Under the Cap: AFC East

Under the Cap: AFC East
Under the Cap: AFC East
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Rivers McCown

Buffalo Bills

Cap Space as of February 10th: A little under $20 million. (All monetary figures courtesy of Over The Cap.)

Unrestricted Free Agents (7, UFAs and RFAs culled via NFL.com): Brandon Kaufman, Scott Chandler, Alex Carrington, Arthur Moats, Jairus Byrd, Jim Leonhard, Dan Carpenter

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.

Miami Dolphins

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...

Release/Restructure Candidates: Dimitri Patterson ($5,400,000), Matt Moore ($4,000,000)

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.

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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.

New England Patriots

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.

Release/Restructure Candidates: Vince Wilfork ($8,000,000), Isaac Sopoaga ($2,500,000)

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.

New York Jets

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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.

Release/Restructure Candidates: Mark Sanchez ($8,300,000), Santonio Holmes ($8,250,000), Antonio Cromartie ($9,500,000)

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, 1:39pm

#1 by FrontRunningPhinsFan // Feb 13, 2014 - 1:01pm

If they can't get Grimes in a long term deal, absolutely franchise him. Try to re-sign one of either Starks or Soliai. Both would be great, but let one walk for more money if he wants. Ordrick played better than either last year, and Olivier Vernon came into his own at DE opposite Wake.

I would think they'd want to keep Patterson. He didn't play much last year because of injuries, not because he was ineffective. Nolan Carroll is absolutely terrible I'd hate to see him get the #2 spot full time. Wouldn't trust either of their CB draft picks in the starting lineup either. At least not yet.

Don't re-sign any of those OLinemen. I wouldn't mind seeing Incognito back, but I doubt that would happen. Sign a few other OL in FA. Brandon Albert would be an awesome get.

Draft at least 5 OL. I'm only sort of kidding about that.

Points: 0

#8 by johonny // Feb 15, 2014 - 1:39pm

Patterson has a huge cap number and is always hurt. I doubt they keep him unless he takes a huge decrease in $. They have two last year draft picks that they are high on if they get healthy. I think they need Grimes one more year and will franchise him, and will try to get Carroll back only if his salary isn't more than like a similar or better corner on the market. I like Stark better than Stoliai and I think a 3/4 team will overpay for Stoliai anyways. The Dolphins have too many undersized edge rushers if that is possible. They could easily move one. With Jerry, Pouncey and Incognito in the Well's report at least two are gone. The main question is which under performing OT stays. They can't draft 2 starting OT and 2 G in the same draft and hit on all 4. Perhaps Thomas looks better this camp and takes one G spot. Brenner was liked by the coaching staff but needs more development to start. Gardner is a stop gap replacement. Probably means someone will return that isn't great. The only thing for sure is Incognito will never ever be back.

Points: 0

#2 by mehllageman56 // Feb 13, 2014 - 3:50pm

PFF gave Austin Howard a high rating in pass protection as far as right tackles go (he only allowed two sacks all year), and the Jets ran behind him more often than any other lineman. If he does leave, they'll be stuck drafting his replacement early when they would be better off getting skill position help, or a safety.

I agree with the assessment of Buffalo's situation. Perhaps I didn't watch enough of Manuel, but to me he seemed to have his bad games when his line let him get killed. According to PFF, he wasn't in the bottom ten under pressure, but in the bottom ten in accuracy percentage, along with Geno Smith.

I realize the Dolphins are in a fairly good position, I just keep assuming they'll mess it up somehow. The Patriots have an excellent organization, and both the Jets and Bills seem competent to me. The Dolphins just brought in a guy who was going to get fired by Tampa as their GM.

Points: 0

#3 by karovda // Feb 13, 2014 - 4:39pm

There is basically a 0% chance the Bills ends up letting Byrd walk. Tagging him again will cost them 120% of last year's salary (~$8.3M) OR the new franchise tag value, whichever is higher - NOT 120% of the new tag number. $8.3M would put him in between Berry and Goldson (2nd and 3rd average per year) and he would likely get more than that on the open market. The Bills wouldn't get anything for not tagging him, and even if he sits out training camp again, Byrd would almost certainly show up before week 1 just like he did this year, even with just the one-year deal. Another possibility is the Bills tag him and then trade him.

Erik Pears is another possible cut in addition to Kolb. FO has already stated how the offensive line needs improvement and he certainly is part of the issue. Cutting him saves just under $3M.

I'm also curious why there is no mention of carrying over extra cap from the previous year for any of the teams. If I recall correctly, just about every team has been carrying over the full amount each year and ends up being a huge part of this year's salary strategies.

Points: 0

#4 by mehllageman56 // Feb 13, 2014 - 5:29pm

I think the carryover is included in Buffalo's cap room. Otherwise, they wouldn't be close to 20 million.

Points: 0

#5 by karovda // Feb 13, 2014 - 5:57pm

No, the Bills currently have $19M for 2014, but that doesn't include Byrd or any other free agent, obviously. They had $17M left over from 2013 so could have $36M after the carryover.

Points: 0

#6 by Rivers McCown // Feb 14, 2014 - 12:35am

Ah, I must have misread the rules on that one, my mistake. I will fix it.

In retrospect, the cap carryover would've been a cool thing to add in. Kinda feel like there's already a lot of moving parts here though. Always open to input, though.

Points: 0

#7 by karovda // Feb 14, 2014 - 11:13am

Thanks for the reply. As it turns I seem to be wrong about the carryover as I think the overthecap's 2014 numbers assume a full carryover of extra 2013 space.

Points: 0

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