Character/Off-field issues dropped him to the 3rd round back in 2013, but he's increasingly outperformed his rookie contract each year since. His 2016 compensation jumps up to $1.686M per his proven performance escalator, but a long-term extension should be Arizona's top priority. He's projecting at a whopping $14.2M per year, which would make him the highest average paid defensive back in the game.
Though he showed no signs of it in 2015, the upcoming season could be Larry Fitzgerald's last in Arizona, so the Cardinals would do well to get ahead on Floyd to lock in the next man up going forward. He's currently sitting with a $7.32M 5th year option in 2016, but is projecting at $8.25M per year according to our latest calculation. A deal similar to Michael Crabtreee's 4 year, $34M extension seems about right.
Thomas has been trying to get out of Cleveland for awhile now. While he appears to be happy with the hiring of HC Hue Jackson, there still might be a need to move on. Thomas is owed $29.5M over the next three seasons, but with none of it guaranteed, a restructured extension could be implemented to move some funds around if needed. He'd be an immediate upgrade to a Falcons offense that appears to have the pieces in place to win.
Easier said than done, coming off a season ending injury and an awful year for the Ravens as a whole. Unfortunately his $28.55M cap figure does most of the talking here. Flacco has a whopping $25.85M in unallocated bonus money remaining on his current deal - dollars that will need to transfer through to a new extension. This means the name of the game here is guaranteed money. It's likely the right move is a deal similar to the one he signed back in 2013 (6 years, $120M), but upwards of $60M guaranteed this time around - the going rate for veteran QB extensions. He's calc. valuing at just under $20M per year as of now.
Tucker's reeled in just $3.8M across the past 4 seasons in Baltimore, despite averaging 87% made attempts over that span. He was perfect under 40 yards in 2015 and perfect under 50 yards in 2013-14. Those kind of numbers likely warrant him in discussion to be the highest paid kicker in football, a throne currently held by Stephen Gostkowski (NE, $4.3M).
Kind of a no-brainer. Mario was exceptional in 2014, but nearly invisible in Rex Ryan's 2015 defense. He certainly doesn't merit the $19.9M cap figure currently attached to him, nor the $30M cash due to him over the next 2 seasons. The Bills will clear $12.9M in much needed cap space with his release.
One of the biggest bounce back players of 2015, Incognito was the most consistent linemen in Buffalo last year. He's 32 years old, so a mega-deal isn't necessary, but he's likely seeking a 3 year deal after the nice season. Our calculated valuation pegs him at a 2 year $10M contract, but 3 years, $18M with $9M or so guaranteed is tag jo a more likely end game.
There are a few ways the Bills can find more cap space this month (releasing Dan Carpenter, releasing/restructuring Kyle Williams), but the simplest move might be to convert Clay's $10M roster bonus into a signing bonus. The move would clear $7.5M from their 2016 cap, but will increase the dead money for Clay by $2.5M over the next 3 seasons (making him tougher to walk away from should Buffalo be inclined to).
Norman came on strong in the past two seasons, becoming arguably one of the best shut down corners in the game. While a long-term extension is extremely possible (currently valuing at just under $14M), Carolina may choose to play it safe and put Norman on the 1-year lease; especially since the tag is estimated to be right around his $13.8M market value.
March 11th will be a nice day for Newton, as his $13M base salary for 2016 becomes fully guaranteed AND the Panthers should exercise his 2020 option. Doing so pays Newton an additional $10M in option bonus cash. Should Carolina decline the 2020 option, Newton will still reel in the $10M payment as long as he remains on their roster this March (March 12th option payment).
Allen had a nice season in 2015, and has had an illustrious career to date, but at 34 it's hard to justify an $8.5M cap figure for next season. If he doesn't retire, the Panthers should release Allen, a move that will clear the full $8.5M off their cap.
Miller showed strong chemistry with QB Jay Cutler in 2015, and while he's nearly 32 years old, could be the goto guy if Chicago decides to move on from veritable bust Martellus Bennett. He's likely inline for a $3M-$4M deal, depending on if a market develops, and should be seeking a 3 year contract at this stage of his career.
He's struggled with injuries, and fluctuating weight problems, but the bottom line here is the Bears simply don't have much left in the cupboard to work with at this point. The point of contention here will most likely be the guaranteed money, and T.Y Hilton's deal should be the model for it ($10M signing bonus, $1M guaranteed 1st year salary initially,rolling salary guarantees in years 2/3, and a large roster bonus in year 2 if he's still on the roster).
Even at 32 years old, Nelson should be on the the top priorities for Cincinnati heading toward March. He reeled in a career-high 8 INT to go along with 52 tackles and 2 fumble recoveries in 16 2015 games. He's calculating toward a slight raise ($4.8M up from $4.5M), but demand should push his deal over $5M per year when it's all said and done.
