Agent’s Take: 15 NFL players under contract who could be in different uniforms next season


An offseason roster purge is an annual NFL occurrence because long term contracts aren’t fully guaranteed. Players are released (and occasionally traded) because of this every year, primarily when salaries aren’t deemed to match production.

The Chiefs made such a move on Tuesday by releasing linebacker Anthony Hitchens. Salary cap room of $8,441,176 for 2022 was gained through parting ways with Hitchens.

A majority of the time when a player is traded or released, there is a residual cap charge. This cap charge for a player that 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 or release. 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. Just the current year’s proration counts toward the cap with players released or traded after June 1. The bonus proration in future contract years is delayed until the next league year beginning in the following March.

A team can also release two players each league year prior to June 2 (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 fifteen noteworthy players who could be in different uniforms next season because of a trade or as salary cap casualties. Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins isn’t listed despite the Panthers reportedly inquiring about his availability. That’s because new Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell, who was Cousins’ quarterback coach with Washington in 2017, indicated he wants to build around him (at least for 2022) during his introductory press conference.

Derek Carr isn’t listed either because the Raiders are reportedly prepared to discuss a contract extension with the quarterback. Things could change with Carr if signability becomes a major concern.

Availability: Trade only2022 Salary Cap Number: $46,664,1562022 Compensation: $26,970,5882022 Dead Money: $26,847,1382022 Salary Cap Savings: $19,817,018

The issues that made Aaron Rodgers disgruntled last offseason are in the rearview mirror. Rodgers intends to make a decision about his football future before the 15 day franchise player designation period ends on March 8 to be sensitive to All-Pro wide receiver Davante Adams’ situation. Green Bay’s front office and coaching staff are adamant about wanting Rodgers back for 2022 and beyond. 2022 is Rodgers’ contract year after his 2023 contract year was turned into a voiding/dummy year last July in an effort to end his rift with the organization. Whether Rodgers decides to remain in Green Bay or tries to force a trade, it’s conceivable he becomes the NFL’s first $50 million per year player in a contract extension unless winning a second Super Bowl ring is put ahead of money because of his playoff shortcomings over the last decade.

Availability: Trade only2022 Salary Cap Number: $40.4 million2022 Compensation: $35 million2022 Dead Money: $16.2 million2022 Salary Cap Savings: $24.2 million

Deshaun Watson remains in trade limbo with the Texans because of allegations of sexual assault and misconduct. A trade is unlikely to occur without more clarity on Watson’s situation. The Texans have reportedly wanted three first round picks and two second round picks in return. The acquiring team would be getting a cost controlled 26-year old franchise quarterback. Watson is under contract for four years running through the 2025 season with an average of $34 million per year ($136 million total). $35 million of cap space would be necessary to absorb Watson’s 2022 salary.

Availability: Trade only2022 Salary Cap Number: $37 million2022 Compensation: $24 million2022 Dead Money: $26 million2022 Salary Cap Savings: $11 million

Russell Wilson and Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll insist their relationship is in a good place. One thing that can’t be ignored is Wilson’s agent caused an uproar about a year ago by revealing Wilson was willing to waive to his no-trade clause for the Bears, Cowboys, Raiders and Saints. The Seahawks having no intention of trading Wilson hasn’t stopped reporting that the Broncos, Giants and Saints are now on Wilson’s short list of approved teams. The most logical time for any trade would be before the fifth day of the 2022 league year on March 20 when Wilson’s $5 million roster bonus is due. Wilson’s contract runs through the 2023 season. The final two years are worth $50 million, with Wilson scheduled to make $26 million in 2023.

