After covering 2022 fantasy football busts for about a month, we are moving into some finances you may want to be aware of heading into 2023. There will undoubtedly be some veterans cut for their current team to save money on the cap. The five teams listed in the title are the five NFC teams most over the current cap needing to make some tough decisions to get under the number prior to 2023 kickoff.

Below you will see the five worst cap teams and players who carry a lower dead cap hit than their 2023 salary. Each could, and I emphasize COULD, be a cap casualty. There are many moving parts, and each of these teams can attempt to restructure deals. They can also work to change salaries into signing bonuses. These front office personnel make the big bucks and will bring a bunch of financial wizardry to the table to ensure their team stays competitive for years to come. We will also hit on some names that will probably be released even though their current team is not on the short list of worst cap numbers. 

@BobbyLamarco and Mitch will be chatting about these teams and their cap issues on the Tuesday night Razzball YouTube channel. So tune in and be a part of the discussion with your questions and comments. As always, if you want to discuss anything in this article, feel free to drop notes at the bottom of this thread.

New Orleans Saints – Begin the list with a team with no true QB1 heading into 2023. Andy Dalton, Jameis Winston, Taysom Hill? I do not see a QB1. In fact, I see two QB2 and some oddball, hybrid, wanna be QB in a small TE/tall FB body. I assume Winston will be cut unless the Saints are good with paying him in the $4-5M range while accepting another mediocre season. Seriously, $57M over the cap does not allow the Saints to do much outside of the upcoming draft. Read that number again…$57M! That is without a massive QB salary on the books. So, where do they cut fat? Outside Winston, only LT James Hurst ($4.7M savings) and TE Adam Trautman ($2.7M savings) move the needle heading into 2023. Either the Saints will go with a 45-man roster, cook the books, or basically clean house and begin a full rebuild from the ground up. We shall see how they approach that incredible challenge. And to think they are in a winnable division and may not be able to put a viable roster on the field is just mind-boggling. If Trautman is let go, I see Juwan Johnson as the beneficiary of additional receptions.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – The GOAT has retired (again), yet somehow the Bucs are $55M over the cap. A lot of their issue resides with the Lombardi Trophy they recently brought home. Now, they pay the fiddler. The question is,’ How?’  By releasing the top two LTs (Donovan Smith and Jedrick Wills), the Bucs can trim $13M+ off the bill. I am of the opinion very few NFL teams have three deep at LT, so the likelihood of both being cut is slim to none. Smith, with the almost $10M savings, may be the first jettisoned from the roster. The next cost casualty might be Shaq Mason, who brings $5.2M off the ledger. Again, can a team that wants to win really release two OL? We shall see with Tampa Bay. An obvious cut is Leonard Fournette, who was not 2022 TD Lenny, will save $3.5M and pave the way for Rachaad White to be the lead back. Fournette looked slow and tired down the stretch, and I am not sure he will fit the new offensive structure in Tampa Bay, but we will need to see who the new OC is before passing too much judgment. There are three pass catchers who could find their way to the wire on cut day: Russell Gage ($2.8M), Mike Evans ($2.3M), and Cameron Brate ($2.0M). I can see the bookends (Gage, Brate) make more sense than Evans. With the large number needing to be reduced, Evans may be a cap casualty, nonetheless. If, like the Saints, the Bucs are in bottom-up, rebuild mode, then I can see Evans as an easy choice as an older WR. If all three skill players are released, look for an uptick in opportunities for Chris Godwin and Cade Otton.

