number of teams will also pick up salary cap room tomorrow as any player designated a post June 1 release earlier this year will finally move from the active roster to the dead money side of the ledger. Here is a look at how much each team will pick up.
Raiders- $19.75 million
The team had basically made a mess of linebacker Cory Littleton’s contract which forced them to use a June 1 to release him due to the huge dead money figure left on the books. Littleton had counted for $15.678 million and now will count for just $4.018 million in dead money this year. The Raiders will carry $9.986 million in dead money in 2023. Littleton is currently playing on a $2.6 million contract with the Panthers.
Carl Nassib was a somewhat aggressive signing by the Raiders that didn’t work out but salary cap issues forced them to continue to push money out in his contract. Nassib was up to a $9.625 million cap charge in 2022 and that will reduce to $1.652 million. $4.95 million in dead money remains in 2023. Nassib is currently out of the NFL.
Titans- $9.5 million
The team took a chance on Julio Jones and it wound up being a big miss for the Titans who move away after just one season. Jones had a $14.3 million cap hit and a $2 million guarantee this season. The June 1 designation allows the Titans to take a $4.8 million cap hit this year and defer $8.4 million to 2023. With just $3 million in cap space the Titans needed this one. Jones is currently out of the NFL.
Commanders- $11.88 million
Landon Collins was a prized signing by Washington in 2019 and four years later was a June 1 cut. Collins had a salary cap figure of $15.7 million which will reduce to $3.825 million. Collins will still count for $5.025 million against the 2023 salary cap. Collins is currently not in the NFL.
Cowboys- $10 million
The Cowboys seemed to reach their limits with La’el Collins following a suspension last season. His cap figure had ballooned to $14.93 million and they were unable to find a trade partner so they used the June 1 instead. Collins will count for $4.93 million on the 2022 cap for Dallas and around $8.4 million next season. Collins signed a three year contract with the Bengals worth $7 million a year following his release.
Cardinals- $10 million
Arizona signed Jordan Phillips to $10 million a year contract in 2020 but his cap figure had exploded to over $13.3 million this season which led to the June 1 cut. He will count for $3.301 million on the cap this year and $5.9 million in 2023. Arizona had just $3 million on the cap prior to this. Phillips will play for the Bills this year for $5 million.
Browns- $9.5 million
The Brows decided to stick with David Njoku and let Austin Hooper go this offseason. The Browns made Hooper the highest paid tight end in NFL history in 2020 and he lasted just two seasons with the team. Hooper had counted for $13.25 million on the cap and that will reduce to $3.75 million. Hooper’s 2023 dead money will be $7.5 million. Hooper is playing on a $6 million contract with the Titans
Bears- $8.19 million
Danny Trevathan signed a questionable contract two years ago and this seemed like a likely result shortly after the signing. Trevathan had a $5.7 million salary cap charge for the Bears this year and that will reduce to $1.525 million….Tarik Cohen had also signed with the Bears in 2020 and injuries didn’t even give him a chance to really justify the contract. His cap hit this year was $5.75 million and will reduce to $1.75 million with $1.75 million deferred to next year. Both are out of the NFL.
Eagles- $5.3 million
Philadelphia had designated Fletcher Cox as a post June 1 cut at the start of the new league year, though they did wind up re-signing him to a contract this year. Cox’ prior contract had counted for $14.9 million on the salary cap but that should reduce to about $9.6 million. Cox’ contract did contain an option bonus and there is a chance that it will remain which would reduce the savings by $3.2 million, but not to worry that would simply be added to the Eagles 2023 salary cap. Cox will count for over $15 million on the 2023 salary cap.
Seahawks- $5.1 million
Seattle moved on from veteran Carlos Dunlap earlier this year opting for the June 1 designation due to the void year acceleration that would have hit the cap. Dunlap’s $6.5 million cap charge will reduce to $1.4 million this year with $4.2 million hitting the 2023 salary cap. Dunlap is currently out of the NFL.
With the NFL season now officially over it is time to turn our attention toward the offseason as every team in the NFL will look to improve over last year’s performance and be in the position the Rams are today. To get an idea of how where teams stand in the offseason I wanted to look at teams in three different categories- effective salary cap space (this is cap space with draft picks factored in), draft capital using the Fitzgerald-Spielberger point chart, and potential snaps lost to free agency. Each team was ranked one to 32 in each category.
32. Buccaneers- Avg Rank 25
The Buccaneers come in dead last with just $89K in projected cap room, 4,102 draft points and 39% of their snaps currently slated for free agency. This doesn’t include the retirement of Tom Brady which will skyrocket the amount of snaps they need to recover next year while not making a big impact on their cap room to do it. This was the team who was most “all in” on the 2021 season.
