clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The 5 O’Clock Club: a look at salary cap & upcoming veteran free agents in the NFC East

New, comments

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

The 5 o’clock club aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.

A big week for teams wanting to re-sign their own veterans before they become free agents

After the Combine winds down, we will enter the final week of the NFL league year when teams traditionally re-sign most of the players from the previous year’s roster who will re-join the team. Any player not re-signed by his own team will become an unrestricted free agent when the new league year starts at 4:00 p.m. EST on 14 March 2018.

This seems like a good time to look at the Redskins and our rivals in the NFC East, and see where each one stands with regard to salary cap and roster.

Let me start with the reigning super bowl champions.

The Philadelphia Eagles

Philadelphia Eagles v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Brian Cleary/Getty Images

OverTheCap estimates the following numbers for the Eagles:

According to OTC, the Eagles have the single worst salary cap situation in the league.

Total Cap Liabilities: $194,844,390

Top 51: $187,553,033

Team Cap Space: ($9,666,190)

  • Offense: $102,049,021
  • Defense: $88,768,428
  • Special: $3,540,00

Calculating the amount of cap space available for free agency

(A) The Eagles are currently $9.6m over the cap.

(B) The Eagles will need about $1.32m to sign their draft picks.

(C) Standard “contingency” of $5m for 2018

Cap available for free agency (A) - (B) - (C): ($15.92m)

In other words, the Eagles have to clear nearly $16m in cap space just to sign their draft picks. They will need to clear additional space if they want to sign or re-sign any veteran players to 2018 contracts.

Players from last year’s roster without a contract for 2018

Starters

  • 43 OLB Nigel Bradham
  • RB Darren Sproles
  • RB LeGarrette Blount

Others

  • TE Trey Burton
  • S Corey Graham
  • PK Caleb Sturgis
  • LT Will Beatty
  • 43 OLB Dannelle Ellerbe
  • 43 OLB Najee Goode
  • 43 DE Ryan Braman
  • CB Patrick Robinson
  • S Jaylen Watkins (RFA)
  • RB Kenjon Barner
  • 43 DT Beau Allen

The key player on that list is Nigel Bradham. While Sproles and Blount were both important parts of the run game, they are also both getting long in the tooth, and would be candidates to be replaced by younger, cheaper players.

Beyond Bradham, the issue is primarily one of losing depth — especially defensive depth.

To be able to bring Bradham back, along with signing draft picks, the Eagles probably need to be able to clear around $25m in cap room in total from where they sit today.

Roster cuts that would produce the biggest cap savings

While some of that salary cap reduction may be accomplished through re-structures, that kind of projection is beyond the scope of this article. Let’s look at the players who could be cut to create that kind of cap space. The list shows the cap savings for each player if they were to be cut prior to 14 March. Starters are in bold; targets to be cut in italics.

  • LDE Brandon Graham $7m
  • RT Lane Johnson $6.48m
  • C Jason Kelce $6m
  • S Malcolm Jenkins $5.6m
  • RDE Vinny Curry $5m
  • WR Torrey Smith $5m
  • OLB Mychal Kendricks $4.4m
  • LT Jason Peters $4.3m
  • TE Brent Celek $4m
  • RG Brandon Brooks $3.98m
  • QB Nick Foles $2.2m
  • DE Chris Long $1.95m
  • ILB Jordan Hicks $1.9m
  • P Donnie Jones $1.6m
  • CB Ronald Darby $1m

The most obvious apparent roster moves would be:

Torrey Smith $5m

Smith is probably the most expendable of the team’s receivers. He has no dead cap hit, and $5m is pretty significant for a team that’s scratching around for $25m. With Jeffrey, Agholor and Ertz, the team wouldn’t be lacking in receiving targets. If he is cut, Smith might be a reasonable free agent target for the Redskins, who could use a veteran receiver on a reasonable price tag.

Jason Peters $4.3m

Peters has been with the Eagles for 8 seasons, after starting his career as an undrafted free agent with the Bills. Peters has been a warrior and one of the Eagles’ best players for a long time, but he’s now 36 years old, and Halapoulivaati Vaitai finally stepped up and played well in ‘17. It’s probably the end of the line for Peters in Philly.

Chris Long $1.95m

Picked #2 overall in the 2008 draft, Long will likely be a cap casualty after a single season (and a ring) in Philly.

This totals $11.25m... enough to get the draft picks signed, and have money left over for a Big Mac and fries... not enough to sign any free agents.

