With the Chargers sitting at 8-6 in the thick of an intense AFC Wild Card race, not as much thought has gone towards the offseason in contrast with recent seasons. The Chargers went all out on the 2022 offseason by trading for Khalil Mack, signing J.C. Jackson, and spending big money on the extensions of Mike Williams and Derwin James.
2023's offseason doesn't look to be as significant from a money standpoint. The Chargers will be tight on salary cap space relative to last season. Based on OverTheCap's current projections, the Chargers have $7 million in cap space on a projected $229M team cap total.
That $7 million figure is based on the Chargers running their 2022 roster back completely, which we know isn't likely to happen. There are cut decisions that have to be made as usual in addition to calls on some of the Chargers' top free agents. While it doesn't affect the 2023 cap directly since Justin Herbert is on his rookie contract, a possible Herbert extension has long-term effects as well.
Chargers cut decisions:
When looking at the Chargers' 2023 salary cap table, there are two cut opportunities that would save the team a decent chunk of change if they decided to pull the trigger.
The first player here seems like a fairly obvious decision. Releasing LG Matt Feiler would save the Chargers $6.5 million against the cap with $8.5M in savings vs. $2M in dead cap. The veteran is bottom 10 at the guard position in sacks allowed as well as penalties. He's on track to give up the most pressures of his career. A 51.2 PFF score for his 2022 campaign would be by far a career worst.
Outside of Feiler's regression on its own, the team already has a succession plan. When Rashawn Slater returns next season and Feiler is more than likely cut, Jamaree Salyer kicks inside to LG after his experience at LT this season. That creates a formidable Slater-Salyer-Linsley-Johnson-Pipkins line for the Chargers, assuming Trey Pipkins is re-signed.
The other cut decision that's a possibility for the Chargers has become a much tougher decision as of late. In theory, the Chargers can release cornerback Michael Davis to save $7.4M on the salary cap. If this question was posed in August or September, the answer would've most likely been to cut Davis. J.C. Jackson was the team's CB1 going forward and Davis was largely out of the picture snaps-wise.
But ever since Davis came into the Denver game following the benching of the aforementioned Jackson, he's been a critical presence for this team. Jackson is also going to be trying to come back from a brutal ruptured patellar tendon injury in 2023. Historically, that injury has been difficult for cornerbacks to come back from.
The uncertainty of Jackson's health and level for 2023 in addition to a reshuffling in the CB room in general make what was once an easy cut decision a lot more complicated. Considering how well Davis has played as a CB1 in the Staley scheme, the Chargers probably lean towards keeping him next season.
If the Chargers cut Feiler and Davis, they would save $13.9M. Cutting only Feiler as previously stated would save them $6.5M.