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Los Angeles Chargers: Salary Cap Edition – Extreme Makeover

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This is the second article in a six-part series looking at the teams who are currently projected to be $20 million or more in the red in cap space for 2024, and the path forward for them to get under the cap. The first team we covered was the New Orleans Saints, and they’re linked below. The full list of teams includes:

  • New Orleans Saints: -$98.7 million
  • Los Angeles Chargers: -$57.3 million
  • Buffalo Bills: -$52.7 million
  • Miami Dolphins: -$51.3 million
  • Denver Broncos: -$26.8 million
  • Dallas Cowboys: -$21.4 million

While we don’t have a formal projection for the 2024 cap yet, it’s safe to say that number will end up north of $240 million, growing by more than $16 million for the second consecutive year. Before we dive into the Chargers, here are some quick salary cap-related notes and definitions, as this can be a complicated subject.

Salary cap: The cap is the maximum any NFL team can spend on player salaries. Essentially, every team gets the same pie and can choose how to split it up, with various accounting mechanisms to manipulate how much cap space is available in any given year. 

Dead Money: A term for money that has already been paid to a player and will count against a team’s salary cap no matter what. Most of the time this comes from signing bonuses, either from when a deal is initially signed or from restructures. When a player is cut, all the dead money remaining on their contract accelerates to the current year. 

Restructure: An accounting trick teams can use to manage the cap in a given year. Signing bonus money is always prorated (spread equally) over the remaining years of a contract. That means teams can convert all but the minimum of a player’s base salary to a signing bonus and reduce the cap hit at the expense of increasing dead money in future years. 

June 1 designation: Another accounting trick for teams — after June 1 when a player is cut the dead money is split over two years instead of all accelerating to the current year. Teams can designate two players per year as “June 1 cuts” and cut them before that date without the dead money hit, although they don’t get the resulting cap savings until after that date either. 

Void years: Essentially “dummy” years that are added onto a deal, usually to help spread out the cap hits with restructures. They are not actual contract years that teams or players are required to fulfill. 

If you’re a visual learner like me, Over The Cap’s team cap calculator is a handy little tool to play around with and get a sense of how all of these terms and numbers shake out in real life. I leaned on it heavily when breaking down the cap situations and path forward for these teams. 

With the homework out of the way, let’s get into it…

Los Angeles Chargers: -$57.3 million

The Chargers were on this list last year, too, and that was before signing QB Justin Herbert to an enormous contract. Every team dreams of the flexibility afforded by having a star quarterback on a rookie contract, and Los Angeles has now officially wasted that window of Herbert’s career. They are old, expensive and bad — the dreaded trifecta of front-office mismanagement. It’s a big reason why the 63-21 loss to the Raiders sealed the fate of HC Brandon Staley and GM Tom Telesco last week. A new head coach and general manager will have to chart a way forward, and the silver lining is the hardest part is done with Herbert locked up. There’s still a lot of work to do, however, and it starts with making some hard decisions about some big-name veterans on the roster. 

Changing Of The Guard

Four Chargers players have cap hits well above $30 million in 2024, including OLBs Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack and WRs Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. All four are getting up there in years; Bosa is the youngest at 29 in 2024, Williams turns 30 next season, Allen will be 32 and Mack will be 33. The Chargers have to do something with those four contracts to get under the cap next year and have money to work with. 

Los Angeles has four options. They can cut each player outright, and there are significant savings available with that route: 

  • Mack: $15.3 million dead money, $23.25 million in savings
  • Bosa: $22.2 million dead, $14.4 million in savings
  • Allen: $11.7 million dead, $23.1 million in savings
  • Williams: $12.5 million dead, $20 million in savings


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