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NFL Salary Cap Cut Candidates

The 2024 NFL salary cap is $255.4 million, up from the $224.8 salary cap of last season. NFL free agency is looming and teams will start spending before we know it. Each team is currently doing everything they can to put themselves in a position to succeed when free agency begins. In fact, some players have already been released. There are going to be plenty more moves in the coming days, weeks, and months. Below are some fantasy football relevant players who could find themselves in the free agent market, for one reason or another, though with the salary cap in mind.

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Possible NFL Salary Cap Cuts That Impact Fantasy Football

Joe Mixon

If Joe Mixon is an NFL salary cap cut casualty, he will join a very talented group of free-agent running backs. The legal tampering period for free agents begins on March 11. Joe Mixon is due a $3 million roster bonus a week later on the 18th. While Mixon did top 1,000 rushing yards for the fourth time in seven seasons, he now has 1,986 career touches, playoffs included.

The Bengals currently sit inside the top eight in NFL salary cap space and can save an additional $5.75 million with the release of Mixon. Chase Brown would be a massive beneficiary of this move depending on who else joins him in Cincy’s backfield.

Nick Chubb

It feels all but done that Nick Chubb will be looking for work in the coming weeks. After tearing his PCL, MCL, and LCL in his left knee in 2015, Chubb tore his ACL, MCL, and meniscus in the same knee in Week 2 this past season. When healthy, Chubb is a consistent threat to win the league rushing title. However, with uncertainty surrounding his return from another major injury, releasing him to save $11.8 million, with just a $4 million dead cap hit, unfortunately, makes sense.

If he is to hit the open market, a dark horse landing spot could be the New England Patriots. Chubb’s offensive coordinator in Cleveland, Alex Van Pelt (2020 to 2023), is now with the Pats in the same role. Though it makes the backfield a bit messy, Chubb could rotate in with Rhamondre Stevenson on a possible run-heavy team with a rookie quarterback under center.

Amari Cooper

I’m not expecting Amari Cooper to be a victim of the NFL salary cap, but he could be if he doesn’t restructure his deal. As of now, releasing Cooper before June 1st saves the Cleveland Browns $12.4 million, but comes with a $11.3 dead cap hit. However, trading or releasing him, with a post-June 1st designation, saves them $20 million with just a $3.7 million hit in 2024 and $7.5 million in 2025.

Cooper will be 30 at the start of the 2024 season with two years left on his current deal. If the Browns believe Deshaun Watson can carry the team’s momentum from 2023 into this next season, keeping Cooper on the roster should be a priority. The depth behind him doesn’t go too far with Elijah Moore, David Bell, and second-year receiver, Cedric Tillman.

Mike Williams

I’m hoping for a comeback season for Mike Williams after a Week 3 season-ending ACL injury, but it likely won’t be with the Los Angeles Chargers. With the arrival of head coach Jim Harbaugh, it’s a new regime, which always brings change. There is no loyalty to Mike Williams. To save $20 million against the 2024 NFL salary cap, it will cost the Chargers just $12.4 in dead money.

Keenan Allen’s 11.5 targets per game led the league in 2023. He is one of just 10 players to log 150 or more targets last season. His release, too, could save anywhere from $18 to $23 million toward the salary cap depending on when. However, keeping Keenan Allen over Mike Williams makes sense if Justin Herbert is going to have any sort of success, especially this season. A restructure of his deal is far more likely.

Zay Jones

I’m not expecting the Jacksonville Jaguars to keep Calvin Ridley for the 2024 season. They already owe the Atlanta Falcons their third-round pick from their prior trade for Ridley which elevates to their second-round pick if he re-signs with Jacksonville this off-season. Additionally, Zay Jones is an NFL salary cap cut candidate saving the team anywhere from $4.1 to $7.7 million in 2024 cap space depending on if he is a post-June 1st release or not.

