The 2023 NFL free agent class isn’t necessarily the strongest we’ve seen in recent years, especially with a few obvious franchise tag candidates, but the talent pool can always grow with potential cap casualties around the league joining the mix.
Impact players may get let go for financial reasons, if they’re viewed as a poor fit in a new offensive or defensive scheme as a result of a coaching change or if a young player has been developing behind them and is set to take over their starting job.
Whatever the case may be, a handful of players who get released in the offseason will go on to be important contributors elsewhere, and 2023 looks to be no different. We identify a potential cap casualty for all 32 teams, with some big names potentially coming available before the 2023 league year begins on March 15.
JUMP TO A TEAM:
ARZ | ATL | BLT | BUF | CAR | CIN | CHI | CLE | DEN | DAL
DET | GB | HOU | IND | JAX | KC | LVR | LAC | LAR | MIA | MIN | NE
NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF | SEA | TB | TEN | WSH
Arizona Cardinals: WR Robbie Anderson
Salary Cap Details: $0 dead money, $12,000,000 cap savings
The Cardinals traded for Anderson at the deadline while giving up very little draft capital after he essentially walked off the field in Carolina during another frustrating offensive showing for the Panthers. He didn’t fare much better in Arizona, though, especially after quarterback Kyler Murray went down.
By the end of the year, Anderson was playing behind A.J. Green, who retired shortly after the season. The Cardinals should use 2023 as a rebuilding year with the No. 3 overall pick in hand and Murray recovering from a torn ACL. The savings from releasing Anderson are too good to pass up.
Atlanta Falcons: QB Marcus Mariota
Salary Cap Details: $2,500,000 dead money, $12,000,000 cap savings
The Falcons, at the very least, have their bridge starter in third-round rookie Desmond Ridder heading into 2023. In an ideal scenario, he develops into their long-term signal caller. Whatever plays out with Ridder, the Falcons can move on from Marcus Mariota and add to their $56.5 million in 2023 cap space, which ranks second in the NFL.
Mariota was benched after Week 13 and elected to get surgery on a nagging injury, a decision well within his right as he prepares himself for the upcoming offseason. It was clearly reasonable to expect he will be a free agent once again, but that seemed to rub head coach Arthur Smith and the organization the wrong way. In 13 starts, Mariota eclipsed 200 passing yards three times, with eight big-time throws to 15 turnover-worthy plays.
Baltimore Ravens: N/A
The Ravens are in an interesting spot with a handful of big contracts on their books — especially if they get a deal done with quarterback Lamar Jackson — and without any obvious cut candidates that provide meaningful savings.
Wide receiver Devin Duvernay likely won’t be outright cut, but he may be a pay-cut candidate after he earned the level three proven performance escalator for his 2023 salary. By making the Pro Bowl (original ballot) as a return specialist during his first three years, Duvernay earned a raise of more than $3 million. Unfortunately, the raise from the proven performance escalator does not come with guarantees and has often led to teams pushing for pay cuts, one notable example being New York Giants wide receiver Darius Slayton before the 2022 campaign.
Duvernay is a solid No. 3 or No. 4 wideout — and, obviously, a formidable return man — who stepped up amid injuries this past season, but Baltimore may not want to pay his new, elevated $4,304,000 million salary in full.
Buffalo Bills: N/A
The Bills acquired running back Nyheim Hines at the trade deadline, and while he provided a big spark to their return game, he wasn’t a huge factor on offense and is owed $4.79 million in 2023. However, with running back Devin Singletary a pending free agent, it would make sense for the Bills to work something out as opposed to cutting Hines. Interior defender Tim Settle didn’t make a huge impact in his first season with the club, but the team probably doesn’t want to weaken a position group that got bullied out of the playoffs by a Cincinnati Bengals reserve offensive line.
Carolina Panthers: LB Damien Wilson
Salary Cap Details: $1,075,000 dead money, $3,610,000 cap savings
Wilson was on his third team in three years after signing a two-year, $6.9 million deal with the Carolina Panthers this offseason, but he logged just 204 snaps on defense and earned sub-60.0 grades as a run defender and in coverage. The Panthers have a brand new coaching staff, including rising star defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero, meaning there isn’t an allegiance to any player on this roster going forward.
