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A detailed look at the Commanders’ salary cap after 3 frenzied days of free agent activity

How much is left?

Dallas Cowboys v Washington Commanders Photo by Jess Rapfogel/Getty Images

We’re starting to get some detailed numbers on free agent contracts via Over the Cap, so I thought it would be a handy time to review details of some of the deals and summarize the team’s salary cap position.

The numbers reported here may not exactly match headline numbers you saw on tweets earlier this week. Typically, the info in the tweet comes from the player’s agent, and is designed to make it sound as positive for the player as possible. On the other hand, OTC’s numbers usually come from a perusal (direct or indirect) of the contract details.

UPDATE: Daron Payne

QB Jacoby Brissett

Per OTC, Brissett’s contract is a 1-year deal worth $8m. Being a one-year contract, the structure is very simple and the full $8m is charged to the cap in 2023:

  • Signing bonus: $4.5m
  • Base Salary: $3m
  • Workout bonus: $500K

C/G Nick Gates

In the comments section 3 days ago, I offered my best guess as to the structure of the Gates’ contract based on my belief that he was signed to fill the Wes Schweitzer role, and that his contract would be modeled on the one given to Schweitzer three years ago.

Looking at OTC’s numbers, I feel pretty good about my guesstimates.

OTC reports the Gates deal as a 3-yr contract worth $16.19m (APY of $5.4m) rather than the $18m reported on Twitter. His signing bonus is $5m (I projected $4m), and his workout bonuses are $900k per year (I estimated $1m per year). In comparison to my estimated cap hits of $3m, $6m, $9m, the actual cap hits are:

  • ‘23 - $3.27m
  • ‘24 - $5.46m
  • ‘25 - $7.47m

The main difference was the lower cap hit in Year 3 due to the contract being nearly $2m lower than announced on Twitter.

If the Commanders cut Gates after 2023, the cost would be ~$9m for one season. If they cut him after 2024, the cost would be ~$10.7m (APY of $5.35m). Basically, as long as he plays at least two seasons, Gates will cost just a bit more per year than Andrew Norwell (2 yrs, $9.96m).

LB Cody Barton

Barton is one of the rare players who is actually more expensive than the initial twitter report (there was only one) suggested.

Twitter said 1-year, $2.6m, but OTC adds a $1m signing bonus to Barton’s $2.5m base salary and reports that he has a 1-year cap hit of $3.5m.

CB Cameron Dantzler

Because Dantzler was picked up on waivers rather than being signed as a free agent, his cap hit was known immediately. It is $2.74m in the final year of his rookie contract.

S Jeremy Reaves

Likewise, as a Restricted Free Agent, Reaves’ cap hit was known immediately.

He will count $2.63m against the cap in 2023 if nothing changes.

There is a very good chance, however, that Reaves agrees to a long-term extension (possibly in the range of 3-yrs, $10m). An extension would likely not change his ‘23 cap hit significantly, but it might be a bit lower. Put that in the low-priority wait-and-see bucket.

CB Danny Johnson

I’ve been curious to see how much Johnson would get on this extension. He did a little better than I had expected him to.

In 2022, Washington paid Danny Johnson $632,500.

His extension is 2-years, $4.91m, with $2.75m guaranteed. This shows a level of commitment to the 6th year player who first joined the Redskins as a UDFA in 2018 and has never gotten more than $750K in a single season before.

Johnson’s cap hits are:

  • ‘23 - $2.29m
  • ‘24 - $2.62m

LB Khaleke Hudson

Hudson signed a 1-year contract worth $1.5m, with a $300k signing bonus.

WR Marcus Kemp

Kemp gets $1m on a one-year contract with a $50,000 signing bonus.

Kemp seems to have been signed as a replacement for Cam Sims, who had a cap charge of $2.59m last season, making the new guy look like a thrifty signing.

C Tyler Larsen

Larsen got a vet minimum contract of just over $1m for one season, with $152,500 bonus; in effect, it’s the same deal he played on last year.

Who’s missing??

At the time of writing, two of Washington’s freshly signed players were still missing from Over the Cap — DE Efe Obada and OT Andrew Wylie.

Efe Obada had a cap hit of just over $1m in 2022. He played well, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get a bump in pay, but I doubt that Obada, who, in 2022, played just 390 snaps as a rotational defensive lineman and another 200 snaps on special teams would have had a robust market in free agency. I’m glad to have him back, but I’ll be surprised to see him get more than vet minimum, and shocked if he makes over $1.5 on his 2023 contract.

Andrew Wylie’s contract has been widely reported as being a 3-yr deal worth $24m. We’ll soon see if that dollar amount is accurate.

A fairly conservative contract structure for the reported headline numbers would probably see a Year 1 cap hit of around $6.5m, while a very aggressive structure that included void years might be closer to $3m.

The two players together should have combined 2023 cap hits in the range of $4m to $8m.

Overview of cap position

Over the Cap currently estimates the Commanders to have $8.655m in available cap space, but that number does not yet account for Obada and Wylie.

As mentioned immediately above, the two should have a combined cap hit of between $4m and $8m, which means that the Commanders front office should have somewhere between $500K and $4m available after the contracts for both players are accounted for.

Is that enough?

In short, no, that is not enough cap space, but it doesn’t create a large or urgent deficit. The Commanders will need cap space available later on for two reasons:

In late April, the team will need an estimated $3.5m to sign its draft picks.

By early September, the Commanders, like every NFL team, will need “contingency” cap space available to sign free agents as injury replacements during the season. Typically, teams need around $4m to $5m to start the season.

Overall, then, the team will need around $8.5m, meaning that the front office will need to create a few million in cap space, but there is no hurry. The only thing that would create urgency is if the Commanders front office wants to sign a free agent in the near future but does not have enough money to do so.

  • Cap space can be ‘created’ by releasing players or renegotiating their contracts (asking them to take a pay cut).
  • Cap space can also be ‘created’ by restructuring a player contract, which entails simply converting a portion of his base salary into signing bonus, which is then pro-rated over the remaining life of the contract, increasing cap space in the current year by decreasing it by an equal amount in future years.

Potential releases/renegotiations

Looking at the roster, the following players appear to be candidates for release or renegotiation (due to having a high salary combined with either inconsistent performance or significant injury history...or both):

  • RG Andrew Norwell ($2.28m savings if cut)
  • C Chase Roullier ($4.32m savings if cut)
  • LT Charles Leno ($8m savings if cut)
  • OT Cornelius Lucas ($3.45m savings if cut)
  • TE Logan Thomas ($5.18m savings if cut)
  • K Joey Slye ($1.85m savings if cut)

Potential Restructures

When a player has a high base salary and future years on his contract (or good performance that can be rewarded with additional years on the contract) he is a candidate for a restructure.

  • Jonathan Allen ($14m base salary)
  • Curtis Samuel ($10.1m base salary)
  • Montez Sweat ($11.5m 5th year option)

As you can see, there is a lot of scope for cap savings. For example, Washington could create $8m in 2023 cap space, potentially meeting all the team’s cap space needs, through the simple expedient of converting $12m of Jonathan Allen’s base salary to signing bonus.

It’s quite possible that the team won’t need to make any decisions until they start to draft players, at which point some redundancies could be obvious, making choices easier.

It may also be that no cap-driven decisions need to be made until the end of training camp. If that’s the case, then we may not see anything happen to create cap space before the final 53-man roster is formed.