Largest 2015 Cap Hits By Position: Defense

A week ago, we took a look at the top 10 cap hits for each offensive position, and those lists looked a little different than you might expect. While we tend to view a contract’s value by its per-year salary, its overall money, or its guarantees, the deals that rank atop those categories aren’t necessarily the ones that will consume the most cap space in 2015.

This week, we’re shifting our focus to the defensive side of the ball, where there are a handful of surprises and interesting names as well. Below, you’ll find the top 10 cap hits for 2015 by defensive position, along with a few of my observations for each position.

Let’s dive in….

4-3 defensive ends:

  1. Charles Johnson (Panthers): $20.02MM
  2. Mario Williams (Bills): $19.4MM
  3. Robert Quinn (Rams): $16.744MM
  4. Jason Pierre-Paul (Giants): $14.813MM
  5. Jared Allen (Bears): $12.5MM
  6. Chris Long (Rams): $12.5MM
  7. Cameron Wake (Dolphins): $10.45MM
  8. Everson Griffen (Vikings): $8.2MM
  9. Cliff Avril (Seahawks): $8MM
  10. Michael Bennett (Seahawks): $8MM
  • Williams and Allen will both be asked to play some 3-4 outside linebacker under new defensive coordinators in 2015, but I’ve included them in this group because they’ve traditionally played 4-3 defensive end, and their deals were likely negotiated with that market in mind.
  • The Rams had the option of restructuring Quinn’s contract earlier this offseason, but not doing so should pay off in future seasons — after counting for nearly $17MM this year against the cap this year, Quinn will count for between $10.75MM and $12.95MM from 2016 to 2019.
  • Speaking of those Rams, they and their division-rival Seahawks have nearly half the players on this list, a reflection of how much those clubs prioritize their outside pass rush.
  • Pierre-Paul’s figure is a result of the franchise tag, so it could be reduced if he and the Giants reach a long-term contract agreement.
  • The 11th name on this list would have been Michael Johnson, who has a cap number of just $2.6MM for the Bengals this year, but is counting for $7MM in dead money against the Buccaneers‘ cap.

3-4 defensive ends:

  1. Calais Campbell (Cardinals): $14.75MM
  2. J.J. Watt (Texans): $13.969MM
  3. Corey Liuget (Chargers): $7.977MM
  4. Arthur Jones (Colts): $7.1MM
  5. Desmond Bryant (Browns): $7MM
  6. Cameron Heyward (Steelers): $6.969MM
  7. Muhammad Wilkerson (Jets): $6.969MM
  8. Kyle Williams (Bills): $6.95MM
  9. Jurrell Casey (Titans): $6.72MM
  10. Jason Hatcher (Washington): $5.203MM
  • Watt’s cap hit was set to be nearly $22MM before the Texans restructured his contract. The move added an extra $2MM to his cap numbers for every year between 2016 and 2019.
  • Cameron Jordan‘s newly-signed extension with the Saints makes him one of the league’s highest-paid 3-4 defensive ends, but his cap hit for 2015 is a modest $4.169MM before jumping to eight digits for the next four years.
  • Heyward and Wilkerson have identical fifth-year option salaries for the time being, but both players are extension candidates — the Steelers appear more likely to work something out with Heyward than the Jets are with Wilkerson.

Defensive tackles:

  1. Gerald McCoy (Buccaneers): $14.595MM
  2. Ndamukong Suh (Lions): $9.738MM (dead money)
  3. Geno Atkins (Bengals): $9MM
  4. Jared Odrick (Jaguars): $9MM
  5. Haloti Ngata (Lions): $8.5MM
  6. Marcell Dareus (Bills): $8.06MM
  7. Dan Williams (Raiders): $8MM
  8. Haloti Ngata (Ravens): $7.5MM (dead money)
  9. Ndamukong Suh (Dolphins): $6.1MM
  10. Brandon Mebane (Seahawks): $5.7MM
  • Suh and Ngata dominate this list, showing up twice each, since their old teams are still carrying so much dead money for them. The duo would surpass McCoy and rank atop this list if you were to combine their total cap hits — Ngata is counting for a combined $16MM for the Ravens and Lions, while Suh is counting for a total of $15.838MM for Miami and Detroit.
  • His contract is a strong candidate to be restructured next year, but at the moment, Suh is on track to have a staggering $28.6MM cap hit in 2016.
  • Williams’ new deal with the Raiders has its big cap hits up front before dipping to $4.5MM in 2017 and $5MM in 2018.
  • You could make a case that Odrick should be on one of the defensive end lists, but he played primarily at defensive tackle last year for the Dolphins, so I’ve included him here.