Minnesota Vikings – As a Packers fan, I am excited to see the reigning NFC North champion Vikings on this list. Spoiler Alert: My excitement quickly dissipates with the team right below Minnesota on this list. I digress. Back to the Vikings issue. To reduce their number by the necessary $21M, the Vikings will most likely cut ties with the aging Adam Thielen thus saving almost $6.5M. To me, this move is a no-brainer. From there, the decisions get a little tougher. I like what I have seen from K.J. Osborn and releasing Thielen almost guarantees Osborn stays, so his possible $2.7M savings is off the table. Dalvin Cook is heading toward age 28 (7th season), which tells me he has one more viable year before he drops off in production. I tend to lean away from RBs entering age 29 as I focus on younger backs. Throw in cost savings of C.J. Ham at FB (does Kevin O’Connell really utilize the FB position?) of $3.0M and two moves have saved almost half of the deficit. The next top three salaries up for discussion are along the O-Line (Brian O’Neill, Ezra Cleveland, Chris Reed) with a total potential savings of $10.7M. I sincerely doubt all three will be cut, but the Vikings appear to have some easy decisions and some depth offensive line they can reduce to get close to the cap number. I think they are in better shape than when I began typing. Onto Green Bay…here we go…I feel like I am about to throw up. 

Green Bay Packers – Where do I start? Well, the negative number is not as bad as I thought it would be heading into 2023. With the ludicrous Aaron Rodgers contract on the books, I thought we would be in a much nastier situation. So, I start off on the positive side until I find the top three names we can use to make cap space: Aaron Jones (RB1), David Bakhtiari (one of the top, if not the top LT in the NFL [when healthy]), and Jon Runyan (G, can play multiple positions). Seriously, we need to trim $17M and I am not a fan of doing so at the expense of any of the names on this short list, especially Jones even though he comes with a $10M+ savings. I love A.J. Dillon but am not sure he is a true RB1 and like him much better in his current complementary role versus trying to force him into lead-back responsibilities. Jones is arguably the best player on offense, so I do not see him being released. Couple that opinion with the fact Green Bay restructured many veteran salaries over the past two seasons and we need some magic dust to fix this situation. Honestly, I think the move is to trade Rodgers (Raiders or Jets) for cap savings and draft picks and start the rebuild with a $20M cap hit Jordan Love. If Love sucks (insert Valentine’s Day jokes here) move on in 2024. If Love hits, sign him long-term and let’s rock. Something has to be done and I think it starts with Rodgers so let’s see what the front office thinks and where the finance guys can make their money legally cooking the books.

Los Angeles Rams – This team went all in a few years ago and won it all. Now, they are in dire straits both financially and draft pick-wise. I do not think the Rams have a first-round pick until Sean McVay is in his 60s. All in worked, and they have the hardware to prove it. Now what, you ask? Start by finding a way to cut $15M off the current squad. I am curious to see the math if Aaron Donald does retire, but for now, this assumes he plays in 2023. For a team that looked like Swiss cheese on the O-Line, they may have to consider releasing a few interior line players. Outside of Tyler Higbee, who flashed a little at the start and end of the season, the next three highest dollar options to cut are Joseph Noteboom (T, $2.5M), Coleman Shelton (G, $2.5M), and Brian Allen (C, 2.0M). Even if the Rams see fit to force all three out, they still need to find $10M somewhere else. Higbee saves another almost $4M but will leave the offense with a huge need behind Cooper Kupp for catches. In my humble opinion, I see Higbee sticking around and am curious about what complimentary parts are released or restructured.

Other notable players I think will be released regardless of their team’s cap situation:

Robbie Anderson (ARI, $12.0M)

Ezekiel Elliott (DAL, $4.9M)

Carson Wentz (WSH, $26.2M)

Curtis Samuel (WSH, $5.8M)

Though these players have heavy cap hits, I do not see them being released. Maybe there is a restructuring to be worked, but I see all staying with their current team:

DeAndre Hopkins (ARI, $8.2M)

Tyron Smith (DAL, $9.6M)

Jared Goff (DET, $21.0M)

Christian McCaffrey (SF, $12.0M)

Thank you for coming back to read our stuff and be a part of the podcast by listening and commenting. We are here for you! We will come back next week with a look at NFC teams facing the same cap dilemmas.