Auburn is the most unlikely contender ever to reach the BCS title game, but the Tigers are also hitting top speed at the right time to defend the SEC banner in Pasadena. Plus a new top 25, the Lowsman Trophy watch and the rest from the final regular-season weekend on campus.
15 Feb 2012
by Brian McIntyre
Over the next two weeks, Football Outsiders will take a look a division-by-division look at the salary cap situations of all 32 NFL teams. We'll look at estimated cap space –- since cap situations are fluid and actual adjusted cap figures for 2012 remain unknown -– restricted free agents, unrestricted free agents, which players are candidates for the franchise tag, and which players are headed towards the chopping block.
We continue our trek with the AFC West.
Estimated Cap Space: Around $50 million
Unrestricted Free Agents (18): David Binn, Brodrick Bunkley, Brian Dawkins, Daniel Fells, Mario Haggan, Derrick Harvey, Russ Hochstein, Jason Hunter, Spencer Larsen, Joe Mays, Matt Prater, Brady Quinn, Manny Ramirez, Dante Rosario, Eddie Royal, Marcus Thomas, Jonathan Wilhite, Wesley Woodyard
Ryan McBean started three of 16 games in 2011 and was second among the team's defensive linemen with four sacks. A fourth-round pick out of Oklahoma State by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2007, an "original round" tender for McBean would cost the Broncos $1.26 million in non-guaranteed base salary in 2012.
Franchise Tag Candidate: Brodrick Bunkley adds little in terms of pass rush –- he has just six sacks in 92 career games -– but his acquisition after the lockout played a role in the Broncos improving from 29th in run defense DVOA (5.2 %) in 2010 to 13th and -4.1 % in 2011. The franchise tender for defensive tackles is projected to be worth around $8 million in 2012. The other premium name on the Broncos unrestricted free agent list is kicker Matt Prater, who had seven field goals in either the fourth quarter or overtime in four of the Broncos' eight wins in 2011. The 27-year-old is 12-of-16 on field goal attempts from beyond 50 yards in his career, wants to remain in Denver (what kicker doesn't?), and would cost around $2.7 million if franchised. That's about the same as a "first round" restricted free agent tender. With the amount of cap room at their disposal, using the franchise tag would be an easy decision if a multi-year extension cannot be worked out by March 5.
Estimated Cap Space: $60-63 million
Unrestricted Free Agents (18): Jackie Battle, Anthony Becht, Dwayne Bowe, Brandon Carr, Travis Daniels, Wallace Gilberry, Amon Gordon, Kelly Gregg, Thomas Jones, Le'Ron McClain, Jon McGraw, Ryan O'Callaghan, Kyle Orton, Sabby Piscitelli, Leonard Pope, Barry Richardson, Jerheme Urban, Casey Wiegmann
Restricted Free Agents (1): Jovan Belcher
Belcher has started 31 games over the last two seasons, totaling 171 tackles and a quarterback sack. The former undrafted free agent out of Maine is expected back on a one-year tender (minimum of $1.26 million in base salary) to compete with Brandon Siler for the starting job opposite Derrick Johnson.
Franchise Tag Candidate: The Chiefs have an abundance of salary cap room and a pair of candidates for the franchise tag. Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe had a down year without a healthy Matt Cassel (and Jamaal Charles and Tony Moeaki), but is a season removed from ranking eighth in receiving DYAR. Franchising Bowe is projected to cost around $9.5 million in guaranteed base salary in 2012. Starting right cornerback Brandon Carr is also scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent. A 2008 fifth-round pick, Carr has started all of the 64 games he possibly could have during his NFL career, leading the NFL in passes defensed in 2010 (25) and pulling down a career-high four interceptions in 2011. Franchising Carr would cost the Chiefs around $10.5 million in fully guaranteed base salary in 2012.
Potential Cap Casualties/Restructures: No team has more cap space than the Chiefs, so restructuring to clear more room is not an issue. In terms of cash, linebacker Tamba Hali is due the most ($11.5 million), including an $11.25 million base salary that became guaranteed on February 7. Defensive end Tyson Jackson's 2012 base salary has escalated to $8.005 million.
Estimated Cap Space: $11 million over
Unrestricted Free Agents (16): Khalif Barnes, Darryl Blackstock, Kyle Boller, Tyvon Branch, Michael Bush, Jason Campbell, Rock Cartwright, Matt Giordano, Quentin Groves, Stephon Heyer, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Jarvis Moss, Samson Satele, Chaz Schilens, Trevor Scott, Lito Sheppard
Restricted Free Agents (1): Desmond Bryant
Franchise Tag Candidate: Of the Raiders' 16 unrestricted free agents, just three -– Samson Satele, Khalif Barnes and Tyvon Branch –- were full-time starters. Satele and Barnes are unlikely to be franchised, not with a price tag of around $9.5 million in 2012. The cost of franchising Branch is projected to be close to $6.2 million. Considering their cap situation, the Raiders are unlikely to use the franchise tag this year, but if they were to use it, it would almost undoubtedly be on Branch.
Potential Cap Casualties/Restructures: Where to begin? 33-year-old defensive tackle John Henderson is due $4 million in base salary that is guaranteed for skill and injury, but not for cap. Linebacker Aaron Curry played better in Oakland without the pressure of being the No. 4 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, but is unlikely to be back at the $5.7575 million base salary he's scheduled to make. Release or restructure candidates include veteran defensive tackle Tommie Kelly ($6 million) and right guard Cooper Carlisle ($3 million) and the Raiders could restructure the contracts of quarterback Carson Palmer ($12.5 million base salary, $5 million of which is guaranteed) and linebacker Kamerion Wimbley, whose $11 million base salary will become fully guaranteed on March 17.
Estimated Cap Space: Between $9 and $10 million
Unrestricted Free Agents (16): Stephen Cooper, Patrick Crayton, Na'il Diggs, Jared Gaither, Antonio Garay, Steve Gregory, Nick Hardwick, Tommie Harris, Jacob Hester, Vincent Jackson, Randy McMichael, Tony Moll, Scott Mruczkowski, Paul Oliver, Bob Sanders, Mike Tolbert
After a season on the Chargers' practice squad, Dombrowski, an undrafted free agent out of San Diego State, has been a key reserve offensive lineman over the last three seasons, starting 15 of 47 games. With four offensive linemen ticketed for unrestricted free agency, an "original round/right of first refusal" tender at $1.26 million is a possibility.
Franchise Tag Candidate: The Chargers used the franchise tag in 2011 on wide receiver Vincent Jackson at a cost of $11.424 million. Jackson validated that with a strong season, ranking 14th in DYAR and 19th in DVOA. To use a second tag on Jackson would cost the Chargers $13.709 million, a 20 percent increase over his 2011 salary number.
Potential Cap Casualties/Restructures: Left tackle Marcus McNeill's $10.5 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed on March 13. Coming off a season-ending neck injury, McNeill will likely be released before that happens, clearing $6.6 million in cap space. Left guard Kris Dielman is leaning towards playing in 2012 after a concussion, and subsequent seizure, ended his 2011 season and nearly sent him into retirement. Dielman is due $5.5 million in total compensation –- a $4.5 million base salary and has a $1 million roster bonus –- that the Chargers may seek to reduce. Defensive end Luis Castillo missed most of 2011 with a broken leg and is due $4.975 million in total compensation that the Chargers may seek to restructure.
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