Possibly the closest Super Bowl matchup in history also poses the question: how much does it mean when certain aspects of an NFL team improve dramatically in the second half of the season?
13 Feb 2014
by Rivers McCown
Cap Space as of February 10th: A little under $20 million. (All monetary figures courtesy of Over The Cap.)
Restricted Free Agents (0): None.
Franchise Tag Candidates: Byrd. According to Joel Corry's franchise tag projections, the safety tag is expected to be a little over $8 million. If that holds true, and they're looking to franchise Byrd again, the 120 percent franchise tag repeater cost of Byrd's 2013 salary would be greater than that. So, about $8.2 million is the figure we're working with here.
Is that worth keeping a player who pouted through his tag in 2012, but is still one of the rangiest and most talented safeties in the NFL, off the market? That kind of depends on the end game Buffalo has in mind. They'd be well-advised to take their best shot at extending him regardless, because using the tag a third year in a row would be prohibitive.
Release/Restructure Candidates: Kevin Kolb ($3,100,000 saved against 2014 cap)
Kolb is looking at the possibility of retirement due to long-standing concussion problems, so whether he chooses that option or not, releasing him is a fait accompli.
Flexibility: Little. Mario Williams has the biggest contract on the team, and his 2014 base salary has already been cut to $1.9 million. Converting most of Stevie Johnson's $3.65 million base salary to a bonus would save the Bills a little money, but they aren't likely to need it at this point. Nobody else has a contract that is wildly out of line with their value.
Overview: Scott Kacsmar touched on Buffalo's ability to upgrade their offensive line in Four Downs, but for me Buffalo's offseason turns on how they handle Byrd. If they let him walk, suddenly they have some money to splash around. Personally, I'd just franchise Byrd rather than let him walk if it came to that -- they're not likely to find a better defender than him and safety beyond him is a mess -- but it's one potential way to go.
Buffalo's roster is well-envisioned. The talent seems good enough to be a middle of the pack team, especially if the defense doesn't regress under new leadership, but it all depends on how EJ Manuel develops. If he rolls out in 2014 and suddenly demonstrates the ability to complete screen passes, slants, and the rest of what Buffalo was asking him for last year that he couldn't deliver between injury bouts, this could be a tough team. If he stagnates or regresses, the roster is a Mazda Miata in the hands of a 15-year-old with a learner's permit.
Cap Space as of February 10th: A little over $32 million.
Unrestricted Free Agents (13): Marlon Moore, Dustin Keller, Tyson Clabo, Bryant McKinnie, Richie Incognito, John Jerry, Paul Soliai, Randy Starks, Austin Spitler, Nolan Carroll, Brent Grimes, Chris Owens, Chris Clemons
Restricted Free Agents (1): Danny Watkins. When you see six snaps on an offensive line that was in turmoil all season, it's a pretty sure sign you're not getting tendered.
Franchise Tag Candidates: The most compelling argument is probably for Grimes, who had a bounce-back season after losing almost all of 2012 to a torn Achilles tendon. There's plenty of talk in the local media about this being a possibility. You'll be shocked to learn that Grimes doesn't want to be tagged. In our charting project, Grimes had good numbers on yards per pass allowed, but was surprisingly mediocre in success rate: just 50 percent. At a projection of roughly $11.2 million, the franchise tag for corners is steep. But it's not like Miami doesn't have the cap room to spare...
Patterson played just 20.7 percent of defensive snaps last season, and while the Dolphins are probably going to be re-signing some members of the secondary, Patterson just doesn't have much to fall back on. Matt Moore is a reliable backup quarterback, but this is no longer Jeff Ireland's show, so he's a possible cap casualty.
Flexibility: Tons. Even beyond their abundance of cap space, the Dolphins can restructure most of the base salaries of Brian Hartline ($4.78 million), Philip Wheeler ($5 million), Cameron Wake ($5.8 million), Dannell Ellerbe ($6 million), and Mike Wallace ($15 million) if they so desire. They probably won't need to, but the option is on the table.
Overview: Scott covered the need for a rebuilt offensive line pretty well in Four Downs, but the other area that is going to need some work is the secondary. Miami re-signed Reshad Jones in the preseason, but now they see Grimes, Clemons, and Carroll -- the three members of their secondary that saw the most snaps outside of Jones -- as free agents. The money is obviously there. It's just a matter of what new general manager Dennis Hickey wants to do with it. They've also got to address Paul Soliai and Randy Starks on the interior line. Both are getting older, but they've also both kept the decline at bay for now.
