The NFL offseason is an exciting time for teams and players alike, but it can be a difficult one as well. On one hand, it’s exciting because some players find new homes, and others have their dreams come true through the NFL Draft. On the other hand, it’s difficult because teams often have to make tough roster decisions, often involving fan-favorite players, and the Los Angeles Chargers are now exception in 2023.

Why do teams decide to move on from widely loved players? Well, more often than not, it has to do with the good ol’ salary cap. While the salary cap (theoretically) creates an even playing field and prevents teams from buying their way to a championship, it is also the bane of every general manager’s existence in that it can force teams to part ways with key players.

With contracts continuing to grow larger and larger, the salary cap becomes a bigger and bigger obstacle. The fact that nearly half the league is over next season’s cap is evidence of this trend. Of the teams facing a cap crunch, the Chargers are facing one of the biggest.

As it stands, Los Angeles is roughly $20 million over the salary cap for next season. While the Chargers don’t have many key free agents this offseason, Justin Herbert is now eligible for an extension. If the Chargers want to get under the cap and lock up their star QB, they will have to make some difficult choices.

A few players could become potential cap casualties this offseason, including some longtime stars. However, one cut candidate stands above all the rest in terms of how shocking it would be.

Chargers surprise roster cut: WR Keenan Allen

Keenan Allen has quietly been a star wideout since the Chargers moved to LA in 2017. In the six seasons since then, he has recorded at least 1,000 yards and six touchdowns in four of them. The only exceptions were 2020, when he still had 992 yards and eight touchdowns in 14 games, and 2022, when he had 752 yards and four touchdowns in just 10 games.

Live and breathe the NFL?

🚨 Get viral NFL graphics, memes, rumors and trending news delivered right to your inbox with the Clutch Newsletter.

Despite his great production, it seems that Allen’s days in LA might be numbered. Losing a receiver of his caliber would definitely hurt, especially as the Chargers look to assert themselves as true contenders. However, a few factors may just force their hand here.

For one, LA can create $14.8 million in cap space by cutting Allen this offseason. The veteran wideout carries a $21.7 million cap hit in 2023, while the Chargers will only face a $6.9 million cap hit by cutting him. This one move could nearly get them out of the red, as painful as it may be.

Adding to that, cutting Allen could allow the Chargers to maintain other key players. Daniel Popper of The Athletic named a few players who could be cap casualties for LA, including Allen, Khalil Mack, Gerald Everett and more. While losing Allen would certainly hurt, it may be necessary to keep the roster as intact as possible.

For two, Allen’s age and recent injury history have to be a concern. He will be 31 by the time next season starts, which will be his 11th in the NFL. Additionally, he missed seven games this season due to a nagging hamstring injury, which doesn’t exactly bode well going forward.

Make no mistake, parting ways with a longtime star like Keenan Allen wouldn’t be fun for anyone. However, that’s just the harsh reality of the game sometimes. If it does happen, though, he won’t have any trouble finding a new home.