Analyzing Contracts & Cap Space: NFC East (Fantasy Football)
This is part of a series where I analyze the financial situations of each NFL team, division by division. The gold standards for sports finance data are Spotrac and Over the Cap, which were referred to countless times during this writing.
- 2023 Cap Space: $3.1 million (30th in NFL)
- Biggest Cap Hit: Leonard Williams ($32.6 million)
The two numbers above are telling: the G-men are surprisingly cash-strapped (lowest cap space in the NFC) thanks in part to a massive cap hit to defensive end Leonard Williams (3rd highest in the NFL, among all players!). Williams’ contract is up after this season…but quarterback Daniel Jones was just signed to a new deal that will demand $21 million this season and then $45 million next season, as things now stand. The lack of spending power probably informed the Giants’ (now famous) decision to franchise tag Saquon Barkley. The running back will play for $10 million this season before hitting free agency, and it’s hard to see the Giants offering a big, long-term contract. Otherwise, why wouldn’t they just kick off extension talks now?
Otherwise, the surprising highest cap-hit wideout on this team is none other than Parris Campbell, who is playing on a one-year, $5-million deal. Sterling Shephard has one year remaining on his contract (he’ll be 31 next offseason), and Darius Slayton has two years, although he can be released for less than $2 million in dead money next season. The only WR who will probably be on this roster for the foreseeable future is 2nd-year WR Wan’Dale Robinson. Similar to the Ravens’ situation, it’s hard to pick one of these players to emerge in redraft this season…but Wan’Dale has the inside track to be Daniel Jones‘ WR1 over the next couple of years.
Finally, let’s talk about Darren Waller, who comes in from Las Vegas with high hopes of returning to top-flight TE form. The Walrus will be 31 this season, and next year his cap hit jumps up by $10 million to nearly $14 million (he can be released for $8 million in dead money). It increases from there on the final two years of his contract (as do his potential cap savings from being released: $9 million and $13 million). To me, there seems to be a good chance that Waller is on the team for at least two seasons, but beyond that would be a bit surprising (especially at 33+ years old). So there might be a bit of a dynasty window left, but I wouldn’t plan on him as the cornerstone of your TE position for many years to come.
- 2023 Cap Space: $11.6 million (16 in NFL)
- Biggest Cap Hit: Jonathan Allen ($21.4 million)
The ‘Manders are fresh off of a 2022 season where Carson Wentz represented their largest cap hit ($28.2 million). To fill the void — and hopefully right the ship — they brought in Jacoby Brissett on a one-year, $8.5 million contract to compete with 2nd-year signal-caller Sam Howell. That’s a lot of money to pay for a backup QB…my point is, I guess, that the ‘Manders certainly expect Jacoby to play at least a few games this year. After that, though, a 32-year-old Brissett will hit free agency, and Howell will still have two years remaining on his deal. I would use this to your advantage, and try to get Howell on your roster, especially when Brissett inevitably starts taking snaps under center this season.
Another interesting fact about this team is that Curtis Samuel (remember him?) is the highest-paid WR and 2nd-highest cap hit this season ($13 million). His contract is up after this season and he will likely depart, but Terry McLaurin is around most definitely for two more seasons, and probably three (can be released for $12 million in cap savings in 2025, but that’s unlikely given his level of output). Jahan Dotson has three more years on his rookie contract, so get used to seeing that duo of wideouts in Washington. Probably don’t get used to seeing Logan Thomas, who has two more years on his deal but can be released for less than $1.5 million in dead money next season (or force a cap hit of nearly $9 million).
There’s also some surprising clarity — in my opinion — for the longer-term fate of the running back room. Antonio Gibson‘s rookie deal is up after this season whereas Brian Robinson has two more years after 2023. Maybe Gibson will be re-signed, but I think it is more likely for BRob to inherit the lion’s share of the work. On a team that has recently been synonymous with turnover, these three players — McLaurin, Dotson, and Robinson — seem to have some stability for the near future.
- 2023 Cap Space: $22.2 million (3rd in NFL)
- Biggest Cap Hit: Dak Prescott ($26.8 million)
The way I see it, ‘Dem Boys’ have a two-year window to finally cash in on their Super Bowl dreams. That’s the amount of time Dak has left on his contract and while he will certainly play it out (it would cost $90 and $60 million to release him each year before that), it would be surprising if he landed another big deal in Dallas at age 32. Perhaps to reflect this reality, two years is the same amount of time that DeMarcus Lawrence (2nd highest cap space) has remaining on his deal, the length of time that Brandin Cooks signed on to, and the amount of time until CeeDee Lamb hits free agency (after his 5th-year option) and will draw a mega-WR contract. And yes, the Cowboys seemingly have a ton of cap space to try to meet these needs. But that space will evaporate quickly when Dak’s cap hit doubles to nearly $60 million next season (as it now stands).
Some other contracts of note: Tony Pollard is playing on the franchise tag and will hit free agency after this year. Luke Schoonmaker, the Michigan tight end, has four years on his rookie deal. Michael Gallup will be around for a while: he can be released for $10 million cap savings in 2026, but it’s a decent bet he’s on the roster in the three years leading up to that decision.
So what can we infer from this regarding the Cowboys’ plans? Well, all of these players (except Pollard) will most likely be on the team for the next two years. But after that, things are really up in the air. Will Dak sign another massive contract? At the same time that CeeDee is up for an alpha WR deal? Will Pollard be able to ink a second contract in the midst of all this?
The short answer is: I don’t know. I’m confident that Cowboys’ fantasy players have a solid two-year window in dynasty. But the picture beyond that (except for Michael Gallup!) is hazy.
- 2023 Cap Space: $10.0 million (22nd in NFL)
- Biggest Cap Hit: Lane Johnson ($14.7 million)
After a devastating defensive holding call ended their season, the Eagles found the silver lining and signed Jalen Hurts to a contract that runs through 2028. The cap hits don’t really start jumping off the page until 2025, when the total reaches $21 million and climbs from there. In the meantime, the Eagles can afford to pay right tackle Lane Johnson and center Jason Kelce (two of the three biggest cap hits) around $25 million combined per season.
The 2025 season is significant for another reason: AJ Brown‘s cap hit jumps up to a whopping $26 million (and he can’t be released for any cap savings). It’s also when DeVonta Smith‘s rookie contract is up, although there’s a decent chance the Eagles apply the franchise tag to their elite WR2. So will there be enough money for anyone else on the roster?
These massive financial commitments make more sense when you consider the Eagles’ RB room, where there are no such commitments. Boston Scott, D’Andre Swift, and Rashaad Penny all hit free agency after this season (funnily enough, Trey Sermon, who has two years left on his rookie deal, has a chance at outlasting them all). It’s hard to bet on an RB who will emerge in this backfield in redraft and dynasty. There’s a chance that none are on the roster next season: Scott and Penny will be in their late 20s, and Swift will be up for a new contract. As much as I love the stability of Hurts, Brown, and Smith, I’m staying away from Eagles’ backs in dynasty.
Let me know what you think on Twitter.