2022 Salary Cap Number: $28,294,1192022 Compensation: $28,294,119 (includes $15 million 2022 Base Salary Guarantee)2022 Dead Money: $15 million (assumes a release)2022 Salary Cap Savings: $13,294,119 (assumes a release)

Carson Wentz’s poor play down the stretch, particularly in the regular season finale against the lowly Jaguars when the Colts controlled their own playoff destiny, has put him on the hot seat. Colts general manager Chris Ballard was non-committal about Wentz’s future in Indianapolis after failing to secure a playoff berth. Parting ways with Wentz would mean the Colts gave up a 2021 third round pick and a 2022 first round pick for a one-year rental. That doesn’t happen very often. The trade market for Wentz would be extremely limited. The Colts would be getting back a lot less in draft capital than given up to obtain Wentz if a taker can be found, which is far from a certainty. It’s hard to imagine any team wanting Wentz’s $28,294,119 of 2022 compensation in addition to his 2023 and 2024 contract years worth $53,411,765. The Colts releasing Wentz would occur before the third day of the 2022 league year, which is March 18, when the remaining $7 million of his 2022 base salary becomes fully guaranteed and his injury guaranteed $5 million roster bonus is due.

Availability: Trade only2022 Salary Cap Number: $26.95 million2022 Compensation: $25.6 million2022 Dead Money: $1.4 million2022 Salary Cap Savings: $25.55 million

Jimmy Garoppolo’s days in San Francisco were numbered once the 49ers moved up to the third overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft to select quarterback Trey Lance. The last time the 49ers traded a starting caliber quarterback, Alex Smith in 2013, two second round picks were obtained from the Chiefs for him. The 49ers might be looking for something similar but willing to settle for a Day Two draft pick (2022 second or third round pick). Garoppolo is entering the final year of a five-year, $137.5 million contract signed in 2018 that briefly made him the league’s highest paid player. Any contract extension from the acquiring team would surely be for more than $27.5 million per year in his 2018 deal.

2022 Salary Cap Number: $22 million2022 Compensation: $20 million2022 Dead Money: $6 million2022 Salary Cap Savings: $16 million

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones recently expressed frustration with Amari Cooper not having a bigger impact despite being a focal point of opposing defenses. 2020 first round pick CeeDee Lamb was Dallas’ most productive wide receiver in 2021. Cooper’s roster spot in Dallas is only potentially in jeopardy because the five-year, $100 million contract he signed in 2020 free agency inexplicably has a team-friendly structure. Instead of Cooper’s 2022 base salary becoming fully guaranteed at the beginning of the second contract year last March, it isn’t completely secure until this upcoming March 20 on the fifth day of the 2022 league year. Cooper’s $10 million signing bonus was surprising low for a Cowboys contract with such a high dollar value. By contrast, the five-year, $105 million contract defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence signed in 2019 as a franchise player had a $25 million signing bonus. Lawrence’s full guarantee in his third contract year vested at the beginning of his second contract year, which should have happened for Cooper.

2022 Salary Cap Number: $26.3 million2022 Compensation: $19.5 million2022 Dead Money: $13.6 million2022 Salary Cap Savings: $12.7 million

Frank Clark hasn’t been the pass rushing force the Chiefs expected when he signed a five-year, $104 million contract with $62.305 million in guarantees in connection with his trade from the Seahawks for a 2019 first round pick and a 2020 second round shortly before the 2019 Draft. His 18.5 sacks in three seasons with the Chiefs are the same as Bears edge rusher Robert Quinn had during the 2021 season.

Availability: Trade only2022 Salary Cap Number: $26,153,3332022 Compensation: $17.85 million2022 Dead Money: $16,606,6672022 Salary Cap Savings: $9,546,666

Laremy Tunsil never made it back on the field after undergoing left thumb surgery five games into the 2021 season. The versatile Tytus Howard filled in capably at left tackle towards the end of the season during Tunsil’s absence. This has prompted increasing speculation that Tunsil could be available for the right price, which would be more than a 2022 first round pick. Tunsil is entering the second year of the three-year contract extension he signed in 2020 averaging $22 million per year.

2022 Salary Cap Number: $27,661,2502022 Compensation: $15.75 million2022 Dead Money: $12.38 million2022 Salary Cap Savings: $15,281,250

It’s probably just a matter of time before the Packers part ways with Za’Darius Smith because of a challenging salary cap situation. The Packers are currently in neighborhood of $40 million over the expected $208.2 million 2022 salary cap after restructuring defensive tackle Kenny Clark’s contract. This doesn’t factor in a franchise tag for Adams. Smith didn’t return until the playoffs after missing nearly all of the 2021 regular season because of back surgery. He has 2022’s fifth largest cap number for a non-quarterback.

