Chargers to Cut DJ Fluker

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter the Chargers will be moving on from former first round draft pick DJ Fluker.

Fluker was scheduled to earn $8.821 million, all of which would become fully guaranteed on March 9. There is no dead money associated with the cut so this move will basically double the cap starved Chargers cap space for the offseason. Continue reading Chargers to Cut DJ Fluker »

Chargers 2015 Salary Cap Outlook

Estimated 2015 Cap Space: $24.3M ($140M cap limit)

Roster Overview

Players Under Contract: 59
Pro Bowlers: 1
Unrestricted Free Agents: 17(5 with 50%+ playtime)
Draft Selection: 17

Salary Cap Breakdown

Chargers 2015 Salary Cap

Chargers 2015 Salary Cap

Chargers 2015 Salary Cap

Free Agents to Re-sign

King Dunlap has played well for the Chargers the last two seasons and should be an affordable option at the position to keep for the next few seasons. He is not an upper tier player but he won’t hurt the team in any way if they stick with him…Brandon Flowers was a big boost for the secondary in 2014, but likely won’t be as cheap in 2015. My assumption is they will try to keep him next season at a mid range salary….I don’t think Eddie Royal will get much attention elsewhere and if he comes back at $3 million he can have his moments in this offense…Dwight Freeney can still provide some pass rush and as long as it comes for under $3 million they can continue to play the short term contract game with him…Nick Hardwick may retire but the team should do their best to convince him to play one last season as their starting center while they sort out the rest of the line.

Free Agents to Let Walk

Ryan Mathews is the most talented running back on the team, but he is always injured and those are the kind of players you should strongly consider moving on from. Unless he takes a one year Darren McFadden type deal (and I don’t think he would) that money is better spent elsewhere….Jeromey Clary was such bad signing from day 1 and now the contract is officially expired. There is no reason to even entertain the idea of keeping him…The Chargers should be able to find a better player than Shareece Wright at cornerback.

Contracts to Modify

Phillip Rivers carries the largest cap hit on the team at $17.4 million and is entering the final season of his contract. It is clear that Rivers has re-established himself as one of the better players in the NFL and should be the Chargers long term solution at the position. While he won’t be cheap and his extension should not provide much in cap relief, this is the time to make the move. Rivers is set to earn $15.75 million this year and extending him now will allow the Chargers to roll that into his guaranteed value of his new contract giving them less salary cap burdens in the future…Eric Weddle is also entering the final year of his contract and this could be the time to lock him up for the remainder of his career. This could prove more difficult in light of the recent Byrd and Thomas contracts, but both sides would probably benefit from coming to an agreement.

Players to Consider Releasing

The Chargers will save $5 million in cap and cash by releasing linebacker Jarret Johnson. Johnson will be 34 years old and has had a very long career in the NFL, but the Chargers need more production for that money…I didn’t understand the signing of Donald Brown last season and will understand it even less if he is back this season. They create $1.9 million in cap room with his release….Pro Football Focus graded Chad Rinehart as the third worst left guard in the NFL which should make the $3.25 million in savings stand out to the Chargers front office even more.

Offseason Plan

The Chargers are an older football team with just 6 players under contract beyond the 2016 season. If things are kept status quo next season they will have 10 starters that are no younger than 29, five of whom will be at least 34. This really is a franchise that is working its way through a transition and likely going to piece things together year by year until they can get more of a talent base in place or are forced to go heavy in free agency. This is partially because of poor decisions that the current front office was saddled with.

I cant recall too many teams that have been in the position the Chargers are in. A large part of the reason they held on to players like Royal, Malcom Floyd, Freeney, Clary, etc… is because they didn’t really have any other option but to keep piecing it together year by year. To their credit many of the decisions worked and they almost made the playoffs for the second straight year, but you have to wonder how long they can keep doing this. For their younger guys who are up on their contracts those are not the kind of players to consider long term which is why most likely wouldn’t be back.

This should be the first year the Chargers have some reasonable salary cap space to work with and with it they should be able to fix one or two holes with a decent option in free agency. I don’t think they will go after any of the top names at any position, unless they decide to go after one of the lower cost positions like right tackle, but a second level player would still be an upgrade. There wont be any shortage of receivers, running backs, and secondary players that they can target in free agency.

