Coach, Quarterback, & Cap

Here’s the deal. Justin Herbert has done plenty over the past few seasons to warrant a big time extension, and the likelihood that it happens in the next few weeks is extremely high. The 24 year old values to a 6 year, $255M deal in our system, but pushing north of $45M per year should be realistic.

With that said, it’s not inconceivable that Brandon Staley has coached his last game for the Chargers organization. If a new regime is coming in (be it Sean Payton or another set of eyes), will the (small market owners in a major market) see this as an opportunity to stall on the Herbert money, allowing the player-coach dynamic to settle in a bit before the big pay day is handed out. Denver’s disaster of a 2022 certainly puts this type of scenario in the spotlight.

Herbert holds a guaranteed $4.2M in 2023, then a 5th-year option for 2024 that will certainly be exercised by May. 

From a full roster standpoint, this is a franchise that enters 2023 in the red (estimated -$10M in 2023 cap space with 41 players under contract), with 6 players set to account for at least $10M of cap for next season. A simpler restructure for Joey Bosa can free up at least $15M, while Keenan Allen’s 2023 compensation can open up $14.3M of space with a conversion. Khalil Mackk is entering 2 non-guaranteed years of his contract, and could stand for a rip it up and start over deal to open up cap space, and build in a little stability on his end.

From a Roster Bubble standpoint OG Matt Feiler is a capable body, but LA might opt for the $6.5M of space to get out of the contract this March. TE Gerald Everett showed his value down the stretch, but there’s $4M to be opened up if the Chargers move on there as well.

Spotrac's NFL Offseason Series continues with divisional breakdowns of team cap space, notable free agents, extension candidates, and potential roster bubble players.



All-Out Attack

The narrative following the Vikings into and now certainly out of the postseason was something along the lines of: Fraudulent.

While the point differential doesn’t lie (-3 for a division winner), it would be wrong to look at this team and expect them to blow it up anytime soon. The division around them is in hand, their QB is doing more than enough to put them in winning positions, and they have arguably the best offensive weapon in all of football. 

It’s clear and obvious that the defense (specifically the pass rush) simply didn’t have the talent to compete for 60 minutes on a weekly basis. An offseason focused on bulking up the D-Line is to be expected.

Financially speaking, the Vikings sit about $8M in the red right now for 2023. Kirk Cousins is entering a contract year, and Minnesota can either restructure his $30M (freeing up over $23M of cap), or rebuild the contract into an extension (Stafford’s $40M per year deal seems right)

Moving on from WR Adam Thielen opens up at least $6.4M (more if Designated Post 6/1), while an early release of LB Erik Kendricks frees up $9.5M of space.

As for their prized possession, Justin Jefferson is now extension eligible, and while he wasn’t his usual self down the stretch - his numbers to start an NFL career simply defy logic. He’s in line to smash A.J. Brown’s current 4 year, $100M rookie extension mark, with a base valuation of $27M per year in our system.


Pretty Damn Close - BUT

The Tua Tagovailoa medical situation is scary for all parties involved - including the NFL. The Dolphins have already come out and stated that he remains the QB1 plan for 2023 and beyond, and there’s no doubt that a healthy Tua makes this team a legitimate AFC contender - but the what ifs attached to it are downright terrifying.

With that said, we’re simply going to operate as if the Dolphins believe their own words. There’s no reason to assume that a contract extension is coming for Tua, despite his eligibility window now opened up, but this is an organization that can put together a calculated offseason and become a REAL problem.

Their entire running back arsenal is slated for free agency, as are TE Mike Gesicki, and backup QB Teddy Bridgewater. Luckily, there are about a dozen starting running backs and viable backup QBs set to hit the open market this March.

DL Christian Wilkins probably made himself a good chunk of change this year (and his ongoing rift with Bills’ QB Josh Allen is only going to further that rivalry). He projects to a $15M+ per year extension in our system entering a contract year.

