• Philip Darrow

AFC Salary CAP Breakdown

Twitter: @philip_darrow


The 2022 Salary Cap is expected to be set at $208.2 million and we will look at each division and how their cap space affects their moves in the upcoming offseason. As always this is just what I see they can do to clear cap room and not all moves may occur. But these are the ones most likely to happen based on chatter I have seen or read along with my personal evaluation of their cap situations. Effective Cap space is their total cap space minus about $10 million for rookie draft class and operating costs for injury signings throughout a season.


Updates will be included as players are traded and signed via free agency.
 

Denver Broncos


Working in reverse order of the standings we look first at the Broncos. They come into 2022 with just over $38 million in cap space and 51 players under contract.

The Broncos are again looking for a QB but are set up to walk into 2022 with their new head coach Nathaniel Hackett and could clear up to a total of $77 million in cap room with about $66 of that available after operating expenses and rookie class totaling $11 million pulled aside.


Their biggest need outside of the obvious QB is followed closely by DB to bolster the secondary and then LBs, Edge, and O line further. They have built up solid depth at WR [Patrick and Sutton extension], TE, and Javonte Williams looks to take over this backfield in 2022 with Mike Boone set up for now to be the backup. Getting Glasgow signed on a 2-year deal helps keep the offensive line in good shape for 22.


With 5 picks in the top 100, they can address depth needs there while looking to Free Agency or a Trade to get their QB [most are Assuming Rodgers but I can see them trading for Love or finally giving Lock the offense under Hackett to see what they have with him before his contract expires]. (Russell Wilson has since been traded to Denver, updates coming soon.)


Draft Capital:

  • 1st round #9

  • 2nd round #40

  • 2nd round #64 from Rams

  • 3rd round #75

  • 3rd round #96 from Rams

  • 4th round #111

  • 5th round #143 from Lions

  • 5th round #150

  • 7th round #247 from 49ers

 

Los Angeles Chargers


The Los Angeles Chargers are next. They come into 2022 with $56 million in cap space and only 46 players signed with 26 free agents. They have already been linked to Mike Gesicki to give Herbert more weapons on the offense and what they do with Mike Williams looms large. (Mike Williams has signed a 3-year extension to stay in LA.)

Draft Capital:

  • 1st round #17

  • 2nd round #48

  • 3rd round #79

  • 4th round #119

  • 5th round #158

  • 6th round #194

  • 6th round comp#216

  • 7th round #233

  • 7th round comp #252

  • 7th round comp #253

  • 7th round comp #255

 

Las Vegas Raiders


Next, we look at the Las Vegas Raiders who have about $19 million in cap space with 51 players signed in 22 for now.

With the loss of Ruggs, due to his incomprehensible decision to drink and drive, the Raiders will need to look to add to their WR group again. This class lends itself to finding depth and value in it. They also have 29 free agents and will see quite a bit of turnover on the o-line and defensive side of the ball. They can add about $46 million in extra cap space and go into 22 then with $64 million in cap room but $54 million effective cap space to leave room for rookies and operating costs through the year.


Their new coach Josh McDaniels will need to work to overhaul the roster on both offense and defensive line while addressing the defense which was their biggest weakness throughout the year. Carr looks to get an extension keeping him locked up with the team which leaves Mariota likely moving on to try and find a backup role elsewhere.


Waller is now 30 and they should look to extend him as he’s under a cheap team-friendly deal and is easily one of the top TEs in the league when on the field. Now fully healthy, they should lock him up before he gets on the field and under McDaniel’s offense puts up numbers that drive his cost to sign an extension up.


Draft Capital:

  • 1st round #22

  • 2nd round #53

  • 3rd round #86

  • 4th round #122

  • 5th round #162 from Patriots

  • 5th round #163

  • 7th round #224 from Panthers

 

Kansas City Chiefs


And finally, the Division winner: Kansas City Chiefs. With the Hitchens release, they come into 22 with $11 million in cap space, with 54 players signed and will need to keep looking for cap relief.

The Chiefs came up short against the Bengals in the AFC championship but remain as the top dog in the AFC as long as Mahomes is there. The Hitchens release surprised some but was expected as they work to clear some cap space for the offseason. They have 30 Free agents and can clear an additional $47-69 million in cap space with some simple restructures and a couple of extensions. For this, I will assume the lower amount as I think they save the Mahomes restructure for 23 when it’s over $30 million in savings.