It’s hard to imagine the Eagles cutting their superbowl winning QB, Nick Foles, who also provides quality insurance for Wentz’s return from injury. With a mere $2.2m cap savings, I think the Eagles keep Nick on the roster. Brent Celek isn’t a starter, but with Trey Burton without a 2018 contract, the Eagles’ TE depth is already taking a hit.

All of the other cap savings to be had would involve getting rid of starting players.

Howie Roseman and his front office team are going to have to work some roster magic to find enough money to do anything except sit on the sidelines of free agency and watch their roster depth sign with other teams.

The Washington Redskins

Washington Redskins v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

OverTheCap estimates the following numbers for the Redskins:

According to OTC, the Redskins have the eighth most available salary cap in the league, prior to the Kendall Fuller trade. After the trade, the cap space will be about 15th in the league... pretty much right in the middle.

Total Cap Liabilities: $138,887,567

Top 51: $129,832,895

Team Cap Space: $49,150,517

  • Offense: $68,683,824
  • Defense: $66,885,293
  • Special: $2,817,500

Calculating the amount of cap space available for free agency

(A) The Redskins are currently $49.1m under the cap.

(B) The Skins will need about $2.94m to sign their draft picks.

(C) Standard “contingency” of $5m for 2018

(D) Alex Smith $17m base salary

(E) Allowance for Alex Smith pro-rated signing bonus $4m

(F) Kendall Fuller savings $467k

Cap available for free agency (A) - (B) - (C) - (D) - (E) + (F): $20.63m

Roster cuts that would produce the biggest cap savings

Starters are in bold; targets to be cut in italics.

  • CB Josh Norman $7.93m
  • OLB Ryan Kerrigan $6m
  • TE Jordan Reed $4.7m
  • LT Trent Williams $4.45m
  • QB Colt McCoy $3m
  • WR Jamison Crowder $1.9m
  • OL TJ Clemmings $1.9m
  • S DJ Swearinger $1.67m
  • DL Stacy McGee $1.6m
  • DL Ziggy Hood $1.4m
  • OLB Preston Smith $1.2m
  • TE Vernon Davis $1.17m
  • RB Chris Thompson $1.15m
  • P Tress Way $1m

The two targets for a big cap reduction would be Josh Norman (due to overall cost and age) and Jordan Reed (due to overall cost and injury history), however, both of them are considered ‘stars’ of the team. I think it would take some extraordinary circumstance for the front office to move them off the roster this season.

Players from last year’s roster without a contract for 2018

Starters

  • QB Kirk Cousins
  • WR Terrelle Pryor
  • ILB Zach Brown
  • OL Spencer Long
  • CB Baushaud Breeland
  • PK Dustin Hopkins
  • WR Ryan Grant (rotation)
  • OLB Trent Murphy (rotation)
  • OLB Junior Galette (rotation)
  • NT Phil Taylor (projected)

Others

  • OL Shawn Laovao
  • TE Niles Paul
  • ILB Will Compton
  • DB DeAngelo Hall
  • CB Chris Carter
  • WR Brian Quick
  • S Deshazor Everett
  • DL Arthur Jones
  • C Tony Bergstrom
  • S Stephan McClure
  • OL Tyler Catalina
  • OL Ty Nsekhe (RFA)

Let’s have a look at the key players from this list:

Kirk Cousins - has already been replaced by another Pro Bowl QB, Alex Smith, who will earn $22.2m per year from ‘18 to ‘22, based on media reports, while Cousins is expected to sign a contract with an APY of between $27.5m and $30m, with significant guarantees in place.

Zach Brown - I think the fans, the coaches and the front office would all like to see Brown back in Burgundy & Gold in ‘18. That said, there’s a feeling that Brown may overestimate his market value. The Redskins seem to be inclined to let him “test the market”. One hopes that Brown has agreed to give the Redskins the chance to match his best offer. If he doesn’t re-sign with the Redskins, there are a number of other free agent options as well as players in the draft with the skills to be a first year starter.

Spencer Long - has already been replaced at Center by 2017 draft pick Chase Roullier. The feeling seems to be that there are other options at LG, the other position that Long could be re-signed to play. The odds seem to be against Long re-signing with the ‘Skins, but, at the same time, I don’t think anyone would be shocked if the front office brought him back.

