QB Derek Carr

The Raiders made the decision to remove Derek Carr from their 2023 roster about a month ago. Now the only remaining question is, will it be via trade or outright release? Carr signed a 3 year, $121.5M extension this past April, but there was a clear and defined out after 2023. That out occurs on February 15th, when his $32.9M salary for 2023 & $7.5M of his 2024 salary become fully guaranteed (both were guaranteed for injury at signing, hence the benching).

So the Raiders have a month to find a trade partner for Carr, who, with a full no trade clause, will be fully involved in that process. It’s risky business for Las Vegas, because any trade agreed to now can’t be officially processed until March 15th - so it’s conceivable that a team backs out at the last minute, leaving the Raiders with $40.4M of guarantees with a QB they no longer want.

Should this trade happen, Carr will leave behind just $5.625M of dead cap to Las Vegas, bringing a 3 year, $116.3M contract with him to a new team.

If no trade transpires, Carr will be released prior to February 15th, leaving behind that same $5.625M dead cap hit to LV. He’ll be free to sign with a new team immediately, an advantage over the likes of Jimmy Garoppolo, Geno Smith, Daniel Jones, etc…

WR DeAndre Hopkins

The Cardinals have publicly announced that they’ll be seeking a trade for 30 year old WR DeAndre Hopkins, despite a productive return to the lineup after serving his 6 game PED suspension this past season.

The Cardinals have an offensive line and much of their defense to improve this offseason, so adding draft capital by moving on from Hopkins makes sense, even if it takes their top weapon out of the mix.

Financially speaking, DeAndre Hopkins holds a 2 year, $34.3M contract, with nothing fully guaranteed, and no early offseason roster bonuses to have to work around. The timing of this move will be interesting, as the contract carries $22.6M of dead cap that must remain with Arizona. If the trade is processed before June 1st, all $22.6M must hit the 2023 salary cap (clearing $8.15M of space). If the move happens after 6/1, $11.3M hits in 2023, and another $11.3M in 2024 - saving $19.45M of cap space for the upcoming season.

While the latter seems the better play, keep in mind that a trade after June 1st means no 2023 draft picks can be involved in this transaction.

WR Michael Thomas

The Saints and Michael Thomas agreed to a somewhat unique contract restructure before the end of the regular season. The move lowered his 2023 base salary from $15.5M down to a minimum $1.165M. Additionally, a $31.755M roster bonus was added in 2024 (due early March), while a $902,941 signing bonus was paid out to him immediately.

The path forward here isn’t entirely clear, but it seems likely that the Saints threw Thomas a good faith gesture signing bonus with the intention of designating him a Post June 1st release this March. They’ll carry his $14.1M cap hit until 6/1, after which he’ll leave behind $11.9M of dead cap in 2023, and another $14.1M in 2024. The Saints will pick up $2.1M of cap savings on June 2nd. Thomas will be free to sign elsewhere as soon as the Post 6/1 designation is announced (March). 

WR Brandin Cooks

Cooks started saying his goodbyes before the Texans’ Week 18 game - so it’s safe to say he’s demanding a move out of Houston this offseason. He holds a 2 year, $35M contract, including a fully guaranteed $18M salary for 2023.

It’s likely a new team will push to restructure (possibly even extend) the contract once acquired, but initially speaking Cooks will bring cap hits of $18.5M in 2023, $16.5M in 2024, leaving behind $16.2M of dead cap with Houston ($10M saved).

C Rodney Hudson

The Cardinals and Hudson agreed to a contract restructure this week that lowered his 2023 base salary from $8.25M to $2.05M. Generally speaking, this is a bat signal that one of two things is happening: the team is going to designate that player a Post June 1st release, carry the contract until that date, then release the player to maximize cap savings. Or, the player is planning to retire, but the team won’t process that paperwork until after June 1st, for the same cap reasoning.

So what are the cap numbers we’re dealing with here? Hudson holds $5.28M of dead cap against a $3.81M cap hit right now. Arizona will carry that $3.81M figure until June 1st, then process either an outright release or retirement, leaving behind $1.76M of dead cap for 2023, and another $3.5M in 2024.

HC Sean Payton

The 59-year-old has been tied to every opening from Carolina midseason, through and including Arizona this past week. Will an early playoff exit bring the Cowboys back into this conversation as well?

Payton signed a 5 year extension with the Saints back in 2019, locking him up through the 2024 season (at least). This means New Orleans owns the rights to Payton, and any team looking to hire him will need to agree to compensation terms in order to do so.

How prevalent are coach trades in the NFL? Not much…but here are a few doozies:

The Bucs acquired Jon Gruden from the Raiders (2002)
Tampa Bay gave up 2 1st round picks, 2 2nd round picks, & $8M cash for Gruden. Both teams met in the 2003 Super Bowl, with the Bucs winning 48-21.

The Patriots acquired Bill Belichick from the Jets (2000)
The Patriots acquired the future HOF plus a 5th & 5th round pick in exchange for 1st, 4th, & 7th round picks to the Jets. The rest is literally history.

The Jets acquired Bill Parcells from the Patriots (1997)
Before the Belichick saga bore out, the two teams battled over Tuna Parcells. After a few hard ball moves, the two sides agreed to a compensation package 1st, 2nd, 3rd, & 4th round picks + $300,000 donated to New England’s charities of choice.