NFL free agency is just days away, which means member clubs must soon get their books in order to get under the $224.8 million salary cap. So who are the top NFL cut candidates? The list includes some of the most recognizable names of the last few years.
Who will stay? Who will go? And who will find a treasure among the discards? The possibilities are endless as we explore the NFL cut candidates of 2023.
NFL Cut Candidates in 2023 Are Led by Ezekiel Elliott, La’El Collins, Frank Clark
With less than two weeks left until the start of the league year, 14 of the NFL’s 32 teams were still over the cap, according to Spotrac. The median available cap space by team was less than $5 million.
Organizations in dire financial straits include the Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($57 million over the cap), the New Orleans Saints ($30 million), and the Minnesota Vikings ($20.2 million).
There are several ways teams can get under the cap — including trades, restructures, and retirements. But the quickest (and often easiest) way to shed salary is with cuts. More than a half-billion dollars in cap space would open up if the following players are released or waived.
Some teams have already gotten a head start on the process. The Raiders in recent weeks cut Derek Carr, the Commanders parted ways with Carson Wentz, and the Falcons handed Marcus Mariota his walking papers.
Other players, meanwhile, have seemingly gone from on the roster bubble to safe over recent weeks. One example? Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Tennessee could free up nearly $18 million by cutting Tannehill, but that doesn’t seem to be on the table.
New Titans general manager Ran Carthon said the following at the NFL Scouting Combine:
“I know everybody wants to make a big deal out of the quarterback position, whether he will or won’t be here. But you guys have to accept the fact that Ryan is under contract for us, and right now, he is a Titan, and he will be a Titan.”
Let’s look at which marquee players could be potential cut candidates ahead of (or during) the 2023 NFL offseason and what it means for the teams in terms of cap space.
RB Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys
If the Cowboys can only keep one of Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott, it sure isn’t going to be Zeke. Pollard was the Cowboys’ RB1 in 2022, and Jerry Jones isn’t about to let one of his best players walk, no matter whose feelings that hurts.
The best-case scenario for the Cowboys is signing Pollard to a long-term deal and convincing Elliott to take a pay cut. But the worst-case scenario is Dallas franchising Pollard (at $10.1 million) and cutting bait with Elliott, who has been in clear decline in recent years.
“He’s making a lot of money, and he knows that,” Stephen Jones said at the Scouting Combine.
OT La’el Collins, Cincinnati Bengals
The Cowboys can take some solace in knowing they made the right call on La’el Collins. They caught a bunch of flack for cutting him last year, but it was the right move.
Collins was bad for the Bengals in 2023, and according to The Athletic, is “a prime candidate” to be cut this offseason. The savings would be modest (roughly $6 million), but if Cincinnati thinks they’re better off pocketing that cash, you better believe they will.
EDGE Frank Clark, Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs have a quarter of their cap tied up in Frank Clark and Chris Jones. And considering Patrick Mahomes has a $49 million cap figure in 2023, that’s not tenable.
Jones is by far the better player, so Clark might be the odd man out if he doesn’t agree to reduce his $20.5 million base salary. The Chiefs would free up that and more by cutting him.
“We’ll probably, to a certain extent, need some cap space,” GM Brett Veach said at the Combine. “We have a long history with [Clark] and his agent, too, so he’ll be one of the many conversations we have this week; we can look forward to getting with him and see if we can work something out that makes sense for both parties.”