Both very capabale defensive players still, but the Bengals have a younger core that need extensions over the next 12 months, so chips will need to fall in order to do so. Releasing both frees up a much needed $4.65M in cap space, money to be used for other items on the to-do list (draft pool, Adam Jones, Vincent Rey, Tyler Eifert).
The uncertainty of Josh Gordon's status mixed with a breakout year in 2015 makes bringing back Benjamin a priority for Cleveland. He's working from a bit of a small sample size (saw only 46 targets in 2014), so the price shouldn't get out of hand this offseason, but he and Marvin Jones (CIN) will likely become the top available WRs on the market assuming the Bears lockup Alshon Jeffery as expected. Golden Tate's $6.2M per year deal should be a foundation here.
It's widely assumed that Cleveland will select a new QB with the #2 overall pick this draft, and with Josh McCown under contract at a sizable $5M cap, Manziel and his problems have no spot on the 2016 roster. Bowe barely saw the field after penning a 2 year $12.5M deal prior to 2015, while the recent extension to Gary Barnidge likely means Dray and his $2M cap hit aren't sticking around long.
Smith's deal was structured to be tinkered with, and Dallas generally loves to tinker. Dropping his $10M base salary (which guarantees on 3/13 anyway) down to the minimum $760,000 drops his cap hit from $14M to $6.608M, freeing up some much needed space.
Carr needed a big year to secure his roster spot in 2016, and for all intents and purposes, it didn't happen. A sizeable restructure in 2013 accounts for $7.434M in dead cap already, so another restructure probably isn't feasible. Dallas would benefit from designating Carr a post June 1st release, allocating $4.717M in dead cap to 2016, and $2.717M in 2017 (rather than all $7.434M in 2016 prior to 6/1.
There's really no question here how the Broncos should proceed with the QB position. Luckily, the market for Osweiler isn't anticipated to be huge, with Cleveland the only reported name showing interest. Brock's limited numbers over the past few years are right on target with Nick Foles' in his short stint with the Eagles, so a 3 year $39M extension ($15M or so guaranteed) should suffice.
In other words, the Broncos are going to be very busy in the next few weeks. Applying the franchise tag to Miller is about as easy a decision as they come. The tag should come in at just over $14M, which is below his market value - but enough to live for now. From there it's about creatively making $102M+ ($55M guaranteed) fit into their numbers over the next 6 years. Clady's been a solid offensive tackle, but coming off ACL surgery, his $10.1M cap figure is a problem. A slight restructure (possible paycut?) will help in a lot of other areas. Malik Jackson is going to be a difficult keep. He peaked at the right time and is calculating north of $10M per year. Cameron Jordan's 5 year $55M deal with the Saints is the likely starting point.
Jones has played second-fiddle to A.J. Green in Cincinnati (rightfully so), but has WR1 potential as he prepares to hit the open market. Detroit will need a few pieces to attempt to fill the void of the retiring Calvin Johnson, and taking a flyer on Jones makes sense. He calculates to a $5.5M AAV, so a 4 year deal as high as $25M shouldn't be out of the question.
He was actually a good value over the first few years of his 5 year contract, but with $6M cash due and a $7.3M cap figure allocated to 2016, the time seems right to cut ties. The move frees up a much needed $7M.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers almost NEVER get involved in the early days of free agency, but the lack of protection around Aaron Rodgers in 2015 was debilitating to their long-term success. Okung has his deficinies, but keeping his QB off his backside isn't one of them. Nate Solder's $10M per year extension with the Patriots should be a good ceiling for Okung's next deal.
The 2013 1st round pick is entering year four of his rookie contract. While the deal provides a 5th year option, Green Bay would be smart (and they usually are) to get ahead of the game and work out a multi-year extension now. Jones is a prime candidate for a breakout year in 2016 so his value could be a very different picture one year from now. He's projecting at a comfortable $5M per year currently, aligning closely with the 4 year $21M deal the Redskins gave to Stephen Paea last year.
He's been an elite running back when healthy through 7 seasons in Houston, but the 29 year old has hit the IR twice in the past 3 seasons, and is set to count $8.9M against the Texans' 2016 cap. His release clears $6.625M from the upcoming table, leaving Alfred Blue ($629k) as the primary back.
There are a few places where Griffin will have the chance to compete for a starting job out of the gate, but the Texans appear be the best option. With Arian Foster likely out the door, a versatile QB with a bit of experience makes sense, not to mention Griffin's ties to Texas. His injury-filled, inconsistent career in Washington makes him extremely difficult to evaluate financially. Our calculated valuation projects Griffin to be worth just under $7M per year still - though it's safe to assume any deal he signs will be incentive laden.
