Top Heavy Spending in the NFL


With contract restructuring and termination season just about a week away I wanted to look at the teams’ that have significant salary cap investments in a limited number of players. For each team I calculated the top three, four, and five salary cap hits on the team to compare and see just which teams are incredibly top heavy and which are not.

No team spends more on their top three players than the Detroit Lions who spend nearly $51.3 million on Ndamukong Suh, Matt Stafford, and Calvin Johnson. They are the only team that is over $50 million and it’s representative of what a poor job the Detroit Lions have done managing their salary cap, in particular the constant restructuring of Suh, a top level player but at a position that is not premier salary position. Suh’s $22.4 million cap figure is nearly $7 million higher than the next closest Defensive Tackle, Gerald McCoy of the Buccaneers. Suh has incredible contract leverage that is likely going to force the Lions into an extension that will dwarf that of Geno Atkins $10.665 million per year deal to bring this top three number down to a reasonable figure. It is doubtful that Suh or Johnson can ever do enough to live up to the contracts both will have.

Dallas’ top 3 of Tony Romo, DeMarcus Ware, and Brandon Carr come in just under $50 million. Romo’s contract is designed to be restructured and Ware should be forced to take a paycut. The Bears are nearly tied with the Cowboys due to the high cap figures of Jay Cutler and Julius Peppers. Peppers will be released and Cutler may be restructured for cap flexibility.  The Steelers and Buccaneers round out the top 5, both coming in at just over $44 million. The Steelers have limited ways to change their number without a number of restructures, but the Buccaneers could restructure the deal of Darrelle Revis and/or extend Gerald McCoy.

The average spend on the top 3 is $35.19 million. The teams with the least invested are the Raiders, Jaguars, Colts, 49ers, and Bengals. Most of those names are no surprise except the 49ers. The 49ers have one of the more unique rosters in the NFL in that they have a large number of mid cap players but no large cap players. That will change when Colin Kaepernick is extended, but that will still be just one of 53. The 49ers dedication to extending early and using their poor years to pre-pay charges for their star Patrick Willis has allowed them to build the deepest roster in the NFL.

When we move to the top 5 contracts the Steelers and Cowboys both leapfrog the Lions for the top two slots. The Steelers have $67.1 million tied up in just 5 players and they have players right outside the top 5 that also have pretty large cap charges. The team will need to make decisions on Ike Taylor, Troy Polamalu, and Heath Miller(who ranks 6th), all older veterans in the final year of their contract. This may also be the season Ben Roethlisberger gets an extension.  Dallas is at $66.6 million and we touched on them above. Their number five salary, Miles Austin, will be cut, but his replacement, Sean Lee makes close to the same salary. Lee’s contract will likely be restructured. The Lions, Bears, and Ravens make up the top five while the Buccaneers and Rams are both over $60 million.

What is interesting to note is that none of the seven top heavy spenders was a playoff team in 2013 and none had a winning record. The Saints are the only team in the top 10 to have made the playoffs last season or had a winning record. These are teams that need changes not large investments in the same group of players and they all need to keep that in mind when giving up more future flexibility to keep a mediocre team together.

Average spending on the top 5 players is about $50 million. That just lends more proof to the fact that the NFL is an extremely top heavy league when it comes to spending. This was predicted when the new CBA was signed and QB salaries began to skyrocket. $50 million represents 39.6% of the projected unadjusted salary cap.  With average dead money in a league year usually around $10 million that means the average team will spend 47% of the cap on 5 players and a number of individuals no longer employed by the organization.

3 of the bottom 5 allocations made the playoffs not just in 2013 but also in 2012. These are the Colts, 49ers and Bengals. The Colts are as much a byproduct of a bad division than anything else, but the other two teams have been put together quite carefully. The teams that are in the middle of the league were the most successful last season. From number 11 through 20 we have eight playoff teams and nine teams with a winning record. The Seahawks, Broncos, Packers, and Patriots have been successful for at least two years.

Perhaps not surprisingly since the balance of power has shifted to the NFC so has the spending. 7 of the top 10 in top 5 player cap spending come from the NFC. The four NFC divisions all spend in total more on their top players than any division in the AFC except the AFC North. The North leads the way with over $221 million among the four teams committed to their top 5 cap charges. The South is second at $215 million followed by the East at $211 and West at $208 million.  The AFC North tops $215 million in spending and the next closest division is the AFC East with just under $198 million. That number will plummet in the AFC East when the Jets begin cutting players from their team. The AFC South only allocated $154 million in cap to the top 5 for each team, which indicated both the youth of the division as well as the lack of talent in it.