Baushaud Breeland - Prior to the Kendall Fuller trade, it seemed a foregone conclusion that Breeland would be allowed to walk in free agency, essentially a cap casualty. With Fuller’s departure, and the cap “savings” associated with having Smith instead of Cousins, the front office may decide to bring Breeland back. If they let him walk, that may say a lot about his perceived inconsistency.

Dustin Hopkins - I imagine the team will re-sign Hopkins, but they may be just as happy to sign a different veteran, or bring in one or more rookies to compete for the kicking job. Hopkins has the strong leg on kickoffs that risk-averse Jay Gruden loves, but isn’t really reliable on field goals beyond 49 yards.

Ryan Grant - The receiving corps is thin. It’ll be damn near see-through if the team lets Grant walk. Jay Gruden loves him, and the market outside of DC is unlikely to be strong enough to give Grant a big payday. I expect he’ll be re-signed. We’ll still need another receiver -- either a free agent or a very early draft pick.

Murphy / Galette - The feeling seems to be that the team needs to re-sign at least one of these two players. Galette probably has the best chance for a big impact in ‘18, with Murphy coming off of injury, but Junior seems to be looking for more playing time, and Murphy will probably be much cheaper (on a one-year deal to show he’s back healthy).

The “big money” from the list above would be Zach Brown (or a free agent LB from another team) and Baushaud Breeland. The Redskins probably have enough available cap space to sign all the free agents they need to go into the draft with only two or three roster holes. I don’t see any real need for the Redskins to re-structure or dump a player simply to create cap room.

Dallas Cowboys

Philadelphia Eagles v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

OverTheCap estimates the following numbers for the Cowboys:

According to OTC, the Cowboys have the 11th worst salary cap situation in the league.

Total Cap Liabilities: $170,105,327

Top 51: $153,994,215

Team Cap Space: $18,169,447

  • Offense: $97,579,813
  • Defense: $52,914,402
  • Special: $5,900,000

Calculating the amount of cap space available for free agency

(A) The Cowboys are currently $18.16m under the cap.

(B) The Cowboys will need about $2.59m to sign their draft picks.

(C) Standard “contingency” of $5m for 2018

Cap available for free agency (A) - (B) - (C): $10.57m

Roster cuts that would produce the biggest cap savings

Starters are in bold; targets to be cut in italics.

  • RG Zack Martin $9.3m
  • WR Dez Bryant $8.5m
  • TE Jason Witten $6.95
  • LB Sean Lee $3.9m
  • PK Dan Bailey $3.4m
  • WR Cole Beasley $3.25m
  • TE James Hanna $$2.75m
  • DE Benson Mayowa $2.75
  • DE Tyrone Crawford $1.8m
  • S Jeff Heath $1.55
  • FS Byron Jones $1.4m
  • CB Orlando Scandrick $1.4m

Dez Bryant would seem to be a surprise cut, but at $8.5m, Dez’s production and his lack of “connection” with Dak Prescott seem not to support his price-tag. He’s actually got a $16.5m cap hit, but due to Jerry Jones’ atrocious cap management skills, he carries an $8m dead cap hit, which is why the cap savings isn’t more significant. Dez is unlikely to willingly renegotiate his deal, and his $12.5m base salary probably makes him untradable. As unlikely as it would seem, Dez could become a cap casualty in 2018.

Jason Witten at least has good production at his position, and has the added benefit of being a potential future Hall of Fame candidate. Still, he’s 35 years old and would provide nearly $7m of cap relief for the Cowboys, who are likely to need it.

Cole Beasley actually provides decent value with a 2018 cap hit of just $4.2m. I don’t think the Cowboys would cut him unless they were desperate. Jerry Jones will typically re-structure a contract to push cap hits into future years before he will willingly cut a longtime player who has produced in the past.

Benson Mayowa is a rotational defensive lineman who is a relative bargain with a $3.85m cap hit. I don’t expect him to get cut. Again, Jerruh prefers restructuring contracts and mortgaging the future. Heck, Tony Romo still counts $8.9m against the Cowboy cap this season, and I suspect Jerruh would restructure that and push some of the Romo cap hit to next year if he could. Any GM that didn’t own the team would get fired for doing what Jerruh does routinely.

Jeff Heath is a backup safety, but again, the Cowboys would have to be desperate to get rid of his relatively cheap contract.

