The NFL offseason is upon us. Following the completion of the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, teams are now turning their full attention to the new league year. With a minimal amount of time to make salary cap decisions and put themselves in a good situation heading into free agency, we are about to hear news break on an hourly basis over the next few weeks.
This is where Sportsnaut comes into play. We are going to be here to help you through everything. Consider this piece a base to start determining what your team might end up doing when March comes calling. We will update the salary cap figures and contract situations as they become available.
Notes: All contract information provided by Spotrac.com. Cap room is in parenthesis with (-) indicating teams are under the cap and (+) indicating they are over the cap.
Arizona Cardinals (-$21.388 Million)
Key Free Agents: Antonio Cromartie, Sam Acho and Dan Williams
Key Additions: Sean Weatherspoon
Key Losses: Darnell Docket (Released) and Ted Grinn (Released)
Larry Fitzgerald’s new deal gave the Cardinals the necessary room to get under the cap. It’s now all about figuring out how to become players on the open market. The team saved $6.8 million against the cap by releasing Darnell Dockett. It also sent Ted Ginn Jr packing. That might be the extent of Arizona’s cost-cutting moves. It’s now all about retaining key veterans and potentially making a minor move or two in free agency.
Atlanta Falcons (-$32.900 Million)
Key Free Agents: Osi Umenyiora and Kroy Biermann
Key Losses: Steven Jackson (Released), Justin Blalock (Released), Sean Weatherspoon and Harry Douglas (Released)
Atlanta released veteran running back Steven Jackson, which saves the team a bit over $3.8 million in cap room. It was a move that many expected considering the Falcons are high on Devonta Freeman as the running back of the future. The team also sent guard Justin Blalock and wide receiver Harry Douglas packing. It’s obvious that new head coach Dan Quinn is looking to make his imprint on the Falcons roster.
As it is, Atlanta is in good position to make some noise on the open market.
Baltimore Ravens (-$3.616 Million)
Key Free Agents: Justin Forsett and Torrey Smith
Key Losses Losses: Jacoby Jones (Released) and Chris Canty (Released) and Pernell McPhee
There’s little doubt that Haloti Ngata is going to get released at some point soon. With Baltimore up against the cap, the $16 million cap hit for the veteran defensive tackle just isn’t sustainable. And while Ngata does have a dead money total of $7.5 million, it’s something Baltimore will have to do if the two sides can’t come to terms on a restructure. It’s also likely that Pernell McPhee will walk in free agency, which makes it much more important for Baltimore to gain some flexibility in order to sign a mid-tier defensive lineman or two. Baltimore was able to rid itself of $750,000 in cap room by releasing veteran receiver Jacoby Jones. The team also released defensive end Chris Canty, saving $2.6 million against the 2015 cap.
Buffalo Bills (-$16.007 Million)
Key Free Agents: Erik Pears, Brandon Spikes and C.J. Spiller
Re-signed: Jerry Hughes
Key Additions: LeSean McCoy (Trade) and Matt Cassel (Trade)
Key Losses: Kiko Alonso (Trade)
Now that Buffalo has its starting backfield set for next season, the remainder of the offseason will likely focus on filling specific areas of need in order to make the team a division championship contender. Acquiring LeSean McCoy and his massive contract wasn’t too troublesome for a Bills squad that had a nice amount of money heading into the offseason. The acquisition of Cassel also enables Buffalo to avoid looking at the veteran free-agent quarterback market. Whether that’s a good thing, we don’t know yet. Either way, the Rex Ryan era is off to a roaring start.
Carolina Panthers (-$16.450 Million)
Key Free Agents: Greg Hardy
Key Additions: Michael Oher (Free Agency) and Ted Ginn Jr
Key Losses: DeAngelo Williams (Released)
Considering Carolina released DeAngelo Williams, the team is now probably going to scour the open market for a veteran running back to share carries with Jonathan Stewart. That’s obviously dependent on what the team does with Mike Tolbert. In any event, Carolina should be at least somewhat active on the open market. Though, it’s safe to assume Greg Hardy will not be back with the team.