If they can build up a few spots in free agency it will leave them the chance to address their longer term needs through the draft. The draft is a more fiscally responsible option for finding upgrades along the defensive line, outside linebacker, and/or cornerback as well as on the offensive line. While it would take a stroke of good fortune to find them all this season they need to have a plan in place to fill these spots over a two year period.

This draft is really important for the Chargers. They need to start filling the roster with more good players that can carry the team in the future rather than forcing them to rely on a number of stop gap veterans. What they don’t want to have happen is to be in a similar situation as the Dolphins a few years back where they feel the need to overspend in free agency to plug up multiple holes on a team that they were never able to address in the draft. You want the free agency signings to have meaning such that they augment a nice core of very young talent.  We’ll have a better idea if what they did in the 2014 and 2015 drafts are getting them prepared for the future early next season.

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Recapping The First Day of Cuts


There are still about 500 moves that teams will make over the next few hours to bring their rosters down from 75 to 53, but many teams got to work yesterday, so lets review some of the action.

The Bills biggest moves on Friday came when they announced that they were placing WR Brad Smith and QB Kevin Kolb on season ending IR. I have seen many people mention that Kolb could retire or potentially take an injury settlement. Neither should occur. Kolb’s concussion was considered career threatening. By maintaining a spot on IR when the season completes Kolb is eligible for injury protection under the CBA because he is also under contract to Buffalo for the 2014 season. If Kolb’s injury from 2013 renders him unable to compete in 2014, 50% of his $2 million base salary is protected. He can earn another $1 million by simply being on the roster in week 17. If he accepts a settlement the Bills will be freed from this liability. If he voluntarily retires he will give up this payment and perhaps be asked to repay the Bills a $1 million dollar signing bonus. So it is in his best interests to maintain a presence even if all sides know he will never play again. Kolb lost a $250,000 roster bonus this year because he was placed on IR.

Smith had renegotiated his contract this season to improve his chances to make the team and I wonder if this will mark the end of his career. Smith was drafted in 2006 and was a good kick returner for the Jets while also filling in occasionally as “wildcat” QB. The Bills took a chance signing Smith feeling that he could do more and paid him accordingly, but, as is often the case, paying a specialist to become a complete player did not work. By no means was he guaranteed to make the team this season and it would be surprising if he was brought back next year. Smith has a $1.4 million base salary in 2014.

T Max Starks might have been the biggest name to be released yesterday when the Chargers gave him his walking papers. I had discussed Starks as a logical cut for San Diego because of the teams tight cap situation. Starks’ contract was only worth $1 million but it contained a large incentive that did count on the salary cap and pushed his charge over $2 million which made his cap number too high for the team. The sides could have removed the incentive, but the Chargers probably don’t see much benefit in paying him to be a backup.

The Seahawks released FB Michael Robinson because of salary cap concerns. He was another name I discussed and his $2.5 million dollar salary made him an easy target for release. I had speculated Heath Farwell could also be released due to cap concerns and he would be a name to potentially watch today when they make their final cuts. He is set to earn $1.5 million.

Arizona released a number of veteran players including special teamer Reggie Walker. Walker was set to earn $950,000 which may have been too much for a special teams ace. Arizona had around $6.5 million in cap room and while not a concerning amount it is likely under the mark the team would like to have. The release of a number of veterans saved the squad nearly $1 million in cap yesterday. The bigger concern for Arizona though was placement of their first round selection, Johnathan Cooper, on IR.

While these were the bigger name moves on the day there were many disappointed people yesterday who received their walking papers. Some were given hope of the Practice Squad while others were just clean cuts. Some teams will use practice to continue to evaluate and make decisions before the 4PM deadline today. For those who make it there will be a tremendous sense of accomplishment. Unfortunately the NFL is always moving and many of the players excited tonight will find out on Monday that the stay on the roster is short as another name hits the waiver wire and they are replaced before the season begins.

Unfortunately I won’t be able to keep up with the cuts on the website today, but by tomorrow we should get the rosters broken down into their final forms. The team web pages will look a lot different as will the real practice facilities which will look barren from all the summer names that were part of the NFL for a few months.


Nine Teams Need to Make Cap Related Moves


The NFL salary cap is a major concern for teams at two times every season. The first is the most talked about time, which is the month of February when teams are ripping apart rosters to become salary cap compliant for the new League Year and to create the maximum possible cap room for free agency. Once free agency ends the overall importance of the cap is low because only the top 51 contracts plus dead money charges count towards the salary cap.

