NFL free agency: Cap-clearing cuts and trades for every team (2024)

As NFL teams prepare for free agency to begin March 16, they’ll spend the coming weeks trimming bad contracts and creating more financial flexibility.

Most teams have at least one potential cap casualty on their rosters, and some have a few. Even those who don’t possess a clearly cuttable contract might acquire more cap room by trading away a player of significance or seeing one retire. Below, The Athletic’s NFL writers identify potential cost-saving moves for every team.

(Editor’s note: All salary data is from Over The Cap. The figures mentioned generally reflect the finances associated with releasing a player before June 1, except in the instances when a post-June 1 transaction that spreads out the dead money charge over two seasons makes more sense.)


Arizona Cardinals

Potential cap casualty: OT D.J. Humphries

2022 cap hit: $19.3 million
Cap savings if cut before June 1: $15 million
Dead money if cut before June 1: $4.3 million

Left tackle D.J. Humphries has the second-highest cap hit on the Cardinals’ roster behind only receiver DeAndre Hopkins, and the Cardinals could save approximately $15 million if they chose to move on from the former first-round pick before the final year of his contract.

That’s a significant amount of savings for a team that has little room to operate under the cap, and it certainly could be time after a disappointing season for the 28-year-old Humphries. According to TruMedia, he allowed seven sacks last season after allowing just five total in the previous two seasons combined. He also surrendered 36 quarterback pressures. — Lindsay Jones

Other players to watch: Edge Jordan Hicks, OL Justin Pugh

Atlanta Falcons

Potential cap casualty: DT Tyeler Davison

2022 cap hit: $4.9 million
Cap savings if cut before June 1: $3.7 million
Dead money if cut before June 1: $1.2 million

The seven-year pro is entering the final year of a three-year contract, and his 2022 cap hit is $4.9 million, which is the Falcons’ seventh-highest for next season. Davison had 30 tackles last season, and the only other column on the stat sheet he made a notch in was tackles-for-loss with three. A fifth-round pick by the Saints in 2015, Davison missed five games last season.

The Falcons would have to eat $1.2 million in dead money whether Davison is cut before or after June 1, but the $3.7 million in savings will come in handy with so many other needs. There are some much bigger numbers on the roster in the upcoming season (Jake Matthews at $23 million, for instance), but everyone north of Davison on the list feels too valuable for a talent-light team to give up on right now. — Josh Kendall


Other players to watch: RB Mike Davis, CB Kendall Sheffield, DE John Cominsky

Baltimore Ravens

Potential cap casualty: OT Alejandro Villanueva

2022 cap hit: $9.25 million
Cap savings if cut before June 1: $6 million
Dead money if cut before June 1: $3.25 million

Signed last May essentially as a stopgap solution following the Ravens’ trade of Orlando Brown Jr., Villanueva got off to a rough start in his transition to right tackle before moving back to the left side for an injured Ronnie Stanley. Villanueva finished strong and played through some physical challenges when the Ravens couldn’t afford to be without another tackle. However, the 33-year-old often looked his age and had some rough outings.

The Ravens are hopeful that tackles Stanley and Ja’Wuan James will be healthy and ready for the 2022 season. They already extended Patrick Mekari, who played relatively well in his starts at tackle last season, and they’ll likely draft a tackle, too. Villanueva would be a good guy to keep around for depth, but $6 million in salary cap savings is too much to ignore for a team that needs more financial flexibility. Villanueva, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, also could retire, essentially making the decision for the Ravens. — Jeff Zrebiec

Other players to watch: WR Miles Boykin, TE Josh Oliver, G Ben Powers, DT Derek Wolfe, CB Tavon Young, P Sam Koch

Buffalo Bills

Potential cap casualty: LB A.J. Klein

2022 cap hit: $5.6 million
Cap savings if cut before June 1: $5.2 million
Dead money if cut before June 1: $400,000

Klein has been with the Bills for two seasons, overseeing the growth of linebackers Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds and playing a vital backup role for the Bills. He filled in as the starter whenever one of the starting duo had an injury, but in 2021, Klein’s role was scaled back even more.


