Surprising NFL Transactions in 2023/24

Updated: August 10th 2022

RealitySports Online auctions are one of the easiest ways to inject immediate starter talent into your lineup without having to give up significant draft capital. Locking in great fantasy players to multi-year deals is the way to be a competitive team year over year. However, what might be a great deal in year one sometimes can become an anchor by years three and four if the value no longer matches the production. Whether that is due to a player’s age or a change in the offense they play in.

Knowing that the NFL (Not For Long) is constantly changing its poster players, we can look into the contracts of key players at each position to help better prepare for where the landscape is shifting over the next 12-24 months. Each of the cap relief and dead cap figures below are provided by OverTheCap. “Cap relief” is the value above or below zero (0) dollars that will be given to a team if the player is cut in a given year. A “relief” of $5 million on a $10 million dead cap means that the team is receiving $15 million in savings but $10 million is unrecoverable for cutting said player.

Quarterbacks

Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders

2023 Cap Relief: $29.3M , Dead Cap: $5.6M

The Raiders reunited Derek Carr  with his college receiver by trading for Davante Adams and then gave Adams a big new contract. Hunter Renfrew also got a new contract to continue to strengthen the offense. However, with new Head Coach Josh McDaniels we do not know what his commitment to Derek Carr past the current season really is. We have seen the AFC West become an arms race at quarterback with Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert, and now the Broncos bringing in Russell Wilson. The Raiders may look at their situation and wonder if the fourth best quarterback is enough to win a division. We have seen big trades of franchise quarterbacks recently and the contract situation in its current state gives the Raiders the opportunity to explore other options if they want.

Jared Goff, Detroit Lions

2023 Cap Relief: $20.7M , Dead Cap: $10M

When the Lions absorbed Jared Goff’s contract from the Rams the sands began to fall on when he eventually would be replaced/cut by the team with most of the guarantees already paid forwarded by the Rams. In 2023 the Lions could save over $20 million by moving on from Goff and going with a first-round rookie selection in what should be a bounce back year for talent at the quarterback position. If that happens, the odds of Goff receiving another guaranteed starting job is slim. Not that he couldn’t compete and win another job, it would just be more likely that he is a backup somewhere else. Most superflex leagues he likely is not receiving a large, multi-year deal currently but just be aware that unless he is really cheap long-term, you should approach Goff as more of a one-year rental.

Carson Wentz, Washington Commanders

2023 Cap Relief: $26.2M , Dead Cap: $0

Goff and Carson Wentz are forever tied to each other as the first and second pick in 2016 and they both have had similar career arcs thus far. So of course if Goff is a concerning cut candidate in 2023, Wentz is also going to be a concern for investing into the long term. Wentz has zero (0) dead money going forward so while the community may not have liked the Commanders trading draft selections for him there is no long term commitment to him and they could easily go back to the position for a rookie or different veteran option next season. After moving to three teams in three years I could not see him receiving a starting role for a fourth different team in four years. Wentz may be a serviceable QB2 in superflex leagues this year, but he is a one-year rental player from this point on in his career.

Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans

2023 Cap Relief: $17.8M , Dead Cap: $18.8M

Most were shocked when Ryan Tannehill received a $118 million deal back in 2020 after being a bust in Miami and rebounding only slightly in Tennessee, but he has been an average to above average starter for most of his current deal. However, last year most would consider a disappointment and another mediocre year in 2022 could have the Titans front office looking for options going into next year. Tannehill’s dead money is much higher than either Goff or Wentz but if the Titans really want to get out, a post-June 1st designation drastically changes the layout of the money with $27 million in relief and only $9.6 million in dead money. Tannehill is another superflex quarterback that unless you are contending this season and need his services you should be looking to flip to a contender in need for whatever price can be found.