Players from last year’s roster without a contract for 2018

Starters

  • DE Demarcus Lawrence
  • LB Anthony Hitchens
  • LG Jonathan Cooper
  • LS LP Ladouceur
  • FB Keith Smith (RFA)
  • DL David Irving (RFA)

Others

  • RT Byron Bell
  • DT Stephen Paea
  • RB Alfred Morris
  • LB Kyle Wilber
  • WR Brice Butler
  • OL Joe Looney
  • CB Bene Benwikere
  • QB Zac Dysert (ERFA)
  • DT Brian Price (ERFA)
  • ILB Rolando McClain (ERFA)

Let’s have a look at key players from the list:

Demarcus Lawrence - There have been a number of reports that the Cowboys will tag Lawrence if they can’t sign him to a long-term deal prior to the 6 March franchise tag deadline. The tag will cost close to $17m according to estimates, so with less than $11m available for free agency shopping, the Cowboys will be creating a situation where they will have to work some magic on the salary cap prior to the draft. Even if the ‘Boys sign Lawrence to a long-term deal, it is expected to be around $14m per year APY, so it’s gonna take a huge bite out of the Dallas cap space either way.

Anthony Hitchens - If he isn’t re-signed by the Cowboys, Hitchens will likely get a lot of interest from other teams. It will probably take $6 to $7m to re-sign him (a deal similar to expectations for Zach Brown).

Jonathan Cooper - The Cowboys will want to retain their starting LG, and will likely find a way to do it.

Keeping all three of these players will likely take either some creative re-structuring, or saying goodbye to Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, or both.

Again, as an owner/GM, Jerruh has the flexibility to do a lot of strange stuff with contracts that would get any normal GM fired. Anything is possible with Cowboy contracts & salary cap.

New York Giants

New York Giants v Tennessee Titans Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

OverTheCap estimates the following numbers for the Giants:

According to OTC, the Giants have the 17th best/16th worst salary cap situation in the league (two spots behind the post-trade Redskins). However, with the #2 pick in the draft, the rookie class will take a big ($6.5m) bite out of their available cap space.

Total Cap Liabilities: $159,109,887

Top 51: $153,351,632

Team Cap Space: $24,535,434

  • Offense: $70,562,435
  • Defense: $83,514,197
  • Special: $4,555,000

Calculating the amount of cap space available for free agency

(A) The Giants are currently $24.5m under the cap.

(B) The Giants will need about $6.5m to sign their draft picks.

(C) Standard “contingency” of $5m for 2018

Cap available for free agency (A) - (B) - (C): $13m

Roster cuts that would produce the biggest cap savings

Starters are in bold; targets to be cut in italics.

QB Eli Manning $9.8m

WR Odell Beckham Jr. $8.45m

CB Janoris Jenkins $7m

DB Domonique Rodgers-Cromartie $6.5

WR Brandon Marshall $5.1m

DE Olivier Vernon $5m

RG John Jerry $2.5

WR Dwayne Harris $2.45m

DL Snacks Harrison $2.3m

SS Landon Collins $1.2m

LB Ray Ray Armstrong $1.2m

P Brad Wing $1m

LS Zak DeOsssie $1m

The only likely cut I see from the Giants roster is Brandon Marshall. He was, in my opinion, a bad signing for the team last year. He got hurt in Week 5, he’s 33 years old, and he can look forward to a long career as a TV analyst. I think he’ll be out of the NFL locker room and into a TV studio sometime next week. The Giants will get $5m in cap savings by saying goodbye to him.

Players from last year’s roster without a contract for 2018

Starters

LB Jonathan Casillas

LB Devon Kennard

C Weston Richburg

LG Justin Pugh

OT DJ Fluker

RB Orleans Darkwa

RB Shane Vereen

Others

CB Ross Cockrell

CB Darryl Morris

RG John Greco

LB Keenan Robinson

LB Mark Herzllich

LB Akeem Ayers

LB Kelvin Sheppard

DE Kerry Wynn

DT Jay Bromley

S Nat Berhe

QB Geno Smith

WR Tavarres King

C Brett Jones (RFA)

OL Joe Halapio (ERFA)

TE Ryan O’Malley (ERFA)

WR Travis Rudolph (ERFA)

DT Robert Thomas (ERFA)

LB Curtis Grant (ERFA)

Let’s have a look at key players from the list:

Linebackers

The Giants have both their strong & weak side starting linebackers entering free agency with Casillas & Kennard.