The second most important time for the cap is right now.  By 4 PM on September 4 the cap valuations change. For salary cap purposes rosters expand to include everyone under contract. At a minimum that pushes the roster to 53 players plus a Practice Squad, which every team fields. The cost of two players adds at least $810,000 to the roster and a PS costs a team another $816,000.  For teams that have players on Reserve lists such as PUP or IR the salary for the players who are replacing them will now count. For some teams that can be an additional 4 to 5 players that will now be accounted for. It quickly adds up and it all adds up by Wednesday.

While most teams want to carry upwards of $5 million in season salary cap space for emergencies, I just want to focus on the teams that will be around the $3 million mark come Wednesday based on how things stand right now. Based on the top 51 cap room as of the morning of the 29th , nine teams will have  less than $3 million in cap space on Wednesday. Of those nine, four will not be cap compliant unless players inside the top 51 are released.  Those four are, in order, the Rams, Chiefs, Texans, and Redskins. The other five teams are the Vikings, Seahawks, Chargers, Giants, and Bears.

With that in mind I wanted to look at these teams and moves they may need to make cap space.

Rams– The Rams are projected to about $1.2 million over the salary cap based on their current roster construction. I would not expect the Rams to release anyone of note but instead restructuring deals for cap relief. The most likely candidates are Cortland Finnegan ($9 million base salary), Sam Bradford ($9 million base salary), and Chris Long ($7.25 million base salary).  Long already restructured once so its less likely they would go to him again. With questions marks surrounding Bradford and already over $10 million in dead money on the books in 2014, Finnegan is the guy to watch. Converting $7 million of his base into a signing bonus will save the team $5.5 million in cap room and increase his 2015 dead money from $2 million to $5.5 million, which could be considered acceptable.

Chiefs– The Chiefs will be around $500,000 over the cap if moves are not made in their top 51. There are minimal avenues for savings for the team, due to high offseason spending and the fact that they retained Branden Albert on the Franchise tag rather than extending or trading him. There is no one of note that could be released or even threatened with release to really help them. The logical solution would seem to be having Tamba Hali restructure his contract. He carries a $12.25 million dollar base salary and just cutting and prorating the difference would save the team about $4 million in cap room.

If they fail to reach an agreement the other candidate is Alex Smith, and for long term cap planning probably makes more sense to approach than Hali. Smith earns $7.5 million this season and next season. Because the contract only has two years remaining proration is limited over two years, but that could be enough to easily save at least $3 million in cap this season by converting $6 million of salary to a bonus. That would make his cap charge just $10.5 million in 2014, still a bargain for a starting QB. Though neither side will want to extend that deal they could also go the void year route for proration purposes if they wanted.

Texans– Houston will only be about $300,000 over the cap, though that number does not include the replacement body they likely need to carry to cover Antonio Smith’s one game suspension, which would increase the cap to $700,000 over. They could carry 52 players for the week for cap purposes if necessary. The Texans are an older team so extensions to players like Wade Smith are not really a possibility. Jonathan Joseph makes $7.5 million this season and might be a person they look at for a bonus conversion, though that will put the last two seasons of his contract very high in terms of cap charges. This could be a team that also ends up releasing some of the veteran players close to minimum salaries to pick up small amounts of cap.

Redskins– Washington will be right up against the cap and don’t really have much in the way of high salaries to reduce as their situation is compromised by the cap penalties more than expensive contracts. LB London Fletcher is the one player who should be given a pay cut from his $5.5 million base, but that seems unlikely at this point. His contract already contains numerous void years for proration purposes so it’s possible they could simply defer the cap charges to next season. The other person to watch out for would be WR Santana Moss.  Releasing Moss will clear $2.25 million from the books. The team could also consider asking Chris Baker, playing on a non-guaranteed $1.323 million tender to reduce his salary by a few hundred thousand.

The Other Five (Bears, Giants, Chargers, Seahawks, Vikings)

I lumped these four together since they should all be cap compliant even after the rosters expand but wanted to touch on them briefly

Chicago we have touched on many times before and just yesterday wrote about why moving WR Earl Bennett is a likely move. The Bears have multiple avenues for cap relief if they want it via extensions, but it seems as if they will weed out some of the lower cost players like Bennett that they feel will not make a contribution rather than extending players.