With the emergence of nickel corner Taron Johnson in 2021, the Bills stayed in nickel defense as their base for almost 100% of defensive snaps. The only time they veered from that was against heavy offensive formations that featured a sixth offensive lineman, a tight end and a fullback. Klein was also just a part-time special-teams player. Because Johnson got a big bump in salary with a contract extension, Klein is a luxury. Klein also has a low dead cap hit of $400,000. The Bills are tight to the 2022 cap as it is and want to re-sign some of their own, so the potential savings of $5.2 million for a backup linebacker entering his age-31 season will be tough to pass up. — Joe Buscaglia

Other players to watch: G/T Daryl Williams, WR Cole Beasley, G Jon Feliciano, LB/ST Tyler Matakevich, P Matt Haack

Carolina Panthers

Potential cap casualty: CB A.J. Bouye

2022 cap hit: $4.7 million
Cap savings if cut before June 1: $3.5 million
Dead money if cut before June 1: $1.2 million

Bouye, a Pro Bowler with Jacksonville in 2017, was a solid coverage guy as the Panthers’ nickel in 2021 after signing a two-year, $7 million deal in the offseason. The problem was his availability: Bouye missed seven games — two while serving the remainder of a PED suspension and five because of injuries. Plus, he’s now on the wrong side of 30 — he’ll turn 31 during training camp — and the Panthers need all the cap space they can get to sign Donte Jackson or Stephon Gilmore, who are priority cornerbacks.

After drafting Jaycee Horn (first round) and Keith Taylor (fifth) last year and trading for C.J. Henderson in September, the Panthers have several promising young corners who figure to make Bouye expendable. — Joe Person

Other players to watch: WR Robby Anderson, DE Morgan Fox, T Cam Erving, OL Dennis Daley


Chicago Bears

Potential cap casualty: DT Eddie Goldman

2022 cap hit: $11.8 million
Cap savings if cut before June 1: $6.7 million
Dead money if cut before June 1: $5.1 million

With Matt Eberflus in as the new head coach, the Bears are switching to a 4-3 defense and would have to figure out how Goldman — who came into the league as a true nose tackle — would fit. Goldman can certainly play in a 40 front, as he has when the Bears are in their nickel defense, but he has a pretty big cap hit and is one of the only players the Bears can save more on the cap by cutting ($6.7 million) than the dead money they’d incur ($5.1 million).

Late last season Goldman showed some flashes of what made him one of the league’s best interior defensive linemen, but was that enough to merit the cap hit in a new defense? Goldman has battled injuries throughout his career and was literally unreachable at times when the Bears needed to figure out if he was reporting to camp. Reliability is not his strong suit, and that might not mesh well with Eberflus’ principles as the new head coach and GM Ryan Poles try to rework the roster. Kevin Fishbain

Other players to watch: QB Nick Foles, RB Tarik Cohen, LB Danny Trevathan, Edge Jeremiah Attaochu, OG Cody Whitehair

Cincinnati Bengals

Potential cap casualty: CB Trae Waynes

2022 cap hit: $15.9 million
Cap savings if cut before June 1: $10.9 million
Dead money if cut before June 1: $5 million

Waynes is not a potential cap casualty, he’s an imminent one. He will go down as the biggest free agency bust in Bengals history after signing a three-year, $42 million deal in 2020 and providing almost no return on investment. Waynes missed the entire 2020 season with a pectoral injury, and his 2021 debut was delayed until Week 4 due to a hamstring, which he re-aggravated the following week. He didn’t surface again until mid-December and was benched in the second half, essentially becoming the league’s most expensive special teamer.


