Every year, I get flooded with e-mails and texts that start with "The Chargers could save money by cutting (insert random player's name)." People that dislike certain players tend to think that because the team could potentially save money by releasing a player, they should.
I was going to list out for you every player that the team could save money by releasing, but the list is significantly shorter if I do it the other way around. Here's a list of players on the San Diego Chargers roster that would cost the team more in dead money than they would with their 2014 cap hit:
That's it! Those are the only guys on the team that would cost the team more to be gone than to stay. Consider them super-duper safe to make the 2014 roster.
Nobody knows what the NFL's 2014 salary cap will be yet, because they haven't decided. In the last three years it has been $120 million, $120.6 million, and $123 million. Somewhere around $125 million is a safe bet.
Right now, the Chargers have roughly $126 million spent against the cap and that may, or may not, include some left over dead money from Jared Gaither (I don't believe it does, in which case they'd be closer to $130 million).
In a nutshell, the team will need to shed some money, both to have some chips to play with in free agency and also to sign their draft picks.
The Chopping Block
Heading into the final year of his contract, Clary is owed $6.25 million but would cost just $1.7 million if released.
There is zero chance he will stay and play on that contract. I'm sure the front office has explained to him, or will explain to him, that he can either renegotiate (if they're willing) or pack his bags.
Almost the exact same situation as Clary, Hardwick is heading into the final year of his contract and is owed $6.15 million but would cost just $1.75 million against the cap if released.
There is a small chance that Nick will stay and play on that contract, but there's a much greater chance of renegotiation or retirement.
Eddie is owed $6 million in the final year of his deal, but would cost just $1.5 million against the cap if released. He was about as a good of a slot receiver as there was in the league last year, and he seems to be a favorite of head coach Mike McCoy, so I would expect him to renegotiate this deal. That'll add a few years to it (which helps Royal) and make it more cap-friendly in 2014 (which helps the team).
Personally, I think it's a little early to give up on Derek Cox, but if the team wanted to move on after one season they could save themselves about $1.6 million in cap space this year. That probably wouldn't be enough to cover a replacement for Cox, if Tom Telesco is to believe that Cox could still be a good starting CB.
It's certainly a possibility, but I wouldn't count on Cox getting the ax just yet.
I toyed with he idea of including Jarret Johnson on this list, as the team could save $2.5 million in cap space by releasing him, but he's way too important to let walk. Freeney, who was only signed after the injury to Melvin Ingram, seems easier to lose now that Ingram is healthy.
In year 2 of a 2-year contract, Freeney will either cost the team $5.125 million against the cap (if he stays) or $1.625 million against the cap (if he's released). That's a $3.5 million bet that he can stay healthy and effective at 34 years old. Would you take it?
Last offseason, when it would've saved the team about $1.4 million in cap space, I said there was no way that McClain would make the team. Then Chris Gronkowski got injured and they had no backup plan.
This offseason, releasing McClain frees up $2.5 million in cap space. I'll take my chances again: There is no way that McClain makes the Chargers this season without some sort of renegotiated contract, which I do not believe he will be offered.
I actually don't know if Downtown Vinny Brown is staying or going. He saves the team about $1.4 million in cap space if he leaves, but he's a fairly valuable 4th receiver with starting experience behind injury-prone receivers like Keenan Allen, Malcom Floyd, and Eddie Royal. I'd bet on him staying, but I won't be surprised if he's gone either.