The recent numbers haven't been fantastic, and the injury-riddled 2015 season sure didn't help, but the writing's on the wall for the long-term future of Luck in Indy. The reality is that the Colts are setup nicely to make this contract happen right now, with only WR TY Hilton ($13M) and LT Anthony Castonzo ($10.9M) signed to contracts north of $10M per year. We're likely talking about a 4 year, $100M extension - $70M guaranteed.
Cole's a formidable edge rusher, but the numbers simply aren't there to justify a $7.125M cap hit. The $6.125M cleared by releasing him goes a long way to getting TE Coby Fleener under contract. Fleener's stock should rise with a healthy Andrew Luck back and the removal of Dwayne Allen from the equation. Fleener's calculated valuing at a nice round $6M per year.
Vernon's numbers don't pop off the page, but he's been a consistent edge player for the Dolphins. With Miami in a bit of cap trouble, and Jacksonville very much not, the Jags are in position to pull in a player like Vernon this March. The $10M per year mark is a likely starting point.
The Jags certainly don't need cap space, so these are purely football decisions. Gerhart's underproduced and battled injuries through 2 years of his 3 year, $10.5M contract, while Jacksonville will simply be looking to get younger in replacing Clemons. Releasing the two at the start of the league year clears $7.5M in cap space.
Kansas City Chiefs
While handing big money to safeties hasn't shown a ton of value or return in recent years, Berry's status as a leader combined with his production make him worth the contract. He aligns well with Jairus Byrd's pre-contract production, meaning the $9M per year mark is alikely baseline. A 5 year $50M deal ($25M ish guaranteed) will get it done.
It's a tough call, but at some point the Chiefs will have to get younger and cheaper to stay formidable for the next few years. At 32 years old, Hali is still performing at a high-clip, so the price will be high to keep him around. With Justin Houston already locked in at huge money, and an entire secondary that needs to be addressed financially, Hali is probably the odd man out.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams have one of the best young defensive lines in all of football. And while Chris Long is a no-brainer keep for most NFL teams, he's likely the odd man out in LA. At 30 years old, he'll have plenty of offers should he be released, a move that would clear $11.75M from the Rams cap.
With Lamar Miller set to hit free agency, the Dolphins' offensive weapons are already thin. But neither Cameron or Jennings appear poised to take on a significant role anytime soon. With cap hits of $9.5M and $5.5M repsectively, both account for too much to swallow. Releasing Jennings clears $4M, while cutting Cameron clears $7.5M, but must be done prior to 3/10, when his salary becomes fully guaranteed.
This move was basically written into the contract, as Suh is slated to reel in a whopping $23.485M base salary in 2016. His $28.6M current cap hit ranks 2nd only to Drew Brees ($30M), and is a major reason why the Dolphins are currently sitting with less than $10M in projected cap space. A minimum salary restructure drops that cap hit to $10.42M, clearing $18.18M - but also adding $4.545M to the 2017-2020 cap hits going forward. Miami might be smart to reduce the size of the restructure slightly to reduce the future increases.
There's discussion about Wallace taking a bit of a paycut to stick around, and Minnesota should welcome that if it's possible. But as of now Wallace's release will clear a whopping $11.45M from their cap.
He's been one of the league's best safeties over the past two seasons, and enters 2016 on a $5.278M 5th year option - a figure that's nearly half of his calculated market value. Our $9.4M per year projection would make Smith the 2nd highest average paid safety in football behind Earl Thomas.
New England Patriots
The Patriots generally don't dip into major offensive free agents, especially at the running back position, but Forte's versatility and fairly low price should be intriguing enough to seriously consider. In terms of valuing, Forte's always been a difficult read. When evaluating him against just running backs, his receiving statistics dominate all calculations (hence our $7.4M AAV). As a rusher, he aligns well with Frank Gore ($4M AAV), as a pass catcher he aligns with Julian Edelman ($4.25M AAV). So logically speaking, it's safe to assume Forte is worth somewhere around the $4M per year mark.
When healthy, he's been productive, but Mayo's hit the injured reserve list in three of the last four seasons with New England. His $11.4M cap figure for 2016 is likely to steep to keep, and the Patriots will clear $7M with his release.
Collins has become one of the most consistent players on the defensive side of the ball in New England, and is set to earn just $917,864 this year. Our latest valuation placed him worth $9M per year, and waiting on this deal is likely not a smart move.
New Orleans Saints
The good news? Brees is still valuing right around the $20M per year mark his current contract stands at. The bad news? $10M in unallocated bonus money needs to transfer to the 2016 year of the new deal, making things difficult. At the end of the day, Brees will likely garner a 3 year $61M extension - with most, if not all of it, guaranteed. He'll need to reduce his salary in 2016 to give the Saints some breathing room, but will likely get a nice chunk of change in year two.