Outside of the 2021 season finale, when the Bengals rested all of their meaningful players and forced Waynes to play every snap, he appeared in four of a possible 32 games and logged 177 snaps. There is 0% chance Waynes is back for the final year of his deal. Cutting him will give the Bengals another $10.9 million to put toward a No. 2 cornerback and/or upgrades along the offensive line. — Jay Morrison

Other players to watch: C Trey Hopkins

Cleveland Browns

Potential cap casualty: WR Jarvis Landry

2022 cap hit: $16.4 million
Cap savings if cut before June 1: $14.9 million
Dead money if cut before June 1: $1.5 million

Landry never missed a game because of injury before last season and has long been valuable on and off the field. But now he’s 29, and the Browns would save $14.9 million on their 2022 cap by moving on, so although it’s clear that Landry won’t play the final season of his current deal, the sides could agree to a restructure to keep him in Cleveland. Landry recently tweeted that he’s willing to stay, but as the Browns go through what might be a full remake of their passing game, it’s likely that Landry will eventually hit the free agent market. He can still play, so he’s not going to accept a significant hometown discount. — Zac Jackson

Other players to watch: TE Austin Hooper, C JC Tretter, QB Case Keenum

Dallas Cowboys

Potential cap casualty: WR Amari Cooper

2022 cap hit: $22 million
Cap savings if cut before June 1: $16 million
Dead money if cut before June 1: $6 million

The two most noteworthy candidates are Cooper and defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, who will count as a $27 million cap hit next season. The biggest difference between the two situations is that the Cowboys are facing $19 million in dead cap money if they release Lawrence, compared to only $6 million in dead cap money with Cooper.


Dallas is paying Cooper to be one of the NFL’s top wide receivers, but his 2021 production certainly didn’t match that expectation. He finished 20th among wide receivers in receptions (68), 30th in receiving yards (865) and 12th in touchdown receptions (eight). But it can be argued that he wasn’t being utilized like a top wide receiver, either, as he finished 31st among players at his position in targets with 104.

The Cowboys traded a first-round pick to the Raiders for Cooper in the middle of the 2018 season, and he immediately developed a rapport with quarterback Dak Prescott. But Dallas has since drafted standout wide receiver CeeDee Lamb, who appears to be the team’s No. 1 receiver of the future. It’s difficult to imagine an offense that struggled against quality opponents during the back half of the season improving without Cooper, but this could be where the Cowboys look to save money and search for some bargains in free agency and the draft. Jon Machota

Other players to watch: DE DeMarcus Lawrence

Denver Broncos

Potential cap casualty: NT Mike Purcell

2022 cap hit: $4.3 million
Cap savings if cut after June 1: $3.6 million
Dead money if cut after June 1: $774,166

The Broncos have a largely clean salary-cap sheet as they head into the offseason, a necessary position for a team hoping to land an expensive veteran quarterback. Still, general manager George Paton has shown he’s willing to trim salary where he can when it comes to veteran players. Purcell signed an extension in October 2020, but he has missed 15 of a possible 28 games since, and he hasn’t made the same impact as he did in 2019, when he had eight tackles for loss. The Broncos could save roughly $3.6 million in cap space by cutting Purcell with a post-June 1 designation, which would allow them to spread his remaining dead money across two years.

Defensive line will be a priority for the Broncos in the draft, especially if they cut Purcell. Georgia’s Jordan Davis, a massive, 6-foot-6, 360-pound run stuffer, who was sent to Denver at No. 9 overall in the first 2022 mock draft by The Athletic’s Dane Brugler, is an intriguing name to watch depending on when, where and if the Broncos make a pick in the first round. — Nick Kosmider


Other player to watch: P Sam Martin

Detroit Lions

Potential cap casualty: DE Trey Flowers

2022 cap hit: $23.2 million
Cap savings if cut after June 1: $16 million
Dead money if cut after June 1: $7.2 million

GM Brad Holmes cleared out most of the Lions’ bad contracts during last season’s roster bloodletting, but Flowers remains on the books through 2023. Aside from Jared Goff’s number, this is the biggest cap hit Detroit has for next year. It’s one of the last remnants of Bob Quinn’s tenure as general manager — he handed Flowers a massive five-year, $90 million deal after Flowers posted a career-high 7.5 sacks in ‘18. Though Flowers did produce another 7.0 sacks in his first season as a Lion, he never took things to the next level. Worse, he’s been unable to stay healthy, having missed a combined 19 games over the past two seasons.