This will mean a total of $58 million to work with as they work to address holes on the roster as they have multiple starters on the defense hitting free agency as well as some of the offensive line and the WR room. I would expect them to again pursue a free agent WR like Juju as they look to bolster their WR group especially since Pringle, Robinson, Kemp, and Fortson are all free agents. They could address this in the draft with how deep it is, but they are built for a win now and rookies tend to need a year or two to fit into that offense. The signing of Justin Watson in deeper leagues is one to watch if he pushes up the depth chart during camp.


With Hill set to be a Free agent in 23, they will likely get him to sign an extension to keep him locked up and driving the offense. This can save them about $12 million in cap space depending on how they work the deal.


Draft Capital:

  • 1st round #30

  • 2nd round #62

  • 3rd round #94

  • 4th round #131

  • 6th round #190 from Ravens

  • 7th round #230 from Vikings

  • 7th round #240 from Raiders

  • 7th round #248

  • 7th round comp #258

 

Cleveland Browns


Working in reverse order of the standings we look first at the Cleveland Browns. They enter 2022 with just over $23.5 million in cap space with 52 players currently signed in 2022.

The main question will be in 2022 do they extend Baker Mayfield or look to move on from the former OU QB. They already shipped out OBJ who is catching everything thrown his way from Stafford. They are still a run-first offense and will have some key o-line and young defenders to extend to help alleviate what is a relatively small cap balance they must work within 2022. Their three biggest needs are likely going to be WR, D-line as well as offensive line depth.


I would not be shocked if they delay their QB decision until 2022 and let Baker play out his rookie deal. Worst case scenario they can tag him after the 2022 season and work on an extension then when the cap should raise with the expected TV deal hitting.


If they ignore Baker and work to extend those listed above with the restructure of Hooper, they can add another $40 million to work with and have about $79 million then to work within free agency. They do not have a lot of big-name guys hitting free agency with Clowney being the biggest name of the bunch. He has quietly been playing decently for them, while not the Clowney that was taken #1 overall, he is still making an impact and could get re-signed on a team-friendly deal.


Draft Capital:

  • 1st round #13

  • 2nd round #44

  • 3rd round #78

  • 4th round #103 from Lions

  • 4th round #114

  • 5th round #153

  • 6th round #192

  • 7th round #220

 

Baltimore Ravens


Next up are the Baltimore Ravens who come in with $8.7 million in cap room and 53 players signed in 2022.

The Raven's priority will be locking up Lamar long-term and combined with the moves noted above they can walk into Free Agency then with $77 million in cap space. They have three 4th round picks this year to help build roster depth up again as they have been one of the most injury-riddled teams this season.


Their biggest offseason needs to address are the offensive line, Safety, defensive line, LBs, and DBs. Simply put their defense struggled this season as age and injuries caught up to them and their offensive line needs reinforcement to get them back to the run-first identity that opens up the passing game for them. I would expect them to draft heavily on the defensive side in what is projecting to be a deeper defensive player draft.


They will attack free agency to try and find those valuable players, as they have in the past, that can provide them with better depth.


Draft Capital:

  • 1st round #14

  • 2nd round #45

  • 3rd round #76

  • 3rd round comp #98

  • 4th round #106 from Giants

  • 4th round #115

  • 4th round #124 from Cardinals

  • 4th round comp #136

  • 4th round Comp #138

  • 6th round #196

 

Pittsburgh Steelers


Next, we look at the Pittsburgh Steelers who come into 2022 with $28.7 million in cap space. They have 60 players signed.


The Steelers will be looking for a Veteran QB to fill the void once Ben retires and they still will be paying Ben for 2022 to the tune of just over $10 million against their cap. They will need to address the neglected o line for the next QB as well. They also need to help their Defense as Devin Bush has been a disappointment, as in the deal they made with the Broncos to get him, they seem to be the loser as we reexamine that trade even with the Broncos missing on Lock with one of the picks they got from that deal.


Najee Harris has shown he can be a beast and if he gets an actual offensive line, he can put up some amazing numbers which will also help their next QB. They will look to acquire a veteran and one name to keep an eye on would be Jimmy G for their 2nd round pick to allow Trey Lance to start for the 49ers next year.


If they make the moves above, they can walk into free agency with about $75.2 million in cap space and $65 in effective cap space. Screw a rebuild, they can quickly be right back on top soon in the AFC with Tomlin at the helm. They could use that space to aggressively rebuild the offensive line to start, and with their first pick add a top rookie OT into the mix as well. With Claypool, Diontae, Najee, and Pat Freiermuth they have a great young group of weapons on the offensive side that just needs a QB to unleash them fully.