2022 Salary Cap Number: $16,379,4122022 Compensation: $15.1 million2022 Dead Money: $1.5 million2022 Salary Cap Savings: $14,879,412

Jarvis Landry had career lows of 52 receptions, 570 receiving yards and two touchdown catches in 12 games during a 2021 season where he wasn’t healthy. Among the injuries Landry dealt with were a sprained MCL in his left knee and a partially torn quad. Landry has expressed a desire to remain in Cleveland but is also confident that he can be a key contributor elsewhere on a Super Bowl contender.

Availability: Trade only2022 Salary Cap Number: $25,838,7502022 Compensation: $20 million2022 Dead Money: $11.48 million2022 Salary Cap Savings: $14,358,750

Danielle Hunter is one of the NFL’s best pass rushers when healthy, which hasn’t been much over the last two seasons. He missed all of the 2020 season with a herniated disc in his neck and a torn pectoral muscle limited him to seven games in 2021. Hunter’s unhappiness with the five-year, $72 million extension averaging $14.4 million per year he signed in 2018 led to the Vikings reworking his contract last offseason. The two-time Pro Bowler didn’t get a raise in 2021 but $7.25 million of 2023 compensation was shifted up a year so he’s making $20 million in 2022. $18 million of this $20 million is a fifth day of the league year roster bonus due on March 20. Instead of trading Hunter before this date, the Vikings could choose to create $13.5 million of cap room by converting the $18 million into signing bonus where it’s prorated over the last two years of Hunter’s deal as well as the dummy/voiding 2024 and 2025 years that were added in last year’s reworking of his contract.

2022 Salary Cap Number: $16,082,3532022 Compensation: $12 million2022 Dead Money: $9.6 million2022 Salary Cap Savings: $6,482,353

Landon Collins struggled in pass coverage during the early part of the 2021 season in his return from 2020’s torn left Achilles. He played his best football in 2021 after switching to a hybrid safety-linebacker role that had him playing closer to the line of scrimmage. The improved play may not be enough to keep Collins off the chopping block.

Availability: Trade only2022 Salary Cap Number: $11.116 million2022 Compensation: $11.116 million (fully guaranteed fifth year option)2022 Dead Money: None2022 Salary Cap Savings: $11.116 million

Calvin Ridley was expected to be Atlanta’s biggest offensive weapon after a 2020 breakout season of 90 catches for 1,374 yards with nine touchdowns because wide receiver Julio Jones and a 2023 sixth round pick were dealt to the Titans last June for a 2022 second round pick and a 2023 fourth round pick. He only played five games in 2021 because of personal problems. Falcons owner Arthur Blank would like to have Ridley back but acknowledges that the 2018 first round pick might think a change of scenery is best.

2022 Salary Cap Number: $23.239 million2022 Compensation: $17.625 million (includes $1.625 million 2022 Base Salary Guarantee)2022 Dead Money: $12.853 million2022 Salary Cap Savings: $10.386 million

Trey Flowers reunited with Lions head coach Matt Patricia, his former Patriots defensive coordinator, when he signed a five-year, $90 million contract containing $56 million in guarantees, which included a $28.07 million signing bonus, in 2019 free agency. Only generating 1.5 sacks in an injury plagued 2021 season where Flowers was limited to seven games wasn’t the best audition for the first year of general manager Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell’s new regime.

2022 Salary Cap Number: $15,858,8232022 Compensation: $11 million2022 Dead Money: $5 million2022 Salary Cap Savings: $10,858,823

Trae Waynes has been a disappointment ever since signing a three-year, $42 million contract in 2020 free agency largely because of injury. He missed the entire 2020 season with a torn pectoral muscle. Waynes was limited to five regular season games (with four starts) because of a hamstring injury in 2021. His only action during Cincinnati’s four playoff games was on special teams.



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