Detroit would love to have Flowers’ veteran leadership up front. That alone is not worth more than $23 million, though. — Chris Burke

Other players to watch: G Halapoulivaati Vaitai, DL Michael Brockers, DB Will Harris, RB Jamaal Williams

Green Bay Packers

Potential cap casualty: OLB Za’Darius Smith

2022 cap hit: $27.7 million
Cap savings if cut before June 1: $15.3 million
Dead money if cut before June 1: $12.4 million

The Packers are about $50 million over the cap and will need to cut at least a couple key contributors from recent seasons to get under the cap by the start of the new league year on March 16. The most expendable player with a massive cap hit is Smith. After a Pro Bowl season in 2019 and an All-Pro season in 2020, Smith played in just two games in 2021 because of a back injury. Teammates didn’t vote him as one of three defensive captains after voting him as the lone defensive captain in each of the past two seasons. Smith took exception to that. He’s since deleted all Packers references from his Instagram and Twitter bio, and before he did, he bid somewhat of a farewell to Green Bay on Instagram.


Rashan Gary and Preston Smith were just fine as a 1-2 punch on the edge last season, so going with them again while freeing up all that money by cutting Smith seems the sensible thing to do. — Matt Schneidman

Other players to watch: K Mason Crosby, WR Randall Cobb, RT Billy Turner, OLB Preston Smith

Houston Texans

Potential cap casualty: OT Marcus Cannon

2022 cap hit: $5.2 million
Cap savings if cut before June 1: $5.2 million
Dead money if cut before June 1: $0

After being acquired in a trade from the Patriots, Cannon started just four games before landing on injured reserve with a back injury. Cannon was solid in those four starts at right tackle, but at 33 years old, he comes with durability concerns. He opted out of the 2020 season and missed much of training camp and the offseason program last year. Releasing him in the final year of his contract is one of the most efficient and practical ways the Texans can create cap space outside of trades involving quarterback Deshaun Watson and left tackle Laremy Tunsil.

If the Texans cut Cannon and keep Tunsil, 2019 first-round pick Tytus Howard could return to right tackle, where he spent the first two years of his career before sliding inside this past season to accommodate Cannon. Howard also played some left tackle in 2021 after Tunsil went on IR with a season-ending wrist injury, and that’s another potential landing spot for him if the Texans choose to trade Tunsil, who is the rebuilding team’s best asset other than Watson. Either way, drafting one of the top-ranked offensive line prospects with the No. 3 pick in April could be in play for the Texans. — Aaron Reiss

Other players to watch: S Eric Murray, K Ka’imi Fairbairn, LB Kevin Pierre-Louis, OL Justin McCray

Indianapolis Colts

Potential cap casualty: QB Carson Wentz

2022 cap hit: $28.3 million
Cap savings if cut before June 1: $15 million
Dead money if cut before June 1: $13.3 million


Though the Colts — publicly, at least — were noncommittal on Wentz’s future after the season ended, all signs of late point to them moving on from the quarterback they acquired from Philadelphia last season in exchange for first- and third-round draft picks. I anticipate the Colts shopping him in the coming weeks, hoping for a trade partner, but the other option would simply be cutting him and absorbing the $15 million dead cap charge. This move would have to come before March 19, when accelerators in Wentz’s contract would guarantee him up to an additional $13 million in salary. — Stephen Holder

Other players to watch: None

Jacksonville Jaguars

Potential cap casualty: C Brandon Linder

2022 cap hit: $9.6 million
Cap savings if cut before June 1: $9.6 million
Dead money if cut before June 1: $0

Linder has played more than nine games just once in the past four seasons, consistently sidelined with injuries. There’s no dead cap if the Jaguars decide to shed his contract as he enters the final year of a five-year, $51 million deal. Backup Tyler Shatley is as old as Linder at 30, so it’s possible the Jaguars look to the draft or free agency for a replacement. There aren’t any other obvious veteran cuts that wouldn’t come without a decent amount of dead money counting against the cap. The Jaguars rank near the top of the league in cap space. — Greg Auman

Other players to watch: None

Kansas City Chiefs

Potential cap casualty: DE Frank Clark

2022 cap hit: $26.3 million
Cap savings if cut after June 1: $19.5 million
Dead money if cut after June 1: $6.8 million