Draft Capital:

  • 1st round #20

  • 2nd round #52

  • 3rd round #84

  • 4th round #135

  • 7th round #222 vs NYJ

  • 7th round #238

 

Cincinnati Bengals


And finally, the Division winner and Super Bowl runner-ups: The Cincinnati Bengals who come into 2022 with 46 players signed and just over $49 million in cap space.

The Bengals will have many holes to address coming into 2022. They will need to add starters along the O-line to protect Burrow and fully rebuild the defense, especially in the secondary.


Cutting Trae Waynes will be the first step to address this defense and if they do this along with the other moves listed above, they can walk into free agency with just under $82 million in cap room with about $72 of effective cap space.


Their secondary is porous, and they need to address it as quickly as possible while also ensuring they keep burrow upright and rebuild the offensive line. Addressing these two areas will eat up a large chunk of their cap space as they look to get back to the Super Bowl. However, they may now attract veterans looking for a title shot at a discount with Burrow at the helm.


Draft Capital:

  • 1st round #31

  • 2nd round #63

  • 3rd round #95

  • 4th round #132

  • 4th round comp #140

  • 5th round #172

  • 6th round #209

  • 7th round #223 from Giants

  • 7th round #249

 

Jacksonville Jaguars


Working in reverse order of the standings we look first at the Jaguars. They come into 2022 with $56.8 million in cap space with 50 players signed and new coaching staff coming in. Losing James Robinson late in the season to the Achilles tear is devastating but seeing Cam Akers return in season from the same injury leaves hope that he could be ready before next season starts.

The Jaguars moved on from Urban, after that walking disaster, started off by not allowing Trevor to take all the reps in training camp, putting the entire offense development behind for the team. Losing Etienne in the preseason hurt as well leaving them short on offensive weapons. The hits kept coming as they lost Chark and Dan Arnold.


This offseason they should continue to build around Trevor and focus on the draft early on trading back from the overall 1 if they end up keeping that pick. Their depth needs would be best served if they can trade back with someone like the Jets or Giants but neither will likely be looking for QB to move up and likely would not pay their picks to draft one of the top DL out there as they have multiple needs to fill on their rosters as well. The WFT, Broncos, and Steelers could be teams to watch though if there is a QB who stands out above the rest they wish to jump up for. All three should be in the market for a QB this offseason and depending on Free Agency could be players to move up.


The major needs for this team will be O line, Db, and WR help.


Draft Capital:

  • 1st round #1

  • 2nd round #33

  • 3rd round #65

  • 3rd round #70 from Panthers

  • 4th round #102

  • 5th round #155 from Vikings

  • 6th round #179

  • 6th round #187 from Seahawks

  • 6th round #197 from Eagles

  • 6th round #198 from Steelers

  • 7th round #219

  • 7th round #232 from Ravens

 

Houston Texans


Next, we look at the Houston Texans who will likely trade Watson this offseason while handing the reigns over to Davis Mills as the rookie has gotten better as the year progressed. They start with $16.6 million in cap space with 46 players signed and already $35 million in dead cap.

The emergence of Mills and the trading of Watson expected will give them additional draft capital and cap room to work with as they have 32 players hitting free agency. With the moves above they can combine to have about $72 million then in cap space and leave about $8 million of that to sign rookies and assume they will have about $58 million to work with to leave space for operating during the year with injuries.


I would expect them to try and re-sign Rex Burkhead [while this was being written he signed the one-year extension], Justin Britt, and Malik Collins. Beyond that the other Free Agents, maybe 4-5 others but otherwise I expect a lot of turnovers again on this roster as they rebuild.


Draft Capital:

  • 1st round #3

  • 2nd round #35

  • 3rd round #67

  • 3rd round #77

  • 4th round #124

  • 6th round #163

  • 6th round #181

  • 6th round #192

 

Indianapolis Colts


The Colts are next who will come into 2022 with $36 million in cap room and 53 players signed but 52 active as TY Hilton has a void year for 2022. 37 players will hit free agency with their O-line featuring prominently in that group.