2014 Top Player Cap Charges Per Team

TeamTop 3
Cap Charges
Top 4
Cap Charges
Top 5
Cap Charges




Contract Details for Dan Bailey’s $22.5 Million Contract with Cowboys


Yesterday the Cowboys announced signing K Dan Bailey to a 7 year contract. Today we have the details. Via a source with knowledge of the contract, its worth $22.5 million over 7 years with $4.9 million guaranteed upon signing. The $4.9 million in fully guaranteed salary, which consists of a $4 million signing bonus and $900,000 base salary in 2014, is the second highest full guarantee given to a kicker, tied with Robbie Gould of the Bears, who signed a contract a few weeks back. Bailey’s contract is much longer so in terms of guaranteed dollars per year Bailey’s contract ranks just outside the top 10.

Bailey’s salary in 2015 and 2016 are guaranteed for injury only, bringing the total guarantee up to $7.5 million. Those salaries become fully guaranteed on the 5th day of the 2015 and 2016 League Year respectively. If Bailey was to fall off a cliff then he would be cut with minimal damage after the 3rd year of the contract and there is a chance that he could be cut after the 2nd year based on the structure of the contract. Based on the presence of two empty proration years at the end of the deal the contract leaves itself open to future restructures for maximum cap relief if necessary.

From a salary cap perspective Bailey will cost the cap strapped Cowboys $1.7 million in 2014. That will be about a $400,000 savings from the 2nd round tender amount, which we can probably assume was going to be the tender Bailey was given. So this really does not hurt the teams’ salary cap in any way. The going rate for a decent kicker would have been about this type of charge had they gone in a different direction and signed a one or two year deal with a veteran. The other option would have been to go for the older veteran that will only take the minimum salary on a one year deal, but in those cases its more of an unknown as to the production you will get.

View Dan Bailey’s Contract and Salary Cap Page




The Costs of Moving Adrian Peterson


Yesterday Adrian Peterson mentioned to ESPN’s SVP and Russillo that the thought had crossed his mind about finishing his career with the Cowboys, the team he grew up watching and cheering for as a young man. Is it possible?

While Peterson is under contract to the Minnesota Vikings through 2017, there is minimal financial reasons for the Vikings to keep Peterson. Peterson’s cap charge in 2014 is $14.4 million and removing him from the roster frees up $9.6 million in cap space and eliminates a cash payment of $12 million due to Peterson.

While Peterson is the best running back in the NFL his salary numbers are pretty outrageous for the position. His cap charge is $4.4 million higher than our estimated second highest cap charge at the position.  His cash salary is $3.625 million higher.  With the lessening impact of the position through the last five years it is an investment few teams might be willing to make.

For as great as Peterson was in 2012 when he won the NFL MVP award the best the Vikings could muster was a Wildcard berth and first round exit in the playoffs. This season Minnesota has struggled and is in contention for a top draft pick. They have no Quarterback, having gone through Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel, and Josh Freeman at various points of the season, and their star defensive player, DE Jared Allen, is about to leave in free agency. Most likely this is a team prepared to rebuild and rebuilding often does not include a 29 year old running back making $14 million a year over the next few seasons.

Though cutting Peterson should not be an option (there is no benefit in that for Minnesota short or long term)since the team salary cap is not a major issue, trading him should be a consideration. The $9.6 million in cap that is freed up in 2014 and $15.4 million freed up in 2015 can go towards signing multiple players to replenish a barren roster and the draft picks can be used to rebuild an organization from the ground up.

For an acquiring team Peterson would come over with non-guaranteed salaries and cap charges of $12, $13, $15, and $16 million from 2014 through 2017 (remember the Vikings would keep the prorated portion of his contract currently factored into his cap hits). Obviously these numbers are very high which would limit the market to two types of teams. One would be those with a great deal of cap room to simply absorb the yearly charges, increase their payroll and have no dead money in the contract. This would be a team like the Browns (and how funny would that be if they essentially flipped Trent Richardson for Adrian Peterson). The other is a team that just plans for the short term and sees a window of opportunity. That is where the Cowboys could come into play.