Chicago Bears: K Cairo Santos
Salary Cap Details: $1,500,000 dead money, $3,000,000 cap savings
A team is never going to pay a player more than their on-field production warrants, no matter their financial standing, but the Bears are devoid of talent and have a ton of cash/cap at their disposal — which, in theory, could protect some of the cheaper veterans on the roster.
That said, veteran kicker Cairo Santos missed five extra points and two field goals in 2022, earning him a 48.5 kicking grade that ranked dead last among 34 kickers with at least 10 attempts. Furthermore, while Santos has been quite accurate and consistent as a Bear, his range at this point is effectively 53 or so yards, with a handful of kickers across the NFL hitting from 10 yards beyond that. The Bears might as well get a jump start on looking into long-term, younger solutions at kicker for 2023.
Cincinnati Bengals: RB Joe Mixon
Salary Cap Details: $5,500,000 dead money, $7,291,176 cap savings
With a lot of tough decisions coming for the Bengals' front office in the near future, clearing around $10 million in cash and more than $7 million in 2023 cap by moving on from Mixon could help them retain some younger talent. Mixon’s 0.11 missed tackles forced per rushing attempt in 2022 ranked 72nd out of 87 running backs with at least 25 rushing attempts, his 3.9 yards per carry ranked 65th and he posted just 16 explosive rushes on 210 attempts.
Mixon did have a great performance against the Buffalo Bills in a dominant snow game outing in the divisional round, but that was after carrying the ball 11 times for just 39 yards against the Baltimore Ravens in the wild-card round. He ended his year with eight carries for 19 yards against the Kansas City Chiefs in the conference championship game.
Cleveland Browns: OL Joe Haeg
Salary Cap Details: $500,000 dead money, $2,000,000 cap savings
Haeg is a solid utility player who can fill in across the offensive line in a pinch, but, unfortunately, he logged just one snap all season because of concussion issues that ultimately landed him on injured reserve. With both starting guards signed to top-of-market deals, right tackle Jack Conklin recently signing an extension and center Ethan Pocic a pending free agent, the Browns may need to pinch some pennies elsewhere in terms of offensive line expenditure.
Dallas Cowboys: DI Neville Gallimore
Salary Cap Details: $240,989 dead money, $2,743,000 cap savings
The Cowboys have repeatedly tried to address the interior of their defensive line early in the draft, with Gallimore one of four interior defenders selected on Day 2 over the past four drafts. However, he hasn't shown overly encouraging signs of growth through three seasons.
Gallimore’s 36.4 grade in 2022 ranked 107th out of 112 interior defenders with at least 300 snaps played on the year, and his 29.7 run-defense grade ranked 136th out of 142 players at the position. Gallimore has failed to log 10 quarterback pressures in any season to start his career, with just 26 total on 513 pass-rush snaps.
Dallas’ bigger decisions may come on running back Ezekiel Elliott.
Denver Broncos: RB Chase Edmonds
Salary Cap Details: $0 dead money, $5,920,000 cap savings
Edmonds was included in the blockbuster trade that sent edge defender Bradley Chubb to the Miami Dolphins but was unable to bounce back in Denver after a rough stint in South Beach. Edmonds’ 2.2 yards after contact per attempt ranked 83rd out of 87 running backs with at least 25 carries on the season, his 0.1 missed tackles forced per attempt ranked 80th and he converted only 11.8% of rushing attempts into a first down or touchdown, which ranked 86th.
Detroit Lions: DI Michael Brockers
Salary Cap Details: $3,975,000 dead money, $10,000,000 cap savings
Brockers was routinely made a healthy scratch down the stretch of the 2022 season, and the veteran — voted a defensive captain by his teammates after just one season with the team — was brought aboard by general manager Brad Holmes in large part because of his leadership.
Brockers’ 40.6 grade in 2021 was a career low by a wide margin, and he was surpassed on the depth chart while turning 32 this season.
