With the season more than half way complete and many teams already fading out of the playoff picture this is the time of year where we begin to get questions about cap space for next season. Of course such cap space estimates include players who will likely no longer be on the team. To go team by team and make those predictions is impossible so rather than do that each year I like to identify the absolute maximum cap space that can be created by each team next year. While the maximum cap space is not realistic (i.e. the Saints are not cutting Drew Brees) it does give you an idea as to how much a team can really create if they hit the emergency resent button in any given season.
To calculate the maximum cap space what I am doing is taking any player whose net cap savings (the players cap cost minus his dead money minus the cost of a rookie replacement) is greater than $150,000 and removing him from the roster and putting a minimum salaried player in his place. This shows how flexible many teams are in the NFL these days as the average cap space created per team would be around $60 million on $34 million in dead money. On average teams could cut about 45% of their roster and gain cap space. These numbers will change beginning the day after the Super Bowl when some players will see their salaries guarantee for 2019.
The Potential Big Savers
The Bucs could create over $100 million in cap room while taking on just $12.3 million in dead money, which is a ridiculous 8.3:1 ratio. The Bucs are the only team to have any ratio close to this and its because they simply don’t use signing bonuses. A good portion of that money is tied to Jameis Winston, Jason Pierre-Paul, DeSean Jackson, Vinny Curry and Gerald McCoy and I think its feasible some of those names could go.
Number two is the Jaguars who could create nearly $90 million but on a more substantial $52 million in dead money, a ratio that is slightly lower than the league average. Their biggest names likely are not going anywhere other than maybe Malik Jackson and Marcel Dareus, but they should easily be able to come out of the salary cap hole they project to be in next season.
The Chargers can create over $80 million next season but that’s an unrealistic goal for them since Rivers, Ingram, and Okung are going nowhere. Still they look to have turned a corner with the cap and will have more flexibility.
The capped out Eagles come in fourth with $78 million in potential cap space and I have to think there is more legitimacy to this one than some of the others. Nick Foles saves over $18 million while Nelson Agholor, Jason Peters, and Timmy Jernigan should combine for another $23 million. I don’t expect them to be huge spenders next year but the cap is going to be far less concerning than people think.
Rounding out the top five are the Patriots at $73 million. That number does include $14.5 million for Tom Brady, which is not happening but I would think they have interesting decisions to make about Rob Gronkowski, Devin McCourty, and Donta Hightower and if they want to play those contracts out or consider other options. Dwayne Allen should be the one very likely cut.
What You See is What You Get
The Bills already have a good deal of cap room next year and they are lucky for that as they rank last in potential cap that can be created. In large part this is because the Bills gutted their roster this year which means they could only turn over 40% of their roster, which ranks 30th in the NFL. The expected ones here would be LeSean McCoy ($5.9M) and Charles Clay ($4M).
The Chiefs went all in on some free agents this past season and also have a number of big deals with prorated money from the past leaving them with just $38 million that can be created. The Chiefs are so leveraged on the short term that they would need to take on $45 million in dead money to make that space, a 0.84 savings to space ratio, worst in the NFL. Expect the Chiefs to restructure deals to make room if needed.
The Jets are similar to the Bills in that they took their lumps in the past which gives them just over $40 million more they could create. Unlike the Bills and most other teams it is relatively dead money free as their 6.2 to 1 space to dead ratio is 3rd in the NFL. A good chunk of their potential savings is from Leonard Williams who is going nowhere but Spencer Long and Isaiah Crowell could both be in danger.
Now that the Cardinals cut Sam Bradford they drop to 4th least in potential cap created. They are nearing the end of some deals so they could move on from more than a few guys relatively dead money free but as always it’s a question of whether they want to keep veterans or not. Cutting Jamar Taylor, Jermaine Gresham, and Andre Smith frees up around $11 million.
Last up is the Bears at $45.6 million. The Bears are one of the more leveraged teams in the league and have few players that can go but they have waited long enough on some of them to where the cap implications of releasing players isn’t that bad. Dion Sims is the teams most likely release and he will save $5.5 million. Id keep an eye on the often injured Kyle Long who has totaled 25 games in three years and would save $5 million on the cap.
The following table shows the results for each team. Maximum cap space is the estimate of how much cap space a team could have (including carryover) if they released all of the players who save more than $150K and replace them with a rookie. The current cap space is our current estimate for 51 players on the roster on a $190 million cap next year. The net created space is how much the team can create while the dead money created is how much dead money a team would take on to make that net created space. Finally the percent of the roster cut is how many players were cut to hit the maximum cap and the saved to dead ratio just is a way to better compare how much pain is needed to reach that maximum cap space.
|Team||Maximum Cap Space||Current Cap Space||Net Created Space||Dead Money Created||% Roster Cut||Saved to Dead Ratio|
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.