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AFC cut candidates: Nick Chubb, Joey Bosa among potential cap casualties heading into free agency

The frenzy of NFL free agency is most often focused on the players signing in new spots -- but some of the most impactful moves each year are the cuts teams make in the pursuit of coveted cap space. Last offseason, we saw franchise faces like Derek Carr and Adam Thielen hit the chopping block, and the 2024 horizon brings plenty of potential big-name releases, as well.

In anticipation, here are a handful of the biggest names on cut watch in the AFC. Click here for the NFC rundown.

NOTE: All salary cap and contract numbers were taken from Over The Cap on Feb. 19.

Nick Chubb
Cleveland Browns · RB

Chubb made four straight Pro Bowls before suffering a grisly, season-ending knee injury in Week 2 of this past season. At age 28 and fresh off the second major knee injury of his playing career, the pounding runner carries a $15.825 million cap hit in 2024 (third-highest among RBs). The Browns -- who currently project nearly $20 million over the cap -- could certainly use the $11.8 million in savings they would gain by cutting Chubb. He should return to play somewhere in 2024, but barring a major contract restructure, I don't think it will be in Cleveland.

Joey Bosa
Los Angeles Chargers LAC · OLB
Khalil Mack
Los Angeles Chargers LAC · OLB

Buckle up, Bolts fans. As head coach Jim Harbaugh and general manager Joe Hortiz go to work this offseason, the first hurdle facing the new regime is balancing the books, as the Chargers are $45.1 million in the red when it comes to effective cap space (the fourth-steepest figure in the NFL).

A possible starting point could be the defensive edges, where Bosa ($36.6 million) and Mack ($38.5 million) carry an absurd $75.1 million against the cap on their own. Bosa has struggled to stay healthy over the last couple years, and while Mack just posted a career-high 17 sacks in 2023, he's about to turn 33 years old. The ideal scenario might be to restructure both deals to maintain the tandem at a reasonable price tag, but given the team's defensive struggles and new management, don't be surprised if at least one of these QB hunters hits the open market.

Mike Williams
Los Angeles Chargers LAC · WR
Keenan Allen
Los Angeles Chargers LAC · WR

The potential for dynamic-duo breakups in Los Angeles continues with the Chargers' top two wideouts. In an oddly similar situation, Williams ($32.5 million cap hit) has struggled to stay healthy recently, while Allen ($34.7 million cap hit) is coming off a resurgent, Pro Bowl season but is set to turn 32 this spring. Cutting either receiver would free up $20 million-plus in cap room, and the Chargers are positioned to select a top-tier replacement with the fifth overall pick in the draft if they desire (e.g., Rome Odunze in Daniel Jeremiah's first mock of the year). Allen feels like a more likely restructure, especially as Justin Herbert's go-to guy, but anything can happen in Hollywood.

C.J. Mosley
New York Jets · LB

Mosley has been an absolute stud for Gang Green lately, leading the team in tackles in three straight seasons and trailing only Foyesade Oluokun, Bobby Wagner and Roquan Smith in that statistic since 2021. That said, the Jets aren't in great salary cap shape and releasing Mosley would free up $11 million … or $17 million if they designate him as a post-June 1 cut. That's money New York could use to protect and support Aaron Rodgers, which should be Priority No. 1 this offseason.

Tre'Davious White
Buffalo Bills · CB

When the Bills extended White heading into the 2020 season, he was coming off a year in which he led the NFL with six interceptions and was named first-team All-Pro. Over the last three regular seasons, he's missed 30 games and has three interceptions ... in total. The Bills are also currently projected to be more than $50 million over the cap and would save $6 million against the cap by cutting White pre-June 1 (or $10.2M post-June 1).

Terron Armstead
Miami Dolphins · OT

Miami's veteran left tackle apparently has been pondering retirement since wrapping up his 11th season in the league, but if he returns to play, it might be for another team. The soon-to-be 33-year-old has been a Pro Bowler in each of the last five seasons when he's played 10-plus games, but he's also missed 20 games due to injury since 2021. If released post-June 1, Armstead would free up $8.8 million in cap savings in 2024 (while carrying $11.4M in dead money) for a Dolphins front office that's more than $50 million over the cap and staring down the barrel of a Tua Tagovailoa extension.

Xavien Howard
Miami Dolphins · CB

Howard has been a cornerstone of the Dolphins' defense for more than half a decade and one of the best corners in the league for much of that span. But as noted above, Miami is in deep water with its cap outlook and cutting Howard post-June 1 would save the Fins a whopping $18.5 million in 2024. If the former first-team All-Pro is unwilling to take a pay cut in South Florida, he might be headed elsewhere for the first time in his career.

EDITOR'S UPDATE: The Dolphins plan to release Xavien Howard at the start of the new league year, NFL Network's Mike Garafolo and Peter Schrager reported on Feb. 23.

Emmanuel Ogbah
Miami Dolphins · DE

One last cut candidate for Miami: This underperforming edge rusher with a $17.7 million cap hit in 2024. Ogbah enjoyed back-to-back nine-sack seasons in 2020 and 2021, earning a four-year extension, but since ink hit paper, he has started just four games and logged a total of 6.5 sacks. Cutting Ogbah would free up $13.7 million in cap room and just makes too much sense for Chris Grier and Co.

EDITOR'S UPDATE: The Dolphins released Emmanuel Ogbah on Feb. 23.