Green Bay Packers: LT David Bakhtiari
Salary Cap Details: $23,131,031 dead money, $5,722,718 cap savings
This will be a momentous decision for the Packers, which may be impacted by quarterback Aaron Rodgers‘ decision to either return for another title run or seek a trade. Bakhtiari is unquestionably one of the best pass protectors in the entire NFL when healthy — he earned a near-elite 87.8 pass-blocking grade in 2022, which was his lowest mark since 2015 — but his knee injury effectively warrants a daily status update at this point, which may make it hard to justify paying him $17.5 million in 2023 after logging 624 total snaps over the past two seasons.
Houston Texans: S Eric Murray
Salary Cap Details: $1,357,500 dead money, $4,000,000 cap savings
Murray’s status as a key special teams contributor may keep him around, especially with general manager Nick Caserio coming from a New England Patriots organization that put more emphasis on retaining quality special teamers than perhaps anywhere else.
That said, Murray logged just 118 snaps on defense amid the emergence of young contributors like second-round pick Jalen Pitre, so a pay cut may be required to stay in Houston.
Indianapolis Colts: QB Matt Ryan
Salary Cap Details: $18,000,000 dead money, $17,205,882 cap savings
Ryan’s 2023 contract situation was a major reason for his benching in favor of Sam Ehlinger for a few games this season, as the Colts couldn’t pass block well and feared an injury could lock in even more guarantees for 2023. It didn’t help that Ryan’s 63.0 passing grade was a career low, or that he finished with six big-time throws to 23 turnover-worthy plays.
As it stands, Ryan would have an additional $17.2 million become fully guaranteed a few days into the 2023 league year were he to remain on the roster, so he almost certainly will not.
Jacksonville Jaguars: CB Shaquill Griffin
Salary Cap Details: $4,000,000 dead money, $13,147,059 cap savings
Griffin sustained a back injury during offseason activities that he attempted to play through, but he struggled before ultimately being shut down and undergoing back surgery after Week 6. With fellow Jaguars cornerbacks Tyson Campbell and Darious Williams both ending the season playing really good football on the outside, Griffin appears to be the odd man out headed into 2023.
Kansas City Chiefs: EDGE Frank Clark
Salary Cap Details: $7,675,000 dead money, $21,000,000 cap savings
Clark showed up in the playoffs with three sacks through the first two rounds after six total on the season — not his first time turning on the jets when the lights are brightest. That being said, Kansas City pushed Clark to agree to a major pay cut before the 2022 campaign, and he had a regular season quarterback pressure rate below 10%, ranking 83rd out of 130 edge defenders with at least 100 pass-rush snaps.
Perhaps the two sides can again agree to a reworked contract, but with $10 million of Clark’s $20.5 million 2023 salary becoming fully guaranteed in the first week of the 2023 league year, that will have to happen sooner rather than later to avoid a release.
Las Vegas Raiders: QB Derek Carr
Salary Cap Details: $5,625,000 dead money, $29,250,000 cap savings
Carr has told the Raiders organization that he will not waive his no-trade clause for any team and that they will have to release him before Feb. 15 when $40.3 million in 2023-24 salary becomes fully guaranteed. Carr’s 65.4 passing grade and 70.8% adjusted completion percentage in 2022 were his lowest marks since his rookie season, and his 7.0 yards per attempt was a low mark over the past five years.
Las Vegas did well by not giving Carr a ton of upfront money in his extension signed last offseason, ultimately rewarding him with a $5 million raise for 2022 and nothing more. Still, losing a top half of the NFL quarterback for zero draft capital is never good roster management.
Los Angeles Chargers: OL Matt Feiler
Salary Cap Details: $2,000,000 dead money, $6,500,000 cap savings
Feiler is entering the final year of a three-year deal signed in 2021 and coming off a career-low 54.6 overall grade. However, he maintained a high floor as a pass protector and Los Angeles may not want to get rid of anyone who can help keep Justin Herbert upright. Nevertheless, when left tackle Rashawn Slater returns next season, the Chargers could move rookie sixth-rounder Jamaree Salyer — who impressed in his first season — inside to Feiler's left guard spot and save a ton of money on an otherwise expensive roster.
There has been much discussion of a recent article from The Athletic’s Daniel Popper in which he notes star wide receiver Keenan Allen could also be on the chopping block, with his $19 million in compensation for 2023 after missing seven games due to injury perhaps too much to stomach. As good as Allen is, it certainly seems feasible the team could approach him about a reduction in compensation, and maybe he declines.
