by Brian McIntyre
Football Outsiders is taking a division-by-division look at the salary cap situations of all 32 NFL teams. We're reviewing estimated cap spaces -– 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. Last week, we hit on the teams in the AFC. This week, our trip around the NFL moves to the NFC, beginning with the NFC East
Estimated Cap Space: Around $12 million
Fiametta was claimed off waivers from the Carolina Panthers in September. The Cowboys' running game was at its best in 2011 when Fiammetta was leading the way. Dallas will look to bring to the 2009 fourth-round pick back on an "original round" tender worth $1.26 million in non-guaranteed base salary. Ogletree had a career-high 15 receptions for 164 yards and could be brought back on the low tender worth the same $1.26 million in non-guaranteed salary to compete for the No. 4 receiver role. The retirement of Jon Kitna probably won't be enough to result in a qualifying offer for the 35-year-old Greisen, who will remain in the team's "In Case of Emergency, Break Glass" case when a veteran quarterback is needed.
Franchise Tag Candidate: Reports out of Dallas are that if the Cowboys are unable to re-sign Anthony Spencer by the 4 p.m. ET deadline on March 5, they'll use the nearly $9 million franchise tender on the outside linebacker. The Cowboys' Adjusted Sack Rate improved from 6.9 percent in 2010 to 7.7 percent in 2011, and while DeMarcus Ware gets most of the sacks, Spencer has posted 17 of his own in his first three seasons as a full-time starter.
Potential Cap Casualties/Restructures: Several Cowboys agreed to restructured contracts after the lockout –- Tony Romo, Miles Austin, and Ware to name a few -– and more could do the same in 2012 to free up some cap room. The Cowboys can convert portions of Doug Free and Orlando Scandrick's base salaries into signing bonuses to create some cap room and Ware could further tweak his deal to push some cap dollars into 2013 and beyond. There's also the contract of cornerback Terence Newman, who turns 34 in September and is due $6.016 million in base salary with a cap number of $8.016 million. Releasing Newman would clear $4.016 million of cap space.
New York Giants
Estimated Cap Space: $5-$7 million over
Unrestricted Free Agents (21): Stacy Andrews, Rocky Bernard, Chase Blackburn, Will Blackmon, David Carr, Michael Clayton, Michael Coe, Jonathan Goff, Deon Grant, Domenik Hixon, Jimmy Kennedy, Mario Manningham, Derrick Martin, Kareem McKenzie, Aaron Ross, Devin Thomas, Terrell Thomas, Dave Tollefson, Justin Tryon, Tony Ugoh, Steve Weatherford
Restricted Free Agents (1): Bruce Johnson
Johnson has spent much of the last two seasons on injured reserve and is unlikely to receive a qualifying offer from the Giants in 2012.
Franchise Tag Candidate: Looking at the list of the Giants' unrestricted free agents, it's easy to find players the club would like to have back –- Blackburn, Goff, Grant, Manningham, Thomas, Tollefson, Weatherford –- but none that would warrant serious consideration for use of the franchise tag. The emergence of Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks have made Manningham expendable, despite the latter ranking in the top-20 in DYAR and DVOA in 2010.
Potential Cap Casualties/Restructures: You can't spell "elite" without E-L-I, and you can't spell "cap relief" without E-L-I, either. Eli Manning has a 2012 cap number of $16.35 million and is due $11.25 million in total compensation, largely coming via a $10.75 million base salary that could be reduced and converted into a signing bonus that is prorated over the four remaining years of his contract. The downside to that is that Manning already has cap numbers over $18 million in 2013-14, and adding more to them could necessitate further shuffling. Releasing running back Brandon Jacobs would clear $5 million off the cap, while the team could save $6.75 million in cash and $4.155 million in cap space by releasing cornerback Corey Webster. Safety Antrel Rolle ($7 million cash, $9 million cap), guard Chris Snee ($5.75 million cash, $8.5 million cap) and defensive tackle Chris Canty ($6.25 million cash, $7.95 million cap) are also possible restructure candidates.