The most glaring needs will be the offensive line, TE, and WR as they build around JT, Pittman, and Wentz. They need to add someone to replace Ty Hilton and getting a TE will help the offense be more well-rounded. Both their starting LT and RG are Free agents and can be costly. However, they can clear an additional $46 - $57 million in cap space and have then up to $83 million to fully address their needs, reserving $10 million for rookies and operating costs [total of $93 million]. I can see them being active in free agency to address another WR, Juju Smith Schuster would fit well with Pittman and is used to being the 2nd or 3rd target in an offense. They will also need to address TE and there are some interesting names like Njoku, Gesicki, Howard, and Schultz that could be available. I think they are more likely to address this in the draft though vs free agency and instead roll with Doyle and or sign Mo Allie-Cox to one year deal.


With the rumblings that they are not happy with Wentz’s performance late in the year, they could look to move him to a QB needy team like the Steelers or Commanders. (Wentz has since been traded to the Commanders.)


Draft Capital:

  • 2nd round #47

  • 3rd round #82

  • 4th round #118

  • 5th round #157

  • 5th round comp #177

  • 6th round comp #217

  • 7th round #236

  • 7th round #237 from Eagles

 

Tennessee Titans


And finally, the Division winner Titans who will come in to 2022 with -$8.3 million in cap space with 56 players signed. They will have to restructure quite a few players to clear needed cap room.


The Titans will come into 2022 needing to address TE, WR, O line, and the LBs to start while also extending AJB who is the only consistent offensive weapon outside of Henry. With -$7 million in cap room to start, I expect them to restructure many of their mainstays which will then open $61 million giving them about $44 million to work with, $6 million for rookies, and $4 million to operate on the year.


Their starting center will be a FA and it's likely they look to sign him to an extension. But they do need to ensure they address OT and OG this offseason to get better play and keep their depth up. Julio has been a disappointment this season and they should be looking to add more WR help in this draft.


Draft Capital:

  • 1st round #26

  • 3rd round #90

  • 4th round #127

  • 4th round comp #141

  • 5th round #167

  • 6th round #204

 

New York Jets


Working in reverse order of the standings we look first at the New York Jets. They currently have 60 players signed in ’22 with about $48 million in cap space to work with to continue their rebuild. Their major needs are CB, Edge, OT, LB, and TE.

The Jets are building a nice young core and are in a great position to add via free agency and the draft to continue their rebuild efforts. They can clear an extra $42.7 million in cap space with the above moves and walk into free agency with close to $90 million in effective cap space.


They will have Free Agent decisions to make with most notably Morgan Moses, Keelan Cole, Marcus Maye, and Jamison Crowder. Maye, they can likely get back at a discount as he recovers from the Achilles injury, but they have the cap space and picks they could instead draft his replacement for cheaper like Hamilton. Cole is likely to walk in Free Agency as he looks to latch onto a roster somewhere else. Crowder, they could re-sign but the emergence of Elijah Moore likely will have them letting him walk and hoping they get a comp pick in ‘23 for him.


This draft is projecting heavy on defensive standouts and with their top 2 picks, they could look to the defensive side of the ball and lock in someone like Aidan Hutchinson or Derek Stingley JR CB, and then with their second pick, could look for someone like Kyle Hamilton S ND or if they want to protect their investment in Wilson, Charles Cross of Miss St OT.


Free agency has some interesting names for TEs and they could elect to pursue someone like David Njoku, Evan Engram, Hayden Hurst, Mike Gesicki, or if the Cowboys fail to re-sign him Dalton Schultz to fill that hole in their roster and give Wilson a nice security blanket. If the Patriots don’t franchise tag Trent Brown, the Jets should be the first ones calling him when free agency begins to help solidify that o line for Wilson.


On the defensive side of the ball, they could look to sign De’Vondre Campbell LB of the Packers, and J.C. Jackson of the Patriots if both teams let these guys walk. They have the cap space to pay both men and quickly build up that defense.


Draft Capital:

  • 1st round #4

  • 1st round #10 from Seahawks

  • 2nd round #35

  • 2nd round #38 from Panthers

  • 3rd round #69

  • 4th round #107 from Panthers

  • 4th round #113 from Vikings

  • 5th round #144

  • 5th round #161 from Steelers

 

Miami Dolphins


Next, we look at the Miami Dolphins who come into 2022 with $60 million in cap space and 60 players signed. While they have been flirting with trading for Watson, the recent play of Tua may get ownership to stop their pursuit and let them focus on building around their young Qb, but NFL owners tend to look for the splash and if Watson has settled his cases, I would expect them to trade for him. Personally, I think they would be better off building around Tua. The team needs OT, OG, C, LB, RB.

