I guess with Dallas what you see is what you are going to get for the next few years. The Cowboys already have a full complement of players under contract for 2014 and a league high payroll that is over $145 million. Four Cowboys are set to be free agents in 2014 and its unlikely that there is a legitimate avenue to keep any of them given the Cowboys cap circumstances. In 2015 the Cowboys have $130 million on the books for just 20 players. Basically a Tony Romo restructure is going to need to be done just to keep the team cap compliant. Given Dallas’ situation they absolutely need to hit in this years draft and on a few selections. Despite the hefty cap numbers for Dallas they need help on the offensive line, at running back, and at Safety. In terms of long term planning they need down linemen with half of their defensive front set to be free agents plus Jay Ratliff seemingly close to done. While I don’t think Dallas would trade up it would be such a mistake to even consider. If anything they should trade down and look to cut away from some high priced veterans and replace them with younger talent. IMO, this is a crucial draft for Dallas because if they fail to hit the crash in Dallas when the bill comes due in 2015 is going to be really bad.
New York Giants
The Giants are another team with a difficult cap situation and don’t expect them to be finished tinkering with the pay structure of their roster just yet. The Giants don’t have enough cap space to function come the summer and fall so they need to restructure some players or cut players outright. I’ve seen this type of scene play out many times before and typically right after the draft you will see some cuts based on positional selections. If I was Chris Snee or Antrel Rolle I would be worried about my position on the team and ability to maintain my salary for the season. The Giants only have $101 million or so commited to the 2014 salary cap but with deals needed for WRs Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks that cap space could vanish in a hurry. Cruz is an 8 million or so a year player while Nicks, if he has a good and healthy season, could top $12 million a year. The Giants would be best suited to lock Nicks up now because he has the most to gain in free agency while Cruz’ value seems pretty locked in unless Percy Harvin sets the world on fire out in Seattle. If they intend to keep the two wideouts that means they have no choice but to fill their other issues- offensive line and secondary- through the draft. The Giants love to draft pass rushers and that’s always a possibility but I don’t know if they can ignore these other areas in the draft, Their defense clearly needs more balance.
The Eagles are the only team in the NFC East without cap problems due to superior cap management skills and philosophies over the past few seasons. While they grew a bit too start struck the last two years they have a system in place that actually allows they to retool on the fly rather than go with a full blown rebuild like most teams go through when seasons don’t go as planned. The Eagles have around $120 million committed to 2014 but are poised to carryover $20 million from the 2013 year to 2014 to give them cap room ti improve the team. With over 51 under contract the cap number isn’t really an issue. One of the ways that the Eagles stood out to me this year compared to some other squads with big cap space like the Colts is that they did not overspend. They ate all of Mike Vicks money this season and set the plate to spend more in the future when and if the free agent classes are improved. Just because you have a lot of cap room and low priced QBs doesn’t mean you need to spend it and the Eagles avoided that trap. With 30 players under contract in 2015, tied for most in the NFL, the Eagles have a long term solution in place if things go well while maintaining the flexibility to move away from those players without much cap pain. Philadelphia has a ton of options in the draft since they pick high in so many rounds. Given that they are looking for more pieces to fit the new coaches system they would seem like a logical trade down team. Given the uncertainty in their QB situation they may be a team looking to amass picks to use next year to get a QB since the team should find out everything they need to know about Foles this year. The team needs major help along the offensive line and don’t let the big contract of Jason Peters fool you into thinking they won’t draft his replacement.
In many ways I think that the cap penalty was a blessing in disguise for the Redskins. For years the Redskins have overspent on mediocre talent and this penalty kept them from doing just that this season. While they have spent more than I would have liked to see they do have 47 under contract in 2014 and only $106 million or thereabouts committed to the cap. Those are very reasonable numbers for a team whose QB will likely begin entering his real prime provided he is healthy. That said the Skins have work to do if they want to sign their rookies as they are running right on the cap right now. I tend to think some will say that the Redskins will look to get RGIII more weapons in the passing game but the smarter move will be to improve their defense which can upgrade at multiple positions. The defense has 7 starters who are on their contract years and a number of key subs on their final year. Plus the defense is not that good to begin with. The Redskins relied too much on RGIII in 2012 and they need to balance that out somewhat by building a better defense. If the QB is healthy they can get by with some patchwork pieces for the time being as he looked so good last season he doesn’t need all great players around him and he already has the running game to rely on. The trade for RGIII depleted their draft reserves so using what hey have and not getting caught up in trading games again is the teams best chance for success.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.