Jason Fitzgerald

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My Look at the Projected Big Spenders via SN

In this weeks piece for the Sporting News I run down the teams that I believe are positioned to be big buyers in free agency plus a look at the teams that need to fix their cap in the next week.  You can read the piece at SN and comment here is you would like.

Eagles to Trade McCoy to Bills for Alonso

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Philadelphia Eagles, who seem to be in the midst of a firesale, have agreed to trade star running back LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills in exchange for linebacker Kiko Alonso.

This move is a major win for the Eagles. McCoy was set to count against the Eagles cap at $11.95 million while earning a $10.25 million salary. Neither number should ever occur for a running back in today’s NFL and it is possible that McCoy would have been released had he refused a pay cut. If the Eagles had released him they would have owed McCoy $1 million, the amount of his salary that was guaranteed for the year. Instead they get a young linebacker in return who will earn $795,946 for the season. This will clear about $7.75 million from the Eagles salary cap this season.

For the Bills they will now take on $10.25 million in cap and cash obligations for McCoy, essentially eating up 1/3 of their projected cap room. One would expect the Bills to immediately rework his contract for more cap relief. McCoy has three years remaining on his contract. He will earn a total of $15 million in the final two years of his contract, though none of that is guaranteed. I would expect the team to add two more seasons to the deal to maximize the cap savings.

It is a large price to pay for a running back especially one who struggled at times in two of the last three seasons when his offensive line played poorly. The Bills offensive line is a trouble spot for the team and they will need to upgrade significantly to make this work. The Bills declined usin the franchise tag on pass rusher Jerry Hughes, which may have been an indication that the money was needed for the offense. The team already signed Richie Incognito to play guard, but arguably need three more lineman to allow the running game to excel.

The move will likely mark the end of CJ Spillers career with the Bills and could spell the end of veteran Fred Jackson’s. Releasing Jackson would save the team $2.7M in cap room. Spiller is a free agent.

No trade can be made official until the first day of the NFL League Year so its possible that the trade could never happen if someone gets cold feet, but it sure sounds like it will happen.  The Eagles will have well over $40 million in cap space to use to improve the team and should be expected to be a big player in free agency.

Cowboys Sign Cole Beasley

Per Rand Getlin the C0wboys have extended receiver Cole Beasley to a 4 year extension worth $13.6 million. 

Beasely was set to be a restricted free agent in 2015 and most assumed the Cowboys would have placed the second round tender on him, which would cost the team $2.356 million against the cap. An extension can provide a win-win for both sides as Dallas can account for the contract favorably against their cap while Beasley will earn more money than he would have on the tag.

According to the report Beasley received a $4 million signing bonus and I would assume the minimum salary of $660,000. That would make his first year cap charge $1.66 million, a savings of about $700,000 which can come in handy for a team that is not flush with cap space. If that estimate is correct then his second year cap charge should be $3.34 million.

The $3.4 million annual value on the deal comes in just under Jeremy Kerley’s recent extension with the Jets at 4 years and $16 million.  Both contracts contain incentives that can increase the value and its likely that Beasley’s contract was modeled somewhat after Kerley’s. We’ll update Beasley’s cap page whenever we receive more details on the contract.

Salary Cap Set at $143.28M…Franchise Tags Announced

The NFL officially set the salary cap at $143.28 million for the 2015 League Year, a growth of slightly more than $10 million from 2014. Unlike the 2014 salary cap jump this one was somewhat expected so I don’t believe it has the same impact as last year’s number, but it is certainly a good thing for the players and teams in the league. The NFL also announced the finalized adjustements for the 2014 season, but those numbers had already been used in our salary cap pages for some time.