Chicago Bears (-$31.977 Million)
Key Free Agents: Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman and Stephen Paea
Key Additions: Pernell McPhee
Key Losses: Brandon Marshall (Trade)
Chicago has a lot of decisions to make with its own veterans. Does the team bring Jared Allen back under Vic Fangio’s new 3-4 scheme? Now that Brandon Marshall has been traded, what happens with Jay Cutler? Outside of that, Chicago has a whole heck of a lot to do on defense, especially after switching from the 4-3 to the 3-4.
Cincinnati Bengals (-$39.775 Million)
Key Free Agents: Jermaine Gresham and Clint Boling
Re-signed: Rey Maualuga
Key Losses: Robert Geathers (Released) and Mike Pollak (Released)
Cincinnati may have a boatload of money to spend under the cap, but this is a team that usually doesn’t hit the open market hard. Unless the team decides a top-tier free agent or two is worth the money to take that next step to elite status, we can expect that to be the case in this offseason. Though, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Bengals dole out a nice amount of cash for a free-agent pass rusher. After all, this team racked up a NFL-worst 20 sacks last year.
Cleveland Browns (-$49.841 Million)
Key Free Agents: Jabaal Sheard and Jordan Cameron
Key Additions: Josh McCown (Free Agent)
Key Losses: Brian Hoyer
Here’s a team that’s going to be incredibly active in free agency. Not only is general manager Ray Farmer likely going to look for a veteran quarterback, he needs to hit the receiver market hard. That’s only magnified with the loss of Josh Gordon for the entire 2015 season due to yet another suspension. Ohio native Cecil Shorts III becomes a real possibility here. As it relates to other positions, look for Cleveland to attack tight end and linebacker rather hard in free agency.
Dallas Cowboys (-$3.192 Million)
Key Free Agents: DeMarco Murray, Rolando McClain, Bruce Carter, Justin Durant, George Selvie and Sterling Moore
Re-signed: Doug Free
Key Additions: Keith Rivers (Free Agent)
Key Losses: Henry Melton (Released)
Franchised: Dez Bryant
In an interesting bit of news, Dallas has given Brandon Carr a choice: Either restructure or face the possibility of being released. The under-performing cornerback is set to count $12.2 million against the cap in 2015, but has a rather lofty dead cap hit. In a better cap situation than most people first thought, Dallas has an opportunity to retain both Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray on long-term deals. However, it’s likely that the latter departs in free agency. Considering Tony Romo is set to count $27.8 million against the cap and Dallas needs to re-sign some high-value free agents, another contract restructure could be in the cards there. By placing the franchise tag on Dez Bryant, Dallas has committed $12.823 million to the receiver when/if he signs the tender. Its cap number reflects that figure.
Denver Broncos (-$20.087 Million)
Key Free Agents: Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Rahim Moore
Key Losses: Orlando Franklin
Franchised: Demaryius Thomas
Barring a long-term agreement, Demaryius Thomas will play under the franchise tag in 2015. Julius Thomas, who is said to be going after the money, is likely on his way out of town. The same can be said for Wes Welker, who saw his role diminish a great deal last season with the addition of Emmanuel Sanders. Those might be some big names there, but Denver needs to find a way to lock up both Rahim Moore and Orlando Franklin on long-term deals. The only realistic way that becomes possible is if Peyton Manning restructures his deal, which currently calls for a $21.5 million cap hit in 2015. By placing the franchise tag on Demaryius Thomas, Denver has committed $12.823 to the wide receiver. While that won’t come off the team’s books until he signs the tender, its cap number reflects that number.
Detroit Lions (-$17.803 Million)
Key Free Agents: Rob Sims, Nick Fairley and Dominic Raiola
Key Losses: Reggie Bush (Released) and Ndamukong Suh
Detroit may have the ability to re-sign both Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, but that might not be the best use of money for the team. Looking to take that next step as conference title contenders, there are other holes the team needs to fill. What about a cornerback opposite Darius Slay? Who will pair up with Joique Bell next season now that Reggie Bush has been released? These are two huge questions for the playoff team from a year ago. Everything that Detroit does this offseason will be dependent on what happens with Suh.