Los Angeles Rams: C Brian Allen
Salary Cap Details: $4,200,000 dead money, $2,011,765 cap savings
Allen has $1 million in 2023 salary already guaranteed, and $2 million more is set to become fully guaranteed on March 19, but the Rams may not let that happen after Allen had another season derailed by injury — unfortunately, a familiar situation with the talented center who can quickly get to the second level as a zone run blocker.
The Rams also may have to re-sign center/guard Coleman Shelton if he chooses to exercise a player opt-out in his contract, which arguably should be a priority between the two decisions. From Week 11 through the end of the season, Shelton primarily took over the starting center role and earned a 78.6 pass-blocking grade, which ranked eighth over the span, and he offers positional flexibility whereas Allen has never logged a snap anywhere besides center.
Miami Dolphins: CB Byron Jones
Salary Cap Details: $14,804,000 dead money, $3,547,000 cap savings
Jones didn’t play a snap in 2022 after undergoing ankle surgery in March that, at the time, wasn’t expected to keep him out for many weeks, if any. With new Dolphins defensive coordinator Vic Fangio bringing a fresh look on that side of the ball — with heavy zone coverage principles — Jones isn’t exactly a great fit schematically, either.
Wide receiver Cedrick Wilson Jr. was a free agent addition last offseason who barely saw the field in his first year with the team, but $5 million of his $7 million 2023 salary is already guaranteed, which will probably keep him on the team.
Minnesota Vikings: LB Eric Kendricks
Salary Cap Details: $1,930,000 dead money, $9,500,000 cap savings
The porous Minnesota defense could be even worse in 2023 given the age of a lot of their top contributors from this past season, but the hiring of defensive coordinator Brian Flores and the potential growth of recent draft picks should inspire some optimism.
Flores’ defense is a polar opposite of the system deployed by Ed Donatell, and perhaps tasking Kendricks with more man coverage responsibilities could help him bounce back from his career-low 46.4 coverage grade in 2022. However, Kendricks may also be viewed as a player who has lost a step now on the wrong side of 30.
New England Patriots: TE Hunter Henry
Salary Cap Details: $5,000,000 dead money, $10,500,000 cap savings
Henry had a productive first season in New England, most importantly hauling in nine touchdown receptions and dropping just one pass on 78 targets. This past season, he earned the lowest receiving grade of his career (61.4) and by far his worst run-blocking grade (48.3).
With Bill O’Brien returning as offensive coordinator, perhaps he wants two solid veteran tight ends to work with, enabling him to line up with various different personnel groupings and helping to get an anemic Matt Patricia-led offense back on track. On the flip side, perhaps the team wants to put that $10.5 million in cash savings to work elsewhere to help improve the unit.
New Orleans Saints: QB Jameis Winston
Salary Cap Details: $11,200,000 dead money, $4,400,000 cap savings
Winston lost his job to Andy Dalton — which he was understandably not happy about — and the Saints hosted Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr on a visit already as they look ahead to 2023. The writing is on the wall here for Winston, who had five interceptions and three fumbles (one lost) in just three starts in 2022.
All indications are that the team plans to designate wide receiver Michael Thomas, who had his contract tweaked, as a post-June 1 release on the first day of the 2023 league year (March 15). This is why, despite the fact Thomas is still under contract as of today, we have him listed on our top 100 free agents list.
New York Giants: WR Kenny Golladay
Salary Cap Details: $14,700,000 dead money, $6,700,000 cap savings
Golladay's tenure with the Giants has been an unmitigated disaster to the point where fans sarcastically applauded when he recorded a catch at MetLife Stadium this season, which happened twice in all of 2022. Golladay hardly played all year and logged just six snaps over two playoff games despite a bevy of injuries to the team's wide receiver group.
After two seasons, Golladay will end up earning just under $1 million per reception.
New York Jets: WR Corey Davis
Salary Cap Details: $666,668 dead money, $10,500,000 cap savings
There has been discussion of the potential for a release of edge defender Carl Lawson, and the Jets certainly have more depth along the defensive line than at offensive line or wide receiver, but Lawson was productive in 2022. He was coming off a torn Achilles and logged 49 quarterback pressures and seven sacks, earning a 72.8 pass-rush grade in the process.