The Giants cap was dealt a big blow when they lost their starting Safety for the season, but they should be ok. Players in danger could be Bear Pascoe, Louis Murphy, Aaron Ross, etc…They could also work with Chris Snee or Antrell Rolle if needed for cap space….

The Chargers could be in trouble because they already have a massive list of players on IR and PUP. Releasing Max Starks would save the team over $2 million based on cap treatment of LTBE’s and releasing WR Eddie Royal would save $3 million. Royal might be asked to take a pay cut instead.

Seattle is not in terrible cap position, though they currently have a IR number that will eat into it a bit if settlements are not reached. I’d imagine they will continue to cut veterans for cap relief. Releasing special teamer Heath Farwell saves the team $1.5 million and looking at FB Michael Robinson could save $2.5 million. Both could also be asked to take paycuts.

The Vikings might look to simply cut ties with some projected backups making over the minimum (Desmond Bishop, Fred Evans, AJ Jefferson) if they felt they needed more cap space. They will gain some added cap room once Jerome Feltons suspension is official and considering they are right around $3 million in room may not see the need to make any moves.


The June 15 Tender and Victor Cruz


One of those smaller rules in the NFL that very few people know about or, at the very least discuss, is the June 15 tender date for Restricted Free Agents that have yet to sign with their club. A RFA has a signing period in which he is able to negotiate with other teams. Once that deadline passes, usually a week before the NFL draft, the RFA is no longer truly free as his exclusive negotiating rights are assigned to the team that tendered him. This is done to avoid lengthy holdouts from a situation where a player really has no leverage.

The June 15 date is essentially the date on which an NFL team can impose a financial penalty on a RFA despite the fact that the player is not technically under contract. WR Victor Cruz received a first round tender  worth $2.879 million from  the New York Giants that he has failed to sign. On June 15 the Giants have the option to withdraw that offer and offer a new contract worth 110% of Cruz’ 2012 salary. Because Cruz only played for the minimum last season, $540,000, the 110% offer is actually lower that the required minimum salary so the Giants would need to offer Cruz $630,000.

If the Giants make this move Cruz potentially will lose $2.249 million in pay if the two sides can not come to terms on a contract and Cruz is forced to play on the June 15 tender.  That does not mean the two sides can no longer work out a contract, but it puts Cruz’ in a significantly worse position and could strain the relationship between the two sides especially if the Giants consider applying the franchise tag on Cruz next season and force him to play out his contract at $630,000. Nothing forces the Giants to make the June 15 tender and they can chose to leave the situation as it, but the Giants do get immediate cap relief once the offer is withdrawn and the new tender made.

If the June 15 tender is made the next dates to look at come during the preseason if Cruz fails to report to camp. At that point the Giants could place him on a roster exempt status which would limit the amount of games he could play during the season. If Cruz failed to report before week 11 he would be ineligible to play in 2013 and the Giants would retain his rights next season.

I tend to think because of the strange Percy Harvin dynamic in Seattle that there could be a large disconnect between the Giants valuation of Cruz and Cruz’ valuation of himself.  Normally slot receivers are paid at far lower rates than their outside counterparts but Harvin broke the mold with the lucrative extension he signed after being traded from Minnesota a few months ago.  Cruz has been very productive the last two years and can easily argue that he should be worth that much money, but it is hard to fathom more teams committing salary close to that level for a slot player, even one with the game breaking ability Cruz has.

Though these situations are rare I can think of three June 15 tenders in recent years where the players were forced to accept the low tender. In 2010, the uncapped year, a number of players who believed that were going to be Unrestricted Free Agents were actually RFA’s. The Chargers’ Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeil and Patriots’ Logan Mankins were all players who fit into that category and resisted the notion of playing on the RFA tender. Both the Chargers and the Patriots removed the higher priced tender and replaced it with the June 15 tender. Jackson’s salary was reduced  to $682,000, McNeils to $630,000, and Mankins’ to $1.54 million. Each had been scheduled to make $3.268 million.

The Chargers were granted exemptions on both McNeil and Jackson making them ineligible to play for 3 weeks after they reported back to the team. McNeil returned to active duty in week 5, Mankins in week 8, and Jackson in week 10. McNeil’s situation ended amicably with the two sides agreeing on a contract extension worth close to $45 million dollars upon his activation in week 5. Jackson and Mankins were both given the franchise tag the following season. Mankins signed a long term contract with New England once the lockout ended while Jackson played the season out on the franchise tag before signing with the Buccaneers in 2012.

