2023 Roster Thoughts - Entering Offseason

I posted my first roster thoughts post of the 2022 offseason on January 16, 2022, so I figured I might as well get started on this offseason today. Maybe it will be cathartic after that brutal loss this weekend.

As of this writing, there have been no changes to the coaching staff. I'm going to do my best to ignore that elephant in the room in this first offseason post. Let's get to it.

Active Contracts

The Chargers currently have 41 players under contract for 2023. Here they are, along with their cap hits from Over the Cap:

Right off the bat, we can see that salary escalation is part of the 2023 cap challenge. Consider that the Chargers have 8 players whose cap numbers will increase by at least $2.5M from 2022 to 2023:

OTC is using $225M as its estimated standard 2023 cap amount (not including rollovers/adjustments). As things stand, the cap escalation for those 8 players alone will take 22.6% of the 2023 cap! (Not their total cap hits... just the increase in their cap hits over 2022...)

Incentive Bonuses

Ekeler, Everett, and Carter earned some incentive bonuses over the past few weeks. I assume those are accounted for in the calculation of the Chargers cap rollover amount from 2022 to 2023. (Carter is a UFA, but those incentive bonuses have to hit the Chargers cap.)

Proven Performance Escalator (PPE)

Normally, I would address PPE driven salary increases at this point, since it might be early for OTC to have incorporated them into the Chargers cap table. As defined at OTC, PPE is a fourth-year salary escalator for players on drafted rookie contracts not drafted in the first round.

For the first time I can remember, this means I can actually identify a positive from the dismal 2020 Chargers draft after the Herbert pick at 1.6 (ILB Murray, RB Kelley, WR Reed, S Gilman, WR Hill). None of those players are eligible for PPE increases in 2023.

Cap Casualties

First, I assume there will be one cap casualty -- LG Feiler. He played well in his first year with the Chargers in 2021:

  1. His overall PFF grade was 74.0, which ranked #13 among 104 guards with at least 100 blocking snaps.
  2. He allowed "just" 25 pressures in 737 pass blocking snaps, 1 pressure every 29.5 pass blocking snaps. His 97.8 PFF pass blocking efficiency tied for #27-28 among that same group of 104 guards.
  3. His PFF run blocking grade was 78.5. which ranked #10 among that same group of 104 gaurds.

Unfortunately, he regressed in every one of those areas in 2022:

  1. His overall PFF grade was 54.6, which tied for #69-70 among 101 guards with at least 100 blocking snaps.
  2. He allowed 40 pressures in 853 pass blocking snaps, 1 pressure every 21.3 pass blocking snaps. His 97.2 PFF pass blocking efficiency tied for #54-57 among that same group of 101 guards.
  3. His PFF run blocking grade was 50.0. which ranked #83 among that same group of 101 gaurds.

It makes you wonder how much of his 2021 performance was tied to playing beside Slater. Regardless, the Chargers will save $6.5M in 2022 cap space by releasing him. Rookie Salyer's performance at LT after Slater's injury this season makes it a nobrainer to move him into the starting lineup at LG, the position he was drafted to play in the NFL, in 2023.

There are no other obvious cap casualties at this point, given that Michael Davis played himself out of that status in 2022, especially with the injury uncertainty surrounding JC Jackson for the 2023 season.

The team could decide to release PK Hopkins, but they won't save much by doing so. They would save almost $1.5M on Hopkins himself, but would then have to sign another PK to replace him. For example, suppose the Chargers sign Dicker to a minimum salary contract; for a player with 1 credited season, that minimum salary is $870K in 2023. So in that scenario, the Chargers would save only about $600K against the 2023 cap. They may very well make that decision, but it really isn't a needle mover here. For purposes of this post, I will assume they keep Hopkins.

Other Exclusions from 2022 Final Roster

I think these players are offseason/camp fodder and/or will be beaten out. So I do not expect them to make the final 2023 roster and will exclude them from my final roster projection in this post:

  1. IDL Christopher Hinton
  2. S Raheem Layne
  3. ILB Damon Lloyd
  4. TE Stone Smartt
  5. T Andrew Trainer
  6. C Isaac Weaver

Working Roster Core

Removing those 7 players leaves these 34 players who are under contract as the core of my projected 2023 final roster:

Positionally, that group breaks down as follows:

Offense (15):

  • QB (1) - Herbert
  • RB (3) - Ekeler, Kelley, Spiller
  • FB (1) - Horvath
  • WR (3) - Allen, Williams, Palmer
  • TE (2) - Everett, McKitty
  • OL (5) - LT Slater, C Linsley, G Johnson, G/T Salyer, G Jaimes

Defense (17):

  • Edge (3) - Bosa, Mack, Rumph
  • IDL (3) - Johnson, Joseph-Day, Ogbonnia
  • ILB (3) - Murray, Niemann, Ogbongbemiga
  • CB (5) - Davis, Samuel, Jackson, Taylor, Leonard
  • S (3) - James, Gilman, Woods

Special Team (2):

  • PK (1) - Hopkins
  • P (0) -
  • LS (1) - Harris

This breakdown illustrates just how shallow this roster is currently. These notable 2022 players are UFAs and not included here:

  1. RT Pipkins
  2. WR Carter
  3. IDL Fox
  4. IDL/ILB Van Noy
  5. ILB Tranquill
  6. SCB Callahan
  7. S Adderley
  8. P Scott

There is a lot of work to do to assemble a competitive roster.