31. Cowboys- Avg. Rank 25
While Dallas ties the Buccaneers with an average rank of 25 I would consider them in slightly better shape only because they structured Dak Prescott’s contract for a restructure which is not factored in yet. Once they pull that trigger their cap room will be similar to the Bucs. Right now they rank 30th in cap room, 19th in draft points, and 26th in free agent snaps. Not an ideal position for the disappointing Cowboys.
30. Bears- Avg. Rank 24.3
The Bears prior front office did not leave Ryan Poles in a great position in his first year on the job. While they rank 11th in cap room they are 31st in potential snaps lost to free agency and have almost no draft capital this season. It is a rough position for a team with a 2nd year QB as you should be gearing up to fill the team with talent for the next three years rather than trying to skirt around a messy salary cap.
29. Rams- Avg. Rank 23.3
The Super Bowl champions rank 28th in cap space as we project them to have some negative adjustments due to incentives based on playoff performance. Not surprisingly they rank dead last in draft capital. On the bright side they are 10th in free agent snaps so if they can convince everyone to come back next season they should return with a relatively intact championship team.
28. Chiefs- Avg. Rank 23.3
This is across the board bottom third rankings for the Chiefs. They stand 20th in cap space and draft capital and 30th in possible snaps lost with over 40% of their snaps possibly going. They have triggers to pull with the Mahomes contract to help with their cap space and some players that will be cut but they are probably in need of a bit of a facelift next season to increase their odds of getting back to the Super Bowl.
27. Panthers- Avg Rank 23.0
The team ranks 15th in cap room but just 30th in draft capital following their ill advised trade for Sam Darnold. They have a number of free agents this year as well. Without a viable QB on the roster it is very hard to get excited about the Panthers future in both the short and long term right now. It is going to be a very difficult path for them and they have to hit a home run at every spot to make it work.
26. Cardinals- Avg. Rank 21.7
Arizona went all in this year trying to win with Kyler Murray nearing the end of his rookie contract. It worked early but things fell apart late as they stumbled into the playoffs and had an early exit. You could have made an argument that they need changes at the top. They rank 22nd in cap space, 23rd in draft capital and 20th in free agent snaps. Its one of the oldest teams in the NFL and they need to a new approach next year.
25. Titans- Avg. Rank 21.7
The good thing for the Titans is they rank 15th in potential snaps lost so they have a decent enough chance to come back with a quality roster. The problem is the quality roster seems to have hit a ceiling and may not break through it without some changes. They rank just 24th and 26th in cap room and draft capital. They remind me a bit of the Vikings a few years ago and probably need to consider remaking the team rather than doubling down again on the roster.
24. Falcons- Avg. Rank 21.3
The Falcons are still climbing out of a salary cap hole that will wind up hurting the Falcons for two years. They have no cap room, an old expensive QB, and a bunch of free agents. Their saving grace is that they have some top draft picks to rebuild with. From a long term perspective the Falcons 2021 and 2022 run are historically bad in terms of roster flexibility due to cap problems they created by tripling down on a roster whose best days were behind them.
23. 49ers- Avg. Rank 21.3
With limited cap room and draft capital the 49ers will need to get creative to improve the team next season. Now they will pick up $25 million with the release or trade of Jimmy Garoppolo but that only puts them in the middle of the pack. Their biggest strength is that they have a relatively intact roster with their hopes lying with Trey Lance giving them more upside on offense.
22. Seahawks- Avg. Rank 20.3
The Jamal Adams trade killed the Seahawks who rank just 29th in draft capital despite finishing the year 7-10. Seattle is 7th in cap space but also has the 8th most snaps to replace this year. They cant really sit on the cap room and will need to be more aggressive than usual in free agency if they want to take one more run at this with Russell Wilson as QB. A team that might have massive turnover in 2023 if things don’t go right this offseason.
21. Colts- Avg. Rank 20.0
If they had a do-over opportunity there is no way the Colts would make the Carson Wentz trade again. They could have used the same draft capital to draft a cheap rookie QB rather than a somewhat expensive QB who looks to be done. Indy is basically in QB hell at this point. With the 5th most amount of cap room they may have to explore trades again for the QB position. They rank near the bottom of the league in draft capital and free agent snaps so this will be a tough one to improve on next year.
20. Packers- Avg. Rank 20
The salary cap is a disaster with the team $54M over the salary cap next year. They are about average in cap room and snaps lost to free agency though that includes Davante Adams who will be ridiculously expensive to keep. They will need Aaron Rodgers to make a decision quickly so they can get their cap in order to tag Adams. The right move is to turn things over to Jordan Love since they have seemingly hit their ceiling but the emotional move is to convince Rodgers to return for the next few years.
19. Texans- Avg. Rank 19.3
Houston has over 45% of their snaps up in free agency as they simply pieced their team together last year to get through the season. They need to find a suitor for Deshaun Watson who will look past his off the field issues and pay a fortune for him. Trading Watson would clear up their cap for the future and explode their draft capital for the next few seasons. If they are forced to hold onto him this year it is hard to see them getting much better.
