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2023 NFL Free Agency: 1 Potential Cap Casualty for Each Team

Ezekiel Elliot RB Dallas Cowboys

While most fans already have looked at the upcoming free agent class, some might need to remember that more names will be added to the mix as teams make cuts ahead of the new league year.

Whether the player is too expensive, is a bad scheme fit for a new incoming coaching staff, or the team is tight to the cap, these moves are made every offseason, and the free agent pool expands.

>> The 33rd Team's Top 150 Free Agents 

Let’s take a team-by-team look at some guys who could end up being cap casualties this offseason:

Players Likely to be Cap Casualties

AFC East

 Buffalo Bills: RB Nyheim Hines

Cap Savings: $4.8M | Dead Money: $0

The Bills acquired Nyheim Hines before the trade deadline with hopes of him helping on the offensive side, but it never came to fruition. He was, however, a significant help in the return game and provided a big spark in that department. Buffalo could approach Hines about taking a pay cut; otherwise, it’d be a surprise if they keep him with a near $5 million cap number.

Miami Dolphins: CB Byron Jones 

Cap Savings: $13.6M | Dead Money: $4.7M (Post-June 1)

Byron Jones spent the entire 2022 season on the physically unable to perform list due to ankle and Achilles issues. Last week, he tweeted, "I can't run or jump because of my injuries sustained playing this game." Jones was unhappy with the medical care he received from team doctors during his career. It’s an unfortunate turn to what was looking like an impressive career. 

New England Patriots: CB Jalen Mills

Cap Savings: $4.9M | Dead Money: $1.25M

Jalen Mills played in 10 games last season and struggled when he was on the field, earning an unsatisfactory 44.6 grade from Pro Football Focus. The Patriots don't have much depth at corner at the moment, so they might hold on to Mills – unless they identify some upgrades on the open market.

New York Jets: WR Corey Davis

Cap Savings: $10.5M | Dead Money: $667K

Corey Davis has had his moments since signing a three-year, $37.5 million deal in 2021, but he has missed 12 games due to injury, and the Jets are moving forward with a young receiving core led by reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year Garrett Wilson

>> READ: GM Joe Douglas Talks About Derek Carr Meeting

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens: S Chuck Clark

Cap Savings: $3.6M | Dead Money: $2.3M

Chuck Clark is beloved in Baltimore, but the team has invested a ton into the position, paying big money to Marcus Williams and using a first-round pick on Kyle Hamilton in the 2022 NFL Draft. Baltimore could trade Clark instead of outright cutting him, especially considering his age (27), his past production, and the leadership he would bring to a new team.

Cincinnati Bengals: RB Joe Mixon

Cap Savings: $7.2M | Dead Money: $5.5M

Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin and coach Zac Taylor had a chance to commit to Joe Mixon when asked about him at the combine, but they didn’t say he’ll be back next season. With some big contracts on the way in Cincinnati, moving on from Mixon looks like a real possibility. The free agent running back market and the draft are really deep, which could be Cincinnati's path to finding a cheaper option.

Cleveland Browns: S John Johnson III

Cap Savings: $9.7M | Dead Money: $3.7M (Post-June 1)

John Johnson III has spent the last two years with the Browns after signing a three-year, $33.75 million deal in 2021. The Browns had hoped for more versatility from him, but they never appeared fully satisfied. He was moved closer to the line of scrimmage, and that just didn’t pan out. Johnson is still just 27 years old, but Cleveland is unlikely to keep him at his high cap number.

Pittsburgh Steelers: CB William Jackson

Cap Savings: $12.1M | Dead Money: $0

William Jackson was supposed to be released by Washington last season, but Pittsburgh jumped in before the trade deadline and took a flier on him. He never played a snap with the Steelers due to a back injury. Pittsburgh might still want to see what it has with him, so getting him back on a cheaper deal is possible.

AFC South 

Houston Texans: S Eric Murray

Cap Savings: $4M | Dead Money: $1.3M

Eric Murray played a little more than 100 defensive snaps last season after playing 1,699 snaps in the two years prior for Houston. Second-round rookie Jalen Pitre leapfrogged him in the starting lineup, totaling 147 tackles and five interceptions. Pitre is a cornerstone player for the Texans, which could leave Murray as the odd man out.

Indianapolis Colts: QB Matt Ryan

Cap Savings: $17.2M | Dead Money: $18M

The Colts traded for Matt Ryan last offseason with the expectation he would be their quarterback for at least two seasons. He got benched twice after a rough go at things, throwing just 14 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and fumbling 15 times. Ryan did some work for CBS during the postseason, so a media career could be in his future. But his time in Indianapolis will likely end after just one year.

Jacksonville Jaguars: CB Shaquill Griffin

Cap Savings: $13.1M | Dead Money: $4M

Shaquill Griffin signed a three-year, $40 million contract to join the Jaguars as a free agent in 2021, and he started 14 games in his first season with the team. A back injury limited him to just five games this past year, and the league-wide expectation is the Jaguars will move on, especially with the cap situation they’re in after all the aggressive moves they made last year.