So the next few days may represent a real important period for Victor Cruz and the Giants. If that June 15 tender is made it could signal a very long summer. If the Giants allow the date to come and go it means they are probably going to continue to be accommodating to Cruz while they work on a contract with the next crucial dates coming during the Preseason.


Twitter & More Q&A- February 20

I thought rather than answering questions directly on Twitter I would do a feature every now and then where I look at some of the questions asked over the last day or two so there is a record of it for all to see and not limit the answers to 140 characters or to have it buried in the comments section. And of course I want to preface all of this by saying that these answers related to contract questions are based on data that I believe to be reasonably accurate, but I cant say with 100% certainty is correct.

From @SGininger:  Is it true that the Skins cap penalty allows them to cut Hall without any dead money counting against them?

Yes that should be accurate. The Redskins signed DeAngelo Hall to a 6 year contract in 2009 that called for an option bonus of $15 million to be paid in 2010, which was the uncapped year. When it came time to pay the bonus the Redskins changed the terms a bit by giving Hall the ability to void the final 4 years of his contract by paying the Redskins back the money he earned in 2009 and 2010. Under the CBA, void seasons where the player has the sole control of voiding the contract can not be used for the purposes of prorating bonuses. What that meant was rather than prorating $15 million dollars at $3 million per season all $15 million counted on the 2010 salary cap books. In addition his prior signing bonus money all accelerated into 2010 thus leaving no dead money on the books for future years. In all the Redskins dumped $19.7 million  into the uncapped year for Hall when his normal charge would have been $3.8 million. So if Hall is released there is no dead money left on the books with his name on it, though part of the penalty is, in essence, what his dead money should have been if released this year.

From @Donkey_Kang: How does the SD Chargers’ cap situation look like? Besides Antonio Garay, who else is likely to be cut?

I wanted to go over all the teams this offseason but I sadly will not be able to do that due to time constraints, but I can do a quick overview here. I would not expect the Chargers to be much in the way of players this offseason. I currently have them around $5.9 million in cap room on a $121.1 million cap limit, but they only have 47 players under contract which mean most of their rookie class will see the full dollar value hit the cap. When you consider their rookies should cost around $5.2 million it leaves almost no spending room between now and July.

Beyond cutting Garay there are only minimal savings deals on the team. Takeo Spikes saves the team $3 million and backup Charlie Whitehurst a bit over $2 million if released. Releasing WR Eddie Royal would save $1.5 million. I think the big decision is what the team wants to do with Phillip Rivers who was bad last season. He has a $17.11 million dollar cap hit this year and they could bring that lower if they extend him. With almost no dead money on the books in 2014 for him this seems to essentially be a contract year for him.

From Guest in comments: What gives with the change in Kevin Boss’ dead money charge?

Like I have mentioned before we arent perfect and while we strive to do our best to compile the figures we definitely make mistakes in calculations and/or assumptions, and sometimes just get bad information. Boss’ deal was one with conflicting numbers and I was wrong. Luckily for us someone I greatly trust was able to correct the error so we have it right. While our analysis I believe is top notch and the site among the best cap resources you will find there are others who are going to be better connected  when it comes to getting perfect data on contracts. We come close but cant be right all the time. So anytime anyone sees a mistake or has a tip, no matter how small, trust me it helps if you shoot me an email or a DM so we can get it fixed.

From @BobbyMaz They (Green Bay) have to restructure Finley. Are they going to keep him at 8.75 this year?

When you see teams sign what are “premier” players to two year contracts most often they doing it because they have no intention of keeping them for too long. Green Bay’s intention was never to hold onto Finley and I would guess that he will be released to create more cap space. I’d be surprised if they extended him.

From @NickSpano Whoa! Jason from @nyjetscap and now @Jason_OTC has a face!? Same person!?

LOL. I already answered Nick who has been a great follower of my work for sometime but yes for those unsure of it I am also the founder and editor of, a site primarily devoted to tracking the Jets salary cap. Ill post some links to that site every now and then or double post on the two sites, but nyjetscap is really where I learned about the cap and became pretty good and the analytic end of it. OTC is a much more in depth venture and unlike nyjetscap, which was always just me, Ill be getting some help here. More to come on that in the coming weeks but I think you will really enjoy reading our teams thoughts and cap analysis. There are some great “amateur capologists” out there and we definitely will have some of the best posting at OTC and helping keep this massive database as accurate as possible.