With the cap set the NFL also set the official franchise and transition tag numbers, which were necessary to allow teams to use their tags by the 4PM deadline today. Officially six players were tagged. Those players were

Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, Giants- $14,813,000

Justin Houston, LB, Chiefs- $13,195,000

Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys- $12,823,000

Demaryius Thomas, WR, Broncos- $12,823,000

Charles Clay, TE, Dolphins- $7,071,000 (transition tag)

Stephen Gostowski, K, Patriots- $4,560,000

The only surprise on the list was Clay who is a decent player, but never someone considered to be in the upper echelon of the position. A $7 million salary ranks second in the NFL among tight ends and 7th in salary cap hits.

Players who were rumored to be tagged that were not included Ndmukong Suh (whose tag number was so high it’s hard to believe it was a rumor), Jerry Hughes, Julius Thomas, DeMarco Murray, Jeremy Maclin, and Devin McCourty. In some cases that is an indication that the tag was considered too high for the value of the player, but it does not mean that the teams will not continue to work on an extension.

Please note that franchise tenders are not contracts until signed. Players remain free agents and are free to negotiate with any team in the NFL. However the tags allow the team to match any offer sheet signed by the player. In addition a team with a franchise player that fails to match a contract will receive two first round picks as compensation. Because of that any movement usually requires a trade since two first round picks is considered too large a price to pay for any player. This is not the case for the transition tag where they only have the opportunity to match.

Teams have until 4PM on March 10 to tender their exclusive and restricted free agents. The RFA tenders should be $3.352M (1st round), $2.356 (2nd round), and $1.542M (ROFR/Original Round). Expect those tenders to begin trickling in this week.

We’ll be constantly updating our salary cap estimates, free agency pages, and everything else as we get information. Feel free to contact us with anything you see in error or additional information that we do not have. Our goal is to keep that as accurate as possible for anyone who uses OTC.

Seahawks 2015 Salary Cap Outlook

Estimated 2015 Cap Space: $24.0M ($143M cap limit)

Roster Overview

Players Under Contract: 64
Pro Bowlers: 5
Unrestricted Free Agents: 16(2 with 50%+ playtime)
Draft Selection: 31

Salary Cap Breakdown

Seahawks 2015 Salary Cap

Seahwks Offensive Spending

Seahawks Defensive Spending

Free Agents to Re-sign

I don’t believe that Seattle needs to make a major push for any of their unrestricted free agents. If Kevin Williams looks to continue playing in the NFL he should be an affordable rotation guy to keep for another season on a one year deal. Similarly if O’Brien Schofield doesn’t test the market and will come back on another minimum type contract he will be a reasonable payer to keep in the rotation.

Free Agents to Let Walk

With heavy commitments to Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, and Earl Thomas I am not sure how wise it would be to also sign Byron Maxwell to a lucrative contract extension. Because of the limited options at the positions in free agency Maxwell will likely command a premium on the market which will probably exceed his true value…The team passed on the expensive option for James Carpenter last season and I would not expect him to be a priority as they prepare for free agency. I don’t discount that he may be back, but it should be after they make a run at others at the position.

Contracts to Modify

Extensions should be the name of the game for the Seahawks this offseason. Obviously the big question here is what dollar figure will make Marshawn Lynch happy to not cause a distraction during training camp or consider retirement. While it is rare that a team needs to overcompensate at this particular position I don’t think there is any possible way to claim that Lynch is replaceable at this point. His running style and ability to carry the ball so many times is simply not a trait you see any more in the NFL and the Seahawks need to run him until he simply shows he can’t run anymore…While it may take some work to accomplish the best thing the Seahawks can do for their long term salary cap situation is to sign Russell Wilson to an extension now to better spread out the cap charges over the next few seasons. There are many ways to go with that contract, but eventually he will, by some metric, be the highest paid QB in the NFL…Bobby Wagner is also up for an extension and given the history of their extensions with the players in the secondary it would see as if he will be re-signed this offseason…Russell Okung may also be in the discussion for an extension since this is the final year of his contract, but he may opt to play the year out in hopes of increasing his value.

