Current Estimated 2016 Cap Space: $27 million
Expected 2016 Cap Space: $31.6 million
Estimated Rookie Cap: $9.315 million
Players Under Contract: 55
Pro Bowlers: 0
Unrestricted Free Agents: 17(8 with 50%+ playtime)
Draft Selection: 3
Salary Cap Breakdown
Free Agents to Re-sign
With the offensive line such a mess for San Diego, allowing Joe Barksdale, about the only competent player they had last season, to leave would be a mistake. He outpriced himself in free agency last year so he might be agreeable to a deal in the $5 million per year range…Patrick Robinson played decently last year and was a good acquisition…I’d bring back Antonio Gates for another season if he wants to return. He can still play and it would be nice to see him end his career in San Diego.
Free Agents to Let Walk
The relationship between the Chargers and Eric Weddle completely broke down by years end and it seemed clear that he will be out…Ladarious Green has ability but he crawled to the finish line and I’d be afraid of paying him too much and only consider it if Gates does not return…Chris Hairston, Kendell Reyes, and Ricardo Mathews all played a large number of snaps for the team, none of which were really productive.
Contracts to Modify
Was one year of a healthy Melvin Ingram enough to consider an extension? It might be worth the risk if the price is right…I would not rework the contracts of Philip Rivers and specifically Brandon Flowers for cap relief.
Players to Consider Releasing
Donald Butler has one of those rare contracts in a contract where there is a small window of time in which they can release him and save $2.6 million before the option proration kicks in at the start of the league year which makes it more difficult with the cap to release him. He played himself out of the rotation despite the contract so it would seem to be a no brainer to release him right after the Super Bowl…Paying $3.56 million for a punter seems like wasted resources, so expect Mike Scifres to be gone…Donald Brown was a head scratching decision when they signed him and it will be equally head scratching if they keep him. Cutting him saves $3.5 million. Cutting Trevor Robinson saves $2.5 million.
The Chargers rank a little below average in terms of 2016 salary cap flexibility, but a little above average in terms of the absence of long-term salary cap commitments. The team can leverage its relative lack of future cap commitments to add talent to the roster on somewhat back-loaded deals while still leaving itself in a reasonable long-term position. Given the age of Philip Rivers, utilizing this ability to spend relatively aggressively may be more advisable than a patience-oriented approach. The roster includes very few players likely to be released, which is largely the product of older veterans Eric Weddle, Antonio Gates and Malcom Floyd actually playing out the entirely of their long-term contracts and not having superfluous seasons attached at the end.
Expected Contract Termination Outcomes – Expected Contract Value 2.0 utilizes an algorithm based on a player’s contract characteristics, age, position and 2015 performance to forecast probabilities as to the outcomes of contract termination decisions. The lower the Expected Outcome, the more likely the player’s contract will be terminated in 2016. A pay cut is treated as a termination. We have applied ECV 2.0 to all contracts scheduled to count $2 million or more against the 2016 salary cap with the exception of exercised 5th year rookie options. Expected Savings is the calculated by multiplying the probability a player will be released by the cap savings realized by the team upon such release.
|Player||Position||Expected Outcome||Expected Savings|
|Expected Change in Cap Room||+$4,596,750|
True Cap Space – Realizable Cap Space depicts the total amount of salary cap space potentially at the team’s disposal in 2016, and True Cap Space makes further adjustments to take into consideration amounts that are accounted for in practical terms. Most True Cap Space will be used on players currently under contract as a result of the team choosing to not release them.
|True Cap Space (2016)|
|Adjusted Salary Cap||$152,318,326|
|Prorated Signing Bonus Amounts||($27,547,036)|
|Realizable Cap Space||$124,771,290|
|Fully Guaranteed Salary||($17,919,168)|
|Minimum Salary Cap Holds||($21,150,000)|
|True Cap Space||$85,702,122|
Commitment Index – Commitment Index identifies the degree to which a team has “mortgaged its future” by measuring its net future salary cap commitments as a percentage of the average net future salary cap commitments of all teams. A Commitment Index Score of 100% is average, and a negative Commitment Index Score indicates that the team has more current salary cap space than future salary cap commitments.
|Commitment Index (2017+)|
|Prorated Signing Bonus Amounts||$50,860,166|
|Fully Guaranteed Salary||$3,294,945|
|Current Cap Space||($27,347,859)|
|Commitment Index Score||155%|
|League Rank (1st = Most Committed)||11th|
I’m not sure if the Chargers have ever recovered from the breakdown of their successful run as a top AFC team back in 2010. They have basically dealt with bad drafts and free agent decisions since then and been able to get by, in part, because of the play of Philip Rivers. This past year not even Rivers could salvage anything out of the team that crashed and burned to a 4 win season.
While normally that would be a signal to begin to rebuild, when you have mega dollars invested in a 35 year old quarterback and a large number of veteran contracts you can’t move it probably pushes San Diego into free agency. They are going to have to make the most of their cap space and find a way to fit some players in to try one last time to win a title with Rivers. Generally you can get 2-3 years out of second contract players and the Chargers need to play to that window starting this offseason.
For San Diego the path back to the playoffs is going to have to start in the trenches. Their offensive and defensive lines are both poor. They cant establish a running game, prevent a rushing attack or keep the quarterback upright. Center was by far their most glaring need and one of the best in the NFL will be available once Alex Mack voids his contract. The next best option is Stefen Wisniewski. The best left tackles available will be Russell Okung and Cordy Glenn. Okung is hurt too often to really consider. They can also use interior line help but the contracts and draft capital invested there make it unlikely. If they do not come away with an upgrade at least at one of the positions in free agency it’s probably a bad sign for the year.
This is a good year for 34 defensive ends with Muhammad Wilkerson, Malik Jackson, Cedric Thornton and Vinny Curry all possibly available. Wilkerson is the most complete player but possibly out of their price range considering they already have big money locked up in Corey Liuget. Either Damon Harrison and Jaye Howard would immediately improve their run defense in the middle.
Finding weapons for Rivers in the passing game also has to be a priority but free agency will be risky in this regard when we look at the realistic players available. The names of Rueben Randle, Rishard Matthews, Marvin Jones, and Travis Benjamin are not going to excite anyone. All of these players have potential but they also have risks that are very real. There is as much reason to expect a Randle to be a 1,000 yard receiver as there is to think he will be a 600 yard receiver. Still it would be surprising if they signed nobody at the position.
The team can also use a safety and an inside linebacker. Unless they are going to come away with Eric Berry it’s probably best to look for a safety in the draft rather than sign a lesser player to replace Weddle who had a terrific career with the Chargers. This is also not a great year for inside linebackers but it may be worth watching the waiver wire there as well as drafting someone.
In the draft they have to hit on their first three picks and produce three eventual starters for the team. They need their later round picks to at least provide some much needed depth. The players drafted this year will be the players you build around when Rivers is either retiring or playing at a much lower level at the end of his career. If they don’t get those players in place now it may be a difficult future for the Chargers, wherever they may be playing.
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.