Green Bay Packers (-$33.066 Million)
Key Free Agents: B.J. Raji, Tramon Williams, Bryan Bulago, John Kuhn and Davon House
Re-signed: Randall Cobb
Key Losses: A.J. Hawk (Released)
Randall Cobb is said to be asking for about $9 million a season, which is a figure Green Bay might be able to handle. However, the team could very well decide to move on from Cobb and go with the cheaper option in Davante Adams as the No. 2 receiver. None of the other Packers’ free agents are likely going to return. But with nearly $31 million in cap room, general manager Ted Thompson and company might be able to hit the free-agent market. Green Bay was able to save $3.5 million against the cap by releasing A.J. Hawk. That’s a solid move for cap purposes, especially considering he’s a marginal NFL linebacker today.
Houston Texans (-$11.960 Million)
Key Free Agents: Brooks Reed and Ryan Mallett
Key Additions: Brian Hoyer
Re-signed: Kareem Jackson and Derek Newton
Key Losses: Chris Myers (Released)
Outside of figuring out what to do at quarterback, Houston’s biggest offseason question is going to be about veterans it might release. The team could rid themselves of Andre Johnson and Johnathan Joseph, saving about $21 million in cap room. Though, trading Johnson would enable the Texans to save $16.1 million by itself. If both are shown the door, the Texans will then have a nice amount of money to target key positions of need in free agency. Of their internal free agents, Kareem Jackson and Ryan Mallett are likely going to be the priorities.
Indianapolis Colts (-$36.167 Million)
Key Free Agents: Reggie Wayne, Hakeem Nicks and Ahmad Bradshaw
Re-signed: Darius Butler
Key Additions: Todd Herremans
Key Losses: Ricky Jean-Francois (Released) and LaRon Landry (Released/Suspended)
General manager Ryan Grigson is in an extremely fortunate situation this offseason. With a minimal number of needs after a third consecutive postseason appearance, Indianapolis can afford to target a couple specific positions in free agency. In addition to this, it has the capability of freeing up even more money be releasing underwhelming veterans. Two positions we can fully expect the Colts to hit hard are running back and wide receiver. And in reality, that’s where someone like the Cowboys’ DeMarco Murray comes into play.
Jacksonville Jaguars (-$66.344 Million)
Key Free Agents: Cecil Shorts
Key Additions: Jared Odrick and Jermey Parnell
Re-signed: Tyson Alualu
Is this the year that Jacksonville FINALLY hits the free agent market in search of elite talent? No, I am not talking about mid-tier veteran options. Instead, future Pro Bowl performers yet to hit the prime of their careers. The likes of DeMarco Murray, Rahim Moore and even Ndamukong Suh make sense here. David Caldwell is rightfully focused on building through the draft, but that doesn’t mean he should avoid spending top dollar on elite talent. With nearly $60 million in cap room, there’s no reason for the Jaguars to be inactive.
Kansas City Chiefs (+$1.707 Million)
Key Free Agents: None
Key Additions: Jeremy Maclin
Key Losses: Anthony Fasano (Released, Rodney Hudson and Joe Mays (Released)
Franchised: Justin Houston
Kansas City found a way to retain Tamba Hali after placing the franchise tag on Justin Houston. That’s a big deal for the team. Equally as important, Andy Reid and company netted prized free agent receiver Jeremy Maclin to give the Chiefs a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver for Alex Smith. Solid moves thus far.
Miami Dolphins (-$9.651 Million)
Key Free Agents: Knowshon Moreno and Jimmy Wilson
Key Additions: Ndamukong Suh
Key Losses: Brian Hartline (Released), Brandon Gibson (Released), Cortland Finnegan (Released), Jared Odrick and Phillip Wheeler (Released)
Transition Tag: Charles Clay
It sure looks like the Dolphins are working hard to retain both Jared Odrick and Charles Clay (since given the transition tag). If that’s the case, the team is going to have to cut the fat somewhere. Mike Wallace is set to count $12.1 million against the cap in 2015, and the team can save about $5.5 million by releasing him. Interestingly, Miami sent fellow receiver Brian Hartline packing. We aren’t too sure what that means for Wallace. One player that’s obviously on his way out of town is free-agent bust Dannell Ellerbe, who is set to count nearly $10 million against the cap. Outside of that, we can’t expect the Dolphins to be too active when the new league year begins.
