November 11, 2012; Tampa, FL, USA; San Diego Chargers wide receiver Eddie Royal (11) catches the ball as he falls to the ground during the second half against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated the San Diego Chargers 34-24. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
So, May is coming to an end and we´re entering the “second” period of free agency which maybe could become interesting again due to some possible “post June 1 cuts”.
The NFL breaks up its salary cap accounting for bonuses into two periods with June 1 being the trigger date. When a player is cut from the roster prior to June 1st, all his remaining unamortized bonus money immediately accelerates onto the salary cap. After June 1st, teams got the chance to spread the “dead money” impact over the following years salary cap.
As we already know, Jared Gaither´s release came with a June 1 designation; this means, after June 1, the Chargers see immediate cap savings of about $4.5 million.
This leads me to the main topic of this piece: Could we see Tom Telesco cutting players from the roster in the next few weeks in order to free up some cap room maybe for being able to add some depth at another position? Do we even have guys on the roster that are expendable?
Well, in the last weeks there had been quite a few talks about getting rid of certain players. We´ve talked about the possibility to kick Jeromey Clary out of town. But in a poll I´ve posted last week here on BoltBeat, most of the fans (surprisingly) voted for keeping him on the roster and letting him play at right guard. As I mentioned a couple of times, he is set to be a $5.7 million cap hit in 2013. His release would create $3.4 million in dead money. Just like for Big Lazy´s release, also this impact could be spread over the next two years.
Besides Jeromey Clary, one of the first names to be mentioned when talking about cutting players, is Eddie Royal.
Last offseason, Eddie Royal was brought onto the roster by our former General Manager A.J. Smith (…oh how we miss him…Bazinga!). But to be honest, I actually liked the move a lot. After “the lord of no rings” let Vincent Jackson walk away in free agency, he needed to address the wide receiver position; and he did that by signing the former Bronco as well as Robert Meachem (from the New Orleans Saints).
Royal was expected to have a breakout season in 2012. There also had been multiple reports that he might fill the hole that Darren Sproles has left on the roster. He had an outstanding rookie season in 2008, hauling in 980 yards receiving on 91 catches for five touchdowns. But injuries and below average quarterbacks slowed him down in his last seasons before he signed with the Chargers. Unfortunately he couldn´t stop this trend in San Diego. And now that Keenan Allen is on the roster, Royal´s time in Bolt town could be over as they share pretty much the “same” skill set; the biggest difference between the two receiver/kick returner threats might be that Keenan Allen is coming off a successful season – something Royal didn´t have in years. But one thing has to be considered though: the rookie is recovering from a knee injury. But he obviously is making progress as he already reported that the knee feels great and he participated in all drills in this year´s mini camp. So, does a healthy Keenan Allen make Eddie Royal expendable? Seems like that´s the case – by the way: cutting Royal would create $3 million in dead money.
Now let´s move on to the next name on the list of potential expendable warriors on the Chargers roster: fullback Le’Ron McClain. Well, McClain had great success in his early NFL years when he played for the Baltimore Ravens. He has made it to the Pro-Bowl twice and he also earned two All-Pro honors. This might have been the reason for A.J. Smith to sign him to a 3-year, $8.25 million dollar deal last offseason. But when considering his performances on the field last year, I´m not convinced he´s worth that amount of money. He was solid in pass blocking…but that´s it. I could not see him creating enough running lanes for the Chargers´ lead back Ryan Mathews. And of course he couldn´t add something to the rushing game either; 42 yards on 14 attempts…wow! (needless to say he also couldn´t score any touchdowns) Compared to his 902 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns in 2008, these 2012 stats sound awfully lame. But whatever, we already know the Chargers´ rushing game as a whole had been nothing but crappy (O-Line issues, injuries etc. – we all know that stuff by now).
But what´s very interesting to know about McClain, is that he is entering the 2013 season as the second highest paid fullback in the NFL. Well, based on the information above, do we think he´s worth that $3 million cap hit in 2013? Will he get better in the new blocking scheme, which probably will be some kind of hybrid version of power and zone blocking? Is he fast enough for a ZBS? I´m afraid the answer to all of those questions is simply: No.
Tom Telesco picked up Gronk´s older brother, Chris Gronkowski, about a month ago. We will see if he is able to outplay McClain in training camp and in the preseason games this year. But I´m not too sure if he can make it anywhere else than onto the special teams. He only played 40 snaps on offense last year in Denver; doesn´t sound too good – but hope dies last (as they say). In case the former Bronco is able to make an impact this offseason, McClain´s release would cause over $1.6 million in dead money.
Last but not least I want to mention backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst here.
A.J. Smith selected Whitehurst in the third round of the 2006 NFL draft. In 2010, the Seattle Seahawks signed him to a two-year, $8 million contract. But as he wasn´t able to impress anyone in Seattle, A.J. brought him back in March last year to once again back up Philip Rivers. He´s a $1.8 million cap hit in 2013 and will be an unrestricted free agent in 2014. So, it may not be a big priority to replace Whitehurst as No. 1 backup option this offseason, but as he is a “Norv guy,” he´s definitely expendable in the new system. As Tom Telesco selected signal caller Brad Sorensen from Southern Utah in the seventh round of the draft and picked up undrafted free agent Mike Hermann from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Division III), we now have four quarterbacks on the roster. Both of those guys have great potential, but after all we have to wait and see how they are doing in training camp (and the preseason games). The release of Charlie Whitehurst, however, would create only $500,000 in dead money; but I guess he won´t go anywhere.
In the end, I wouldn´t mind if at least one of those guys will get cut from the roster, in order to free up some cap space for a depth addition at cornerback (or safety, if Marcus Gilchrist won´t make the transition to the last line of the defense). And if that news about the “struggling right tackle D.J. Fluker” can be trusted, then we might have to think about getting in another tackle too (by the way: Eric Winston and Winston Justice are still available).
BoltFam what do you think will happen after (or on) June 1? Will we see one of those players getting cut from the roster? Which one do you wish should be shown the door? Or do you think we´re set up just fine for the upcoming season? You´re invited to share your thoughts and opinion in the comments section below.
Thank you for checking out this piece.