2023 NFL Offseason Potential Cut Candidates, Cap Casualties

There 10 players could hit free agency if they don't agree to reworked contracts

10 potential cut candidates, cap casualties this NFL offseason originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

The 2023 NFL offseason is finally here.

After the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LVII on Sunday, you might think it’s time to stop worrying about the NFL – but this league never sleeps. Over the next few months, rosters will completely turn over with free agency and the draft.

One thing to keep an eye on over the next month before free agency in mid-March is roster cuts. Many talented players across the NFL will be released, not because of their skill level but because of their cap hits. Sometimes, clearing space becomes more important than retaining a key player.

Here are 10 players that could be salary cap casualties this offseason:

Keenan Allen, Chargers

Before the playoffs even ended, there were reports that Allen could be cut this offseason. Allen will be 31 next season and he’s played his entire 10-year career with the Chargers, making the Pro Bowl five times. But the team is $23.4 million over the cap and can save $14.8 million by releasing Allen. He played just 10 games last year and injuries have frequently been an issue.

Aaron Jones, Packers

With so much uncertainty surrounding Aaron Rodgers, this could be an obvious move to clear cap space. The Packers could save $10.44 million by cutting the 28-year-old running back, who had seven total touchdowns last season after reaching 10 or more in the previous three. A.J. Dillon is primed for a bigger role in 2023 and a new contract in 2024, so Jones’ time in Green Bay might be over unless he agrees to a restructured deal.

Khalil Mack, Chargers

After an injury-riddled 2021 season with the Bears, Mack returned to Pro Bowl form with the Chargers in 2022. He had eight sacks and two forced fumbles, playing a key role in Los Angeles’ run to the postseason. The Chargers would save $18.4 million by cutting Mack, though their preference could be to work out a restructured contract.

Adam Thielen, Vikings

Thielen has been with the Vikings since 2014, but the former star wide receiver could be on the move this offseason. Despite being paired with young star Justin Jefferson, Thielen has continued to produce – 30 touchdowns in the last three years. Minnesota would save $6.4 million by releasing Thielen, which would open up playing time for K.J. Osborn.

Leonard Fournette, Buccaneers

Tom Brady is gone, and you have to expect many of the players he recruited to Tampa Bay will soon follow. Fournette is a prime cut candidate, with the Bucs saving $3.47 million by releasing him. Most importantly, it frees up the backfield for second-year running back Rachaad White, who thrived in spurts last season while Fournette’s effectiveness dwindled.

Ryan Tannehill, Titans

Could the Titans be in the quarterback market this offseason? Tannehill battled injuries last season as Tennessee missed the postseason for the first time under his leadership. The Titans, now led by new GM Ran Carthon, would save $17.8 million by cutting the 34-year-old veteran. It all comes down to whether or not Tennessee wants to embrace a full rebuild or continue with its current core.

Frank Clark, Chiefs

Even though the Chiefs just won the Super Bowl, the clock is ticking on one key defender. Clark came alive in the postseason, but it’s hard to justify his $30.175 million cap hit in 2023. The Chiefs can save $21.1 million by cutting ties with the 29-year-old defensive end. Clark made the Pro Bowl in three out of four years with Kansas City and had 10.5 sacks in 12 postseason starts.

Matt Ryan, Colts

The Colts will look completely different in 2023, and that starts at quarterback. Ryan was benched last season after a failed offseason trade. Now, Indianapolis is likely to cut the former league MVP and save $17.2 million while moving on to its sixth different opening day starting quarterback in as many years.

Byron Jones, Dolphins

When the Dolphins signed Jones to a lucrative five-year deal in 2020, they hoped to form one of the league’s dominant cornerback duos with him and Xavien Howard. Injuries prevented that from becoming reality, and now’s the time for Miami to bite the bullet. He’s still just 30 years old, but the odds of Jones turning things around with the Dolphins aren’t high.

Carson Wentz, Commanders

Another year, another failed Wentz experiment. This time it was in the nation’s capital, where Wentz was ineffective, then injured, then flat-out benched for Taylor Heinicke and Sam Howell. The Commanders can save $26.2 million by cutting Wentz and would incur no dead cap. Of all the names listed, Wentz is the most likely to be released.

All salary figures courtesy of Spotrac.

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