Minnesota Vikings (-$24.774 Million)
Key Free Agents: None
Key Losses: Matt Cassel (Released)
It’s all about Adrian Peterson here. Nearly $18 million under the cap, Minnesota could very well end up being big spenders in free agency should it rid itself of Peterson’s full $15.4 million cap hit for next season. Of course, the only way that happens is if the team works out a trade. Outside of that, it’s more than likely that Greg Jennings is released. Look for Minnesota to potentially target a wide receiver and cornerback in free agency.
New England Patriots (+$4.213 Million)
Key Free Agents: Darrelle Revis, Dan Connolly, Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley and Akeem Ayers
Re-signed: Stephen Gostkowski (Franchise Tender) and Devin McCourty
Key Losses: Vince Wilfork (Released)
New England may currently be over the cap, but that factors into account Darrelle Revis’ $25 million cap hit for next season—a number that’s simply not going to remain that high moving forward. If New England decides to decline the option, it could then attempt to work out a long-term deal or let Revis walk in free agency. In reality, Revis’ situation will dictate what the Patriots do this offseason. They also have a high-value free agent in Devin McCourty that the team would love to retain. In terms of outside free agent options, we are all still waiting for the Patriots to target that true No. 1 receiver. It will be interesting to see if they look at Andre Johnson in a potential trade or dole out cash for one of the many solid free-agent receivers.
New Orleans Saints (+$17.306 Million)
Key Free Agents: Patrick Robinson
Re-signed: Mark Ingram
Key Losses: Pierre Thomas (Released)
We covered New Orleans’ cap situation a bit earlier. Not only will the team have to work out a new deal with Drew Brees, it’s going to have to release multiple contributors from a season ago in order to get under the cap and pay its rookie class. Unfortunately for fans in the Bayou, the Saints are not going to be players in the free agent market. The biggest focus here has to be remaining viable under the cap and creating some type of flexibility moving forward.
New York Giants (-$13.186 Million)
Key Free Agents: Antrel Rolle and Walter Thurmond
Key Losses: Mathias Kiwanuka (Released) and Peyton Hillis (Released)
Franchised: Jason Pierre-Paul
Now that New York has placed the franchise tag on Jason Pierre-Paul, the team is going to have to free up some more cap space. It will also force the team to part ways with some veterans. The Giants did release Mathias Kiwanuka, which saved the team nearly $4 million against the cap. Ridding themselves of Jon Beason would save about the same amount of cash. Outside of that, the Giants are unlikely to hit free agency hard unless they work out a long-term deal with Eli Manning that lowers his cap hit from the $19.75 million total it currently sits at. The above cap number reflects Pierre-Paul’s franchise tag.
New York Jets (-$38.876 Million)
Key Free Agents: Michael Vick, Kyle Wilson, Willie Colon and Kendrick Ellis
Re-signed: David Harris
Kay Additions: Brandon Marshall (Trade)
Key Losses: Chris Johnson (Released)
With a whole bunch of cap space and not much in terms of internal free agents, the Jets are poised to hit free agency pretty darn hard in March. We are looking at a team that has about as many holes as any other squad in the National Football League. And while the new brass will want to build through the draft, there’s no reason to sit back and be inactive. In addition to this, the Jets are likely going to add $10.5 million in cap room by releasing Percy Harvin. That’s a lot of bank for the team’s new front office. Look for the Jets to target from a pool of players including: DeMarco Murray, Randall Cobb, Jeremy Maclin and Michael Crabtree on offense. No matter who is under center, this team needs to add skill-position players to help that quarterback.