Courtland Sutton
Denver Broncos DEN · WR
Tim Patrick
Denver Broncos DEN · WR

Denver is $24 million over the cap heading into 2024 and could be looking at a full re-tool, depending on what happens with the tenuous Russell Wilson situation. While Sutton did fully re-establish himself as a touchdown maker in 2023 (SEE: career-high 10 scores), he still hasn't reached 70 catches or 1,000 yards in a season since his 2019 sophomore campaign and doesn't feel worth his $17.4 million cap price. If the Broncos would prefer to keep (and possibly restructure) Sutton, they could instead part ways with Patrick, who seems like the team's WR3 at best and carries a $15.6 million cap hit of his own.

D.J. Jones
Denver Broncos · DT

Jones has been a decently consistent interior defender for Denver since signing with the team two years ago, but he might not be worth the $13 million cap hit he carries in 2024. His 56.2 defensive grade from PFF last year ranked 50th out of 66 interior defensive linemen with at least 500 snaps, and he simply isn't a difference-maker at the position -- more than justifying the nearly $10 million in cap space his release would clear.

J.C. Jackson
New England Patriots · CB

After reacquiring their former undrafted free-agent signee in a midseason trade with the Chargers, the Patriots seem very likely to part ways with Jackson again heading into 2024. The corner carries a $14.375 million cap hit that can be entirely transferred into savings if the new regime releases him. While they have plenty of money as is -- $66 million in cap space is third-most in the league -- the Pats can find much better bang for their buck elsewhere.

EDITOR'S UPDATE: The Patriots released J.C. Jackson on March 1.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling
Kansas City Chiefs · WR

A couple big catches notwithstanding, Valdes-Scantling was more memorable for his missed plays in 2023 and finished the regular season with just 21 catches for 315 yards and one touchdown. That's nowhere close to the numbers needed to justify his $14 million cap hit in 2024. With MVS counting for just $2 million in dead money (and $12M in savings), the three-peat hungry Chiefs would be well served to move on and seek their admittedly much-needed WR depth elsewhere.

EDITOR'S UPDATE: The Chiefs plan to release Marquez Valdes-Scantling at the start of the new league year, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported on Feb. 28.

Tyus Bowser
Baltimore Ravens · OLB

Bowser isn't the biggest name or the biggest cap move ($5.5 million in savings if Baltimore cuts him), but every little bit counts for a team with Super Bowl aspirations and a bottom-half cap outlook. More importantly, Bowser missed the entirety of the 2023 season with a knee injury and had just two sacks in nine games played back in 2022.

Hunter Renfrow
Las Vegas Raiders · WR

Unless new offensive coordinator Luke Getsy brings in strong convictions about Renfrow, the former Pro Bowl wideout should be out of Las Vegas by summer. Since snagging 103 catches back in 2021, he has totaled just 61 over the last two seasons combined and carries a $13.7 million cap hit in 2024. The Raiders' new direction -- whatever it is -- will likely include a new slot receiver.

C.J. Uzomah
New York Jets · TE

After two unproductive seasons with the Jets and with a $11.2 million cap hit on the horizon, Uzomah is a prime candidate to be cut for the space needed to reinforce more important positions. He was more impactful back in Cincinnati and doesn't offer the upside to consider keeping at that price tag in New York.

EDITOR'S UPDATE: The Jets are releasing C.J. Uzomah, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported March 5.

Deonte Harty
Buffalo Bills · WR

Harty is a solid punt returner -- we all remember his 96-yard touchdown in Buffalo's Week 18 win at Miami -- but offers little else to a roster stuck $51 million in the red entering the offseason. The Bills will need to be aggressive with their cuts this spring, and Harty (with $4 million cap savings if released) is a likely casualty.

Nyheim Hines
Buffalo Bills · RB

Another name in the Deonte Harty vein. The Bills should look to part ways with Hines after a missed 2023 season and the emergence of James Cook. Releasing the pass-catching back and returner would move Buffalo $4.7 million of cap space closer to the green.

Justin Reid
Kansas City Chiefs · S

It would be a bit surprising to see such an integral piece of the reigning champions' stalwart defense released, but Chiefs GM Brett Veach needs to prioritize Chris Jones and L'Jarius Sneed in free agency, and cutting Reid would free up a healthy $10.8 million in cap space.

Andre Dillard
Tennessee Titans · OT

A former first-round pick of the Eagles, Dillard signed with the Titans a year ago in free agency and was simply atrocious in 2023, allowing 12 sacks (tied for most in the NFL) and earning a 47.4 pass-blocking grade from PFF. He's a candidate for a post-June 1 cut, which would free up $6.5 million in cap space.

Justin Simmons
Denver Broncos · S

As one of the NFL's top safeties, Simmons is much more likely to be extended, restructured or even traded, but he could be one of the more surprising cuts of the offseason if Denver can't figure out a deal, given their cap concerns and the Pro Bowler's $18.3 million cap hit.

Patrick Peterson
Pittsburgh Steelers · CB

A likely future Hall of Famer, Peterson turns 34 this summer, is by no means the shutdown corner he once was and could be cut by Pittsburgh to create nearly $7 million in cap savings.

Allen Robinson
Pittsburgh Steelers · WR

Speaking of aging Steelers vets with declining production, Robinson hasn't been effective since the 2020 season in Chicago and carries an $11.9 million cap hit in 2024, making him a near-guarantee for release this offseason.

Eric Kendricks
Los Angeles Chargers · LB

Remember all that Chargers cut hype near the top of this piece? Well here's another potential cap casualty, albeit on a lesser scale. Kendricks is turning 32 years old on Leap Day and would save L.A. $6.5 million against the cap if released.

EDITOR'S UPDATE: The Chargers announced March 5 that they have released Eric Kendricks.

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