Largest 2015 Cap Hits By Team: AFC West

Before NFL training camps get underway later this month, we’re taking a closer look at the top 2015 cap hits for teams around the league. We began our series in June by focusing on the NFC East and AFC East divisions, before looking at the NFC North, AFC North, and NFC South last week. Earlier this week, we recapped the AFC South and NFC West, and today we’ll wrap up our series by concluding with the AFC West.

Listed below are the top 10 cap hits for the coming season for each of the four AFC West franchises, accompanied by some observations on the spending habits of those clubs. Let’s dive in….

Denver Broncos:

  1. Peyton Manning, QB: $17,500,000
  2. Demaryius Thomas, WR: $12,823,000
  3. Von Miller, OLB: $9,754,000
  4. DeMarcus Ware, OLB: $8,666,666
  5. T.J. Ward, S: $7,750,000
  6. Aqib Talib, CB: $6,968,750
  7. Louis Vasquez, G: $6,250,000
  8. Emmanuel Sanders, WR: $5,850,000
  9. Britton Colquitt, P: $3,750,000
  10. Chris Harris, CB: $3,000,000
    Total: $82,312,416

The top three contracts on the Broncos’ list are all ones worth keeping an eye on. Manning’s cap number for 2015 was adjusted earlier in the offseason, bringing it down from $21.5MM, while Thomas and Miller are both candidates for extensions. Thomas’ figure is based on the franchise tag and Miller’s is based on the fifth-year option — presumably, the team would like to lock up at least one of those two players to a long-term contract this offseason to avoid having to decide between them for the franchise tag in 2016.

Elsewhere on the list, Sanders and Harris look like two of the NFL’s best bargains. Harris’ cap hit will jump to $9MM in 2016, but based on what Byron Maxwell received on the open market this winter, that still looks like a very fair price for one of the top cornerbacks in the league. As for Sanders, his cap charge continues to be very affordable next year, at just $6MM.

One name that jumps out on this list is Colquitt, who is a solid but unspectacular punter, ranking 23rd in net average last year. It looks like the team will probably carry him this year, but when his cap hit increases to $4MM in 2016, with just $750K in dead money, it may be time to bring in some legitimate competition at the position.

Kansas City Chiefs:

  1. Alex Smith, QB: $15,600,000
  2. Justin Houston, OLB: $13,195,000
  3. Dwayne Bowe, WR: $8,894,118 (dead money)
  4. Eric Berry, S: $8,357,700
  5. Jamaal Charles, RB: $7,970,835
  6. Sean Smith, CB: $7,750,000
  7. Eric Fisher, LT: $6,051,954
  8. Derrick Johnson, LB: $5,250,000
  9. Tamba Hali, OLB: $4,964,706
  10. Chase Daniel, QB: $4,800,000
    Total: $82,834,313

Like the Broncos, the Chiefs have a franchise player near the top of their list of cap numbers, so if Houston reaches a long-term agreement with the club within the next few days, his number could be reduced.

Still, there are some unexpected names here for Kansas City — Bowe, for instance, will be playing in Cleveland this season while he continues to count for nearly $9MM against the Chiefs’ cap. It’s also not clear if Berry will be able to return to the field in 2015, though obviously his recovery from lymphoma is more important than any cap considerations.

When I looked at the NFC West earlier this week, I observed that the Cardinals were one of the league’s only teams with two quarterbacks amongst their top 10 cap charges. Kansas City is the other club to have that honor, and it’s somewhat surprising that Daniel’s contract hasn’t been addressed. The Chiefs clearly value him highly, having made him one of the NFL’s highest-paid backups, despite the fact that he has only thrown 75 passes in his career.

Oakland Raiders:

  1. Rodney Hudson, C: $13,000,000
  2. Dan Williams, DT: $8,000,000
  3. Nate Allen, S: $7,000,000
  4. Tyvon Branch, S: $6,671,000 (dead money)
  5. Curtis Lofton, LB: $6,500,000
  6. Austin Howard, RT: $6,400,000
  7. Donald Penn, LT: $5,400,000
  8. Justin Tuck, DE: $4,968,750
  9. Khalil Mack, OLB: $4,244,773
  10. Charles Woodson, S: $4,200,000
    Total: $66,384,523

The Raiders entered the offseason with a boatload of cap room to use, and they took advantage by lavishing lucrative contracts onto a handful of free agents who may not have been entirely deserving of such big annual salaries.

Still, it’s worth pointing out that the figures here for Hudson, Williams, Allen, and Lofton aren’t quite representative of their per-year salaries — all four players will see their cap numbers decrease in future seasons, with Hudson dipping most drastically between 2015 and 2016, from $13MM to $7.7MM. The contracts themselves may not turn out to be smart investments, but Oakland was smart to allocate larger cap hits to 2015, when the team had cap space to burn.

The Raiders, like a handful of other teams we’ve examined so far, benefit from not having to spend big yet on their young quarterback, but the club’s spending habits at other positions are a little unusual. While most teams would invest most heavily in players on the outside – left tackles, edge rushers, wide receivers, and cornerbacks – the Raiders’ top 2015 cap hits are all for up-the-middle players, including a center, defensive tackle, safety, and inside linebacker.

San Diego Chargers:

  1. Philip Rivers, QB: $17,416,668
  2. Eric Weddle, S: $10,100,000
  3. Antonio Gates, TE: $9,762,500
  4. Corey Liuget, DT: $7,977,000
  5. Donald Butler, LB: $5,480,000
  6. Malcom Floyd, WR: $4,716,668
  7. Orlando Franklin, G: $4,400,000
  8. Mike Scifres, P: $4,347,500
  9. Brandon Flowers, CB: $4,250,000
  10. King Dunlap, LT: $4,125,000
    Total: $72,575,336

The Chargers’ top 10 cap numbers for 2015 are made up nearly entirely of players who are entering the final year of their respective contracts and players who just signed new contracts with the club this offseason. Only Butler, who signed an extension in 2014, and Scifres, who is under contract for 2016, don’t meet this criteria.

Of the longtime Chargers entering the final year of their contracts, Rivers appears to have the best chance of reaching a long-term extension that would affect his cap number for 2015. Talks between the Chargers and Weddle haven’t gone well, Gates is facing a four-game suspension, and Floyd has talked about the possibility of retiring after the coming season.

As for the recently signed players, Liuget, Flowers, and Dunlap re-upped with San Diego this offseason, with Flowers and Dunlap narrowly avoiding reaching the open market, while Franklin was poached from the division-rival Broncos. All four players will see their cap numbers rise after this season, going from a combined $20.752 in 2015 to a total of $33.275 in 2016.

Information from Over the Cap was used in the creation of this post.

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