The Chiefs have already had a cap casualty this offseason with linebacker Anthony Hitchens being released Tuesday, a move that saved the Chiefs $8.4 million in cap space. The next logical candidate for the Chiefs is Clark, the defensive end who has struggled to be consistent the past two seasons, totaling just 10.5 sacks. General manager Brett Veach plans to revamp the Chiefs’ defensive line, and Clark likely doesn’t fit such a plan. Releasing Clark with a post-June 1 designation creates $19.5 million in cap savings with $6.8 million in dead money. — Nate Taylor


Other players to watch: None

Las Vegas Raiders

Potential cap casualty: LB Cory Littleton

2022 cap hit: $15.8 million
Cap savings if cut after June 1: $11.8 million
Dead money if cut after June 1: $4 million

Will the third defensive coordinator be the charm for Littleton? Probably not. He was a big winner in 2020 free agency who went on to lose his starting job to rookie Divine Deablo last season. New coordinator Patrick Graham could try and figure out what Paul Guenther and Gus Bradley couldn’t — that is, how to get more than half a sack, no interceptions, four pass breakups and six tackles for loss in 31 games (27 starts) from an athletic linebacker . Or … the Raiders can cut their losses after June 1 and save more than $10 million.

Littleton’s three-year, $35 million contract is somehow worse than the four-year, $42 million deal the Raiders gave undersized and overutilized DB Lamarcus Joyner in 2019. Joyner only made off with $22 million after two seasons. The bad draft picks weren’t the only reason GM Mike Mayock was fired the day after the season. — Vic Tafur

Other players to watch: DE Carl Nassib, LB Nick Kwiatkoski, G Denzelle Good

Los Angeles Chargers

Potential cap casualty: OT Bryan Bulaga

2022 cap hit: $14.1 million
Cap savings if cut before June 1: $10.8 million
Dead money if cut before June 1: $3.3 million

The Chargers signed Bulaga to a three-year contract before the 2020 season, and in his first two seasons with the team Bulaga played just 20.7% of the possible offensive snaps because of injuries. He dealt with a significant back injury in 2020 before playing in just one game in 2021. A core muscle injury required surgery, and Bulaga went on to miss the final 16 games of the year. Chargers GM Tom Telesco took a risk signing an aging player with an injury history in Bulaga, and that risk backfired. But the Chargers built this escape hatch into the contract after two seasons, and now it is time to exercise it.


Storm Norton filled in for Bulaga at right tackle last season, and though he struggled at times, particularly in pass protection, he is a more reliable option than Bulaga because he can stay on the field. If and when the Chargers cut Bulaga, they will likely look for additional competition for their starting right tackle spot in either free agency or the draft. — Daniel Popper

Other players to watch:None

Los Angeles Rams

Potential cap casualty: OT Andrew Whitworth (retirement)

2022 cap hit: $17.6 million
Cap savings if he retires: $16 million
Dead money if he retires: $1.67 million

The Rams have auto-restructure potential in a combination of contracts worth up to $70 million to free up cap space this year. But that doesn’t mean they won’t need to save money where they can. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth may decide to retire this spring (he said Wednesday night that is his lean), which would save the Rams about $16 million against the cap.

Retirement wouldn’t make Whitworth a true “cap casualty,” but he’s an important figure to watch all the same — financially and as it pertains to the future of the position. If Whitworth retires, the Rams will need to either extend reserve left tackle Joe Noteboom (he may have a competitive free agency period) or put all their faith in rookie undrafted free agent tackle Alaric Jackson, though that’s an unlikely move and unnecessary risk for a team that is committed to “running it back.” — Jourdan Rodrigue

Other players to watch: P Johnny Hekker (potential retirement)

Miami Dolphins

Potential cap casualty: DL Adam Butler

2022 cap hit: $4.2 million
Cap savings if cut before June 1: $4.2 million
Dead money if cut before June 1: $0