Players to Consider Releasing

Releasing Brandon Mebane saves the team $5 million. He will be 30 this season and coming off injury the team will likely see more benefits to cycling that money into other players…Tony McDaniel is in the final season of his contract and the team saves $3 million by releasing him. McDaniel is a solid enough pro, but again I think the consideration will be that there are players that can replace him. This is a good group of free agents for the interior of the defensive line. McDaniel could be a player that is released and then re-signed if they fail to find an upgrade in free agency…Zach Miller missed pretty much the entire year and releasing him creates $2.4 million in cap room. Again this is a player that could be released and brought back on a lower cost deal, but they should look at free agency before deciding Miller is the guy.

Offseason Plan

Too much has been made of the Seahawks pending “salary cap doom” that will occur when Wilson is re-signed. Seattle did what they had to do last season by releasing a number of veterans and trading malcontent Percy Harvin and his bloated salary off the team to ensure that at least the next two seasons will be ok in terms of cap constraints. Other than Maxwell there are really no home grown free agents that can really change their flexibility either.

Seattle can definitely use another wide receiver or athletic tight end to add to the mix. Seattle is going to want explosive players and guys capable of making those big plays when the ball is thrown their way. I think Jordan Cameron is a natural fit for the team and worth the risk unless the costs get excessive. He can complement the players they already have on the team.

I know most people do not feel as if the team will be in play for a big wide receiver, but they had allocated millions of dollars to Harvin just two years ago and planned on him being an important part of the mix this season. Both Jeremy Maclin and Torrey Smith would be two free agents that would fit the bill.  Smith doesn’t have the best of hands, but he would lighten the load for Doug Baldwin and make the overall group more effective.

Defensively they should be able to find a moderate cost defensive tackle this year. Names like Melton, Paea, Peters, Knighton, etc… are all available and come at a cost lower than the savings realized on releasing Mebane and McDaniel. They should be able to find an all around performer that aids in run and pass.

When it comes to the draft I would anticipate the process of adding to the offensive line and finding some young guys to potentially replace some of the players who may be gone in the coming seasons. I would not discount the possibility of using free agency to find a player, as there are some good interior lineman and right tackles out there, but I think the draft is the best way to go for the long term. They should be able to find some defensive lineman to groom behind the starters as well.

If you are not a fan of the Seahawks it is scary to see how the team is positioned. In a salary cap era this looks to be one of the rare teams that really has the ability to keep an extensive core of players together for a 3 or 4 year window. While other teams have been successful, names the Patriots, those teams are few and far between. Though the Super Bowl was lost in a heartbreaking fashion the Seahawks should remain one of the top teams in the NFL for the foreseeable future.

Seahawks Links

Seahawks Salary Cap Pages

Seahawks Free Agents

Seahawks Contracts

Seahawks GM Salary Cap Calculator

Other Offseason Salary Cap Reports

Seahawks Free Agent Simulator

Packers 2015 Salary Cap Outlook

Estimated 2015 Cap Space: $32.8M ($143M cap limit)

Roster Overview

Players Under Contract: 53
Pro Bowlers: 5
Unrestricted Free Agents: 11(4 with 50%+ playtime)
Draft Selection: 30

Salary Cap Breakdown

Packers 2015 Salary Cap

Packers Offensive Spending

Packers Defensive Spending

Free Agents to Re-sign

The situation with Randall Cobb is interesting. I am certain the Packer would like him back, but at what price?  They have already seemingly set their max limit with Jordy Nelson at $9.7 million a year plus Cobb’s role is generally paid in the $8.5 to $9 million a year range. However with the large number of teams with a great deal of cap room this offseason Cobb may feel as if he can earn more on the open market. The team can use the franchise tag to virtually block him from free agency but that seems like a very high price for Cobb. In the end I think he will be back in Green Bay….Bryan Bulaga stayed healthy this season and is one of the better players at the position. I would expect the two sides to come to an agreement using a similar contract model to the one Sebastian Vollmer has with the Patriots where large amounts of money are tied to health.

