It is only Week 5, but NFL front offices don't plan from week to week. They plan in three-year chunks. And with the Nov. 2 trade deadline now less than four weeks away, you're going to start seeing some moves aimed at managing next year's salary cap.
You already have, actually. The Dallas Cowboys' release of linebacker Jaylon Smith this week was directly connected to their fear of his injury-only-guaranteed $9.2 million 2022 salary. With rookie Micah Parsons playing like a superstar, the Cowboys' linebacker room was overcrowded, almost certainly pushing Smith out of their future plans. The longer they carried him, the more they risked him getting hurt and having to pay him $9.2 million next year. Now, they don't have to worry about that.
As moves start to happen that have ripple effects next year and beyond, we wanted to take a look at which teams have the best and worst projected salary-cap situations for 2022. Let's start with the worst, because, frankly, they're more interesting. (Note: For this exercise, we used a $208.2 million salary cap, which is the highest it can possibly be in 2022, per an agreement between the NFL and the NFLPA.)
Worst 2022 salary-cap situations
Projected 2022 cap space: Roughly $54 million over the cap