The Chargers will not have any compensatory picks in the 2023 draft after their free agent spending spree last offseason. They have all 7 of their standard draft picks. OTC currently projects the collective 2023 cap hit for the Chargers picks at $8,398,463.

This assumes all 7 draft picks make the final roster, which seems likely since (a) that has typically happened with the Chargers, and (b) the Chargers need to fill as many roster positions with cheap rookie contracts as they can, given their cap challenge.

Free Agents

That leaves 12 more final roster positions that must be filled with free agents (assuming the Chargers do not somehow end up with more than 7 rookie draft picks).

Given their need to add cheap contracts, for purposes of this post, I will assume they fill those spots with players signed to veteran minimum contracts, as follows (broken down by salary levels in the CBA):

  • 1 player with 7+ accredited seasons
  • 3 players with 4-6 accredited seasons
  • 2 players with 3 accredited seasons
  • 2 players with 2 accredited seasons
  • 2 players with 1 accredited seasons
  • 2 players with 0 accredited seasons

It is probably unreasonable to assume 12 minimum salary free agents, so we should consider this as more of a floor projection. Obviously, it is extremely unlikely the team will be able to sign any of its impending free agents like RT Pipkins, IDL Fox, ILB Tranquill, or SCB Callahan for veteran minimum contracts, but I don't really want to delve into that in this post.

The collective cap hit of those 12 minimum salary contracts is $11,545,000.

Practice Squad

Teams could have up to 16 players on their practice squads for 2022, and I assume that will carry over to 2023. To be conservative, I assume the Chargers will carry the maximum number of 16 players.

The CBA allows 2 practice squad players to be activated every week for reasons other than COVID, and an unlimited number of players as COVID replacements. Those players get paid at NFL minimum salary level for each week they are activated.

In 2023, the NFL minimum salary is $750K, which equates to a weekly salary of $41,667, and the minimum practice squad salary per week is $12K.

The Chargers activated practice squad players a total of 28 times in the 2022 season. I will round that up to 2 players per regular season game to be conservative for this projection, for a total of 34 activations.

That means adding $29,667 (difference between active minimum salary and minimum practice squad salary per game) in cap hit per activation. For 34 activations, that is $1,008,678.

Injury Replacements

The team will also need to reserve some cap space for 2023 in season injury replacements.

I don't know for sure how the team thinks about this and plans for it, but suppose 6 players get hurt and are out for the season at some point. Not an unreasonable number since the Chargers already had at least 6 players on IR or the NFI list before their first game in 2022, and we know it got worse from there. Suppose 2 of them go down with 2/3 of the season left, 2 with half the season left, and 2 with 1/3 of the season left. That means the team would need 6 replacement players who would be active for the equivalent of 3 full seasons... and they also have to pay the 6 injured players. $3M is just a guess. It could be higher, so it may not be conservative enough.

2023 Cap Rollover

Spotrac shows this rollover at $2,620,966. OTC does not present it cleanly, as far as I know, but you can calculate what they assume based on the data they do show, and that seems to show they are projecting a rollover of $1,834,704. Neither site explains the basis for these figures. Since I generally trust OTC more, I will assume their more conservative rollover amount is correct.

2023 Salary Cap Charges

Based on everything above, here is a projection of the Chargers 2023 salary cap charges:

(This table is updated from the original post. I discovered I had mistakenly used the cap figure for the 41 active contracts rather than the 34 after roster exclusions. The net result is an improvement of ~$14M.)

I had not previously mentioned that dead cap money, but that is a carryover from roster moves in 2022.

Functional Cap Space

The Chargers are well into the red at this point, without making any further moves with current contracts other than releasing Feiler.

(This table is updated from the original post due to an error described in the previous section. The net result is an improvement of ~$14M.)

This illustrates that the Chargers enter the 2023 offseason with a significant cap challenge to solve, especially since I may have been unreasonably low on cap hits for the 12 minimum salary free agents.

The 2023 cap could end up settling higher than $225M, which would help. There is some good discussion on this in the comments section of this post.

There are some obvious moves that will presumably be structured to help:

  • Herbert will sign a contract extension this offseason, and his cap number could be reduced. That said, there isn't much room there, since he is only slated to have a cap hit of just under $8.5M this season. So I don't expect much relief there.
  • Bosa is an obvious candidate to be restructured, as undesirable as it may to push cap hits for him into future seasons.
  • Allen is an obvious candidate for something. That could be an extension that lowers his 2023 cap hit substantially, or he could be traded or even released, though trading or releasing him would surprise me.

We can talk more in depth about these and other options in future posts and in the comments for this one.

Thoughts? Hopefully, I overlooked something that will make this picture look better!

This FanPost was written by a member of the Bolts From The Blue community and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Bolts From The Blue editors or SB Nation.