The Most Snaps to Replace in Free Agency

With free agency just a few days away I thought it made sense to see just what teams need to replace and how far their cap space might get them this year. There are a number of teams with excessive amounts of cap room to spend while others may have a difficult time finding ways to keep their rosters together. So for each team we will look at how many snaps they currently need to replace based on free agent status, either unrestricted or street, and just how much space they have to make that happen.

The Potential Big Movers

The Browns currently are slated to lose just 3,481 snaps to free agency and have over $100 million to fill those holes. At $29,769 in cap dollars per snap they have the potential to add far more than anyone else in the NFL. The next closest team to the Browns has less than $16,000 per snap to spend. So if the Browns are avoiding free agency this year it is a strategic move to avoid throwing their potential future contracts out of whack by showing a disposition to overpay talent to help their team.

The Titans have $15,309 to spend per snap to replace the 4,000 snaps they might lose this year. Tennessee should be a dark horse team this year as they have never been active chasing any notable free agents but with the current status of their roster this is the perfect time to jump in. Since they have stayed on the sidelines for awhile that can also give them an advantage in negotiations to sneak up on other teams targeting similar players.

The 49ers actually have the 7th most snaps to replace this year, but with $90 million in cap room they have the funds to do it. Will they go and use it or continue to be almost completely risk averse in free agency is anyones guess. Given the holes on the roster they will probably be competing in the second tier.

The Broncos are the other team along with the Titans that could stand to benefit greatly in free agency. This is already a solid team and with just 2,985 snaps to replace and over $42 million in cap room they can make one more big run with this group. Though they are tough negotiators in Denver they have never been afraid of free agency in the past.

Not Much Room, But Enough to Add Talent

The Steelers are currently just under $19 million in cap room but with just 2,538 snaps to replace they are actually in the middle of the pack in effective cap dollars. While this is not a team that is usually a big player in free agency they could sign one impact type player is someone falls through the cracks and drops a tier in expected value.

The Chiefs are near the bottom of the NFL in cap room, but they have already done their housecleaning and have just 1,000 or so snaps to replace. They will gain some added cap room when they officially decline Nick Foles option as well, so while it may not seem like much cap space now they could probably add one quality player to the mix if they want.

The Texans, with about $6,200 per snap to spend should be able to get a bit more mileage out of their $23 million in cap room than the number would suggest. Their problem is the position they need the most, quarterback, probably doesn’t exist unless they can get a shot at Tony Romo.

Teams In Trouble

The Cowboys right now are in a nightmarish position. They have the 3rd most snaps to possibly lose to free agency- 6,540- and the least cap space in the NFL to fill that with. They have just $501 per snap to spend on players and they have a lot of them potentially leaving with 21 free agents. They will gain some room with Tony Romo and can do some extensions and/or restructures to gain some added space but they are going to have to be creative.

Arizona stands to lose nearly 8,300 snaps in free agency and are just one of two teams with more than 6,600 snaps to replace. They only have $17 million to use with Chandler Jones clogging up a big portion of their cap. At $2,053 per snap to spend it may mean some last minute restructures as soon as free agency begins if they want to give it one more shot with this group.

Last years big spenders, the Giants, likely wont be doing much this year. They have to replace nearly $6,000 snaps and have just $13 million in cap room to do it. Expect to see a number of their 18 free agents leave the team and the organization focusing on the draft to fill some holes.

The Bills actually have, on a percentage basis, more snaps than the Cardinals to replace, and not much more money to do it at just $2,218 per snap. They could gain a lot more cap room if they release Tyrod Taylor, but that would push them to over 9,000 snaps to replace and leave them with no quarterback. This would look to be a project that could be a year or two to fix unless they hit a major home run in the draft.

Here is the full list

TeamFA Snaps% of SnapsPlayersCap Space$/Snap
Browns348115.2%7$103,624,922$29,769
Titans401717.6%14$61,496,764$15,309
49ers599525.0%18$90,635,889$15,119
Broncos298512.5%10$42,105,799$14,106
Jaguars520021.8%13$67,725,043$13,024
Bears409218.0%17$51,445,689$12,572
Colts424118.5%10$53,026,479$12,503
Buccaneers590725.8%17$66,171,053$11,202
Raiders396316.6%13$43,048,488$10,863
Seahawks244210.4%14$25,998,252$10,646
Patriots586625.3%14$59,715,343$10,180
Packers486621.1%13$40,075,817$8,236
Vikings474721.2%17$38,053,173$8,016
Steelers253810.9%10$18,664,003$7,354
Dolphins561625.3%15$41,050,288$7,310
Panthers477320.5%15$32,656,763$6,842
Bengals649127.2%12$41,873,340$6,451
Texans376316.1%13$23,470,541$6,237
Redskins558023.9%12$34,418,544$6,168
Lions537524.3%20$31,500,242$5,861
Rams371616.3%8$19,862,781$5,345
Jets552024.7%17$26,000,155$4,710
Chiefs10304.4%7$4,847,707$4,707
Saints606525.6%20$27,424,454$4,522
Chargers12595.5%13$5,075,475$4,031
Falcons497821.2%17$17,997,023$3,615
Eagles264511.2%7$8,457,224$3,197
Ravens508621.4%12$13,801,957$2,714
Bills823835.8%25$18,267,833$2,218
Giants594924.9%18$13,120,005$2,205
Cardinals826735.2%19$16,971,323$2,053
Cowboys654028.1%21$3,279,771$501

  • McGeorge

    This is a nice chart, it makes it easy to see who has problems, and who doesn’t.

    It would be a lot of work but I’d be interested to know the breakdown of the snaps lost with respect to quality of player lost.
    Are you losing 2 good players? 2 average players. Maybe a weak team is losing a few bad players they claimed off the scrap heap.

    You would need a way of classifying players into groups, say Tier2, Tier 2, and Tier 3

    • anon76returns

      Quality vs. Quantity can be a rough thing to conflate.
      You could look at snaps*PFF grade (or average PFF grade over last ~3 seasons if you’re worried about 2016 being an abnormal year for a player) to get an idea of total value lost. (You could also use Pro-Football-Reference’s “AV” metric, but that has the drawback of giving a value of “0” to a lot situational players, and is based in part on # of starts, so it has something related to # of snaps baked into it). In the case of the PFF grade you could figure ~900 snaps and ~73 player grade as representing an average starter, or ~900 snaps and a ~7 AV grade if using the PFR system.
      The problem with snaps*grade = value in this case is that dividing by the total $ available wouldn’t make as much sense as $/snap. But it could certainly be a useful extra column in the above table.

      • McGeorge

        I realize it’s not perfect. It would still give a general idea of what the team is losing. Losing a decent but overpaid player vs losing a scrub who didn’t work out.

        $/Snap is a nice metric.

      • Frank Yi

        Just off the top of my head, what if we had a normalization factor for PFF grade? Say we use 73 as the baseline for the average starter; then losing a quality starter, say the player is an 80, his factor is 80/73 = 1.096. So, then maybe use this as a multiplier for $/snaps? Now, the ugly part would be doing this for each player leaving, but then after getting past that part, maybe you could take the geometric mean of this multiplier to determine the quality of snaps leaving the team. Therefore, a team (say Arizona, who is losing the most snaps, and is losing some high quality starters) can look at this number and determine the overall quality of players exiting. If this number is above 1, then they might experience some regression, if the number is below 1, maybe the losses won’t hurt the team as much