Dallas is a team only concerned with the now. Their salary cap planning has been very shortsighted and player friendly. They live year to year and continue to defer costs to the future to help compete in the present. Peterson would fit right in the mold of contract that the Cowboys would associate themselves with.

The Cowboys cap problems are well known but it would be easy to take Peterson for one year in a trade. They could simply reduce his $12 million salary to about the minimum, add a voidable season to the contract, and prorate the difference. This is what Dallas has done for years with their players. Reducing his salary to $1 million and giving him the rest in the form of a signing bonus would reduce the cap charge from $12 million to $3.2 million. His cap charge the next year would be $15.2 million with $8.8 million in dead money if released, but for a team only concerned with the now that probably does not matter. So the move is one that could be made by the Cowboys.

While this would not replenish the Hershel Walker heist from all those years ago I would think a first round pick would need to be involved for the Vikings to make the deal and be able to spin it as a positive. If Dallas was to make such a move I think they would need to consider a philosophical change to the way they approach offense. For years Tony Romo has been over 80% of the Cowboys offense. They like to throw the football. That number has to come down to a normal play selection if you are bringing in Peterson.  Peterson’s value is nowhere near his price tag if the Cowboys run him 12-15 times a game.

So maybe it’s all just a pipe dream for all involved here, but the Vikings are going to be making changes this year and Peterson may not fit into those changes if the right price is offered from another franchise. Maybe come February we’ll get a better idea of what the Vikings are thinking regarding him.



Dallas Cowboys: Navigating The Salary Cap


I had planned, time permitting, to do these cap breakdowns towards the end of the season or in the offseason, but with the Dallas Cowboys making the news today with Adam Schefter’s report that they are $31 million over next years’ projected salary cap I figured this was a reasonable time to look at the Cowboys.

I’m going to base everything off my estimates which have Dallas with a payroll of about $145 million for 46 players next season. That number seems to mesh with most reports so it should be a reasonable starting point. It should be noted that the 46th player under contract here is Jeff Olson an injured player who will be released as soon as he is healthy enough. With the cap currently at $123 million that obviously leaves some distance between my estimates of $22 million over the cap and Schefter’s reported $31 million. So how do we account for the discrepancy?

Well first of all his information is likely from someone projecting at least 51 players, and most likely a full 53. To get from 46 to 53 we need to add 7 futures contracts which will add $2.94 million in salary. We also need to account for the 2011 draft classes “Proven Performance Escalator” which is a bump in salary to the RFA tender for those who played in either 35% of the total snaps from 11-13 or 35% in two of three seasons from 11-13. That would include RB DeMarco Murray, G David Arkin, and WR Dwayne Harris and add another $2 million if all 3 qualify, putting our number at $27 million, leaving us just $4 million short. CB Orlando Scandrick, G Mackenzy Bernadeau, and DE Justin Durant I know have escalators/incentives in their contracts. While I don’t know how much those incentives are worth I’ll give you a guess that we are looking at close to $4 million to give us the $31 million figure Schefter was given. So we are probably working with a roster that is around $29-30 million over the salary cap when the top 51 accounting takes place.

Getting around the 2014 salary cap

Sites like mine and various media reports can sometimes blow a teams’ cap situation out of proportion.  From my time working exclusively covering the Jets salary cap I saw this occur twice, once in 2009 and again in 2013. While the 2013 situation was not great it was never as overblown as portrayed by a salary cap sheet. In 2009 the salary cap situation was actually fine. What occurs is that teams often have contracts that are designed to be restructured or terminated to aid a teams’ salary cap. That does not show up in a static chart.

The one contract Dallas has that is designed that way is Tony Romo’s. Romo has a salary cap figure of nearly $21.8 million in 2014, but the contract contains two “empty” proration years in 2018 and 2019 that were there to absorb restructured dollars. This is no different than Joe Flacco’s contract with the Ravens containing two option bonuses for cap purposes, except for the Ravens their salary cap will look fine on paper because they chose to use options in the initial deal. Dallas never does that and instead makes their situation look worse than it is.