Estimated Cap Space: Around $18 million
Restricted Free Agents (1): Antonio Dixon
Dixon was an effective starter in 2010 that spent the final 11 weeks of the 2011 season on injured reserve with a torn triceps. The attacking style of the "Wide Nine" seems to favor the former undrafted free agent out of Miami who, if healthy, should be back on the low tender worth $1.26 million in non-guaranteed base salary.
Franchise Tag Candidate: If the Eagles use the tender, it will be on wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who has averaged 57 receptions, 1,021 yards and five touchdowns since being selected in the second round of the 2008 NFL Draft out of California. A franchise tender for Jackson would be worth around $9.5 million in guaranteed base salary in 2012, which could result in the long-term extension Jackson has been seeking for two years. Or a trade out of town.
Potential Cap Casualties/Restructures: Michael Vick has a fully guaranteed $12.5 million base salary that could be restructured to help lower his $13.9 million cap number for 2012. Two post-lockout free agents signings could also help free up some additional cap space for the Eagles. Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha did not receive a signing bonus, so his $11 million cap number is comprised solely by his $11 million base salary. Converting some of that into a signing bonus that is prorated over the four remaining years of his contract would reduce his cap number. Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins has a $5 million roster bonus that comes due on March 13. Converting that into a signing bonus would clear $3.75 million in cap space. Cornerback Asante Samuel has added $1 million to both his 2012 and 2013 base salaries, which now stand at $9.4 million and $11.4 million. Trading or releasing Samuel would clear $8 million from the Eagles' salary cap.
Estimated Cap Space: $45-$48 million
Unrestricted Free Agents (15): David Anderson, Phillip Buchanon, Adam Carriker, Fred Davis, London Fletcher, Keyaron Fox, Kedric Golston, Rex Grossman, Tim Hightower, LaRon Landry, Sean Locklear, Rocky McIntosh, Will Montgomery, Darrion Scott, Donte Stallworth
Lichtensteiger started 19 straight games over the 2010-11 seasons before suffering a serious knee injury last October. If healthy, using an "original round" tender worth $1.26 million in non-guaranteed base salary on Lichtensteiger, a 2008 fourth-round pick by the Denver Broncos, would be an easy decision for the Redskins.
Franchise Tag Candidate: Re-signing London Fletcher is a priority that should happen without having to use the nearly $9 million tender on the soon-to-be 37-year-old inside linebacker. Safety LaRon Landry was cruising towards a lucrative long-term contract before Achilles' tendon and groin injuries limited the 2007 first-round pick to 17 games over the last two seasons. Franchising Landry would cost about $6.2 million in 2012.
That would be nearly $1 million more than the tight end franchise tender, which could be used on Fred Davis. The 2008 second-round pick out of USC had a breakout season in 2011, catching 59 passes for 796 yards and three touchdowns. He also ranked eighth in DYAR and 14th in DVOA. Top tight ends can expect nearly $7 million per year with guarantees in the $15-$20 million range on a multi-year contract, which would make a $5.5 million guaranteed base salary on Davis a relative bargain.
Potential Cap Casualties/Restructures: The Redskins have around $84 million in cash committed for 2012, with $12 million of that total targeted for left tackle Trent Williams, who is due a fully guaranteed $11 million base salary and joined Davis with a four-game suspension for a substance abuse violation at the end of the 2011 season. 2012 is the first year where Williams' rookie contract can be restructured, and it would not be surprising to see the Redskins do just that as the No. 4 overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft has fairly low cap numbers in 2013 ($7 million) and 2014 ($9.25 million) that can absorb additional signing bonus proration. Cornerback DeAngelo Hall has three years and $24 million remaining on his contract, which the Redskins can get out from under of at any time without any cap implications. Doing so in 2012 would free up $6.5 million in cap space. Tight end Chris Cooley turns 30 in July and has landed on injured reserve in two of the last three seasons. That could make him a candidate to be released -– with a cash savings of $3.95 million and cap savings of $2.067 million -– it's a particularly likely scenario if the Redskins use the franchise tag on Davis.