Free Agents to Let Walk

At 32 years of age, Tramon Williams time with the Packers may be over. The team already has a large commitment to Sam Shields and will likely soon enter negotiations with Casey Hayward which may leave Williams as the odd man out. I would guess for him to stay in Green Bay he would be leaving money on the table that may exist elsewhere…BJ Raji’s play had declined so much the last few years that he had to settle for a one year contract with Green Bay last year. He was hurt all season and there is no reason for the team to bring him back…Letroy Guion’s legal troubles might make him expendable.

Contracts to Modify

Julius Peppers was effective last season, but he is not $9.5 million effective. Peppers will need to take a reasonable pay cut this season to remain a Packer…Extending Hayward a year before free agency should allow them to lock down their third corner to favorable terms over the long haul…

Players to Consider Releasing

If Peppers is not receptive to a pay cut look for the Packers to move on. Peppers costs $12 million against the cap in addition to the large salary discussed above. Releasing him saves $7 million in cap room…The team already made their other two big moves by releasing linebackers AJ Hawk and Brad Jones.

Offseason Plan

Despite not making it to the Super Bowl last year I think many would say that the Packers were the best team in the NFL. Their collapse at the end of the NFC Championship game was unreal and the perhaps the biggest challenge for the team this season is to make sure that there is no lingering impact that causes a hangover in 2015.

Green Bay traditionally does not enter free agency looking to improve their team. They may pick up a few small pieces here and there who were released from their contracts, but the addition of an expensive player like Peppers (who was also released) is not exactly the norm for the team.  That doesn’t mean it wont happen, but it would have to be the right player willing to sign the right contract.

Most of the Packers offseason should focus on the defensive side of the ball as their offense, if they re-sign Cobb and Bulaga, has few needs. Clearly the team will be in the market for linebackers and more help on the interior of their defensive line. Drafting a cornerback if Williams is not kept would also be an option high in the draft.

The team will likely watch the releases around the NFL to see if there are any reasonable options they can consider. A few years ago the Packers did host a restricted free agent offered a low tender so maybe they would consider such players where it is only a right of first refusal rather than draft pick compensation if they feel the fit is right.

Regardless of what the team does or does not do in free agency and the draft it would be hard to picture them not in the playoff race next year unless the quarterback gets injured or there is a serious hangover from last season where nothing breaks their way. For the most part any upgrade they happen to find should only separate the gap between they and the rest of the teams in the NFC North that much more.

Packers Links

Packers Salary Cap Pages

Packers Free Agents

Packers Contracts

Packers GM Salary Cap Calculator

Other Offseason Salary Cap Reports

Packers Free Agent Simulator

Colts 2015 Salary Cap Outlook

Estimated 2015 Cap Space: $27.7M ($143M cap limit)

Roster Overview

Players Under Contract: 54
Pro Bowlers: 5
Unrestricted Free Agents: 12(6 with 50%+ playtime)
Draft Selection: 29

Salary Cap Breakdown

Colts 2015 Salary Cap

Colts 2015 Offensive Spending

Colts 2015 Defensive Spending

Free Agents to Re-sign

Veteran safety Mike Adams ended up being an important addition to the Colts defense last season on a one year minimum salary contract. He will probably get a bit more than this this time and finish his career in Indianapolis…The Colts may need to convince Cory Redding to continue playing football as he is still very effective even at 34 years of age…Darius Butler provides a reasonable option covering the slot and should fit in that $3.5-$4.5 million salary range that is typical for players at the position…The team already released LaRon Landry which likely means that Sergio Brown will be back and given the full time job as starter.

