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NFL Cap Casualties: 6 Big-Name Offensive Players Who Could Get Cut

  • Jack McKessy
  • February 20, 2023
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The NFL season may be over, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t still plenty of news to come out of the league in the coming months as the offseason really gets underway. The start of the 2023 NFL free agency period is less than one month away, and there are still plenty of moves to be made before that happens.

Specifically, teams around the NFL will be looking to free up more cap space by cutting some of their players over the next month and ahead of the start of free agency. Every year, there are some surprises as teams release key players taking up hefty chunks of cap space just to give themselves more breathing room to spend in free agency. These are some of the players around the NFL on the offensive side of the ball that could end up being cap casualties before the offseason is over.

Carson Wentz QB, Washington Commanders

This is perhaps the most obvious cap casualty of any player on either side of the football this offseason. The Commanders traded for Wentz last offseason in the hopes that he’d help them compete for a playoff berth in a relatively weak NFC field. Instead, the veteran started just seven games for Washington all season, went 2-5 in those starts, and the team benched him in favor of backup Taylor Heinicke, who immediately was more successful. 

Wentz has no clear future with the team, which is moving toward starting second-year quarterback Sam Howell next year. In addition, cutting Wentz would save the Commanders more than $26 million in cap space next year and leave the team with zero dead cap from his contract. This move is the closest thing to a guarantee of any on this list.

Ryan Tannehill QB, Tennessee Titans

Of all NFL contracts that currently exist heading into the 2023 season, Tannehill’s is responsible for the fifth-most cap space of all of them, behind only fellow quarterbacks Deshaun Watson, Dak Prescott, Patrick Mahomes, and Josh Allen. That’s really not an ideal situation for a team that is bottom five in cap space this offseason and has plenty of roster holes that need to be filled. It’s especially not ideal considering Tannehill seems to have hit his ceiling—a quarterback that can win a couple of playoff games but probably not a Super Bowl—while the Titans also have a second-year quarterback of their own (Malik Willis) waiting in the wings. 

Cutting Tannehill before June 1 would save Tennessee nearly $18 million in cap space, though they’d still be stuck with nearly $19 million from his contract on the books for 2023.

Matt Ryan QB, Indianapolis Colts

Ryan was the fourth iteration of a veteran quarterback that the Colts trotted out since Andrew Luck’s 2019 retirement, following in the footsteps of Jacoby Brissett, Philip Rivers, and Wentz. Similar to those that preceded him (besides Rivers, to an extent), Ryan wasn’t very successful in his first year in Indianapolis. He started 12 games, finishing the season with a 4-7-1 record—tied for the fewest wins in a season in his career—and an 83.9 passer rating, the second-worst mark in his career. 

Now that the Colts hold the fourth overall pick, all signs are pointing toward the team selecting one of the top quarterbacks in the 2023 draft class ahead of this season, making Ryan and his contract more expendable. Cutting Ryan at any point would save the Colts over $17 million in cap space.

Keenan Allen WR, Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers are right behind the Titans in available cap space going into next year, meaning they have the sixth least of any team. Meanwhile, quarterback Justin Herbert is eligible to enter contract extension talks after completing his third NFL season with the Chargers in 2022. 

Los Angeles really needs to clear up space sooner or later for that (absolutely necessary) extension to happen, and Allen is one of the players that best fit the bill. He’ll be 31 years old when next season starts, hasn’t played a full season since 2019, and is responsible for the third-biggest cap hit on the Chargers’ current roster. Cutting Allen would save Los Angeles nearly $15 million in cap space with just under $7 million remaining in dead cap.

Kenny Golladay WR, New York Giants

There’s no way around saying it: Golladay’s contract with the Giants is one of the worst of any in the NFL right now. After New York made a big splash by signing the young receiver to a four-year, $72 million contract in 2021 the former Lion has done nothing but disappoint. Over two full seasons with the Giants, Golladay has just 43 catches for 602 receiving yards, including nearly as many drops (4) in 2022 as receptions (6). 

The Giants are in a good position cap-wise—they’re fourth in the NFL with almost $47 million freed up already. But cutting Golladay would rid New York of a sunk cost that’s eating up a roster spot and free up an additional $6.7 million in cap space with $14.7 million remaining in dead cap. Behind Wentz’s situation with the Commanders, this is the second-most likely cap casualty on this list.

Joe Mixon RB, Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals, like the Giants, are in a solid spot as far as cap space goes (for now) with the sixth-most room in the NFL but will need plenty of breathing room as they look to extend quarterback Joe Burrow (and next year, star receiver Ja’Marr Chase). As things stand right now, Mixon is eating up the third-most cap space on the team with about $12.8 million set to come his way in 2023. However, Mixon took a bit of a step back in 2022 after his first Pro Bowl appearance in 2021, and the Bengals would save $7.2 million in cap space if they were to cut him before June 1. 

Every dollar counts for Cincinnati ahead of the Burrow and Chase extension talks and with speculation that an excellent receiver like Tee Higgins could end up elsewhere without a new contract with the Bengals, it’s very possible that Mixon ends up a cap casualty himself.

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Jack McKessy