An offseason roster purge is an annual occurrence in the NFL. Players are often released when salaries aren't deemed to match production.
Trades can occur for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, a Pro Bowl-caliber player wants a change of scenery. A new regime might look to move high-priced veterans who aren't a good scheme fit.
A majority of the time when a player is traded, released or retires, there is a residual salary cap charge. This cap charge for a player who is no longer on a team's roster is commonly referred to as dead money. It exists because the remaining proration of the salary components that are treated like signing bonus immediately accelerate into his team's current salary cap with a trade, release or retirement. Dead money is typically a sunk cost where money isn't owed to a player. Only if there are salary guarantees when a player is released will there be a payment associated with dead money.
There are two major exceptions to this general rule of bonus proration accelerating:
1. Only the current year's proration counts toward the salary cap with transactions occurring after June 1. The bonus proration in future contract years is delayed until the next league year beginning in the following March.
2. A team can also release two players each league year prior to June 1 (known as a post-June 1 designation) that will be treated under the cap as if they were released after June 1. With a post-June 1 designation, a team is required to carry the player's full cap number until June 2 even though he is no longer a part of the roster. The player's salary comes off the books at that time unless it is guaranteed.
Here's a look at 15 noteworthy players who could be in different uniforms next season because of a trade or as salary cap casualties.
- 2023 Salary Cap Number: $34.875 million
- 2023 Compensation: $33 million
- 2023 Dead Money: $5.675 million
- 2023 Salary Cap Savings: $29.25 million
The Raiders released Carr on Tuesday to prevent $40.4 million of his salary from becoming fully guaranteed after he refused to waive the no-trade clause in his contract. Carr's $32.9 million 2023 base salary and $7.5 million of his $41.9 million 2024 base salary -- both guaranteed for injury when Carr signed a three-year contract extension averaging nearly $40.5 million per year last April -- would have been fully guaranteed on Wednesday's third day of the 2023 league year waiver period (Feb. 15).
- 2023 Salary Cap Number: $31,623,570
- 2023 Compensation: $59.515 million
- 2023 Dead Money: $40,313,570 ($15,833,570 with trade after June 1)
- 2023 Salary Cap Savings: -$8.69 million ($15.79 million with trade after June 1)
Rodgers will make the decision about his football career after the QB's four-day "darkness retreat" that's expected to start at any point this week. The four-time NFL MVP hasn't ruled out retirement. It's seems unlikely because Rodgers would be walking away from a fully guaranteed $59.465 million and he would be overshadowed if in the same Hall of Fame class as Tom Brady, who recently retired.
Rodgers became the NFL's first $50 million-per-year player last March once he decided he wanted to remain with the Packers rather than try to force a trade. The contract is widely considered to be worth $150.815 million over three years although there are two additional below-market years (2025 and 2026) in the deal.
Rodgers' contract has the seldom-used double-option bonus structure. Initially, Rodgers' 2023 base salary is a fully guaranteed $59.465 million. A $58.3 million payment is required to exercise an option for Rodgers' 2025 contract year worth $20.9 million to drop his 2023 base salary to a fully guaranteed $1.165 million. The window to exercise this option is the first day of the 2023 league year (March 15) until a day before Green Bay's first 2023 regular-season game in September.
From a salary cap standpoint, the presumption is option years will be picked up. Option bonuses are prorated over the life of a contract (up to a maximum of five years), including the option years, beginning in the league year when the option is exercised.
Should Rodgers decide he wants out of Green Bay, the Packers won't exercise the 2023 option regardless of the timing of a trade. Picking up the option before making a trade would add $59.465 million to the dead money to bring the total to $99,778,570.
The acquiring team would be assuming the remainder of Rodgers' contract, including the right to exercise the option. Technically, Rodgers would be under contract through 2026, but realistically for two years worth $108.815 million unless the two below-market salaries in 2025 and 2026 were adjusted.
The new team would have a $15.79 million 2023 cap hit for Rodgers consisting of the $14.575 million of option bonus proration, his $1.165 million base salary and $50,000 workout bonus. Rodgers' 2024, 2025 and 2026 cap numbers would be $32,541,666, $51,141,166 and $45,291,668.