It is basically a given that Dallas will reduce Romo’s base salary in 2014 from $13.5 million to $955,000 and convert the remainder to a bonus. That will free up $10,036,000 in salary cap commitments and reduce his cap figure to $11,737,000. That’s the intended value for Romo’s contract and will shave $10 million off Dallas’ $30 million overage. The team will also carry over around $2 million in cap space so we are looking at a team that is $18 million over prior to free agency.

The Cowboys have one major problem moving forward and that is the lack of cap relief the team can find by releasing players. While Romo fits the intended restructure category, the team has nobody in the intended release category. My estimates only have 8 players that would save Dallas more than $995,000 in cap room via release. These include starters Dez Bryant, Barry Church, and DeMarcus Ware. The following would be the releases:



Net Savings

Phil Costa



Jeremy Parnell



Mackenzy Bernadeau



Justin Durant



Kyle Orton






The net savings, after factoring in costs of replacements, are just $4.6 million. We mentioned that Bernadeau likely has an escalator worked into the Schefter estimate so we’ll call this $5.5 million in savings. That brings Dallas to approximately $12.5 million over the cap. I think it’s also safe to say that if the Schefter figure includes Arkin’s and Harris’ PPE that neither will happen due to playing time so we are around $11.1 million.

I know some will discuss the additional savings that could be realized with the June 1 designation, but a June 1 cut stays on the books until June 1 at the full cap charge. That designation will only be used to create functional cap room during the season and is only going to be used on players whose dead money and salary cap charge are essentially equal. The only real candidate for this is Doug Free whose $3.5 million dollar salary guarantees early in the League Year, but with Brian Waters contract expiring Free should have a role in 2014 either at Guard or Tackle especially since he has played so much better this season.  Miles Austin is another candidate but they don’t actually have a need to cut him until after June 1.

The first restructure will probably be that of CB Brandon Carr. Carr has a $12.2 million dollar cap charge in 2014 with a $7.5 million base that makes up a majority of the charge. With a conventional restructure they can save $4,908,750 in cap space. By adding a voidable season, which is likely what they would do, they will save $5,236,000.

Fitting the Romo restructure category will be that of newly extended LB Sean Lee. Lee has a $5.5 million base salary in 2014 with empty proration years in 2018 and 2019. These seasons are just waiting to have money pushed into them. By reducing his salary to $730,000 and prorating the remainder they will create $3.816 million in cap room while adding $954,000 to the next four years. This puts Dallas in a position where they are approximately $2 million over the cap with three restructures (two of which were planned on signing) and five cuts.

Going forward Dallas is going to have a very difficult decision to make regarding DE/OLB DeMarcus Ware. Ware will be 32 years old in 2014. He is the lone Cowboys whose release or trade saves significant money- $7.4 million. Ware’s cap figure in 2014 is $16 million and then $17.5 million in 2015. These are very difficult cap numbers for 32 and 33 year old pass rushers. Julius Peppers has that kind of figure this season and won’t be back in Chicago next year. The going rate for older rushers is around $5 million a year. Ware will earn $27 million in cash in 2014 and 2015.

The reality is Ware really needs to have his contract ripped up and to take a paycut that makes him the highest paid older player rather than one of the highest paid player, but Dallas’ negotiations throughout history would give them almost no leverage to even push it. It would require a complete philosophical change. Most likely they will look to restructure his contract, which in my mind would be a disaster, but I don’t see them going another route.

If the Cowboys go all in with Ware and reduce his salary to the minimum they can save $8,471,250 against the salary cap even if they do not add void seasons to the contract.  The problem with that move is it pushes Ware’s salary cap figure to $20.3 million in 2015 with a whopping $13,789,000 in dead money if they need to release him. Is that worth doing?  Probably not and the team needs to avoid touching that deal if at all possible.

The team is probably best suited to first restructure the contract of Jason Witten and reducing his base salary from $5 million to the $955,000 minimum. This creates $3,031,500 in cap space which should be enough to at least get Dallas to be cap compliant. Witten will be 32 next season but his cap charges, even if he begins to decline, are more reasonable at 33 than Ware’s would be.

The other move would be to work with Austin on his contract. Personally I don’t believe Austin is worth the headache. He’s missed a few games this season and has slid down the depth charts. Austin really should be by ace in the hole. I cut him in June and free up $5.5 million to move the Cowboys to around $6 million in cap space which I can use for the rookie class when they sign in June and July.