Running Backs

Ezekiel Elliot, Dallas Cowboys

2023 Cap Relief: $4.9M , Dead Cap: $11.9M

Ezekiel Elliot is likely the first player that came to mind when the topic of big cut candidates in 2023 is discussed. While not as great of a dead cap to relief scenario as many other players in this article, the Cowboys are already $5.4 million over the projected cap and will be looking ahead to find money for both CeeDee Lamb and Trevon Diggs re-signs. The owner loves Zeke which is likely the only thing that would explain why he is with the Cowboys next season. It is unlikely that another team would use him like he has been featured in Dallas so avoid paying his current contract values in 2023 and beyond.

Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans

2023 Cap Relief: $12.5M , Dead Cap: $3M

This would be one of the bigger shocks to the NFL if the Titans were to release Derrick Henry next season. Looking deeper though, Henry would be going into the final year of his contract at 29 years old with not a lot of dead cap and a whole lot of savings. He is also coming off an injury last year that cost him half a season so how he performs in 2022 will likely have an influence on what the front office wants to do with the roster moving forward. Since Tannehill was listed earlier, the team could have an opportunity to hit the reset button in 2023 with the offense if 2022 is not going the way they planned.

Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns

2024 Cap Relief: $12.2M , Dead Cap: $4M

The Browns are hard to project what they are going to do for their roster over the next two (2) years since we don’t even know when their new quarterback will be available to play. Nick Chubb is likely safe for 2023, unless the Browns are desperate for cap space but we should not be signing up for much past next season. The Browns need to start saving money in other areas of the team to afford Deshaun Watson’s massive $230 million contract and like Derrick Henry next year, Chubb’s final year in 2024 comes with very little dead cap compared to salary relief. If he was not re-signed or tagged going into this off-season Chubb may be one of the bigger ticket items in your auctions. Just be mindful of giving anything more than two (2) years under the current conditions.

Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals

2024 Cap Relief: $10.4M , Dead Cap: $2.8M

I put Chubb and Joe Mixon in the same category of safer for 2023 but watch out for 2024 based on the situation around them. The Bengals have already shown little interest in offering a new contract to Jessie Bates who was franchised for 2022. The expectation of having to pay massive contracts for both Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase is likely to have the front office looking ahead to where they can cut corners. Especially under an owner that is notorious for not paying superstars to begin with, the budget is not likely there for a “would be” 28 year old Mixon. If there was a solid backup plan behind Mixon there would even be a chance that the team would move on next year but for now the Bengals are trying to get back to the Super Bowl.

 

Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers

2023 Cap Relief: $2.8M , Dead Cap: $4.3M

Austin Ekeler’s situation culminates all the potential reasons the previously mentioned running backs could be released. He also does not have the draft capital that the other running backs had coming into the league, though at this far in his career that likely plays less of a factor. The Chargers just re-signed Mike Williams and will be expected to set the quarterback market when Justin Herbert’s new contract is inked. That, plus the Chargers selected Isaiah Spiller this past draft put Ekeler in the crosshairs of a potential cut candidate in the near future. A contending team may just ride his value out but most teams should either be trading or avoiding Ekeler on any long term contract.

Wide Receivers

Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2023 Cap Relief: $14.5M , Dead Cap: $9.2M (Post-June 1st)

This is the biggest “What If” for this exercise as it would seem crazy that the Buccaneers would move on from their 7 time 1,000 yard receiver. However, if Tom Brady does in fact leave after this season, whether through retirement or free agency, the Bucs once again return to their usual quarterback purgatory with the second worst cap situation at $55 million over the projected cap! Mike Evans’ contract is also long overdue to catch up with the rest of the wide receiver market as he is set to make $13 million when contemporaries are earning nearly double. All this to say that if the Buccaneers see themselves as a teardown in 2023 they may see Evans as a luxury they can no longer afford and could ship him to another team while his value is still high.

Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers

2023 Cap Relief: $14.8M , Dead Cap: $6.9M

Where Ekeler plays at a position that can often be supplemented with replacement level talent leading to his potential cut in the near future, Keenan Allen’s speculation is purely based on age and dollars. As previously mentioned the Chargers just signed Mike Williams to a new deal and Herbert’s will be coming up. That $14 million in 2023 or $23 million in 2024 could go a long way to making more room. At 30 years old it is unlikely the Chargers would give Allen another big extension also. Allen would likely land with another team who is looking for veteran talent but what are the odds that he lands in as ideal of a situation as San Diego/Los Angeles have been over the last decade.

Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati Bengals

2023 Cap Relief: $8.9M , Dead Cap: $1.4M

Whether playing second fiddle to A.J. Green or then to be bumped to third chair after the Bengals drafted Tee Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase, Tyler Boyd has become a forgotten commodity for most fantasy rosters. He is still productive but his value to the Bengals is likely not much past this season. Whether he signs a team friendly extension to remain the third option in Cincinnati or moves on to final test free agency there’s too much risk right now to be signing Boyd to a long term extension.

Other wide receivers that likely were not going to be earning big contracts but nonetheless should be avoided as more than just rental players based on their current contract situations include:

Robert Woods, Tennessee Titans

Corey Davis, New York Jets

Robby Anderson, Carolina Panthers

 

Tight Ends

Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs

2023 Cap Relief: $9.5M , Dead Cap: $4.2M

One year after removing Tyreek Hill from the Chiefs offense we could be seeing the end of the Travis Kelce-era in KC as well. He and the Chiefs just agreed to push even more money into this season, lessening his committed money from 2023 onward. At 33 years old, Kelce is by no means done as a top tier talent but for how many more seasons can he be a candidate to the TE1 crown? If he doesn’t play with Patrick Mahomes how much of a hit does that do to his value? A contending team may pay an absorbent amount of money for his services this year and maybe next but any three (3) or four (4) year contracts runs the risk of holding a very expensive dead cap for an either unproductive or retired Kelce.

Hunter Henry, New England Patriots

2023 Cap Relief: $10.5M , Dead Cap: $5M

Based on last year’s productivity most would say that Jonnu Smith, not Hunter Henry would be a cut candidate if either of the two had to go. Looking at Smith’s contract though, his release would only save $1 million in cap room making it likely that he will be around for at least the 2023 season as well. The Patriots are always looking to get out a year earlier than a year late and if Smith does not fall flat like he did last year the team could look to get a cheaper option behind him rather than paying Henry his $9.5 million. It’s a big “if” but if any team is going to do whatever they feel is right with roster management, it’s the Patriots.

Darren Waller, Las Vegas Raiders

2023 Cap Relief: $6.8M , Dead Cap: $0M

The Raiders keep suggesting that Darren Waller is one the next guys to get paid. The problem is that they just traded for Davante Adams and gave both him and Hunter Renfrew big re-signs and like the Derek Carr suggestion earlier, there may just not be enough on the plate to go around. Again, new Head Coach Josh McDaniels may see Waller as a Gronk-like substitute in his offense but he may also look to branch out to a more receiver balanced offense. With no dead money left in either of his remaining two years under contract, Waller is a cut/trade candidate at any point if the value is there.

Dalton Schultz, Dallas Cowboys

2023 Cap Relief: $0M , Dead Cap: $10.9M

Mike Gesicki, Miami Dolphins

2023 Cap Relief: $0M , Dead Cap: $10.9M

I am lumping Dalton Schultz and Mike Gesicki together as they are both playing on the franchise tag in 2022. We have no idea if either will come to any agreement with their current team for a long term contract after the season, remember that franchise tag players after early July cannot negotiate a new contract and will have to wait till the next off-season to try again. We also know that moving into a new system does not always result in continued fantasy success for players. Especially for Schultz who is in one of the better tight end spots for fantasy right now the odds are even lower that he would hold his production if signing elsewhere. Both are a huge risk to sign for long-term commitments right now since we do not have much to go on past 2022.

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