Oakland Raiders (-$63.562 Million)
Key Free Agents: Darren McFadden, Denarius Moore, Stefen Wisniewski, Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers
Key Additions: Rodney Hudson
Key Losses: Tyvon Branch (Released), LaMarr Woodley (Released) Maurice Jones-Drew (Retired) and Nick Roach Released)
Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie has stated on more than one occasion that he wants to build the team through the draft. Coming off a stellar 2014 draft, that’s probably a good idea. Though, the Raiders would be smart to hit free agency pretty hard in March. With about $52 million to spend and a ton of flexibility as it relates to releasing veterans, it’s possible the Raiders will be closer to $80 million under the cap when all is said and done. Instead of targeting over-the-hill veterans, the Raiders would be smart to front load contracts to free agents currently on the upswing. That list includes the likes of DeMarco Murray, Ndamukong Suh, Michael Crabtree, Jeremy Maclin, Darrelle Revis and Julius Thomas.
Philadelphia Eagles (-$45.145 Million)
Key Free Agents: Brandon Graham and Bradley Fletcher
Re-signed: Mark Sanchez
Key Additions: Kiko Alonso (Trade), Byron Maxwell and Frank Gore
Key Losses: LeSean McCoy (Trade), James Casey (Released), Todd Herremans (Released), Trent Cole (Released), Jeremy Maclin and Cary Williams (Released)
Here’s another team with a ton of salary cap flexibility and an ability to hit free agency hard. In addition to releasing James Casey, Tent Cole, Todd Herremans and Cary Williams It’s likely that DeMeco Ryans and Brent Celek will be released. That would add about $11.7 million to the team’s already large amount of cap room. The trade of LeSean McCoy to Buffalo also saved the team $9 million against the cap while creating a huge hole at running back that has since been filled by Frank Gore.
Pittsburgh Steelers (-$7.910 Million)
Key Free Agents: Jason Worilds and Ike Taylor
Pittsburgh has been in a constant state of salary cap flux over the years. Unfortunately for the team, it’s finally catching up to them. With aging veterans performing below expectations and holes up and down the roster, the focus now turns to refueling the roster via the draft. That’s only magnified due to two factors. First off, Pittsburgh doesn’t hit free agency hard. And finally, it doesn’t have the cap room to actually entertain substantial free agent signings. The team did restructure some veteran contracts, but that will be more about actually finding enough money to sign the team’s draft class. Though, the team could save some nice cash by releasing Troy Polamalu and Lawrence Timmons—two of the aging veterans we covered above. If that happens, Pittsburgh might go against the grain and actually hit free agency.
San Diego Chargers (-$36.845 Million)
Key Free Agents: Ryan Mathews, Eddie Royal, Marcus Gilchrist and Shareece Wright
Re-signed: Brandon Flowers
Key Additions: Jacoby Jones (Free Agent) and Orlando Franklin
Key Losses: Nick Hardwick (Retired)
The Chargers did themselves a favor by re-signing King Dunlap to a four-year, $28 million contract earlier in February. That enabled them to take him off the market without getting into a bidding war. San Diego also saved about $4.5 million against the cap when Jarrett Johnson announced his retirement. Still over $29 million under the cap, San Diego could potentially hit free agency pretty hard. And with a team that’s ready to contend for a playoff spot, it’s an ideal situation to target a position or two. Running back and receiver are the two positions I envision San Diego addressing. Both Adrian Peterson and DeMarco Murray could be options here, as could Frank Gore. In addition to this, San Diego could save a nice amount of money by releasing overvalued veterans. Though, it’s highly unlikely Antonio Gates falls victim there.
San Francisco 49ers (-$21.998 Million)
Key Free Agents: Michael Crabtree, Mike Iupati, Perrish Cox and Chris Culliver
Key Additions: Darnell Dockett (Free Agent) and Jerome Simpson (Free Agent)
Key Losses: Frank Gore, Patrick Willis (Retirement) and Justin Smith (Retirement)
San Francisco’s cap situation might not be the best in the world, but it does have the flexibility to save enough money to make a play for one or two high-value free agents. The team can save about $15 million be releasing Ahmad Brooks, Vernon Davis and Steve Johnson. While Davis’ job might be safe, he’s looking a restructure squarely in the face. In addition to this, Colin Kaepernick’s contract affords the 49ers the ability to drastically lower his cap hit for 2015 while guaranteeing him more money beyond the 2015 season. Either way, I fully expect San Francisco to be a bit more active in free agency than most people anticipate. And unlike previous years, it might have to be with the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals continuing to build strong rosters.