If something disastrous happens I can then work with Ware but Ware is a deal Dallas should only touch as a last resort. The door needs to be open to take him off the roster in 2015. There are also a few other small deals that Dallas could terminate to gain a few hundred thousand here and there.


Where Will Dallas Stand

What works to Dallas’ favor in all of this is that the only starters who are free agents next season are G Brian Waters and DT Jason Hatcher. The team won’t have the money to go into free agency and replace them with starters, but you can find rotational players that may fit in the limited budget. These are also draftable positions, specifically on the offensive line where many teams find first year starters.

Dallas starting lineup would have an average age  of about 27 years with the offense being the problem unit, featuring four players over the age of 30. If Romo and Witten can continue to perform age should not be a primary factor of weakness in 2014. Basically what this amounts to is that the team in 2014 will look almost identical to the team in 2013 and 2012.

2015 Salary Cap Outlook

By reworking the contracts of Romo, Carr,  Witten, and Lee we added $5,785,000 to the 2015 salary cap. That’s not too bad, but the roster at this point is in shambles and our top 5 players now account for nearly $76 million in cap commitments. The team will already have $9,086,200 in dead money on the books via the June 1 release of Miles Austin and Doug Free’s contract voiding.

Not including the 2014 draft class, Dallas would have around $109 million in salary cap commitments in 2015 with just 22 players under contract. One would assume that the team would invoke the option on starting Tackle Tyron Smith, which would be equal to the 2014 Transition tag. In 2013 that was $8,709,000 so we’ll assume $8.7 million for 2014 as well.  I think it’s safe to assume two players from the 2012 draft class will earn the PPE adding around $1.3 million in cap to our total giving the team $119 in cap committed to 23 players.

Not among those 23 players is superstar WR Dez Bryant who will end up being the recipient of the Franchise tag, which should be valued around $10.6 million. Seven draft choices from 2014 should cost around $6 million in 2015 cap dollars. This brings Dallas to a fair estimate of 31 contracts of $135.6 million. If the remainder of the offseason roster is filled with players earning the minimum the salary cap will stand for Dallas at $144,300,000.

2015 Problems

We just navigated 2014 which seemed to be even worse so why is this different?  Assuming the Bryant and Smith moves and one 2014 rookie starting the team would be looking at returning just 12 or 13 starters from the 2014 team.  Of these starters Romo will be 35 while Ware and Witten will be 33. Neither Carr nor Lee would be youngsters anymore at 29 years old.  These 5 players account for $74.3 million in cap charges and there has to be real questions about how much further can you push on with the same group.

Romo would carry a $27.782 million dollar cap charge in this scenario.   The team could save $12.824 million in a restructure which virtually guarantees Romo will be QB through 2017 as his 2017 dead money would rise to $14.636 million if cut. Even at 38 years old he would still cost $8.921 million to part ways with.

Releasing Ware saves the team $12,186,000, which is why I would not want to touch his contract in 2014. He needs to go in 2014 to allow the team to move forward.  There really are no other options. Through all the restructures we had to use for 2013 and 2014, Carr is already going to cost $11.36 million to release in 2016. I can’t go further in on a cornerback about to turn 30.   Same goes with Witten.

2015 and Beyond

Most likely, barring a salary cap explosion in 2015, those two moves will give Dallas a few million to work with to fill all their open roster spots with players other than rookies. The two franchise type players will need to be signed to long term contracts with low cap charges in the first two years to help deal with some of the issues in 2015 and 2016.

Dallas is not going to trot out 10 rookies to start for the team if at all possible especially with Romo still at the helm.  That is going to require significant creativity to do. They have to avoid doing anything with Ware, unless it’s a major paycut, and the desire to rework Carr’s deal another time. I would imagine the end game is something similar to what we saw in New York in 2013 with a slew of minimum salary benefit contracts filling out the roster.

By 2016 the team should move into full turnover mode with Romo being the last man standing from the old guard. Witten and Carr will combine for over $14 million in dead money in 2016, which should mark their fourth year in a row with well above the average dead money on their salary cap, but it should help them avoid the one mega season of dead money that has hit some other squads.

