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The 5 O’Clock Club: The Commanders’ estimated $83m in available cap space for 2024

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NFL: JAN 09 NFC Wild Card - Buccaneers at Washington Football Team

The 5 o’clock club is published from time to time during the season, and aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.

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Salary Cap Space

Every day, I see the figure of $83m in estimated salary cap space for the 2024 season quoted on Twitter and in articles published by various media sources.

The figure is wrong.

Everyone is using the same source: Over the Cap. I have found OTC to be the best source for salary cap information available, but to use the information published on the site correctly, you need to understand how and when the site processes data.

For example, the $83m cap estimate for 2024 still includes the salary cap impact of Andrew Norwell’s contract (and its 3 void years). When he is eventually cut, the ‘23 and ‘24 available cap space estimate will increase, probably by about $1.5m.

But there are also two players who are NOT included in the current estimate of cap space: first-round pick Emmanuel Forbes, and 2nd-round pick Quan Martin, neither of whom has yet signed his contract. My best guess is that they will both officially sign on 21 July, when rookies report to training camp, or soon after. When they do, the impact of those contracts will be to reduce the estimated available cap space for 2023 and 2024, and those changes will subsequently be reflected in the OTC estimates.

Using OTC as a resource, it appears as if the cap hits for these two players will be:

If you apply adjustments for Norwell, Forbes and Martin, then the current estimate of $83m in available 2024 cap space changes quite a bit:

  • Current estimate: $83m
  • Norwell adjustment: + $1.5m
  • Forbes & Martin adjustment: - $7.5m
  • Revised 2024 cap space estimate: $77m

My point here is simply to demonstrate that cap space is a constantly moving target, and that the cap space estimates that you read — even if you read the same number in multiple places — are often incomplete or inaccurate due to the timing of when adjustments are made.

By way of example, a couple of years ago, early offseason articles all over the internet repeatedly used a figure of ~$60m in cap space for the upcoming season, but failed to note that only about 35 players were under contract. Many people were shocked when Washington went into free agency with less than $35m in cap space; $25m or so in cap space had ‘disappeared’ due to the re-signing of 18 players ahead of the start of veteran free agency. That $25m change had a huge effect on the offseason ‘mock free agency’ work that many bloggers had engaged in.

So, don’t get married to cap space figures that you read or hear. They are always merely estimates; most people use a single source (OTC) for the estimates, and very few of them look into the details to identify the factors that will cause the estimate to change.

With that in mind

The Athletic recently published an article about the biggest concerns facing each franchise from the point of view of its GM. When I read the article, it correctly identified the offensive line unit and the quarterback situation as Washington’s top issues:

My worries, as I’m sure are echoed by fans, are with an offensive line that has been a mish-mash since Rivera’s staff took over in 2020, and at the quarterback position, where the Commanders are on their fifth starting QB in four years.

I’m not sure this offensive line is any better than the one they inherited in 2020, it just happens to be their own guys now.

This insight is so commonplace that I almost hit the delete button on the article — no particular insight to be found here. But when I read the paragraphs that followed, I thought there was a little nugget at the end that was worth highlighting:

There are a lot of people, families included, whose futures are riding on [the QB] decision [in Washington]. The new offensive coordinator has his work cut out for him, fast-tracking the QB’s development, and the new owner, well, he will be looking for answers in 17 regular-season exams. Hopefully he is equipped to ask the right questions.

The prize in the end is spending the $83 million the Commanders are projected to have available, per Over The Cap, for the 2024 season. They are well-positioned for the future.

As we already know, the $83m figure is incorrect, but the sentiment stands even if the number is $77m or some other more accurate figure in that neighborhood.

The point here is that whoever is making roster construction decisions in 2024 is “well positioned” as he or she will have Washington’s full allotment of 7 draft picks (no comp picks) and around $70m in cap space available for free agency.

Here is the list of key Washington players and their ages (the list is not comprehensive) who are set to become free agents at the end of the ‘23 season:

  • Kamren Curl (25)
  • Chase Young (25)
  • Saahdiq Charles (25)
  • Antonio Gibson (26)
  • James Smith-Williams (27)
  • Khaleke Hudson (27)
  • Montez Sweat (28)
  • Curtis Samuel (28)
  • Cody Barton (28)
  • Jeremy Reaves (28)
  • Abdullah Anderson (28)
  • Kendall Fuller (29)
  • David Mayo (31)
  • Jacoby Brissett (32)
  • Efe Obada (32)
  • Tyler Larsen (33)
  • Cornelius Lucas (33)

As you can see, whoever the decision-maker is in 2024, because of the timing of contract expirations, will have plenty of scope to either retain the current core of the roster or commit to a major change in 2024-25. There’s a choice to be made.

While $77m sounds like a lot of cap room, it probably allows the GM to commit to either holding onto the core roster that Ron Rivera has built in 4 seasons, or commit to changing its nature in free agency and the draft. What I mean by that is that if a GM commits the cap space to extending Curl, Young, Charles, Gibson, Smith-Williams, Hudson, Sweat, Samuel, Barton, Reaves, and Fuller, then there won’t be money available to use free agency to upgrade the roster by signing talented players away from other teams.


Where should the Commanders spend their cap space?

This poll is closed

  • 15%
    Re-sign Kamren Curl
    (237 votes)
  • 6%
    Re-sign Montez Sweat
    (108 votes)
  • 75%
    Re-sign both of them
    (1177 votes)
  • 2%
    Let them both go; hope for comp picks
    (42 votes)
1564 votes total Vote Now


Which key player under the age of 29 do you think the GM should prioritize most highly to re-sign in 2024 (or sooner)?

This poll is closed

  • 38%
    DE Chase Young
    (529 votes)
  • 15%
    RB Antonio Gibson
    (209 votes)
  • 5%
    WR Curtis Samuel
    (77 votes)
  • 3%
    LB Cody Barton
    (54 votes)
  • 37%
    None of the above
    (521 votes)
1390 votes total Vote Now


Which unproven starter, backup or special teams player do you think the GM should prioritize most highly to re-sign in 2024 (or sooner)?

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    OL Saahdiq Charles
    (73 votes)
  • 13%
    DE James Smith-Williams
    (188 votes)
  • 19%
    LB Khaleke Hudson
    (257 votes)
  • 39%
    S Jeremy Reaves
    (528 votes)
  • 3%
    DL Efe Obada
    (42 votes)
  • 3%
    C Tyler Larsen
    (49 votes)
  • 15%
    None of them
    (210 votes)
1347 votes total Vote Now


Which player still under contract in 2024 do you think the GM should plan to cut in 2024 (or sooner)?

This poll is closed

  • 51%
    OT Charles Leno ($12m cap savings)
    (700 votes)
  • 25%
    TE Logan Thomas ($6.56m cap savings)
    (340 votes)
  • 14%
    WR Dax Milne ($1m cap savings)
    (191 votes)
  • 8%
    None of them should be cut
    (117 votes)
1348 votes total Vote Now


What approach most closely describes the approach that you believe should be utilized by the GM in the 2024 offseason?

This poll is closed

  • 65%
    The team has a good core group; build on it and draft well
    (830 votes)
  • 20%
    (258 votes)
  • 8%
    The team needs more high-end starters, which means being active in veteran free agency to sign great players from other teams
    (108 votes)
  • 2%
    The roster is a mess; blow it up; trade for draft picks; unload bloated salaries; start over again
    (27 votes)
  • 4%
    I have a completely different view of what’s needed
    (52 votes)
1275 votes total Vote Now