- 2023 Salary Cap Number: $26,171,471
- 2023 Compensation: $26,171,471
- 2023 Dead Money: None
- 2023 Salary Cap Savings: $26,171,471
The Commanders should regret essentially giving up 2022 and 2023 third-round picks to the Colts last March for a failed Wentz experiment. The expectation was for Wentz to be the best quarterback Washington has had since Kirk Cousins left in 2018 free agency after playing the previous two seasons under franchise tags. Instead, Wentz was limited to eight games because of injury and poor performance. He won't see the final two years of his contract worth just over $53.4 million and will be on his way to a fourth team in as many years.
- 2023 Salary Cap Number: $35,205,882
- 2023 Compensation: $29,205,882
- 2023 Dead Money: $18 million (includes $12 million 2023 base salary guarantee)
- 2023 Salary Cap Savings: $17,205,882
Lightening didn't strike twice for the Colts when trading again for an older quarterback. The Colts were expected to contend for the AFC South crown rather than secure the fourth overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft with a 4-12-1 record.
The Colts were anticipating the 37-year-old Ryan being the quarterback in 2023 when acquiring him from the Falcons last March for a 2022 third-round pick. A total of $12 million of Ryan's 2022 base salary was converted to signing bonus to create $6 million of 2022 salary cap space. Ryan's contract was also reworked so $12 million of his 2023 base salary, which was $21,705,882, is fully guaranteed. This base salary was lowered to $19,205,822 because $2.5 million was added to the existing $7.5 million third day of the 2023 league roster bonus due on March 17, where the $10 million was guaranteed for injury. The remaining $7,205,882 of 2023 base salary, which is guaranteed for injury, also becomes fully guaranteed on March 17. There's an offset with the $12 million salary guarantee so the dead money would reduce by Ryan signing elsewhere.
- 2023 Salary Cap Number: $16.72 million
- 2023 Compensation: $10.9 million
- 2023 Dead Money: $11.86 million ($5.82 million with post-June 1 treatment)
- 2023 Salary Cap Savings: $4.86 million ($10.9 million with post-June 1 treatment)
Elliott has been trending in the wrong direction statistically since becoming the first running back in NFL history to sign a $100 million contract. The two-time rushing champion signed a six-year, $90 million contract extension, which made him the league's highest-paid running back at $15 million per year, shortly before the start of the 2019 regular season to end a lengthy preseason holdout. Elliott, who had two years remaining on his rookie contact, established new standards for running backs with $50,052,137 in overall guarantees and $28,052,137 fully guaranteed at signing with deal.
The 2022 season was the worst campaign of Elliott's seven-year NFL career. Elliott had 231 rushing attempts for 876 rushing yards with 3.8 yards per carry, all career lows. He caught 17 passes for 92 yards, which were more career worsts.
Elliott is reportedly open to taking a pay cut to remain in Dallas. The Cowboys want Elliott back provided it makes sense financially.
- 2023 Salary Cap Number: $30.75 million
- 2023 Compensation: $19.45 million
- 2023 Dead Money: $22.6 million
- 2023 Salary Cap Savings: $8.15 million
Having a wide receiver with 2023's second-biggest hit at the position when Kyler Murray, the "franchise quarterback," could miss part of the regular season recovering from a torn right ACL may not make the most sense for a team that's much closer to rebuilding than being a Super Bowl contender. Several teams reportedly inquired about Hopkins' availability before last season's trade deadline. The no-trade clause in Hopkins' contract voided when he was suspended for the first six games of the 2022 season because of violating of the league's performance enhancing substances policy.
- 2023 Salary Cap Number: $25.2 million
- 2023 Compensation: $17 million
- 2023 Dead Money: $19.6 million
- 2023 Salary Cap Savings: $5.6 million
The "Eff Them Picks" approach to roster building caught up to the Rams last season as the team went from Super Bowl champion to missing the playoffs with a 5-12 record. The Rams would surely want at least a first-round pick in return for Ramsey. The last time the Rams had a first-round pick was in 2016 when quarterback Jared Goff was taken first overall.