Free Agents to Let Walk

With Reggie Wayne recovering from another injury it sounds as if retirement may be in the books for Wayne. I think this is something where the two sides need to talk this over to make sure he retires before going through the free agency process, unless the goal is to simply bring him back to set some records and phase him out…Ahmad Bradshaw is a terrific player, but he can never stay healthy and the Colts can not rely on him for a few games only to see him end the season on IR. The team has too much cap room and there are too many available options for them to bring him back…Hakeem Nicks came in on a one year “prove it” type of contract and he proved he is a third or fourth option. He should not come back.

Contracts to Modify

The team will wait until picking up Andrew Luck’s option before they actually extend him, but it is hard to imagine them not extending him this year. All signs point to the Colts signing Luck to a record setting contract and once free agency is over they should use most of their remaining cap space on him this season to keep him as affordable as possible against the cap in the future…The Colts should also consider an extension for tackle Anthony Castonzo who is in the final year of his rookie contract.

Players to Consider Releasing

We’re a little late to the party here, but there are still plenty of players that might be released on the team.  The most interesting name will be Trent Richardson, who the team suspended in the playoffs. Richardson’s salary had been fully guaranteed by I (as had others) speculated that the suspension was done to void those guarantees and allow the team to release him. Richardson is a non-factor for the team. The Colts could try to hold onto him to potentially include in a trade, but probably won’t cut him until they clarify if his guarantee is void…Donald Thomas has been unable to see the field since being signed in 2013 so it would make sense for the team to give up on him and pocket the $3.25 million…Both Greg Toler and Erik Walden could be in some danger of release, but I believe these would not occur until the players were replaced. They could also be asked to take pay cuts. Cutting Toler saves $5.5 million and Walden $3.75 million.

Offseason Plan

Of the “good” teams in the NFL, the Colts are probably the team that needs to do the most if they want to take that next step. They have benefitted greatly from playing in the worst division in the NFL for the last few years helping them inflate their record far beyond the actual performance level. Most of the time when they step up in class they have great difficulties. While Andrew Luck may be a bit of a polarizing figure in terms of just how good he is, I think most universally agree the team around him is not as good as Luck.

The Colts have built up a huge cap surplus and expect them to use it in an attempt to get to the Super Bowl. This team has been built up through free agency, specifically on defense, and there is no reason to believe that will change. Of 22 players who started at least 8 games for the team last season, 10 came from outside the Colts organization. The expected free agent contribution list was even greater than that but players like Landry and Nicks and Arthur Jones were either injured or ineffective to qualify. Most of the players are overpaid and this will likely be one of the first teams agents call on March 7 to try to up the bidding for the players they represent.

On the offensive side of the ball I think it is clear the team will want to build a running game. I would picture them being linked to trading for Adrian Peterson (perhaps including Richardson as a throw in), signing DeMarco Murray, or any of the name players that will be available. That will be followed by working on revamping the interior of the offensive line where there will also be good players. The Colts essentially set the market for right tackles two years ago and it would not be a stunner if they did the same for one of the guard spots. The team will also be linked to a number of receivers and it would not be stunning if they made they called up Miami about Mike Wallace.

I think everyone believes that this is the likely destination for Pernell McPhee to be their next pass rusher. If Haloti Ngata is released this would be a likely spot for him. Regardless of who they sign they will certainly be focusing on the defensive line and pass rush, especially if Redding retires.

The draft will likely focus on the positions that the team doesn’t upgrade in free agency. Given the lack of available players in the secondary finding another cornerback and/or safety may come in the draft. Finding younger defensive linemen should occur even if they make some signings. But I feel safe saying that the draft will supplement their run at free agency.

Thus far the team has had a number of misses when going outside the team for help so they need to find more Vontae Davis’ this season than Richardson’s if they want to be a legit contender for the AFC crown. But come March 10 expect to hear the name Colts very often.

Colts Links

Colts Salary Cap Pages

Colts Free Agents

Colts Contracts

Colts GM Salary Cap Calculator

Other Offseason Salary Cap Reports

Colts Free Agent Simulator