Even while he’s in Minnesota, Derek Cox is still finding ways to hurt the San Diego Chargers secondary. While he’s not giving up a high volume of receptions anymore, Cox is still holding the Chargers back on the cap sheet. His contract is a big reason why San Diego won’t be able to make a run at recently released cornerback Brandon Flowers.
It’s not because general manager Tom Telesco will be hesitant to give a big money deal to a cornerback again after seeing the four-year/$20 million contract given to Cox before last season blow up after just a year. Cox’s contract is part of it, but it’s because of the dead money still left on the salary cap in 2014. $3.9 million of Cox’s deal still counts against San Diego’s cap this season, which is a lot for a team that didn’t have a lot of free money to start the offseason. Per Spotrac, the Chargers currently have $2.16 million worth of cap space for the upcoming season. That won’t be enough credibly make an offer to Flowers. Even after getting released around the time of OTAs and minicamps, Flowers isn’t the type of veteran release that will warrant only a veteran’s minimum to bring on board.
Flowers had a down year in 2013, but that shouldn’t be confused for a Derek Cox-like decline last season. Flowers was scheduled to be a $10.5 million cap hit for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2014, which is a lot to pay a good, but not great, cornerback. He’s not going to be offered $10 million a year again, but he’ll still command a respectable salary at this point in the offseason. On the field, Flowers makes sense and the Chargers could use all the good cornerbacks they could get, because good is much better than they have right now.
Unfortunately, the $3.9 million worth of dead money from Cox’s contract to count on the 2014 cap will be holding the team back from making any type of additions this offseason. Cox isn’t the only player with a hefty amount of dead money left on the cap. Wide receiver Robert Meachem will count for $3.75 million on the cap this year. Offensive tackle Jared Gaither, who hasn’t played for San Diego since 2012, will still be a $4 million cap hit this season. Gaither, like Cox, was released one season after signing a four-year/$24.6 million contract before the 2012 season.
Still it’s the Cox contract that hurts the most, since it was the only one of the three given out by the current general manager. Of course technically paying $3.9 million to not put Cox on the field this season is a far superior option to paying him $5 million and forcing him on the field. Cuts of all three of those players also freed up some extra money for deals like the extension for Donald Butler.
There’s a small hope some creative contract structuring could entice Flowers enough to leave some immediate money on the table in 2014. With $1- $2 million of salary for this season, San Diego could offer a large bump in salary for 2015 with players like Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead set to become free agents after this season. It would also give Flowers a chance to play against the Chiefs twice a year, which could also be an effective bargaining tool. Still, it’s most likely the Chargers are out of the running and high amounts of dead money will be one of the reasons.