Seattle Seahawks (-$25.004 Million)
Key Free Agents: James Carpenter, Kevin Williams and Malcolm Smith
Key Losses: Zach Miller (Released) and Byron Maxwell
If Marshawn Lynch decides to return next season, various reports indicate that Seattle will pay him $12 million in 2015. The team is also going to work hard at signing Russell Wilson to what will be one of the richest contracts in the history of the NFL. Heck, Pro Bowl linebacker Bobby Wagner is also due for an extension. Needless to say, Seattle is unlikely to be a player in the free-agent market. With that said, Lynch’s decision will determine what the team does. If he decides to retire, both DeMarco Murray and Adrian Peterson become possibilities at running back. Seattle is also going to want to think long and hard about bringing in a No. 1 wide receiver for Wilson. Though, that only becomes a possibility if Lynch retires and the team replaces him with a cheaper option at running back.
St. Louis Rams (-$3.461 Million)
Key Free Agents: Shaun Hill, Austin Davis, Kenny Britt and Lance Kendricks
Key Losses: Kendall Langford (Released)
Here’s a team that’s simply not in the best of situations heading into the offseason. Not only does St. Louis have to figure out its quarterback situation, it just went under the cap be releasing Kendall Langford. Still less than $5 million under the threshold, St. Louis will have to release some key veterans. And while Sam Bradford’s contract might take care of itself, there are other areas that need to be addressed. Among them are the “Long brothers,” both of whom might be jettisoned for cap purposes. The Rams can save $15.5 million against the cap by releasing both Chris Long and Jake Long. They can also save about $13 million by sending Bradford packing. In a vacuum, those three moves would enable the team to hit free agency rather hard. It all depends on how general manager Les Snead and company want to handle it.
Tampa Buccaneers (-$34.004 Million)
Key Free Agents: Adrian Clayborn and Da’Quan Bowers
Key Losses: Josh McCown (Released)
None of Tampa Bay’s major internal free agents are likely going to be back with the team. The larger question here is what general manager Jason Licht is going to do with some of his high-priced veterans. With a cap hit of $8 million, Tampa Bay can save $4 million by releasing free-agent bust Dashon Goldson. It could also save $7 million by releasing Logan Mankins, though that’s not too likely. More than anything, Tampa Bay needs to figure out what to do with Vincent Jackson. He’s set to count $12.2 million against the cap in 2015, and is nowhere near as valuable to the team with Mike Evans in the mix. As it relates to the free-agent market, we can expect Tampa Bay to hit it rather hard.
Tennessee Titans (-$46.913 Million)
Key Free Agents: Michael Roos, Nate Washington, Jake Locker and Colin McCarthy
Key Losses: Michael Oher (Released)
Here’s another team that has no excuse not to hit the open market hard. With nearly $40 million to spend and holes up and down the roster, Tennessee needs to find some impact free agents when all is said and done. Wide receiver, offensive line, defensive line, linebacker, cornerback, tight end and safety are all needs. In addition to this, Tennessee can save about $12 million be releasing Jason McCourty, Michael Griffin and Bernard Pollard.
Washington Redskins (-$24.929 Million)
Key Free Agents: Brian Orakpo and Brandon Meriweather
Key Additions: Ricky Jean-Francois (Free Agent) and Stephen Paea
Key Losses: Barry Cofield (Released) and Stephen Bowen (Released)
Restructuring DeAngelo Hall was big for both the team and the player. He might not be a starter-caliber corner in the NFL, but it appears the Redskins are sold on him playing a role next year. At the very least, they saved some money by re-working his deal. Pierre Garcon is someone to definitely keep an eye on between now and the start of free agency. Coming off his worst statistical season since his rookie year, Garcon is set to count $9.7 million against the cap. Considering the Redskins are beholden to DeSean Jackson based on his contract structure, they might have to part ways with Garcon. Soon-to-be free agent Brian Orakpo is also likely on his way out of D.C.
Photo: USA Today