With the 2012 season and accompanying postseason fully in the history books, NFL teams are now focused on preparing for the upcoming 2013 Draft as well as the impending free agency period. Free agency officially begins on March 12, but there will be plenty of moves and transactions made before then. As always, we'll see teams release established veterans and valuable players in order to save themselves money and gain flexibility under the salary cap. I'll be going division-by-division and analyzing the salary cap situation of each team in the league, highlighting some players for every club that could potentially be axed in order to save some money. Yesterday we started with the NFC by covering the North division, and today we'll continue our progress by tackling the NFC East.
Current Projected Cap Space - $18.7M OVER
Key Free Agents - Anthony Spencer (LB), Victor Butler (LB), Felix Jones (RB), Kevin Ogletree (WR)
Another season of turmoil and drama in Big D resulted in an 8-8 record for the Cowboys and another year without a postseason berth. And to pile on more dirt, the Cowboys find themselves in one of the worst cap situations in the NFL currently. They're nearly twenty-million dollars over the cap, and need to find quick ways to chop that figure down. The most common way teams accomplish that goal is by cutting players that they feel are being overpaid. However, the way the Cowboys have structured most of their big contracts, they can't really outright release anybody and save a significant enough amount of money in the process. Therefore, the Cowboys are going to have get creative with their cost-cutting measures by giving out extensions and restructuring contracts.
The best place to start would probably be with the player currently set to have the highest cap hit for the team in 2013, Tony Romo
. If Romo is on the team through 2013, the contract becomes voidable anyway, and that's something the Cowboys would have to seriously consider doing to get out of their salary cap hell. Getting him to agree to an extension now would eliminate that concern and also could cut his $16.8M cap hit in about half. Brandon Carr was a big-ticket acquisition in free agency last year, and his contract was designed to be able to be restructured and save approximately $10.5M more in cap space. Getting those two things done would get Dallas just below the cap limit for 2013, but they would be wise to continue from there. Cutting reserve linebacker Dan Connor would free up $3.0M in cap space, and doing the same to Lawrence Vickers would save $1.2M as well. If they were willing to take on dead money in 2014 too, Dallas could wait until after June 1 to cut Doug Free and Jay Ratliff. The penalty from letting them go right away would actually cost them more than keeping them on the team would, but doing so after June 1 would split the damage over the next two years and make it easier to absorb.
New York Giants:
Current Projected Cap Space - $4.4M
Key Free Agents - Will Beatty (OT), Martellus Bennett (TE), Kevin Boothe (G), Kenny Phillips (S)
The New York Giants were one of the first teams to get to work this offseason, getting right down to business a couple of weeks ago by releasing Ahmad Bradshaw, Michael Boley, and Chris Canty to save around $13.0M in space and get themselves underneath the cap. With two very important free agents to look at bringing back though in Beatty and Bennett, one has to imagine that the Giants aren't done making moves to free up their usable payroll. Luckily for them, even with the cuts they've already made, they don't have a shortage of potential cap casualties. Chief among them would be Corey Webster
, who is set to be rewarded for his incredibly awful 2012 season with a whopping $9.8M cap hit in 2013. Cutting him would almost seem like a no-brainer, as the team would save a further $7.25M by doing so.
Speaking of awful players being paid like not-so-awful players, David Diehl has clearly demonstrated over the past couple of years that he is at the end of his rope. Needless to say, his play on the field definitely does not warrant the $6.8M he'll be earning next season if he's kept around. Letting him go would free up just about $4.75M that instead could be put towards paying players who can still, ya know, play. A dark horse candidate to be released is safety Antrel Rolle, who has yet to live up to the sizable contract he signed prior to 2010. His release would save a further $5.25M and make it much easier for New York to bring back their talented group of key free agents.
Current Projected Cap Space - $19.8M
Key Free Agents - Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (CB), King Dunlap (OT), Darryl Tapp (DE), Derek Landri (DT)
The Eagles have long been a team that are seen as a shining example of how to effectively and efficiently manage the cap. It continues to remain true this year, as even with hefty contracts to some of their players, they find themselves with a solid amount of cap space and very few big-ticket free agents. However, one very large and glaring $15.0M eyesore on their payroll for 2013 comes in the form of Nnamdi Asomugha
. There's virtually no chance that the once All-Universe corner is retained at that figure, so he'll be asked to restructure his deal to make it more team-friendly. If Asomugha is unwilling to compromise, the Eagles are still in a good spot. They can release him and it will only cost them less than a third of his overall cap hit, a much more modest $4.0M.
Another move that the Eagles could look to make is parting ways with linebacker DeMeco Ryans, who they traded for last offseason and acquired from the Houston Texans. Ryans came into Philly and started out strong in his first year with the team, but faded during the second half of the season and may not have done enough to keep a spot on the roster secure. This is especially true once you remember that the reason the Texans were so ready to get rid of Ryans was because he wasn't a good fit in their 3-4 scheme. With the Eagles moving to a 3-4 defense in 2013 as well, there's a possibility that again he won't take to it. If he's deemed expendable, there would be no penalty for the Eagles either, and they save $6.7M with no strings attached.
Current Projected Cap Space - $3.8M OVER
Key Free Agents - Fred Davis (TE), Cedric Griffin (CB), Kory Lichtensteiger (G), Rob Jackson (LB)
The Redskins are still strapped with a league-imposed penalty for 2013 for the way that the organization structured some of their contracts during the uncapped 2010 league year. This leaves them a little bit over the cap as everything stands right now, but there is little need for them to fret. That is, of course, as long as they are willing to pull the trigger on notable sieve of the defensive backfield, DeAngelo Hall
. The best part for the Redskins is that there will be absolutely no penalty for them to take on if they do so, and Hall's $8.0M cap figure will come clean off of the books. Josh Wilson is about as solid of a #2 cornerback as you'll find in the NFL, and if they bring back Cedric Griffin he has shown the potential to be a starter in the past, when healthy. So the team wouldn't have to worry too much about how to replace Hall.
Cutting Hall would be enough to get the Redskins underneath the cap, but there are other easy moves they could make in order to free up some more money. Defensive lineman Adam Carriker played just 43 snaps on defense before landing on injured reserve last season, and could be a candidate to get the axe considering he's set to earn $4.0M in 2013. Cutting Carriker would also be a penalty-free move, and free money is always good money. Santana Moss could also be on the chopping block this offseason. He's still a decent contributor for the team as a slot receiver, but at this stage of his career is not worth the near $6.2M he's due in 2013. He'll likely be asked to restructure and return at a more affordable number, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Redskins cut bait and let him go to save themselves roughly $4.5M.