This morning's BFTB Daily Links featured an article from ESPN's John Clayton about 2013 cap space. Reading this article prompted me to take a look at the Chargers' 2013 cap situation in more detail and determine how much more cap space the Chargers' new front office might be able to create to re-vamp the roster.
First, let's see if the math in Clayton's article was accurate. The table in the article lists the Chargers with $8.7 million of free cap space after a carryover of $995,000 from this past season. Last year's total salary cap was $120.6 million and according to Clayton's article it is expected to increase by $300,000 to $120.9 million for the 2013 season.
I added up all of the Chargers cap obligations for 2013 and came up with a total of $112,550,861*. Assuming a salary cap for 2013 of $120.9 million, this would leave the Chargers with $8,349,139. Adding the carryover of $995,000 from last season, the available cap space for 2013 would be $9,344,139. So, my numbers have the Chargers with about $600,000 more of cap space than the amount listed in the table of Clayton's article. That's not a real significant difference, so let's just split the difference and say that prior to any roster cuts the Chargers' available cap space is approximately $9 million.
For comparison's sake this would put the Chargers at 17th of the 32 NFL team in terms of available cap space.
Now let's take a look at what cuts could be (and should be) made to give Tom Telesco some more cash to work with in 2013:
|Player||2013 Cap Hit||2013 Cap Hit If Cut||Potential Savings|
If every one of the above players were cut, the Chargers would have an additional $18,463,334 of cap space giving them a total of approximately $27.5 million of available cap space. By comparison, this would rank the Chargers 6th of 32 teams in available cap space**.
The biggest question marks from the names above are Jeromey Clary, Eddie Royal, Jared Gaither and possibly Larry English. I would guess the rest of the guys are as good as gone.
- Jeromey Clary - If not 2013, he will certainly be cut the following year. He is not worth close to the $5.7 million they will be paying him and the $2.3 million they could save this year by cutting him is probably enough to make the cut worth it. The only reason the Chargers may keep him is to maintain some semblance of continuity since there are so many other holes on the offensive line. It also might be difficult to replace two tackles in one off-season.
- Jared Gaither - Normally with a contract like this, the player would be staying. However, numerous reports have stated that the team is done with him so the cut seems likely. If he can somehow make amends and stick around as a backup/competition I certainly wouldn't complain.
- Eddie Royal - This one is a tough call. I would cut him since he has proven to be injury prone and ineffective in recent years, plus they can save $1.5 million. That said, maybe the new front office will think they can get more out of him.
- Larry English - One of the biggest draft busts in recent history, English is likely gone. I suppose they might keep him as OLB depth if they can't find anyone better in the draft and can't find a better place to spend the $1.275 million.
Despite the question marks, I would cut all of the above players and create the maximum amount of cap space given all the holes on the roster. The biggest challenge for the Chargers would then be to find two starting offensive tackles and two starting guards (hopefully re-signing Vasquez as one of them). That would certainly be a lot of turnover and I suppose Clary might have to be retained if its not feasible to find two new starting tackles.
The Chargers will also need a new backup RB and blocking TE, but those needs can be filled cheaply. They can bolster the WR core by retaining Alexander and a cheap signing like bringing back Spurlock or a later round draft pick, but given the other holes on the roster, I don't see WR as a high priority. On defense they need to find (or re-sign) two starting CBs (unless they think Wright or Gilchrist is ready for one of the jobs), a strong safety, a starting MLB to play next to Butler and some more depth on the defensive line and OLB positions. Oh, and they need to re-sign Novak or get a new kicker.
All of these needs can not be filled through one draft, so free agency will be just as important this year if the Chargers are to be competitive in 2013. Hopefully these cuts will give the Chargers enough cap space to begin rebuilding the offensive line and secondary. The Chargers will need to allocate approximately $5 million to the 2013 rookies, so they would have roughly $22.5 million to use toward free agents (or re-signing players) in 2013.
Lastly, lets take a quick look at the following season. If all of these cuts are made in 2013, the Chargers will have nearly $37 million of cap space available in 2014 (including 2013 rookies, but not including free agents signed in 2013) and that is before any 2014 player cuts of guys like Rusty Meachem. As you can see, the Chargers should have plenty of space to work with going forward so hopefully they can get a little creative and sign some top talent using smaller 2013 base salaries with 2014 guarantees or escalators as incentives.
*Disclaimer: All of my contract figures were sourced through Spotrac or Rotoworld so apologies if any salary figures are not accurate.
**Yes, I'm aware that is before other teams make cuts of their own, so that ranking may not end up entirely accurate.