Casillas has been in the league for 9 years and missed 8 games last season. The players listed 2nd & 3rd on the depth chart behind him (Keenan Robinson & Akeem Ayers) are also both upcoming free agents. In fact, the Giants have a total of 6 linebackers set to enter free agency. I just don’t follow the Giants closely enough to know what they are likely to do with this roster spot.

Devon Kennard was drafted by the Giants in the 5th round of the ‘14 draft. I would imagine they’ll try to retain him.

Offensive line

The Giants have struggled at offensive line for a while now, and neither draft picks nor free agent signings seem to have helped much. Now they have 60% of their starting offensive line hitting free agency in the same season. Somebody was absent the day they taught succession planning at GM school. I guess that may be one of the many reasons why Jerry Reese is out and Dave Gettleman is in.

Picking #2 in the draft, there’s a good chance that the G-men could select Quenton Nelson, who is considered the best offensive lineman in this solar system. They could also pick a quarterback, a running back, or they could trade down. In short, they could do just about anything. Never mind, I’m here to talk about free agency, not the draft.

Dave Gettleman came from the Panthers. You know who else is coming from the Panthers? Andrew Norwell. I’ve read articles tipping the Panthers to franchise tag Norwell, but I don’t believe it. They have a ton of money invested in the line already, and the tag is horribly expensive for an interior lineman. The latest Twitter report from Ian Rappaport says that the Panthers are going to use their franchise tag on their kicker, Graham Gano.

Weston Richburg - is one of the league’s best centers. You’d have to think that the Giants would try to hold onto him.

Justin Pugh - has missed 17 games with injury in the past 4 years. He seems to want to test free agency, and, to be honest, the Giants can probably upgrade in the draft or free agency. I don’t imagine Pugh will be a high priority for Dave Gettleman, who will be looking to put his stamp on the roster.

DJ Fluker - Fluker isn’t good, but he’s the best the Giants have got for the position. He sent a tweet recently that implied he’d be a free agent and looking for a new team in March. Again, I think Gettleman is gonna want to replace Pugh with one of his choices.

Can you imagine how the Giants would be transformed if they signed Norwell in free agency and then picked Nelson in the first round of the draft?!

Running back

The Giants running back situation may be the only one in the NFL that makes the Redskins look impressive by comparison. Darkwa shouldn’t cost much to re-sign, and Vereen is replaceable if he doesn’t want to stay in New York. As with Linebacker and Offensive Line, I find it hard to predict what the Giants will do here. The current talent is middling, but the team only has 7 draft picks, and there’s a finite amount of salary cap for free agency. They’ll have to re-sign some of their own starters, but the Giants will have to use a blend of re-signings, draft picks and unrestricted free agents from other teams to try to improve the roster.

By cutting Brandon Marshall, the Giants can enter free agency with about $18m in cap space available to spend. If they can sign one guard, one linebacker and one running back, they’ll probably be able to go into the draft, picking at the top of the first 6 rounds, and find enough good players (they have 4 picks in the first 104) to give the roster some depth.

Of course, sooner or later, they’ll need to get a quarterback.

Poll

If you could sign one NFC East veteran free agent away from another team to play for the Redskins in 2018, who would it be?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    Darren Sproles
    (9 votes)
  • 6%
    LeGarrette Blount
    (31 votes)
  • 18%
    Nigel Bradham
    (84 votes)
  • 8%
    Trey Burton
    (39 votes)
  • 2%
    Corey Graham
    (11 votes)
  • 34%
    Demarcus Lawrence
    (154 votes)
  • 5%
    Anthony Hitchens
    (24 votes)
  • 8%
    Jonathan Cooper
    (38 votes)
  • 0%
    Jonathan Casillas
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    Devon Kennard
    (3 votes)
  • 5%
    Weston Richburg
    (25 votes)
  • 2%
    Justin Pugh
    (12 votes)
  • 0%
    DJ Fluker
    (3 votes)
  • 2%
    Orleans Darkwa
    (9 votes)
  • 0%
    Shane Vereen
    (2 votes)
447 votes total Vote Now

Poll

What would be the best decision for the Giants, drafting at #2 overall?

This poll is closed

  • 22%
    RB Barkley
    (88 votes)
  • 33%
    QB Rosen
    (133 votes)
  • 8%
    OL Nelson
    (32 votes)
  • 36%
    Trade back to #5 (Broncos) or #6 (Jets), pick up extra draft capital and select the BPA.
    (147 votes)
400 votes total Vote Now