June 2 used to mark the beginning of the final wave of free agency. Teams would primarily release players with excessive contracts or declining performance because the bonus proration from the remaining or future years is delayed until the following league year when a player is released after June 1.
In some years, more than 20 players were released after June 1. Some of the big-name players to hit the open market as June salary cap casualties included Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Kurt Warner. These free agents were at a disadvantage in the market place because most teams had already filled their needs through the NFL draft by this time, and salary cap space was at a premium. As a result, most of the released players couldn't get deals that would have reflected their market value if they had been available at an earlier date.
To rectify the situation, the 2006 NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement included a provision allowing teams to release up to two players each league year prior to June 2 (known as a post-June 1 designation) who were treated under the salary cap as if they were released after June 1. This provision has been in every subsequent CBA, including the current labor agreement.
With a post-June 1 designation, a team is required to carry the player's full cap number until June 2 even though he is no longer a part of the roster. The player's salary comes off the books at that time unless it is guaranteed.
A majority of the time when a player is traded or released, there is a residual cap charge mostly because of bonus proration. This cap charge for a player who is no longer on a team's roster is commonly referred to as dead money. It is typically a sunk cost where money isn't owed to a player. Only if there are salary guarantees or money previously paid in the current league year when a player is released or traded will there be a payment associated with dead money.
June 2 remains an important date on the NFL calendar because of the change in salary cap implications. Only the current year's bonus proration counts towards the cap when players are released or traded after June 1.
Eleven players have been released during the 2022 league year with a post-June 1 designation. These players are listed below with the salary cap implications of their departures.
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Julio Jones (WR) - Titans
- 2022 salary cap number: $14.313 million
- 2022 compensation: $11.513 million (includes $2 million base salary guarantee-no offset)
- 2022 dead money: $4.8 million
- 2022 salary cap savings: $9.513 million
- 2023 dead money: $8.4 million
A 2022 second-round pick and a 2023 fourth-round pick were dealt to the Falcons for a disgruntled Jones, who was coming off one of his worst statistical seasons because of lingering hamstring problems, and a 2023 sixth-round pick last June. The Titans assumed the remaining three years of Jones' contract running through the 2023 season worth $38.326 million in the trade.
Jones restructured his contract last September so the Titans could clear $11.2 million of 2021 salary cap space. $14 million of Jones' $15.3 million 2021 base salary was converted into signing bonus while voiding/dummy 2024 and 2025 contract years were added to maximize the cap room created.
Jones was expected to fill the void in Tennessee's passing game created by Corey Davis' departure to the Jets in free agency. Hamstring problems hindered Jones again last season. Jones had career lows of 31 receptions, 434 receiving yards and one touchdown while playing in 10 games. He remains unsigned despite getting his walking papers on St. Patrick's Day.
Fletcher Cox (DT) - Eagles
- 2022 salary cap number: $14,946,820
- 2022 compensation: $18,047,059
- 2022 dead money: $12,826,820
- 2022 salary cap savings: $2.12 million
- 2023 dead money: $11,498,881 (net amount after $3,185,411 salary cap credit for 2022 option bonus proration)
The Eagles have been one of the NFL's most aggressive teams in managing the salary cap, as contracts are frequently restructured to create immediate cap room. Cox's contract was restructured three times since signing in 2017.
Cox was released a day a before his $17,047,059 2022 base salary would have been fully guaranteed on the third day of the 2022 league year (March 18). He subsequently re-signed with the Eagles on a one-year deal for $14 million.
The final restructure last September included a $15,927,059 option bonus in 2022 to pick up voiding/dummy 2025 and 2026 contract years. The window for this option was between the first day of training camp in late July and Philadelphia's first regular season game on Sept. 11.
For salary cap purposes, the presumption was that the option would be exercised, which obviously didn't occur, so this option bonus was prorated 2022 through 2026. I'm operating under the assumption that $3,185,411 of option bonus proration attributed to 2022 won't be credited to Philadelphia' salary cap in 2023. The 2022 and 2023 dead money figures reflect this interpretation.
Landon Collins (S) - Commanders
- 2022 salary cap number: $15,707,354
- 2022 compensation: $12 million
- 2022 dead money: $3,825,001
- 2022 salary cap savings: $11,882,353
- 2023 dead money: $5,025,001
Collins struggled in pass coverage during the early part of the 2021 season in his return from 2020's torn left Achilles. He played his best football in 2021 after switching to a hybrid safety-linebacker role that had him playing closer to the line of scrimmage. The improved play wasn't enough for the Commanders to keep Collins around. Collins remains unsigned.