Outside linebackers:

  1. Justin Houston (Chiefs): $13.195MM
  2. Clay Matthews (Packers): $12.7MM
  3. Julius Peppers (Packers): $12MM
  4. Thomas Davis (Panthers): $9.9MM
  5. Von Miller (Broncos): $9.754MM
  6. DeMarcus Ware (Broncos): $8.667MM
  7. LaMarr Woodley (Steelers): $8.58MM (dead money)
  8. Paul Kruger (Browns): $8.2MM
  9. Robert Mathis (Colts): $7.471MM
  10. Elvis Dumervil (Ravens): $7.375MM
  • As expected, nearly every outside linebacker on this list is a 3-4 player, since they’re typically the ones rushing the quarterback most often. Davis is the lone 4-3 OLB here, and he and the Panthers are trying to work out an extension that figures to reduce his cap charges for future seasons.
  • Other extension candidates here include Houston and Miller, who are currently playing on the franchise tag and a fifth-year option, respectively.
  • Getting after the quarterback is something good teams typically do well, so perhaps it’s not surprising to see perennial contenders Packers and Broncos spending big on outside pass rushers — both teams have two players in the top six here.
  • Players who didn’t make the cut on this list include a pair of recipients of big offseason contracts, Jerry Hughes and Pernell McPhee, who will see their cap hits increase in subsequent seasons. Aldon Smith‘s one-year deal has a maximum value of $9.754MM, which would tie him with Miller, but his cap number is under $5MM, since the contract includes a handful of roster bonuses and incentives.

Inside linebackers:

  1. Lawrence Timmons (Steelers): $12.566MM
  2. Brian Cushing (Texans): $7.891MM
  3. NaVorro Bowman (49ers): $7.654MM
  4. David Harris (Jets): $7.5MM
  5. Rey Maualuga (Bengals): $7.138MM
  6. Paul Posluszny (Jaguars): $6.885MM
  7. Daryl Washington (Cardinals): $6.5MM
  8. Curtis Lofton (Raiders): $6.5MM
  9. Jerod Mayo (Patriots): $6.1MM
  10. Stephen Tulloch (Lions): $5.8MM
  • Timmons is an effective player, but his 2015 cap number is nearly 60% more than the second-highest at his position, a sign that the Steelers may have overspent a little on him.
  • While inside linebacker salaries are generally trending downward, the Jets and Raiders had plenty of cap space to use this offseason, and both teams used a chunk on a veteran ILB — Harris’ and Lofton’s cap numbers in future seasons won’t increase above their 2015 figures.
  • It’s hard to imagine Mayo playing out his contract beyond this season, as it currently stands. His cap number is set to jump to $11MM+ in 2016.


  1. Darrelle Revis (Jets): $16MM
  2. Patrick Peterson (Cardinals): $14.791MM
  3. Brandon Carr (Cowboys): $12.717MM
  4. Johnathan Joseph (Texans): $12.25MM
  5. Richard Sherman (Seahawks): $12.2MM
  6. Joe Haden (Browns): $11.7MM
  7. Vontae Davis (Colts): $11.25MM
  8. Brent Grimes (Dolphins): $10MM
  9. Leon Hall (Bengals): $9.6MM
  10. Lardarius Webb (Ravens): $9.25MM
  • Not only does Revis have the largest cap hit for any cornerback this year — he’s also counting for $5MM in dead money against the Patriots‘ cap, after New England turned down his 2015 option.
  • Byron Maxwell‘s new deal with the Eagles averages more than $10MM per year, but it missed a spot on this list due to an $8.7MM cap charge in year one. That number will increase to $11.7MM by 2017.


  1. Eric Weddle (Chargers): $10.1MM
  2. Eric Berry (Chiefs): $8.357MM
  3. Michael Griffin (Titans): $8.1MM
  4. T.J. Ward (Broncos): $7.75MM
  5. Reshad Jones (Dolphins): $7.713MM
  6. Earl Thomas (Seahawks): $7.4MM
  7. Nate Allen (Raiders): $7MM
  8. Donte Whitner (Browns): $6.75MM
  9. Tyvon Branch (Raiders): $6.671MM (dead money)
  10. Devin McCourty (Patriots): $6MM
  • Expect to see Thomas and McCourty on this list for years to come. Their cap numbers both rise significantly in 2016 and beyond, and barring a sudden dropoff, they’re unlikely to be cut loose anytime soon.
  • As they did with other free agent contracts this offseason, the Raiders frontloaded Allen’s contract, which has cap numbers between $5-6MM for the remaining three years. Similarly, Ward’s deal with the Broncos has an unusually large hit this season before dipping down below $6MM for its final two years — Denver could rework it if the team needs the room.
  • While Branch counts for $6.671MM on the Raiders‘ books, his current cap charge for the team he actually plays for – the division-rival Chiefs – is just $1.288MM.
  • Jairus Byrd didn’t quite make this list after restructuring his contract earlier this offseason, but he’ll be on here in future years unless he continues to rework his contract or is cut by the Saints. His cap numbers from 2016 to 2019 all exceed $10MM.

Contract information from Over The Cap was used in the creation of this post.

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