Can They Survive the Cap

In terms of success this is really a two year window for Dallas. They will cruise to a division title in 2013 because the NFC East is so bad. At this point it’s about gearing up for the playoffs. It is why if they are really considering a trade to upgrade a position it makes sense to do as long as they realize it is a one year commitment and they will move on next year. This is the best chance Dallas will have and you have to do everything you can to make it happen. If Dallas believes Maurice Jones-Drew can help them win its worth the $2.2 million carryover loss they would have.

2015 is really the year for the massive shakeup which Dallas will probably piece together over a few years rather than just one massive dump in a single season.  By then many of the playmakers they have will probably be too old to make the same type of contributions that they are making now. But Dallas should be able to navigate 2014 without too much issue contractually. The problem is if everyone gets older a year earlier than expected. That is what is happening in New York in 2013 as they hung on one year too long with an overpriced veteran group. If 2014 ends up being a poor season on the field it will be a bleak outlook for the future because the team is still going to be stuck in neutral when it comes to making big additions over the next two seasons due to cap constraints. For better or worse they have to win with this group.


Cap Ramifications of Releasing Jay Ratliff


The Dallas Cowboys officially released DT Jay Ratliff, terminating what I had considered the worst contract on the Dallas Cowboys. Because Ratliff has his contract reworked this offseason his dead money charge in 2014 will be $6,928,000, putting the Cowboys dead money for 2014 already over $11.5 million per our salary cap estimates. That said this actually improved Dallas’ 2014 salary cap situation by $1.304 million. The Cowboys had restructured Ratliff’s contract earlier this season due to their difficult salary cap situation, essentially deferring $2.928 million to the 2014 season.

The Cowboys should not see any much, if any benefit, to releasing Ratliff in 2013. Ratliff had already collected $472,941 of his 2013 salary and was scheduled to earn an additional $867,059 over the course of the season. I admittedly am a bit hazy on how Termination Pay works for players on PUP and I don’t know for certain if Ratliff’s contract was guaranteed this year. I’ll try to look into that over the next day. The Cowboys can attempt to get out of these payments if they feel Ratliff was not making a good faith effort.If his salary is guaranteed either through contractual mechanisms or CBA regulations his release will create no cap space in 2013.


NFL Salary Cap Space Update: July 19


We keep track of the salary cap (or at least try to) on an everyday basis, so I thought it might be good to do a weekly recap of the effects of the weeks cap moves as we make a turn towards training camp time where the transaction sheet will likely begin to pick up pace.

Moves from the Week:

Cincinnati Bengals– The Bengals signed DE Carlos Dunlap to a 5 year contract extension worth just under $40 million dollars and also locked up their first round draft pick Tyler Eifert to a standard 4 year deal. Dunlap’s contract was heavily frontloaded and cost the Bengals $5,418,200 in cap room. Between he and Eifert the Bengals spent $6,439,231in cap space.  There should be no worries as the moves left them with nearly $15.55 million in cap room, 7th most in the NFL.

Green Bay Packers– The Packers extension of S Morgan Burnett reduced their 2013 cap space by $1,650,000, the amount of Burnett’s proration attributed to his $8.25 million dollar signing bonus. With $14.67 million in cap room the Packers have the 8th largest amount of unused cap in the NFL.

Denver Broncos– The Broncos lost $2.72 million in cap room with the signing of LT Ryan Clady to a heavily frontloaded contract and vesting future guarantees. Already counting $9.828 million against the cap the Broncos agreed to pay Clady a $10.5 million dollar roster bonus to keep his future charges low rather than looking to build carryover cap space this season. Denver has $7.39 million in cap room.

Jacksonville Jaguars– The Jaguars came to terms with rookie WR Ace Sanders on a four year contract. Jacksonville lost $45,362 in cap room following the signing. The Jaguars still have $22.9 million in cap space, 2nd most in the NFL.

Detroit Lions– The Lions gained $321,000 in cap room with the release of RB Jahvid Best and they will now carry $1.1 million in dead money on the 2014 salary cap. The Lions have $5.22 million in cap room.

Dallas Cowboys– The Cowboys gained  $225,000 in cap room when Josh Brent retired. Dallas can also go after his proration from the year, $11,889, though I can’t imagine they would do so.