18. Vikings- Avg. Rank 19.3
Minnesota needs to rebuild their defense and either get much more creative on offense or find a new QB. They rank just 27th in cap room next year which may force them to defer costs for Kirk Cousins or to extend him outright unless they are willing to eat some money and pull the trigger on a trade. They may also look to see if a market can develop for Danielle Hunter.
17. Giants- Avg. Rank 18.0
The Giants rank 2nd in draft capital which is the nice parting gift left by Dave Gettleman to Joe Schoen. Unfortunately he left a mess everywhere else. The team was one of the worst in the NFL last year but ranks 29th in cap space while also having the 9th most snaps to replace in free agency. They need a massive draft haul and should trade down at least one of their top picks even if they don’t get a top return.
16. Saints- Avg. Rank 16.0
An absolute salary cap disaster but they have a reasonable draft haul this year and have the 3rd most amount of snaps returning to the team next year. It’s that snap ranking which is why making an internal hire at coach made sense. They will do their usual deferral of the cap charges to function but replacing Sean Payton is a tough task. That is the biggest loss of the year and he has hidden their cap issues with his coaching.
16. Steelers- Avg. Rank 15.0
With the 9th most cap room in the NFL one would think that they will be very active in looking to trade for one of the veteran QB’s if the asking price is not too high. They rank 22nd in draft capital and 17th in potential snaps lost, but one of those players (Ben Roethlisberger) was going to have to be replaced regardless of contract status. An intriguing team if they can find a QB.
14. Ravens- Avg. Rank 15.7
The team ranks 19th in cap room but will be able to increase that number when and if they extend Lamar Jackson. He is an interesting player who probably has more risks than others on a big money extension. They rank 7th in draft capital. With one of the better front offices in the NFL they stand a good chance of making the most of their cap situation and replacing their free agents with good rookies.
13. Bengals- Avg. Rank 15.3
The big thing for the Bengals is that they rank 4th in the NFL in effective cap space and their core is intact. With a relatively average amount of snaps to replace the Bengals should go for broke and use their money to fix their offensive line. If they do not do that this year I would expect them to get cold feet with spending in 2023 as well since they will begin preparing for a Burrow extension. Next year is the best year to go for it.
12. Patriots- Avg. Rank 15.0
New England’s strength will be in how much they believe in their current roster. They are the 7th lowest in terms of snaps potentially lost to free agency. They rank 17th in cap room and 21st in draft capital. They went on their big spending spree last season so I would expect a more controlled approach this year with a focus on maximizing the impact of their rookie class.
11. Raiders- Avg Rank 13.7
Nothing stands out here at all. 13th in cap room. 17th in draft capital. 11th least snaps to replace. It is an overall solid position for a team that squeaked into the playoffs but has to determine if they want to move forward with Derek Carr for the next five years or just the next season or two.
10. Bills- Avg. Rank 13.0
Considering how good the Bills are this is pretty scary if you are a team in the AFC East. The team ranks 23rd in cap room, 14th in draft capital, and 2nd best in free agent losses. Basically they can come back with next years team while adding what should be a solid group of rookies. Their cap is concerning as they project over for next season, but like with Dallas and Kansas City they have built in flexibility with the QB contract.
9. Chargers- Avg. Rank 11.7
It is hard to believe that the Chargers again found a way to not make the playoffs but here we are. The Chargers have the 2nd most cap room in the NFL to improve their team and are 11th in draft capital. They are around 22nd in free agent snaps which is a concern but with the strong draft position and cap space there is no reason for them to not have a star studded roster around Justin Herbert next year.
8. Commanders- Avg. Rank 10.7
I don’t get as excited about Washington as the main reason behind this ranking is low expected turnover, but it is not as if they were a good team with a great roster. They are 10th in cap room and average in draft capital. They will be able to pick and choose where they use their cap space which is a positive but don’t stand out enough in that category to get overly excited just yet. We will have to see who gets cut and who stays to see how much more they can improve.
7. Lions- Avg. Rank 10.3
The good news for the Lions is their draft capital which is 6th. They still have cap issues though where they rank average. They do not have many players they have to replace due to free agency but they have many they need to replace because the team is bad They should look to see if they can trade off some veterans and really fire up for 2023.
6. Broncos- Avg. Rank 9.7
8th in cap room and 5th in draft capital is a very string position for a team that was competitive at times last year. In desperate need of a QB the question will be if they go for broke and try to acquire an Aaron Rodgers or continue to explore the low end of the QB market next year. It is a tough division but they have the resources to turn this around next year.
