Five NFL Teams With Massive Cap Problems

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(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Chase Kiddy @chaseakiddy Mar 21, 2022, 10:23 PM

March is a month centered around basketball. Even with the NCAA Tournament now down to 16 remaining teams, most bettors will spend the remainder of the month laser-focused on NCAA basketball odds. This is no secret.

Give the NFL its due, though. One of the wildest NFL free agency periods of memory kicked off last week in the shadow of all those NCAA basketball lines

NFL draft odds are already populating at most online sportsbooks, and NFL betting will be back before you know it. When it is, you’ll probably want to avoid betting the Super Bowl odds for the five teams mentioned below.

Some of them might appear to be contenders on paper, and others might be downright awful. Regardless, all five have major cap issues, and major financial troubles aren’t exactly a common quality among championship contenders.

Atlanta Falcons

There are numerous ways to create cap problems for yourself. Atlanta took the easiest route: create a massive dead cap hole at the quarterback position.

Everyone in the online sports betting world has watched a flurry of trades and player reshuffling over the last few weeks, so Matt Ryan’s trade to Indianapolis is old news by now. 

Still, it’s worth pointing out that Ryan’s dead cap hit – north of $40 million in 2022 – is the largest dead cap hit in the history of professional football. Mix in dead money from guys like Julio Jones and Dante Fowler Jr., and a whopping 30 percent of Atlanta’s overall cap is spoiled milk.

The team isn’t very good, and it’s virtually impossible for it to get much better without a clean financial bill of health. Marcus Mariota may have walked into a literal no-win situation. 

Houston Texans

The good news here, if there is any, is that Houston can finally move on from the Deshaun Watson firestorm that has shadowed the organization for years. 

The bad news is that Watson, ILB Zach Cunningham, OLB Whitney Mercilus and DE Shaq Lawson combine for a shade over $40 million in dead money. (Again, for some Atlanta perspective: these four guys combined equal Matt Ryan’s cap hit to the Falcons.)

The Texans have about $16 million left to spend, which isn’t even enough to buy a competitive quarterback in this market. Hopefully, Davis Mills can continue to play as a serviceable stopgap, and the organization can start to build the roster out again with their limited capital resources.

Kansas City Chiefs

While other teams try to work through dead money issues, the Chiefs have a very different problem on their hands. They bought a lot of toys on layaway, and now the bill is coming due.

Mahomes is locked in for a $35.7 million cap hit in 2022. No one in the Milky Way galaxy is suggesting they shouldn’t have made him, either.

Behind Mahomes, though, there are a slew of guys making major money on this team: DT Chris Jones ($29 million), Tyreek Hill ($22 million), Joe Thuney ($18 million), Frank Clarg ($14 million) and the recently franchise-tagged Orlando Brown Jr. ($16.6 million). Holy Wells Fargo, Batman!

The Chiefs are currently $11 million over the cap and have already had to cut Anthony Hitchens for salary purposes. 

New Orleans Saints

The Saints reign supreme as the NFL franchise working through the worst and most complicated cap issues of anyone – a detail that I’m sure played a factor in Sean Payton’s desire to step away as head coach. 

New Orleans’ top cap hit is $13 million to a wide receiver that didn’t play in 2021. It’s also on the hook for $14.5 million in combined dead money to Drew Brees and Jameis Winston, plus another $13 million of dead cap behind LT Terron Armstead’s voided deal.

When you mix in the fact that the best quarterback currently on the roster might be Blake Bortles, this team has major issues. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have the resources to address them and may not for another 1-2 years.

Tennessee Titans

The Titans don’t immediately jump to mind as a roster full of highly paid star players, but the front office has done a poor job of layering its best players’ contracts. 

Bud Dupree, Kevin Byard, Derrick Henry, Taylor Lewan and Robert Woods are all cap hits of at least $13 million in 2022. You can also now add in Julio Jones for a $16 million dead cap drain.

Tannehill could be a cost-efficient steal at quarterback if he was paid at or below market average. Instead, Ryan Tannehill’s cap hit in 2022 is nearly $39 million.

All told, the Titans are nearly $16 million over the cap right now, which means they’ve got some serious work to do before NFL Draft odds start heating up. Either way, the Titans’ window is slamming shut; think twice before you highlight them as a sleeper for next year’s Super Bowl odds.

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About the Author

Chase Kiddy

Read More @chaseakiddy

Chase Kiddy is a writer for BetMGM and co-host of The Lion's Edge, an NFL and college football podcast available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and everywhere else. He has also written for a number of print and online outlets, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Washington Post, Daily News-Record, and HERO Sports. His first novel, Cave Paintings, is in development.

Chase Kiddy is a writer for BetMGM and co-host of The Lion's Edge, an NFL and college football podcast available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and everywhere else. He has also written for a number of print and online outlets, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Washington Post, Daily News-Record, and HERO Sports. His first novel, Cave Paintings, is in development.