Butler joined the Dolphins last year, having played with Brian Flores in New England, and though he played nearly 600 snaps, he had only two sacks and 17 tackles. His cap hit isn’t huge for a rotational player, but there’s no dead money if he’s cut, so it’s a chance for the Dolphins to get younger and more productive. — Greg Auman


Other players to watch: WR Allen Hurns, DB Eric Rowe, S Clayton Fejedelem

Minnesota Vikings

Potential cap casualty: LB Eric Kendricks

2022 cap hit: $13.5 million
Cap savings if cut before June 1: $7.6 million
Dead money if cut before June 1: $5.9 million

The Vikings don’t have any real candidates to be traditional cap casualties because the players who would generate the largest cap savings are also unlikely to be cut. But in evaluating all the high-contract players who would generate substantial cap savings from a cut, Kendricks seems the most likely of an unlikely bunch.

The Vikings’ new Donatell/Fangio defense de-emphasizes linebackers. Kendricks is one of the most talented linebackers in the NFL, but that talent might be wasted in this kind of system. Either way, it would be a tough departure, but the team needs to clear space. With a pre-June 1 cut, they would free up $7.6 million in cap space after accounting for the $5.9 million in dead cap. A post-June 1 cut would create $9.5 million in immediate cap space but spread out the dead money across two seasons.

Although this move is unlikely, it wouldn’t be too bad for Kendricks if it did happen. He should have a huge market in the event he becomes a free agent. — Arif Hasan

Other players to watch: DE Danielle Hunter, WR Adam Thielen

New England Patriots

Potential cap casualty: DL Henry Anderson

2022 cap hit: $3.7 million
Cap savings if cut before June 1: $2.7 million
Dead money if cut before June 1: $1 million

There are much bigger names than the 2021 free-agent bust who logged four games and made six tackles, but cutting Anderson would be an easy way to save about $2.7 million against the cap. If the Patriots want to get more creative, they could trade right guard Shaq Mason to create $7 million in cap space. They could also part with linebacker Kyle Van Noy and save $4.9 million, but it’s unlikely they’d find a net gain when considering the $2.45 million in dead money. Defensive lineman Lawrence Guy has a cuttable contract, saving $3.75 million in cap space while assuming $750,000 in dead money, but that wouldn’t be a wise move. — Jeff Howe


Other players to watch: WR N’Keal Harry, CB Joejuan Williams

New Orleans Saints

Potential cap casualty: CB Bradley Roby

2022 cap hit: $10.2 million
Cap savings if cut before June 1: $9.5 million
Dead money if cut before June 1: $677,900

The Saints are more than $70 million over the cap, similar to last year when they had to shed $100 million in space to get compliant. But 2022 won’t be a repeat of last year, as this time the Saints will mostly restructure salaries to open space.

Roby is the only true potential cap casualty, as his release would be pure savings for the Saints. The team traded several picks to the Texans when they were in desperate need of a corner, but rookie Paulson Adebo actually ended up being the main starter. It wouldn’t make sense for the Saints to pay Roby $10 million to be a backup, so unless he agrees to a pay cut, it’s very likely that they release Roby and move forward with Adebo, who is not only seven years younger but counts only $1.1 million against the cap. — Katherine Terrell

Other players to watch: DE Cam Jordan (potential contract restructure), WR Michael Thomas (potential contract restructure), CB Marshon Lattimore (potential contract restructure)

New York Giants

Potential cap casualty: WR Sterling Shepard

2022 cap hit: $12.5 million
Cap savings if cut after June 1: $8.5 million
Dead money if cut after June 1: $4 million

New general manager Joe Schoen is looking to create $40 million in cap space this offseason. That means some high-priced veterans will be on the chopping block. Shepard’s inability to stay on the field has made him expendable. The 29-year-old missed 10 games last season with a variety of injuries, ending with a torn Achilles in Week 15.