Tennessee Titans: DE Bud Dupree

Cap Savings: $9.3M | Dead Money: $10.8M

Bud Dupree has only started 17 games in two seasons since signing a massive 5-year, $82.5M contract as a free agent. Health was a big concern when he was a free agent, and former general manager Jon Robinson took a chance. It simply didn’t work out. New general manager Ran Carthon has already moved on from several veterans (Taylor Lewan, Zach Cunningham, Robert Woods), and Dupree’s status with the team is up in the air.

>> READ: Ryan Tannehill Will Remain a Titan

AFC West

Denver Broncos: RB Chase Edmonds

Cap Savings: $5.92M | Dead Money: $0

Chase Edmonds struggled to produce for Mike McDaniel in Miami and was eventually included in the midseason blockbuster trade that sent Bradley Chubb from the Broncos to the Dolphins. Edmonds still struggled to produce and never got into a rhythm in Denver. With a chance to clear nearly $6 million, this cut is likely coming. Ronald Darby and Graham Glasgow are also potential candidates.

Kansas City Chiefs: DE Frank Clark

Cap Savings: $21M | Dead Money: $7.6M

The Chiefs like Frank Clark as a player, especially in the postseason, and they love him in the locker room, but his $28.6 million cap hit is way too large to leave as is. General manager Brett Veach said at the combine they’d talk to his representation about trying to find a resolution. Clark agreed to take a pay cut last offseason, and he knows that discussion will happen again in the coming weeks – or Kansas City will move on.

Las Vegas Raiders: IOL Andre James

Cap Savings: $5M | Dead Money: $1.9M

Andre James has been a solid player for the Raiders, but general manager Dave Ziegler and coach Josh McDaniels used a third-round pick on Dylan Parham last offseason, and he started all 17 games for them in 2022. He’s their likely center of the future, possibly leading to James being the odd man out.

Los Angeles Chargers: OL Matt Feiler

Cap Savings: $6.5M | Dead Money: $2M

Feiler has started all 33 games since signing a three-year deal with Los Angeles in 2021, but he’s coming off a down year. The Chargers could move second-year offensive lineman Jamaree Salyer into his spot, who is much cheaper. After an aggressive offseason last year, the Chargers will have other big decisions to make to get under the salary cap. Khalil Mack ($27.4 million cap hit) and Keenan Allen ($21.7 million cap hit) are the splashy names that stand out when looking at the contracts on their books. Restructuring those deals or potentially moving on via trade shouldn’t be ruled out. 

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys: RB Ezekiel Elliott

Cap Savings: $4.8M | Dead Money: $11.8M

Let’s preface this by clarifying the Jones family are big fans of Ezekiel Elliott. Despite not many people having the same vision regarding Elliott, Jerry Jones has consistently come out after games and sang praises about Elliott's importance to the offense. Here’s the thing: Elliott carries a hefty $16.7 million cap hit next season, and Dallas would also like to keep Tony Pollard, who is an impending free agent and a possible franchise-tag candidate.

Dallas and Elliott will have to sit down and have an honest conversation about how to move forward. The Cowboys faced a similar situation with Dez Bryant in 2018 because Jones didn't want to move on, but when approached about a pay cut, Bryant declined, so the Cowboys were forced to part ways. Packers running back Aaron Jones took a $5 million pay cut to stick around in Green Bay. Dallas will need Elliott to do something similar if he wants to be back for an eighth season. 

  New York Giants: CB Darnay Holmes

Cap Savings: $2.7M | Dead Money: $197k

Kenny Golladay was the obvious choice here and the Giants have already informed him that they’re going to move on after two seasons. Darnay Holmes is an interesting option as he’s entering the final year of his rookie contract. He played in 15 games this past season but struggled with penalties, getting flagged nine times, including six defensive holdings. The Giants secondary isn’t deep, so keeping Holmes for the time being might end up being the way to go.

Philadelphia Eagles: RB Trey Sermon

Cap Savings: $1.1M | Dead Money: $0

The Eagles don’t have any obvious cut candidates entering this offseason, but rather they have a bunch of key players set to be free agents. Trey Sermon joined Philadelphia after San Francisco let him go and he was active for a couple of games early on. He played just eight offensive snaps before eventually being a healthy scratch the rest of the season.

>> READ: Eagles Must Keep Team Core Together

Washington Commanders: RB J.D. McKissic

Cap Savings: $1.2M | Dead Money: $2M

Washington has already made the obvious move with Carson Wentz getting released. McKissic is entering the final year of his contract and has had neck injuries end his last two seasons prematurely. Washington has a deep running back room with Brian Robinson and Antonio Gibson leading the way – which could lead to McKissic’s tenure coming to an end.

