Six Teams Set to Gain Salary Cap Space on June 2

It is that time of the year in the NFL with the calendar hitting the “magical” June 1 date, which for salary cap purposes is more or less, the final day that teams will worry about the salary cap ramifications of cutting a player, unless he has future guaranteed salary, in 2023. Starting on June 2nd the way that we account for releases on the cap changes. All future prorated money accelerates into 2024 if a player is cut rather than impacting the team in 2023. A few teams who used the “post June 1” designation on a handful of players will pick up some salary cap space on June 2. Here is a look at who will gain cap room this Friday.

Dolphins- $13.6M from the release of Byron Jones.

Miami will pick up a huge amount of much needed cap room now that Jones is officially off the books for the team. Prior to this we had estimated the Dolphins with just $1.3 million in cap room which certainly was not going to be enough to function this season. Jones had signed a lucrative e five year, $82.5 million contract with the Dolphins as a free agent in 2020. Jones started 30 games for the Dolphins, missing all of the 2022 season with an injury. Miami has to account for prorations from his $10.5 million signing bonus and a $13.25 million restructure bonus. His cap number will drop from $18.35 million to just $4.751 million for 2023. Miami will carry $10.053 million in dead money in 2024 for Jones. Jones may qualify for some added injury protection provided in the CBA and he sounds as if he is physically unable to resume playing in the NFL.    

Browns- $10.915M from the release of John Johnson and Jadeveon Clowney

The majority of savings for Cleveland come from the release of Johnson who signed a three year, $33.75 million contract as a free agent in 2021. Johnson’s release saved the Browns $9.75 million on the salary cap, with his cap number dropping from $13.5 million to $3.75 million. Most of the damage comes in 2024 when Johnson will count for $8.85 million on the cap. Though the numbers are not staggering they are a good example of the result of over prorating a contract for a player who doesn’t make it past the initial guaranteed years of the contract. The Browns prorated 78% of Johnson’s first two years which is a very high percentage for a player who fails to make year 3.

Clowney will save the team just $1.165 million with his cap hit dropping from $2.765 million to $1.6 million. He will count for $4.8 million on the Browns 2024 salary cap. Both of these charges were planned from day one as the Browns structured his contract in a way they were also going to use a June 1 release on him this year. The Browns had just under $5 million in room prior to these two coming off the books so they should now be solid for the rest of the season. Both released players are still free agents.

Cowboys- $10.9M from the release of Ezekiel Elliott

One of the least surprising outcomes of the offseason, this one had the makings of a June 1 release on the day the contract was signed in 2019.  Elliott was able to play his hand by threating a contract holdout after his 3rd season in the NFL which paved the way for Dallas to offer a contract extension with about $38 million in new guarantees. Elliott had one last Pro Bowl kind of season left in him before the Cowboys wound up with three years of underwhelming play at a bloated cost.  Dallas probably used the contract too often for cap relief, featuring a $7.5 million signing bonus, $13 million option bonus, and $8.6 million restructure bonus. Elliott’s cap number will drop from $16.72 million to $5.82 million. He will also count for $6.04 million on the Cowboys 2024 salary cap. Elliott is currently a free agent.

Commanders- $8.37M from the release of Chase Roullier

Washington waited until May to release Roullier, likely wanting to make sure he was able to pass a physical before being cut. Roullier signed a four year, $40.5 million extension with Washington in 2020, but his career wound up being riddled with injury, playing just 10 games total in 2021 and 2022, which were technically the first two years of his extension. He had received a $9 million signing bonus and the team prorated an additional $4.5 million last year because of their salary cap situation. His cap number will now drop from $12.42 million to $4.05 million and his 2024 cap number will also be $4.05 million. Washington is in need of cap room with just $4 million right now most of which will vanish once rookies are signed.

Cardinals- $4.215M from the releases of JJ Watt and Rodney Hudson

The Arizona Cardinals strategy the last few years was to acquire some great players who were past their prime, basically a strategy out of the Jets “very successful” 1993-1994 playbook. Watt would play in 23 games in two years while Hudson played in 16 games. Both players signed revised contracts with the Arizona to allow them to use the June 1 designation to help with the salary cap situation so the relief here is minimal.  Watt’s cap number will drop from $3.565 million to $2.4 million, a savings of just $1.165 million. Hudson’s cap figure will drop from $4.81 million to $1.76 million, a savings of $3.05 million. Hudson will almost surely receive an injury payment of $2.05 million which will knock the teams salary cap savings down by another $1.23 million but for the time being I don’t believe that counts on the cap. Watt will have a $4.8 million cap charge in 2024 while Hudson will have a $3.52 million cap charge. Watt and Hudson are both retired.  

Broncos- $3.75M from the release of Brandon McManus

McManus was just recently released and this felt more like a decision where the team was so close to June 1 anyway that they decided to use the designation here. McManus’ cap number will drop from $4.98 million to $1.23125 million in both 2023 and 2024. McManus quickly signed a contract with the Jaguars worth $2 million following his release from Denver. The Broncos had about $7 million in cap room prior to this.