Assuming Ridley and Jones are both gone in 2024, that vacates 32.9% of the team’s 2023 target share. It’s worth noting Jones logged 21% of the Jaguars’ targets the year prior, as well. If these NFL salary cap-friendly moves occur, it can only be good news for Christian Kirk and Evan Engram especially since the Jaguars don’t have a ton of cap space to add another notable veteran receiver into the mix.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling

I’m begging the Kansas City Chiefs to add a receiver of note, but Patrick Mahomes has proven he can win with anybody, even Marquez Valdes-Scantling. The increase in the NFL salary cap space helps the back-to-back Super Bowl champions greatly, but they still need to put pen to paper in bringing back key pieces, especially defensive tackle, Chris Jones. Releasing Valdes-Scantling is a step toward that as he carries just a $2 million dead cap hit while saving $12 million toward the 2024 NFL salary cap.

MVS should have no complaints after winning two Super Bowl rings after earning $15 million in guarantees before even taking a snap for the Chiefs. His production is simply replaceable, however. He’s never eclipsed 690 receiving yards in any season and logged a career-high of just 42 receptions in 2022 with Kansas City. It can’t get much better for Valdes-Scantling than Mahomes for fantasy football so I won’t be targeting him in 2024 regardless of where he ends up.

Robert Woods

The 2023 Nico Collins breakout in Houston comes at the expense of Robert Woods. His agent deserves a medal for negotiating a two-year/$15.25 million deal, with $10 million in guarantees, for Woods last off-season. Unfortunately, Woods logged just 40 receptions, tied for his career-low from his 2013 rookie season.

Woods, who turns 32 at the beginning of April, carries a $4.75 million dead cap hit while saving the Texans $5 million toward the 2024 salary cap. Houston already has a ton of cap space as one of six teams with $70 million in space. They will likely add another weapon to C.J. Stroud’s arsenal in the passing game making a Robert Woods release that much more likely.

Taysom Hill

I’m not going to pretend like I haven’t utilized Taysom Hill for fantasy football before. His versatility and usage on the New Orleans Saints offense is useful, especially if you can plug him in as a tight end in your lineup. His 692 combined rushing and receiving yards were the fourth-most amongst all Saints players from last season.

As we approach the beginning of March, the Saints are currently over the 2024 NFL salary cap. They have the 31st-most space, which is really no space at all. Designating Taysom Hill as a post-June 1st release would save the team $10 million toward the 2024 cap, but with $5.7 million and $11.1 million dead cap hits in 2024 and 2025 respectively. I’m not saying Derek Carr is THE quarterback to win the Saints their next championship, but they are financially committed to seeing if he can, at least for the 2024 season. It’s probably time to let Taysom Hill go and give Carr full control of the offense, for better or for worse.

Quick Hitters

Darius Slayton is the New York Giants’ target leader amongst wide receivers in three of the last four seasons. However, he never drew 100 or more with an average of just 82.3 targets per season when leading the team. As I write this, it’s becoming more apparent the Giants will probably draft a wide receiver with the sixth overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Terrace Marshall Jr. has just 64 receptions through his first three seasons with the Carolina Panthers. Just one of those receptions resulted in a touchdown. He’s barely averaging three targets per game. Waiving the former second-rounder can save Carolina $1.4 million. Reuniting with his college positional coach, Joe Brady, who now holds the offensive coordinator position with the Buffalo Bills, makes sense.

Allen Robinson is an obvious NFL salary cap casualty that saves $10 million for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Diontae Johnson, George Pickens, and others make it hard for Robinson to carve out an role on this offense, especially with an expected quarterback change.

Hunter Renfrow is no longer a viable fantasy football asset. After posting a 103/1,038/9 receiving line in 2021, Renfrow has just 61 receptions for 555 yards and two touchdowns in two seasons since. The Las Vegas Raiders could use as much salary cap space as possible to rebuild their roster. Releasing Renfrow helps in that regard.

Mo Alie-Cox is one of four Indianapolis Colts tight ends to draw a target in 2023. As a whole, the position accounts for just 21% of the team’s targets from last season. Mo Alie-Cox’ release costs the team nothing but saves them $5.9 million. His release could also be a precursor to drafting Brock Bowers in the 2024 NFL Draft.

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