Cutting Shepard before June 1 will create $4.5 million in cap savings with $8 million in dead money. That’s not a great balance, but it would completely wipe his $13.5 million cap charge for 2023 off the books. Alternatively, the Giants could release Shepard with a post-June 1 designation to spread out the dead money across two years, which would net the team $8.5 million in immediate cap space. — Dan Duggan


Other players to watch: LB Blake Martinez, TE Kyle Rudolph, P Riley Dixon

New York Jets

Potential cap casualty: OG Greg Van Roten

2022 cap hit: $3.5 million
Cap savings if cut before June 1: $3.5 million
Dead money if cut before June 1: $0

A consolation prize signing in 2020, Van Roten started 13 of 16 games in his first year with the Jets and 10 games in 2021 before losing his job to Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, whom the Jets acquired at the trade deadline this season. The Jets love Van Roten as a person and leader, but Father Time caught up with him. The Jets aren’t hurting for salary cap space, but there’s no guaranteed money left on Van Roten’s deal, so cutting him frees the full $3.5 million. There’s an outside chance he sticks around as a backup, but the 31-year-old is a liability on the field. The Jets can likely find an improvement in the middle or later rounds of the draft. — Connor Hughes

Other players to watch: TE Ryan Griffin, DL Sheldon Rankins, C Connor McGovern

Philadelphia Eagles

Potential cap casualty: OL Brandon Brooks (retirement)

2022 cap hit: $7.1 million
Cap savings if retirement becomes official after June 1: $1.1 million
Dead money if retirement becomes official after June 1: $5.9 million

The Eagles don’t have as many candidates for cap casualties as past seasons, and the decision that seemed most likely was made for the Eagles when Brooks announced his retirement in January. Before the announcement, the Eagles restructured Brooks’ contract to facilitate the retirement with a post-June 1 transaction. The change reduced Brooks’ cap number from $19.4 million to $7.1 million, according to NFL Network. After June 1, the dead money from Brooks’ retirement will go from $15.7 million to $5.9 million with the rest of the charge deferring to 2023, according to Over The Cap.So the Eagles will save nearly $10 million against the 2022 salary cap with this procedural move.


Other than Brooks, any meaningful cap space would need to be opened by contract extensions (such as with defensive tackle Javon Hargrave) or restructuring (such as with cornerback Darius Slay). They could potentially release J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, which would open $1.1 million, or trade Andre Dillard to open $2.2 million. Looking for a high-profile move? A post-June 1 trade of Fletcher Cox wouldn’t come with the same cap burden as pre-June 1 — and would even provide modest cap savings. — Zach Berman

Other players to watch: WR J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, OT Andre Dillard (trade candidate)

Pittsburgh Steelers

Potential cap casualty: ILB Joe Schobert

2022 cap hit: $9.7 million
Cap savings if cut before June 1: $7.8 million
Dead money if cut before June 1: $1.9 million

For the first time since the inception of free agency, the Steelers aren’t going to have to make an uncomfortable cut just to get cap compliant by the new league year. The lower salary cap hit the Steelers hard last year, but they bounced right up with more flexibility than ever — at least $30 million in cap space, with the ability to get that number to around $65 million with a couple cuts based off performance and restructures. Joe Schobert could be the one in the crosshairs even though he plays a position where the Steelers need plenty of help.

Despite being second on the team with 112 tackles last season, Schobert didn’t quite live up to expectations after he was acquired in a preseason trade. He turned into a rotational player in the final month of the season. Still, being only 28, playing a position of need and not costing a ton of money could allow Schobert to return. In prior cap hell years, he would be the first to go. — Mark Kaboly

Other players to watch: DL Stephon Tuitt (potential retirement), FB Derek Watt, OT Zach Banner


San Francisco 49ers

Potential cap casualty: QB Jimmy Garoppolo (via trade)

2022 cap hit: $27 million
Cap savings if traded: $25.6 million
Dead money if traded: $1.4 million

This is the 49ers’ key potential financial domino of the offseason. They drafted Trey Lance in 2021 with the hope of eventually enjoying production from a good QB on a rookie deal so that they could have enough space to preserve the rest of the roster. The 49ers almost certainly won’t cut Garoppolo, but they will likely trade him, and that can be considered a cap casualty — such a move would free up $25.6 million of room for the 49ers, enough to execute back-loaded extensions for Nick Bosa and Deebo Samuel, among other things.

