With the 2016 season over and free agency looming, attention is now turning to teams who have a lot of room to spend as well as teams who need to keep it tight. The NFL estimates the salary cap in 2017 will be between $166 million and $170 million.
That leaves seven teams who are projected to have over $60 million in cap space this offseason. So who are they? How much are they expected to have? How are they expected to spend it? Let’s have a look.
Redskins: Projected $61 million
The Redskins seem to have regained control over previous cap space problems. However they are far from shy on spending money so the balancing act will be keeping the offense competitive while fixing up the defense. They have big free agents this year in Cousins, Jackson and Pierre Garcon so decisions will have to be made around those players.
If they franchise tag Cousins again this year then it eats $24 million so the ideal scenario for the Redskins would be to tie up Cousins and and receiver before free agency which will allow them to be more aggressive with their spending.
Jaguars: Projected $65 million
Jags are aggressive when it comes to free agency so for players looking for a big payday then this could be it. Player friendly contracts are found here in plenty and while some money will go to Robinson we can expect pretty much the rest of it to be splashed on players in free agency.
Patriots: Projected $67 million
Not fair right?! They have just won Super Bowl LI but the Pats are projected to have $67 million in cap space this offseason. The Patriots are simply the most well-managed team in the league and that shows on and off the field. The staff in the back offices know what they are doing and New England has always been smart with their money. Free agency is not always the most exciting time to be a Patriot fan, sure they grabbed Revis in 2014 and that was fun but generally it tends to be a slow time of year as they are cautious with money.
A good deal of this cap space will more than likely go on new contracts for Hightower, Butler and maybe Bennett as well as keeping veterans on lower cost contracts.
Buccaneers: Projected $67 million
The Bucs also have $67 million and just like the Jags, they are willing to spend money in the offseason. In the past however they have spent money in the wrong places and it has come back to bite them hard. They may look to extend receiver Mike Evans and then add some depth or top-tier players into the roster. However, keep in mind that many of the bigger names in free agency right now won’t actually hit the market at all. Many of the big hitters are in positions where their team can and probably will re-sign them. They could look to pick up Alshon Jeffery or DeSean Jackson. Their best option could be to spend but avoid the bigger names while packing the roster with depth.
Titans: Projected $68 million
Are the Titans ready to turn a corner? Quite possibly, they have a good chunk of change for a team who have developed Marcus Mariota, grown the offense and have seen a rebirth in DeMarco Murray. Now they can use free agency to build a team around the younger players they have on the roster. Not the biggest spenders in free agency but there are some big names in the mix this year as always so if the Titans can pick up good veterans to beef up the side they could be in a position to contend strongly next season.
49ers: Projected $82 million
Gaining $17 million once Kaepernick eventually voids his contract will allow their cap space to grow even further so there are interesting times ahead this offseason in San Francisco. Kyle Shanahan is their new head coach and he has been beefing up his coaching staff in the past number of days. General manager John Lynch could spend hard this year of bank cap room until they are competitive enough to use it. A lot of work needs to be done down in San Francisco following the teams fall from grace over the past number of seasons. They will look to extend some players before going in to spend in free agency and hold the second pick in the draft. CEO Jed York has previously said that the general manager and head coach will be able to spend however they wish to rebuild so it is all up to Shanahan now to bring back good times to the 49ers.
Browns: Projected $114 million
Nobody has more work to do than the Browns following their performances last year but they are also the team with the most projected cap space due to their roster being filled with low cost players and $50 million carried over from 2016. They also have the number 1 pick in the draft.
Terelle Pryor and Jamie Collins are their two high level free agents that will demand money and they will spend on rookie contracts following the draft. After all that they will still have more money than most in the offseason and what they will do with that money is anyones guess. They have the most holes in the team than anyone else in the NFL and they could outbid anyone in offseason.
It remains to be seen if they go in hard this year to try turn around from last season. For the Browns, the only way is up from here.