New England Patriots– The Patriots released WR Donald Jones to save themselves from paying a $200,000 reporting bonus due at the start of training camp. Jones was set to count for $1.131 million against the cap in 2013. Releasing him created $576,250 in cap space pushing the Patriots to $9.79 million.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers– The Buccaneers traded troubled cornerback Eric Wright to the San Francisco 49ers for a conditional late round pick. The Bucs got off great with Wright as off the field problems saw his guarantees for 2013 void, which allowed them to push him into a paycut. With more legal troubles Wright was sent packing creating $945,000 worth of cap space in the process. Tampa has he 4th most cap space in the league at $19.22 million.

San Francisco 49’ers– The 49’ers were on the other end of the trade with the Bucs, taking on Eric Wright and his $1.5 million dollar salary. The addition of Wright reduced San Francisco’s cap room by $945,000. The 49’ers now have $4.49 million in cap room and limited space in 2014, fueling speculation that the team may cut CB Carlos Rogers, saving over $4 million in 2013 and $5.1 million in 2014, giving the team much more breathing room as they prepare for an extension with QB Colin Kaepernick after the season.

Three to Keep an Eye On

St. Louis Rams– With just $214,088 in cap room the Rams do not have enough cap space to function once the regular season begins. They will need to restructure contracts or make a few cuts to be able to function in the regular season.

Washington Redskins– At $1.4 million in cap space the Redskins have the 2nd least amount of space in the NFL. Once rosters expand to 53 and teams spend $1 million on a practice squad the Redskins will be forced to make moves to be cap compliant in September. They should have over $10 million in cap room in 2014 so they may look to push some money into next year if they do not want to make any cuts.

Houston Texans– Houston still needs to sign their first three draft picks, which will eat into their $2.8 million in cap room leaving them with around $1.6 million in room when the season begins. Add in two contracts and a Practice Squad and you get the idea- Houston can’t stand pat and do nothing over the next few weeks.

Click Here to View The Current Cap Space for All 32 Teams 



Anthony Spencer Breaks Off Talks With Cowboys


According to his agent Jordan Woy, Anthony Spencer and the Cowboys have broken off discussions and he can play the season out on his franchise tag rather than signing a long term contract with the team. While I would not say anything is finished until July 15, the last day a Franchise player may sign a multi-year contract extension, this likely provides another big blow in the poor cap management and planning exhibited by the Dallas Cowboys.

Rather than extending Spencer in 2012, the Cowboys tagged him leading to an above market price tag this season of $10.627 million.  Spencer had a far better 2012 than he had 2011 and gained significant leverage over the cap strapped Cowboys in 2013. Though the Cowboys likely could not have anticipated the market correction on pass rushers, the decision to tag Spencer even at the increased price only increased his leverage. Spencer wisely ran and signed his tender before the Cowboys could rescind the offer and never needed to go and test the “free agent” waters to see what he was worth.

He has a better chance of making more money next season if he has a second stellar year, either with Dallas or someone else. If the Cowboys tag him again they will guarantee him a minimum of $15.3 million and a maximum of the QB franchise tag value. That would mean a 3 year payout of $34.8 million from 2012-2014 for Spencer, which is more than Clay Matthews received on his recent contract extension.  Had they extended Spencer in 2012 they probably would have gotten him for closer to $26 million and significant cap relief.

This shows the danger for a team going the franchise tag route. With the exception of maybe a Kicker, whose tag carries such a low value, the franchise tag should only be used once on a player either as a tactic to force a long term extension and more or less ban a player from free agency or as a one year rental before you break the team up. Getting into multiple tags on one player simply makes the price higher than the market and doesn’t even allow a team to use prorations to mitigate the salary cap charges. By the time its said and done Dallas will end up paying at least $19.5 million for Spencer in cash and cap and then watch Spencer earn a three year payout from themselves or another team close to what he would have received in 2012 had the team worked out an extension. It’s like leasing a car with the intent to purchase and in the end paying a higher than necessary price on a used car when the lease expires.

With nearly $11 million tied up in Spencer the Cowboys are left with about $9 million in cap space in 2013. The team would also want to extend LB Sean Lee, but any deal done with Lee would take away cap space in 2013. Extending Spencer would have helped create the cushion it needed for Lee. Dallas already has over $140 million in cap commitments next year and will have to get creative to keep these players on the team in the future, a situation that could have been mitigated by extending the player earlier before going the multi-franchise tag route.