In a cap-free world, the 49ers would love to remain as strong as possible at the most important position. Their dynastic teams, of course, carried both Joe Montana and Steve Young for years. But in the current era, something like the Garoppolo/Lance tightrope act can only last for a finite amount of time. The 49ers budgeted for one year, 2021, and it would take major contortions to keep Garoppolo around longer than that. — David Lombardi

Other player to watch: DE Dee Ford (with post-June 1 designation)

Seattle Seahawks

Potential cap casualty: K Jason Myers

2022 cap hit: $5 million
Cap savings if cut before June 1: $4 million
Dead money if cut before June 1: $1 million

Seattle isn’t desperate for salary cap space, and because the team doesn’t typically spend big in free agency, the front office doesn’t have many bad contracts it needs to dump in the name of saving cash. As for the expensive vets they do have, restructures are more likely than cuts or trades. But one place to save $4 million is at kicker. One year after hitting all of his field goal attempts, Myers’ accuracy dipped significantly in 2021. — Michael-Shawn Dugar


Other players to watch: DE Benson Mayowa, DL Kerry Hyder, RB Chris Carson

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Potential cap casualty: P Bradley Pinion

2022 cap hit: $2.9 million
Cap savings if cut before June 1: $2.9 million
Dead money if cut before June 1: $2.9 million

The Bucs don’t have a ton of obvious cap cuts, but Pinion hasn’t had stats to match his pay, so it’s a chance to shed some salary. The Bucs could turn to Sterling Hofrichter, who filled in last year and is under contract at the league minimum. They also could make a change at kicker, where cutting veteran Ryan Succop would save $2.5 million in cap space. The team has kicker Jose Borregales under contract after he spent last season on the practice squad.

Look for tight end Cameron Brate to take a pay cut from the $6.8 million he’s scheduled to make. He’s taken pay cuts in each of the last two seasons but wants to stay in Tampa. — Greg Auman

Other players to watch: K Ryan Succop, TE Cameron Brate

Tennessee Titans

Potential cap casualty: OG Rodger Saffold

2022 cap hit: $12.8 million
Cap savings if cut before June 1: $10.4 million
Dead money if cut before June 1: $2.4 million

Cutting Saffold, one of the best run blockers in the NFL and a perfect fit for this offense, does not sound like an ideal way to “be great around” Ryan Tannehill as Mike Vrabel has said is necessary. But Saffold turns 34 in the offseason and has been banged up for much of the past two seasons (while finding a way to gut it out and play in all but three games, it should be noted).

The Titans have a lot of tough choices to make after kicking the can to maximize their window, and cutting Saffold makes more sense than cutting left tackle Taylor Lewan. Quality left tackles are simply more difficult to find. If this is the way GM Jon Robinson goes, he may need to use yet another high pick on a lineman. Or the Titans may believe Aaron Brewer is capable of stepping in and being a reliable starter at left guard. — Joe Rexrode


Other players to watch: LT Taylor Lewan, CB Jackrabbit Jenkins, WR Julio Jones

Washington Commanders

Potential cap casualty: S/LB Landon Collins

2022 cap hit: $16.1 million
Cap savings if cut before June 1: $6.5 million
Dead money if cut before June 1: $9.6 million

Critics cringed in real time at the six-year, $84 million deal agreed upon by the previous football regime in 2019. Then Collins proved overmatched in pass coverage during his initial 22 games before suffering an Achilles tear in 2020. The same was true upon his return last season. Then after Week 4 the coaches turned the respected vet into a de facto linebacker so he’d be closer to the line of scrimmage. Although Collins balked at the label change, the shift helped reestablish his playmaking bonafides. Now the $16 million cap hit isn’t so automatic. We’ll see if the Commanders see a large enough workload to justify the expense. — Ben Standig

Other players to watch: G Wes Schweitzer, S Deshazor Everett, G Ereck Flowers (potential contract restructure)

(Illustration: John Bradford / The Athletic; photos: Mitchell Leff, Patrick McDermott, Justin Casterline / Getty Images, Dannie Walls / Icon Sportswire)

NFL free agency: Cap-clearing cuts and trades for every team (2024)
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