10 Biggest Dead Salary Cap Hits in NFL History

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FILE - Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers looks up during the second half of an NFC divisional playoff NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers, Jan. 22, 2022, in Green Bay, Wis. Rodgers is leaving behind his brilliant legacy in Green Bay and heading to the bright lights — and massive expectations — of the Big Apple. The New York Jets agreed on a deal Monday, April 24, 2023, to acquire the four-time NFL MVP from the Packers, according to a person with knowledge of the trade. The person spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the teams have not officially announced the deal. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash, File)
(AP Photo/Aaron Gash)
Andrew Doughty @DoughtyBetMGM May 29, 2023, 10:15 AM

In dealing Aaron Rodgers to the New York Jets, the Green Bay Packers triggered a dead cap hit of $40.313 million for 2023, the second-biggest single-year and total dead cap hit in NFL history.

Here are the 10 biggest dead cap hits in NFL history:

10. Peyton Manning – Colts

Dead Money: $19.3 million

In July 2011, Peyton Manning signed a five-year, $90-million contract that presumably ensured he’d finish his career with the Indianapolis Colts. He didn’t take another snap in a Colts uniform.

Manning missed the entire 2011 season and was released in March 2012 before a $28-million roster bonus was due. Even without the bonus, he was paid more than $26 million, largely thanks to a $20-million signing bonus from the five-year deal, for doing nothing in 2011.

9. Antonio Brown – Steelers

Dead Money: $21.1 million

On New Year’s Day 2019, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport squashed rumors of Antonio Brown’s trade request with the Pittsburgh Steelers, citing, among other reasons, $21.1 million in dead cap money if Brown was traded, or released, prior to the 2019 season.

Two months later, Brown was traded to the Oakland Raiders for a third- and fifth-round pick in the 2019 draft. The move triggered the dead cap hit as part of a four-year, $68-million extension signed in 2017 that made him the highest-paid receiver in the NFL.

8. Brandin Cooks – Rams

Dead Money: $21.8 million

In 2018, the Los Angeles Rams liked Brandin Cooks so much they invested a first- and fifth-round pick (in a trade with the New England Patriots) and $50.5 million in guaranteed money in him. At the time, it was an aggressive investment to give Jared Goff a weapon. In hindsight, it was a reckless investment that gave Goff 122 receptions over two seasons.

After acquiring Cooks in April 2018, the Rams signed him to a five-year, $80-million extension in July 2018. It was one of the worst contract decisions in American sports history, one that left the Rams $21.8 million in dead money after trading Cooks to the Houston Texans in April 2020.

7. Jared Goff – Rams

Dead Money: $22.2 million

Just 10 months after the Cooks’ dead cap hit, the Rams took an almost identical hit when dealing Jared Goff and his four-year, $134-million deal to the Detroit Lions.

After exercising Goff’s fifth-year option earlier in the league year, the Rams signed Goff to the mega-deal in 2019 that included $110 million in guarantees. It was the most guaranteed money in NFL history and made him one of the 15 highest-paid athletes in the world for 2020.

Like Cooks’ deal, it proved reckless and left the Rams with $22.2 million in dead money, breaking their own record from a year earlier.

6. DeAndre Hopkins – Cardinals

Dead Money: $22.6 million

In September 2020, six months after his trade from the Houston Texans, DeAndre Hopkins signed a two-year extension with the Cardinals worth $54.5 million. His contract was set to run through 2024.

Hopkins and the Cardinals didn’t reach those two extension years. He was released after just three seasons, which triggered a $22.6-million dead cap hit for 2023.

5. Julio Jones – Falcons

Dead Money: $23.25 million

By waiting until after June 1, 2021, to trade Julio Jones, the Atlanta Falcons spread out his dead money over 2021 and 2022. But that didn’t change the figure itself.

Jones signed a three-year, $66-million contract extension in 2019 that kept him under team control through 2023 since he had two years remaining on an existing deal. He played only 24 more games with the Falcons before the trade to Tennessee on June 6, 2021, which left the Falcons with a dead cap of $7.75 million in 2021 and $15.5 million in 2022.

4. Russell Wilson

Dead Money: $26 million

The Seattle Seahawks trimmed $11 million off their 2022 payroll by trading Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos but still took a dead-cap hit of $26 million in 2022.

The hit is a result of a four-year, $140-million deal – at the time the highest average annual value for any player in the NFL – signed after the 2019 season. It included $107 million in guarantees, which ultimately led to the dead money three years later.

3. Carson Wentz

Dead Money: $33.8 million

Included in the four-year, $128-million deal Carson Wentz signed with the Philadelphia Eagles in June 2019 was a signing bonus to be paid before the deal began in 2021 but spread over the four years, 2021-24, to lower his cap hit in each year.

It cost the Eagles nearly 20 percent of their salary cap in 2021.

2. Aaron Rodgers

Dead Money: $40.313 million

From the moment Rodgers signed a new deal before in March 2022, it seemed possible the Packers would incur a dead cap hit at some point during the three-year, $150-million deal.

All of Rodgers’ dead cap hit will come in 2023, accounting for approximately 18% of the Packers’ salary cap. He’ll have a cap hit of $15.79 million with the Jets in 2023, which doesn’t rank in the top 10 quarterback cap hits for 2023.

1. Matt Ryan

Dead Money: $40.53 million

Matt Ryan’s contract was restructured several times over the last three years – including a restructuring just two weeks before his trade to the Colts – that it hardly resembles the original five-year, $150-million deal signed in 2018.

In ending the Ryan era after 14 seasons, the Falcons ate the largest dead-cap hit in NFL history, all of which is on the books for 2022.

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About the Author

Andrew Doughty

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Andrew Doughty is the Web Content Lead for BetMGM. A graduate of the University of Kansas, he previously wrote for Sports Illustrated and HERO Sports.

Andrew Doughty is the Web Content Lead for BetMGM. A graduate of the University of Kansas, he previously wrote for Sports Illustrated and HERO Sports.