Each year teams set their salary cap for hopes of maximizing their roster efficiency in a given year. Injuries can throw all the planning a team makes out of wack, putting millions upon millions of dollars on the sidelines and leaving a team thin with talent. So what teams are being impacted the most by injuries as they take the field today? Read on…
No team has been hurt more by injuries this year than the Dallas Cowboys who I estimate to have just over $25 million sitting on their various reserve lists. These include quarterback Tony Romo, cornerback Orlando Scandrick, and just this week running back Lance Dunbar. That figure doesn’t even take into account Dez Bryant who hasn’t played since the first game but the team hasn’t put on IR. Bryant has a $7 million cap charge. If you factor in Bryant, Dallas has about 22% of the cap on their sidelines. Take into account dead money and Dallas has about 33% of their cap allocated to players who won’t impact today’s game.
Carolina took a major blow when defensive end Charles Johnson hit the IR last week. Johnson’s contract is one of the most mismanaged in football history, leaving the Panthers with a $20 million cap charge on the books this year just for him. He alone accounts for 14% of the teams cap. Add in injuries to Kelvin Benjamin and Nate Chandler and they are right up there with Dallas with over $25 million sitting on the sidelines.
The Giants get a special mention in this category because of the unique situation on their roster. Currently the team has about $11 million in players on reserve lists, most of which is attributed to left tackle Will Beatty on the PUP list, but we should consider Jason Pierre Paul as a reserve player. The Giants anticipated using $14.28 million of their cap on him this year, but his firework accident caused him to lose portions of his hand and the Giants wouldn’t medically clear him so he refused to sign his contract. Factor in JPP and the Giants have $25.8 million not playing this week, most in the NFL. Like Dallas the team also has another player, Victor Cruz, not on reserve but never ready to play. Cruz has an $8.1 million cap charge. The Giants have it so bad this year that of their top 4 contracted players, 3 have yet to play a down of football.
The Steelers are in a similar position with Ben Roetlisberger sitting with injury but not landing on IR. If he misses five or six games that is essentially the same as being on PUP and would bring the Steelers to losing a ridicuous $31 million on gameday. Pittsburgh has lost their starting center and kicker and primary backup QB to injury in addition to Big Ben’s ailment.
The teams that have gotten through the year relatively healthy include the Rams and Titans. The Rams have often been on the other side of this list. All in all teams are averaging around $8.25 million in reserve list cap allocations ($8.7 if we include JPP) which puts about $265 million salary cap dollars on the sidelines for a hefty portion of the season around the NFL. That figure is a big reason why teams are often cautious with the money they offer players and putting too much into one player in a given season.
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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.