Austin Hooper (TE) - Browns
- 2022 salary cap number: $13.25 million
- 2022 compensation: $9.5 million
- 2022 dead money: $3.75 million
- 2022 salary cap savings: $9.5 million
- 2023 dead money: $7.5 million
The Browns decided against having two high-priced tight ends in a run-oriented offense after designating David Njoku as a franchise player. Hooper was let go two years into a four-year, $42 million contract that made him the league's highest-paid tight end when signed during 2020 free agency. He signed a one-year, $6 million "prove it" deal with the Titans a few days after the Browns released him in March.
La'el Collins (OT) - Cowboys
- 2022 salary cap number: $14,934,029
- 2022 compensation: $10 million
- 2022 dead money: $4,934,029
- 2022 salary cap savings: $10 million
- 2023 dead money: $8.7 million
Collins was the odd man out at right tackle in Dallas after Terrence Steele took advantage of his five-game absence early last season because of a five-game suspension under the NFL's substance abuse policy. Missing the entire 2020 season with a hip injury didn't help Collins' cause, either. $6,483,250 of Collins' $10 million 2022 base salary, which was guaranteed for injury at signing, was set to become fully guaranteed if the Cowboys hadn't released before the fifth day of the 2022 league year on March 20. Collins quickly found a new home with the Bengals. He signed a three-year, $21 million deal worth up to $30 million through salary escalators and incentives.
Cory Littleton (LB) - Raiders
- 2022 salary cap number: $15.768 million
- 2022 compensation: $11.75 million
- 2022 dead money: $4.018 million
- 2022 salary cap savings: $11.75 million
- 2023 dead money: $9.986 million
Littleton never lived up to the three-year, $35.25 million contract he signed in 2020 free agency during his two years with the Raiders. A pay-as-you-go contract structure was used with Littleton's contract where his cash and salary cap numbers were the same in each contract year because he received salary guarantees instead of a signing bonus. The Raiders would have been able to walk away from the deal without any dead money if restructures to create salary cap room, where salary was turned into a signing bonus, hadn't taken place in 2020 and 2021. Littleton signed a one-year, $2.6 million deal with the Panthers in March several days after being released.
Carlos Dunlap (Edge) - Seahawks
- 2022 salary cap number: $6.5 million
- 2022 compensation: $5.1 million
- 2022 dead money: $1.4 million
- 2022 salary cap savings: $5.1 million
- 2023 dead money: $4.2 million
Eight sacks in the final six games weren't enough to keep Dunlap off the chopping block. Before the late-season resurgence, Dunlap had 0.5 sacks in the first 11 games. The 33-year-old has yet to find a new football home.
Danny Trevathan (LB) - Bears
- 2022 salary cap number: $5,719,485
- 2022 compensation: $3.5 million
- 2022 dead money: $2,431,250
- 2022 salary cap savings: $3,288,235
- 2023 dead money: $3.775 million
Wholesale changes are being made by Chicago's new regime of general manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus. Trevathan's release was part of the house cleaning. The 32-year-old remains unsigned.
Jordan Phillips (DT) - Cardinals
- 2022 salary cap number: $13,301,344
- 2022 compensation: $10 million
- 2022 dead money: $3,301,344
- 2022 salary cap savings: $10 million
- 2023 dead money: $5,904,334
Phillips' two-year stint in Arizona was derailed by injuries. He only played 18 games during his two seasons with Cardinals. Phillips returned to the Bills, where he had his greatest NFL success in 2019 with 9.5 sacks, almost immediately after getting his walking papers from the Cardinals. He signed a one-year deal for $5 million with an additional $1 million in incentives.
Tarik Cohen (RB) - Bears
- 2022 salary cap number: $5.75 million
- 2022 compensation: $4 million
- 2022 dead money: $1.75 million
- 2022 salary cap savings: $4 million
- 2023 dead money: $1.75 million
Cohen missed the entire 2021 season after tearing his right ACL during Week 3 of the 2020 season. He won't be playing football in 2022. Unfortunately, Cohen tore his right Achilles last month in a training session he was streaming on Instagram Live.
Carl Nassib (Edge)-Raiders
- 2022 salary cap number: $9.652 million
- 2022 compensation: $8 million
- 2022 dead money: $1.652 million
- 2022 salary cap savings: $8 million
- 2023 dead money: $4.956 million
Paying Nassib $8 million was going to be a bit steep for him to be a situational pass rusher. That was especially the case after signing Maxx Crosby to a four-year, $94 million contract extension and landing Chandler Jones in free agency with a three-year, $51 million deal. Nassib is still a free agent.