NFC North

Chicago Bears: K Cairo Santos

Cap Savings: $3M | Dead Money: $1.5M

Chicago has, far and away, the most cap space in the league this offseason, and there are no glaring cuts to make. Cairo Santos, however, struggled last season, notably missing five extra points. Finding reliable kickers in the NFL is not easy, and Santos has proven over the years that he has what it takes, so this one isn’t a slam-dunk to happen.

>> READ: Bears Sticking With Fields, Could Trade No. 1 Overall

Detroit Lions: G/T Halapoulivaati Vaitai

Cap Savings: $6.5M | Dead Money: $5.9M

Injuries have been a concern for Vaitai since he joined Detroit under the previous regime. He missed the entire season this past year due to a back injury and Detroit could look to find his replacement in free agency or in the draft.

Green Bay Packers: G Sean Rhyan

Cap Savings: $485k | Dead Money: $679k

There really is no obvious answer for the Packers especially after Aaron Jones decided to take a pay cut to stick around and GM Brian Gutekunst said he will keep OT David Bakhtiari and restructure his contract. Rhyan was Green Bay’s third-round pick last year but he didn’t play any offensive snaps after getting beaten out by fellow rookie Zach Tom. To make matters worse, Rhyan was suspended for the last six games of the season for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.

Minnesota Vikings: OLB Za'Darius Smith

Cap Savings: $12.1M | Dead Money: $3.3M

The Vikings have a handful of options here, and general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah could blow it up if he wants to. LB Eric Kendricks, WR Adam Thielen, S Harrison Smith, RB Dalvin Cook and LB Jordan Hicks are some of the guys, to name a few.

On the surface, Za'Darius Smith was signed to a reported three-year, $42 million deal last offseason, but after a closer look, it was a one-year, $9.5 million contract, “and we’ll see” type deal. Smith was a star in his first nine games with 9.5 sacks, 17 QB hits, 14 tackles for loss and 29 tackles. The next eight games were a different story, and Smith was a bit of a non-factor.

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons: QB/TE Felipe Franks

Cap Savings: $940k | Dead Money: $5k

The Falcons have already moved on from QB Marcus Mariota, which saved them $12 million in salary cap space. They really don’t have any other obvious cap casualty after that. Franks has been on the roster the last two years, but whether it is at quarterback or tight end he hasn’t made much of an impact. Atlanta doesn’t have to make this move if they want to keep the experiment going. Whatever the case may be, this offseason will be GM Terry Fontenot’s first with real cap flexibility.

Carolina Panthers: LB Damien Wilson

Cap Savings: $3.6M | Dead Money: $1M

Damien Wilson played just 204 snaps this past season after signing a two-year contract last offseason with the expectation of being a starter. Things didn’t work out, and with a new defensive staff coming in, his time in Carolina could end. 

New Orleans Saints: QB Jameis Winston

Cap Savings: $4.4M | Dead Money: $11.2M

Jameis Winston suffered a back injury early in the season, eventually losing the starting gig to Andy Dalton after just three weeks. The Saints have already started planning on finding a new quarterback, including meeting with former Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. Winston’s time in New Orleans will end after three years.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: OT Donovan Smith 

Cap Savings: $10M | Dead Money: $8M

Donovan Smith is coming off a disappointing season, finishing second in the NFL for the most accepted penalties with 12 and allowing a team-high six sacks. Tampa Bay is entering the post-Tom Brady era, and some major changes will come for an organization that is cap crunched.

There has been some buzz that Tristan Wirfs could slide from the right side to the left side and moving on from Smith would allow Tampa Bay to do that. Luke Goedeke would then take over the right side.

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals: WR Robbie Anderson

Cap Savings: $12M | Dead Money: $0

Under the previous regime, the Cardinals traded for Robbie Anderson during the regular season, but the fit never panned out. He had just seven receptions for 76 yards in 10 games with the team. New general manager Monti Ossenfort can move on with no dead money left over.

Los Angeles Rams: IOL Brian Allen

Cap Savings: $2M | Dead Money: $4.2M

Injuries have been the major issue for Brian Allen, who has missed 26 games since the 2020 season. Coleman Shelton took over the center position last year and held it down mostly. Shelton could be looking for a new deal and will likely be a higher priority than the oft-injured Allen.

San Francisco 49ers: LB Oren Burks

Cap Savings: $1.6M | Dead Money: $1.1M

The 49ers value Oren Burks as a core special teamer and they even had him start three games last year when they had some injuries. However, Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles took a big step forward last season as a special-teamer, finishing second in the league in special team tackle. Its fair to wonder if San Francisco takes the cap savings by moving on from Burks and put some of that into Flannigan-Fowles, who is set to be a Restricted Free Agent.

Seattle Seahawks: IOL Gabe Jackson

Cap Savings: $6.5M | Dead Money: $4.7M

Gabe Jackson, who turns 32 in July, played a career-low 670 snaps last season and has battled knee and hip injuries. Seattle recently re-signed Phil Haynes to a 1-year, $4 million deal, and he appears in line to take over Jackson’s starting gig.