5. Dolphins- Avg. Rank 9.0
Miami has to be kicking themselves for last years trade up. Even if they are happy with their receiver they only rank 18th in draft capital when they should have been much stronger. The team has a ton of cap room, the most in the NFL, to go shopping with and the 8th least snaps to replace so they have all kinds of flexibility. Expectations will be high for them next year given Tua entering his third year to go along with a new coach and presumably many new toys on the team.
4. Browns- Avg. Rank 8.7
The Browns were a disappointment last year but are set up nicely to improve this season. They rank 9th in the NFL in draft capital, 12th in cap room, and 5th in snaps that need to be replaced. While Baker Mayfield is a huge question mark on the field they have the resources to build a terrific team around him and them hope that he can do enough to win next year.
3. Jaguars- Avg. Rank 6.3
With the 3rd most cap room, 3rd highest draft total and potential of Trevor Lawrence this was an attractive job despite the terrible history in Jacksonville. This team spends every year so expect them to be ultra aggressive in free agency. The downside here is they do rank middle of the pack in snaps to replace and a new coach may want to see even more roster turnover as the team was built for Urban Meyer last season.
2. Eagles- Avg. Rank 6.3
Philadelphia did a great job of manipulating the draft where they rank 4th in draft capital despite being a playoff team this season. While they still have a ways to go to be a legit contender they have the least amount of snaps they must replace and are amazingly middle of the pack in cap space, though they do not have the flexibility of other teams as they have already pulled many of their salary cap levers with Fletcher Cox being the player to watch.
1. Jets- Avg. Rank 3.7
The Jets are finally number one at something! The Jets rank 1st in the NFL in draft capital thanks to some great maneuvering by their front office which allowed them to maximize the value of their veteran players. They also rank 6th in cap room to add to the team in free agency. They don’t have many players to replace this year either so they can just grab whoever they need to upgrade. With the Bengals quick turnaround the Jets will be under a ton of pressure next year to compete rather than trying to sell a 3 to 5 year plan to the fanbase.
Here is each teams position for next season as of February 14, 2022.
NFL Network is reporting that the NFL salary cap is expected to reach $208.2 million in 2022, confirming that the salary cap will reach the max threshold agreed to by the NFL and NFLPA back in May. The report is not very surprising and this is the estimate that we have been using for cap calculations since last May as well. Once it was clear that Covid would have minimal impact on gameday operations it would be difficult for the sides to not reach the max number given the steady year over year revenue growth since 2013.
One thing I am noticing since this report is a rash of comments about how everything is back to normal now. That really is not the case. While the rise in the salary cap looks massive since the cap was a Covid influenced $182.5 million this year the fact is the cap this year would have been expected to be between $208 and $210 million. In 2022 the number would have been between $218 and $221 million, so realistically we are still about $10 million off from where the cap should be.
Just as the decrease in salary cap space this year barely impacted contract extensions or free agent signings I would not expect this increase to impact the numbers in 2022 either. While there is some correlation between the salary cap and contract values the teams themselves operated under the same assumptions that the salary cap was steadily rising. While teams did have to perform “salary cap gymnastics” at times there was minimal impact on the market, especially at the top which is what most people pay attention to when it comes to contracts.
The real tangible increase in the salary cap that should create a meaningful jump in contract value will come in 2023. The new TV deals kick in that season and that should move the cap significantly higher and to the point where a contract shift should occur. How high it will be is anyone’s guess. The players are still paying back Covid losses and it is possible some payback still will exist in 2023. It is also possible that the NFLPA has to account for some benefit borrowing that could also impact the cap.
Whether or not 2023 will be the big year for contract growth will depend on what we see with the cap that year. If it reaches between $228 and $230 million it will likely still be considered flat for contract purposes. Anything above that number will show more growth over the old CBA rates and thus impact contracts. It may not be until 2024 that we actually see how the salary cap and NFL revenues settle for the balance of the CBA.
Teams have already begun dumping millions of salary cap dollars into 2023 by frontloading prorated bonuses into 2021 and 2022 in lieu of base salaries or by using void years for the 2023 season so they have clearly planned for 2023 to be “the year” for the cap to really return. It would not be surprising to me if, in 2022, we see a large number of extensions as teams try to get contracts in ahead of a meaningful jump that should impact the markets for players. Teams can still claim uncertainty about the 2023 cap probably through the first few weeks of the 2022 regular season.
Cap space will still be at a premium next season. We project the average cap room per club to be just $29.4 million with a median of $31.5 million. That includes carryover from 2021. Once rosters are brought to 51 players those numbers will plummet to $17.6 and $19.4 million respectively. We project the Dolphins to be at the top of the NFL with $77 million followed by the Chargers at $72 million, and Jaguars at $70.2 million.
Here is a snapshot of our estimates for next season. The cap space is just based on players under contract for next year while the effective space takes into account a full 51 man roster.