- 2023 Salary Cap Number: $13,646,823
- 2023 Compensation: $2.065 million
- 2023 Dead Money: $11,993,588 (with use of post-June 1 designation)
- 2023 Salary Cap Savings: $1,653,235 (with use of post-June 1 designation)
Thomas reworked his contract right before the end of the 2022 regular season so a post-June 1 designation could be used to release him once the 2023 league starts on March 15. A $31.775 million fifth day of the 2024 league year roster that becomes fully guaranteed on the third day of the 2023 league year (March 17) was added to ensure Thomas' release. Only playing 10 games in the last three seasons because of foot and ankle injuries is leading to Thomas' departure from New Orleans.
- 2023 Salary Cap Number: $21.4 million
- 2023 Compensation: $18 million
- 2023 Dead Money: $14.7 million (includes $4.5 million 2023 roster bonus guarantee)
- 2023 Salary Cap Savings: $6.7 million
Signing Golladay to a four-year, $72 million contract (worth up to $76 million through incentives) with $40 million of guarantees has been one of the biggest free agency mistakes in the last decade. Things got worse for Golladay under new head coach Brian Daboll after the veteran's 37 catches for 521 yards without touchdowns during 14 games in 2021. Golladay was only on the field for 23.04% of the Giants' offensive snaps despite a lack of proven talent at wide receiver. He had six catches for 81 yards and one touchdown in 12 games last season.
- 2023 Salary Cap Number: $28.675 million
- 2023 Compensation: $21 million
- 2023 Dead Money: $7.675 million
- 2023 Salary Cap Savings: $21 million
Clark escaped the chopping block last offseason by agreeing to a pay cut. He was scheduled to make $19.5 million in 2022 before decreasing his pay to $6.75 million with an additional $7 million in incentives. After just five sacks in 2022, Clark may not be given the option again.
- 2023 Salary Cap Number: $12,791,116
- 2023 Compensation: $10.1 million
- 2023 Dead Money: $5.5 million
- 2023 Salary Cap Savings: $7,291,116
Mixon being on the field for 23 of Cincinnati's offensive snaps during the AFC Championship Game while his backup, Samaje Perine, took 43 raised eyebrows. After a career-high 1,205 rushing yards in 2021, Mixon dropped to 814 last season.
- 2023 Salary Cap Number: $15.6 million
- 2023 Compensation: $12.8 million
- 2023 Dead Money: $11.2 million
- 2023 Salary Cap Savings: $4.4 million
A back injury to Winston got Andy Dalton in the starting lineup after the third game of the 2022 season. Dalton remained there once Winston was healthy. The Saints expressed some interest in trading for Derek Carr before he was released by the Raiders.
- 2023 Salary Cap Number: $18.351 million
- 2023 Compensation: $14.1 million
- 2023 Dead Money: $14.804 million ($4.751 million with post-June 1 treatment)
- 2023 Salary Cap Savings: $3.547 million ($13.6 million with post-June 1 treatment)
Jones was sidelined for the entire 2022 season after ankle/Achilles surgery last March. The Dolphins have not gotten their money's worth out of the five-year, $82.5 million contract Jones signed in 2020 free agency that briefly made him the NFL's highest-paid cornerback.
- 2023 Salary Cap Number: $14.841 million
- 2023 Compensation: $14.841 million
- 2023 Dead Money: None
- 2023 Salary Cap Savings: $14.841 million
Lewan is reportedly expecting to be released and is mulling his football future. He has been limited to 20 games over the last three seasons because of two ACL tears in his right knee.
- 2023 Salary Cap Number: $26,333,333
- 2023 Compensation: $18.5 million
- 2023 Dead Money: $15,666,667
- 2023 Salary Cap Savings: $10,666,666
Cooks wasn't happy that the Texans didn't move him before last season's trade deadline despite signing a two-year contract extension worth nearly $20 million per year where his $18 million 2023 base salary is fully guaranteed. The nine-year veteran wants no part of a Texans rebuild. The team went 3-13-1 in 2022.