The Dolphins made waves as they pursued Watson at the trade deadline, however as this year has progressed Tua is taking steps forward as is this offense with him and Waddle. Their offensive line is easily the worst in all of football and needs addressing badly. With the moves they can make combined with their current cap space they could walk into 2022 with almost $82 million to spend in effective cap space. Personally, I think they should avoid Watson to fill the many holes in the roster.


With their picks in the draft, they traded away their own pick to the Eagles and instead have the 49ers pick which is looking like around pick 20. They need to continue to address the Defense and add some dynamic playmakers at WR and RB to pair with Tua and Waddle while also ensuring they rebuild that offensive line which is just terrible.


If they take on Watson, they then reduce their cap space to around $72 million and still then need to address the o line and likely would have to part with some young players and lots of picks to get Watson on top of that.

Assuming they keep Tua, they should not hesitate to go after a full offensive line revamp to allow Tua to have better protection and allow this offense to blossom further. They should look in round 2 to draft an RB like Isiah Spiller [after missing out on Javonte Williams] and give the offense a consistent dynamic it's missing. While Myles Gaskin has been a bright spot, he is a free agent in 2023 and it would make sense to draft his replacement to keep them on a cheap rookie deal.


They will need to decide if they wish to extend Gesicki or let him test the market, but he and Waddle have been their best playmakers this season and it would make the most sense to sign him to a 3-year deal, allowing him to cash in again in 2025 offseason when he’s 29.


Draft Capital:

  • 1st round #29 from 49ers

  • 2nd round #50

  • 3rd round #100 from 49ers

  • 4th round #117

  • 4th round #121 from Steelers

  • 5th round #156

  • 6th round #200 from Patriots

  • 7th round #221 from Titans

 

New England Patriots


Next up are the New England Patriots who walk in with just over $8 million in cap room and 58 active players signed already for 2022 [McCourty has a void year with a $2.15 million cap hit] so they do not need to do too much to keep improving. They strategically attacked free agency this past offseason when many were not spending and quickly rebuilt their roster.

The Patriots should be able to walk into 2022 Free agency with around $28 million to spend on effective cap space. They will need to address CB as JC Jackson, Devin McCourty and Adrian Phillips all hit free agency. They could still bring one or two back but only if they can find team-friendly deals for them. Otherwise, they could dip again into free agency but likely looking to scoop up values later as is the Belichick way.


In the draft I expect them to add a DB, WR, and probably O-line and LBs later.


Draft Capital:

  • 1st round #21

  • 2nd round #54

  • 3rd round #85

  • 4th round #123

  • 6th round #210 from Rams [Sony Michel trade]

 

Buffalo Bills


And finally, the Division winner: The Buffalo Bills who will come into 2022 with -$6.3 million in cap space and 52 players signed to their roster. Having locked up Josh Allen through 2028 they have their Franchise QB set for the next 7 years until he hits age 32. Since he just signed the extension, they won’t restructure him until at least 2023 when it can save them about $22 million in cap room.

The Bills can clear between $46 - $50 million in cap room to give them about $36 million in effective cap room. Their obvious weakness is in the running game despite Singletary’s late-season explosion. I would still expect them to address this via the draft or if they opt to go vet-wise, target Melvin Gordon should Denver let him walk to upgrade that backfield for Allen.


They should look as well in this deep WR draft class to add another WR to replace the departing Emmanuel Sanders [likely retiring and not under contract] and likely cap cut Cole Beasley. However, with Gabriel Davis’ monster game against the Chiefs, he could be the biggest benefactor this offseason due to their low cap space.


Their biggest offseason needs will be RB, WR, O Line, OLB, and CB. I would expect them to address most of those in the draft with some cheaper vets to fill in the depth pieces to add to their existing team. I would be surprised to see them target any high-priced FA’s unless on the offensive line, but rather look for discounted players to help them push deeper into the playoffs. If they do go O-line in FA, then I would expect them to target Connor Williams or a few older options like Quinton Spain should the Bengals let him walk, Lucas Patrick of the Packers, or James Daniels of the Bears.


Draft Capital:

  • 1st round #25

  • 2nd round #57

  • 3rd round #89

  • 4th round #126

  • 5th round #166

  • 6th round #184 from Panthers

  • 6th round #203

  • 7th round #228 from Falcons

  • 7th round #243