Full List of NFL Cut Candidates
- WR Robbie Anderson ($12 million in cap savings)
- OLB Markus Golden ($3.1 million)
- OLB Dennis Gardeck ($3 million)
- CB Casey Hayward ($5 million)
- DE Calais Campbell ($7 million)
- OG Kevin Zeitler ($6.5 million)
- SS Chuck Clark ($3.7 million)
- C Mitch Morse ($5.4 million)
- RB Nyheim Hines ($4.8 million)
- CB Taron Johnson ($4.3 million)
- DT Tim Settle ($2.3 million)
- OLB Shaq Thompson ($13.2 million)
- C Pat Elflein ($4.8 million)
- ILB Damien Wilson ($3.6 million)
- DT Justin Jones ($4.9 million)
- G Lucas Patrick ($3.9 million)
- OT La’el Collins ($6 million)
- OT Joe Haeg ($2.5 million)
- WR Jakeem Grant ($2.3 million)
- S Grant Delpit ($1.6 million)
- RB Ezekiel Elliott ($4.9 million)
- CB Jourdan Lewis ($4.7 million)
- G Graham Glasgow ($11 million)
- RB Chase Edmonds ($5.9 million)
- WR KJ Hamler ($1.6 million)
- EDGE Romeo Okwara ($7.5 million)
- G Halapoulivaati Vaitai ($6.5 million)
- DE Charles Harris ($4 million)
Green Bay Packers
- OT David Bakhtiari ($5.7 million)
- DE Jerry Hughes ($5 million)
- LB Christian Kirksey ($5 million)
- DT Maliek Collins ($4.5 million)
- DT DeForest Buckner ($19.8 million)
- CB Kenny Moore ($8.2 million)
- C Ryan Kelly ($7.9 million)
- CB Shaquill Griffin ($13.5 million)
- S Rayshawn Jenkins ($6.5 million)
Kansas City Chiefs
- DE Frank Clark ($22 million)
- WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling ($7 million)
Las Vegas Raiders
- C Andre James ($5 million)
- DT Bilal Nichols ($3.3 million)
Los Angeles Chargers
- OLB Khalil Mack ($18.4 million)
- CB Michael Davis ($7.4 million)
- C Matt Feiler ($6.5 million)
- DT Austin Johnson ($3.4 million)
Los Angeles Rams
- TE Tyler Higbee ($3.9 million)
- C Brian Allen ($2 million)
- RB Cam Akers ($1.5 million)
- K Jason Sanders ($3.8 million)
- CB Byron Jones ($3.6 million)
- TE Durham Smythe ($3.5 million)
- ILB Eric Kendricks ($9.5 million)
- S Harrison Smith ($7.4 million)
- WR Adam Thielen ($6.4 million)
New England Patriots
- OT Trent Brown ($11 million)
- TE Hunter Henry ($10.5 million)
- DT Lawrence Guy ($3.1 million)
New Orleans Saints
- QB Jameis Winston ($4.4 million)
- WR Tre’Quan Smith ($1.9 million)
New York Giants
- CB Adoree’ Jackson ($8.6 million)
- WR Kenny Golladay ($6.7 million)
- K Graham Gano ($2.9 million)
New York Jets
- DE Carl Lawson ($15.4 million)
- WR Corey Davis ($10.5 million)
- S Jordan Whitehead ($7.2 million)
- LB C.J. Mosley ($6.5 million)
- OT Duane Brown ($5 million)
- WR Braxton Berrios ($5 million)
- CB Justin Hardee ($2.4 million)
- CB Darius Slay ($4.8 million)
- CB William Jackson ($12.2 million)
- LB Myles Jack ($8 million)
- QB Mitchell Trubisky ($8 million)
- RT Chukwuma Okorafor ($6.9 million)
- CB Levi Wallace ($4 million)
- CB Ahkello Witherspoon ($4 million)
- DE Montravius Adams ($2.6 million)
San Francisco 49ers
None of note
- DT Shelby Harris ($8.9 million)
- G Gabe Jackson ($6.5 million)
- DT Quinton Jefferson ($4.5 million)
- DT Bryan Mone ($2.7 million)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- OT Donovan Smith ($9.9 million)
- G Shaq Mason ($4.2 million)
- K Ryan Succop ($3.8 million)
- RB Leonard Fournette ($3.5 million)
- TE Cameron Brate ($2 million)
None of note
- CB Kendall Fuller ($8.5 million)
- TE Logan Thomas ($5.2 million)
- C Chase Roullier ($4.3 million)
- OT Cornelius Lucas ($3.5 million)
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