Davis is the big-bodied option on the Jets with shorter, faster rookie contract players around him, and he once again missed a chunk of time in the middle of the year before finishing the season off in underwhelming fashion. Davis had two receptions or fewer in four of his last six outings, and the Jets may look to feature Offensive Rookie of the Year Garrett Wilson while providing Elijah Moore with more consistent opportunities to keep him happy.
Philadelphia Eagles: RB Trey Sermon
Salary Cap Details: $0 dead money, $1,102,994 cap savings
The Eagles have a ton of pending free agents and have to extend quarterback Jalen Hurts to a monster new deal, so the lack of obvious cut candidates isn’t ideal.
Sermon was brought aboard after he was waived by the San Francisco 49ers, but he logged just eight total snaps in Weeks 4 and 5 before failing to see the field again.
Pittsburgh Steelers: CB William Jackson III
Salary Cap Details: $0 dead money, $12,176,471 cap savings
Washington traded Jackson at the deadline after he expressed frustration with his deployment, and he was promptly placed on injured reserve with a back injury before taking a single snap in Pittsburgh.
The Steelers may find a way to keep Jackson on a reworked deal in 2023 after trading for him despite the expectation he was going to be waived, but it won’t be on his current contract.
San Francisco 49ers: N/A
The 49ers don’t have any obvious cut candidates of significance and will have to get creative with their host of big contracts and lack of a pick before No. 99 in this year’s draft. However, if Trey Lance or Brock Purdy can be a consistent starter, the surplus value at the quarterback position alone will enable them to keep their core intact for a few more years.
Seattle Seahawks: G Gabe Jackson
Salary Cap Details: $4,762,223 dead money, $6,500,000 cap savings
Jackson logged a career-low 667 snaps and earned a career-worst 55.0 grade in 2022, with sub-60.0 grades as both a run blocker and pass protector. The long-time stalwart started his career with six straight pass-blocking grades above 70.0 but has failed to reach the 60.0 mark in back-to-back seasons and will be 32 in Week 1 of 2023.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: TE Cameron Brate
Salary Cap Details: $2,955,000 dead money, $2,030,000 cap savings
The Buccaneers' roster is in a state of flux following the retirement of quarterback Tom Brady, but folks probably shouldn’t expect a complete teardown of this roster. Tight end Cameron Brate has agreed to several pay cuts after signing a six-year, $40.8 million deal back in 2018, but this could be the end of the road after he earned a 53.2 overall grade and tallied his fewest receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns since his rookie 2014 season.
A pick for a potential surprise cut would be left tackle Donovan Smith, with his release saving the team $15.25 million in cash and $9.95 million in 2023 cap space. Smith earned a career-low 58.1 grade and led the NFL in penalties this season.
The Buccaneers also probably regret extending running back Leonard Fournette last offseason. He has $2 million in salary guaranteed for 2023 with $2 million more becoming fully guaranteed on March 17. Fournette tied for the lowest yards per carry in the NFL this season, at 3.5.
Tennessee Titans: T Taylor Lewan
Salary Cap Details: $0 dead money, $14,841,000 cap savings
Lewan himself has publicly shared speculation that the Titans will move on from the 2014 first-round pick who tore his ACL for the second time in Week 2 of this season. Lewan may ultimately retire, as well.
He ranked eighth among left tackles in PFF wins above replacement from 2015-19, his 87.6 pass-blocking grade over the stretch was ninth among all tackles and his 4.2% pressure percentage allowed placed sixth among qualifiers. Tennessee has a ton of work to do to overhaul its offensive line, especially if Lewan doesn’t return.
Washington Commanders: QB Carson Wentz
Salary Cap Details: $0 dead money, $26,176,471 cap savings
The Commanders ended up effectively trading two third-round picks and paying $28.3 million dollars for seven starts, a 58.9 passing grade and 6.4 yards per attempt. Head coach Ron Rivera has stated publicly that fifth-round rookie Sam Howell is the presumed starter for 2023, which is really more just him saying Wentz won’t be there next year.
Washington has a lot of resources at its disposal following this cut, but the organization needs to figure out long-term contracts for interior defender Daron Payne and edge defender Montez Sweat.