I'd expect Branden Albert and Anthony Collins to get calls, for starters. It also wouldn't be a surprise for the Dolphins to re-sign Grimes and dip into the No. 2 corner market for a guy like -- just spitballing here -- Captain Munnerlyn.
Cap Space as of February 10th: A little under $4 million.
Unrestricted Free Agents (12): LeGarrette Blount, Austin Collie, Julian Edelman, Michael Hoomanawanui, Matthew Mulligan, D.J. Williams, Will Svitek, Ryan Wendell, Andre Carter, Dane Fletcher, Brandon Spikes, Aqib Talib
Restricted Free Agents (0):
Franchise Tag Candidates: Talib would theoretically make sense for the tag as a high-performing cornerback with a reputation for being a bad character guy (and thus, less worthy of long-term risk). However, the Pats are going to be skimming pretty close to the cap this offseason, so dropping $11.2 million on Talib is going to force a lot of changes. The Boston Herald has already reported that the Pats won't be franchising Talib.
Wilfork is 32, coming off a torn Achilles tendon, and is in the last year of his deal. The Pats probably have a better sense for how his recovery is going than we do, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Wilfork be a cap casualty. The more likely scenario is a renegotiation.
Sopoaga came over at the trade deadline (how weird it is to write this in a football column), and even despite how banged up the New England defensive line was, he received just 119 snaps. The Patriots probably don't need a backup nose tackle at a $3,500,000 cap number.
Flexibility: Not much. Tom Brady's 2014 salary is already mostly converted to a bonus. Logan Mankins ($6,250,000 base salary) and Jerod Mayo ($3,250,000) could convert some of their base salary into signing bonuses. The Pats could also lower Devin McCourty's $5.15 million cap number with an extension, as he's in the last year of his deal.
Overview: The Patriots have two priority retains: Ryan Wendell and Aqib Talib. After that, we should see a mostly quiet offseason. Julian Edelman is likely to get his elsewhere as the Pats have three young receivers (Kenbrell Thompkins, Josh Boyce, Aaron Dobson) jockeying for a spot. They could use a No. 1 receiver, of course, but what else is new?
New England's offseason goal is to get the band back together. Until the band actually shows noticeable decline, it's hard to fault them for it.
Cap Space as of February 10th: A little over $20 million.
Unrestricted Free Agents (15): David Garrard, Darius Reynaud, Lex Hilliard, Josh Cribbs, Jeff Cumberland, Kellen Winslow, Austin Howard, Willie Colon, Vlad Ducasse, Leger Douzable, Calvin Pace, Josh Mauga, Aaron Berry, Ed Reed, Nick Folk
Restricted Free Agents (2): Garrett McIntyre, Darrin Walls. Both of these guys were core special teamers that played a little on the defense due to injuries and ineffectiveness. McIntyre's had some decent pass rush production in limited snaps, but probably not enough to entice anyone to give up a draft pick for him. Original-round tenders are possible for both players -- or they could just come back on non-tender deals.
Franchise Tag Candidates: Nope.
Sanchez and Holmes have basically already been waived by the New York media, which makes all kinds of sense given their production and role on last year's team.
Cromartie had kind of a strange season after being one of the few cornerbacks to do well in our charting stats in back-to-back seasons. He managed a relatively decent success rate (53 percent), but gave up 11.8 yards per pass, which is the worst figure we have among qualifying cornerbacks. He's up here because that's a lot of potential money saved, but I have to think there's a little bounce in those numbers. Especially if he can be moved back down to a No. 2 cornerback by, say, a breakout season from Dee Milliner.
Flexibility: Little. Not that they're likely to need the extra room, but restructuring most of D'Brickashaw Ferguson's $5.95 million base salary into a signing bonus could give them a little more space to put them over the top.
Overview: The Jets don't have many priority free agents, but Willie Colon could be in-line for a nice deal after actually staying healthy for a full season and showing well. However, since he'll be 31 before the season and missed most of 2010 and 2011, as well as parts of 2012, he probably won't be someone that New York has to break the bank for. Austin Howard also played 99.8 percent of the offensive line snaps this season, but he's not much in pass protection and shouldn't be a priority re-sign. Calvin Pace and Jeff Cumberland could also be brought back at the right prices. (Cumberland finished second among all tight ends in DVOA, though he was only thrown to 40 times.)
The Jets will have cash to splash. They've got a receiving corps that needs improvement, and they'll have to do something on the line with Howard and Colon. They also could use better play at safety -- actually, they're kind of an ideal team for Jairus Byrd, now that I think about it. Now would also be a good time to see what kind of extension they can reach with Muhammad Wilkerson.
8 comments, Last at 15 Feb 2014, 2:39pm by johonny