As a whole, the Dolphins’ project to open 2023 with around -$9M of cap space. But a simple restructure for Tyreek Hill can free up $20M, and another one for Bradley Chubb can open up almost $15M. Miami forfeits their 1st round pick thanks to some ownership collusion (which might be happening as we speak again), so their ability to clog a few holes will come in March, and on Day 2 of the April draft.

There’s an awful lot to like here - if Tua is healthy.

It’s Time

The hot take artist in me wants to push further down the BLOW IT UP boulevard, but the Baltimore Ravens aren’t a blow it up franchise. It’s also not a make the dollars rain organization, or a “let the players run the show” front office - by any means. Lamar Jackson had a real chance to go out there and shut everyone up this season, turning down a standard extension offer for what he believed should have been a top of the market one.

Now it feels like we’re back to square one with this situation, and by that I mean we throw out the fact that he’s a former MVP, we throw out the 45-16 career record, and we simply look at the player and his organization through a telescope over the next 3-4 years. Does anyone who’s truly being honest with themselves see a scenario where these two parties not only make it work, but thrive, grow, and succeed at the highest level together?

The fact of the matter is, Baltimore can still sell extremely high with Lamar on the trade market. They’ll slap an exclusive franchise tag on him in February, but can probably get away with budgeting the $32M non-exclusive tag price on their books while they work out a trade, as the non-exclusive price doesn’t lock until after RFA tender season (early April). What does all of this garbly-goo mean? Jackson won’t be able to negotiate with other teams, and the Ravens will be able to get more than just two first round picks back when they move on from him (the compensation for a player signing an offer sheet on a franchise tag).

It took the Browns three firsts, a third, & two fourths to secure the right to pay Deshaun Watson historic money. It would be foolish to assume that the Ravens won’t be looking for AT LEAST this package come March 15th. Will the Raiders & their Derek Carr situation show interest? Are the Falcons & Panthers ready to mortgage their draft future to see what Lamar can do for them instantaneously? Are the Jets actually the best landing spot for Jackson in their current form?

This might be a lot of words about a situation that never bears out. But it’s becoming increasingly more possible every day. Oh right, money. Lamar has been a $42M player in our system for the better part of 2 seasons now, but his passing productivity dipped quite a bit in 2022. Mathematically he’s a $40M player. On the open market with 6 teams vying for his services? He might just get that $200M fully guaranteed.


On the Edge

Word play. The Seahawks need pass rushers. Even the people in the balcony can read this situation clear as day. Other than that, why wouldn’t this organization try to run this thing back at least for 2023? Geno Smith is the definition of why the franchise tag exists, and should be prepared to play on the $32Mish tender next season.

Seattle enters 2023 with about $47M of cap space, but less than half a roster signed as we speak. Quandre Diggs is a restructure candidate, Noah Fant is a trade candidate, & Uchenna Nwosu is an extension candidate, all which should put the Seahawks in a great place to both draft & sign more than enough ammo to compete again next season.

And by the way - next season is all this organization should be thinking about right now. The future is here.


Internal Combustion

It's tough to blame the Bucs for trying to squeeze every possible minute of TB12 time out as possible. When he un-retired this Spring, it likely changed the mindset of the Bucs front office, who may have been looking to dial certain things back a bit in preparation for the "purge". The about face cost them plenty of cash, and even more flexibility with their cap, as Tampa Bay now stares down a near $44M cap deficit to start the 2023 campaign.

The major focus here (for a lot of reasons) is Brady, who certainly sounded like a player who won't be returning to the organization in his parting press conference. If no new contract is honored, Brady's 2022 deal will automatically void on March 15th, leaving the Bucs with a $35.1M dead cap hit for 2023, the 2nd largest of its kind in history (Matt Ryan, $40.5M).

Elsewhere, another $17.5M of voidable dead cap exists from Lavonte David, Akiem Hicks, Julio Jones, & William Gholston. Will any of these players be back in the fold by the start of the new league year? Are the seemingly QB-less Bucs going to expedite their purge plan and subtract much more than they add or retain this spring? If so, Mike Evans, who enters a contract year in 2023, could be one of the prime candidates to be traded.