Free agency is about to begin as legal tampering (if that makes any sense) starts at midnight at Friday night. As we’re getting ready to roll, we should look at which teams will be players in Free Agency.
NFL.com listed the salary cap situations for all 32 NFL teams. The Chicago Bears were near the middle of the pack, ranking 15th among NFL teams with an expected $10.1 million of cap space before they tagged Henry Melton. Look on the bright side, they could be one of the ten teams OVER the cap. At least the Beloved have a little wiggle room. But there are going to be some serious players out there, with boatloads of money to throw around at Free Agents. Here’s a breakdown of the Top 10 teams with money to burn.
10. Philadelphia Eagles – $14.8 million under
That figure doesn’t include some additional savings the Eagles expect to recognize from restructuring Michael Vick’s contract. The Eagles made a few cuts after the “Dream Team” turned into a nightmare. Head coach Andy Reid is gone and the Eagles will try to get some new players on the offensive side of the ball to help run new head coach Chip Kelly’s offense. Eagles need help on both lines
9. Seattle Seahawks* – $14.9 million under
Pete Carroll and the Seahawks come off a terrific run in 2012, led by surprising rookie Russell Wilson. They’ve got a couple of their own free agents to re-sign, but no huge names. They might dabble into free agency looking for a defensive tackle or wide receiver.
8. New England Patriots* – $15.5 million under
It’s a crime that the already loaded Patriots have this much cap space. Obvious targets for some of their offseason dough include wide receiver Wes Welker and offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer. I’ve also heard them linked to another wide receiver like Dwayne Bowe or Mike Wallace. Retaining Aquib Talib could be a high priority target for the Pats on the defensive side of the ball.
7. Tennessee Titans – $18.3 million under
If Pacman Jones were still on this team, he’d be able to “make it rain” with all this cash, but the Titans have more practical needs. Tight end Jared Cook highlights their own free agents and it’s possible the franchise tag could come into play. The Titans have a list of needs as long as my arm, so expect this money to evaporate quickly.
6. Jacksonville Jaguars – $23.8 million under
The Jags have a long list of needs and new owner Shad Khan could look to make a splash. The obvious choice could be to grab Tim Tebow, who is sure to hit the market.
5. Tampa Bay Bucs – $30 million under
How is it that the Bucs dropped big money on Vincent Jackson and Carl Nicks last season and still have $30 million to spend? They don’t have any major free agents to retain but they have plenty of needs, most notably at cornerback and defensive end.
4. Miami Dolphins – $35.4 million under
After tagging DT Randy Starks, the Dolphins still have over $35 million to drop on free agency. Rumors are swirling that they’re nearing a deal with wide receiver Brian Hartline but should have plenty left to pay Jake Long or replace Reggie Bush. Might head coach and former Packer OC Joe Philbin try to grab Greg Jennings or Charles Woodson? Does Mike Wallace address their wide receiver position?
3. Indianapolis Colts* – $40.2 million under
Is it even fair that a playoff team led by one of the top rookie quarterbacks has over $40 million in cap space? I didn’t know you could tag your punter but the Colts proved you can by tagging punter Pat McAfee. The Colts trimmed Dwight Freeney and Austin Collie, so they’ll need to fill their roles, but should have plenty of room to make a big splash.
2. Cincinnati Bengals* -$42.3 million under
The Bengals were number 1 in cap space until they decided to tag defensive end Michael Johnson. The Bengals took advantage of a down year by the Steelers to make their second consecutive trip to the postseason. They will need to bolster their squad top make it a third straight trip. They will have to make a run at keeping OT Andre Smith and may opt to replace linebacker Rey Maualuga.
1. Cleveland Browns – $44.7 million under
The Browns and Bengals make the AFC North the richest free agent division in the league, though the Browns have a lot further to go to catch the rest of the division. Trent Richardson showed signs of being a consistent contributor, but the Browns need to figure out their quarterback situation and continue to build the offense around Richardson. On defense, they need to get consistent pass rushing.
*2012 Playoff Team
I count four 2012 playoff teams among the teams with the most available cap space, including a ridiculous $42.3 million for the Bengals and $40.2 for the upstart Colts. Which of the teams that missed the playoffs last season will make the right moves to go to the 2013 postseason dance? Which playoff team can spend wisely and add to a solid core? These questions will start to get answered on Friday night and into the official Free Agent period on March 12th.