His $6M roster bonus is due on March 13th, but converting it to a signing bonus means just $1.2M against the cap in each of the next 5 seasons. The move would drop his 2016 cap number from $12.8M to $8M.
While he's been good to Brees and the Saints offense for a long time, the time seems right to cut ties with the 32 year old. His 2015 restructure dropped his 2016 cap hit to $5.9M, but the Saints desperately need the $3.2M that would clear with his release. With Brees due to be extended, the time is right to get younger and cheaper around him.
New York Giants
We say consider because this move would be strictly business. The Giants desperately need more weapons around Eli, and when healthy, Cruz has certainly been that. But back to back season in the IR, and a much too rich $8M cash, $9.9M cap hit for 2016 doesn't jive with his risk potential. The Giants can clear $6.1M by releasing him now, $8M by waiting until June 1st.
The current Bills edge rusher followed up a fantastic 2014 under Jim Schwartz with a dreadful 2015 in Rex Ryan's new regime. He's been vocal about not being a fit, and the Bills ability to clear $12.9M per his release tends to leave the writing on the wall. The Giants struggled mightily with the pass rush, and if the debate is between bringing back a recovering Jason Pierre Paul, or taking a flyer on a talent like Williams, the later seems to be the better move. Taking last season with a grain of salt, Mario will likely be looking at a contract around the $7M per year range.
New York Jets
QBs posted a whopping 112 rating against him in 2015. Add in an $8M cap figure for 2016 and a Jets team that desperately needs more space, and Cromartie's days oppositve Revis Island are very numbered. New York will clear the full $8M with his release.
His $17M salary for 2016 is already fully guaranteed, so converting it to bonus to clear some cap space seems logical for a team in need of it. A minimum base salary restructure wouldn't be wise, as his 2017 cap hit would soar over $20M, but something in the range of $7M makes sense.
Weddle has an axe to grind with the Chargers as he leaves, so heading across town to the Raiders - who desperately need a safety, seems like a match made in heaven. From a calculated standpoint, Weddle comes in around $7M per year, a figure that would rank him 7th among active safeties. But demand for the above average defensive back could push this value closer to the $8.25M mark Dashan Goldson is currently sitting at.
Penn's posted back to back excellent seasons on Derek Carr's blindside, and even at 32 years old should be in for a nice raise from the $4.8M per year he earned since 2014. Our calculated valuation finds him worth $7.1M per year, meaning he could logically score a contract in the 3 year $24M range.
The Eagles have done plenty of early work getting their young stars extended, which likely paves the way for the release of Ryans. His $4.5M cap figure is likely too rich to stand, and Philly can clear $3.5M with his release prior to 3/11.
While many speculate the exit of DeMarco Murray, the structure of his contract makes him almost impossible to cut, and very difficult to trade right now. The smarter bet is the release of Sproles, a move that clears $3.5M.
Cox has been quietly excellent since the Eagles took him #12 overall back in 2012. He'll be quiet no more once he's awarded his next contract. Cox is currently calculating north of $14M per year, with nearly $55M in guarantees likely headed his way. It's possible Philly decides to let him play out his current $7.8M 5th year option and address this deal next offseason.
Timmons can't remain with his current $15.1M cap hit, but one of the major leaders of the defense should be inline for a restructured extension. The soon-to-be 30 year old will carry $6,381,250 in allocated cap through to a new deal, but will also pick up some guaranteed money along the way.
We say begin because this might take some time. Running backs have been heavily devalued in recent years, and the DeMarco Murray debacle last year likely didn't help. Coming off of an injury, and clearly an excellent fit for the Steelers regime, there should be room to compromise a bit. At just 24 years old, and with above average production both as a runner and pass catcher, Bell is currently calculating at a whopping $8.7M per year. Pittsburgh will do well to bring that figure down a bit.
San Diego Chargers
He's 35 years old and served a 4 game suspension in 2015, but Gates remains Philip Rivers goto target. The future hall of famer should finish out his career with the Chargers, and a 2 year $14M deal ($7M guaranteed) should do the trick.
He's coming off a season-ending injury in 2015, but it showed the Chargers offense that life without him is much worth than with him. He carries a modest $1.83M cap hit through the final year of his rookie deal, but San Diego would do well to get him locked in this offseason. While his calculated market value forecasts a 6 year $70M contract ($11.7M per year), his recent production aligns closely with TY Hilton (IND). So a deal as high as $13M per year isn't out of the question.
San Francisco 49ers
He's posted back to back nice seasons in SF, including a Top 10 PFF rating among defensive tackles this past year. He's projecting at just over $7.8M per year, so a 4 year $30M deal might get the job done.
The free agent market is thin as a whole this year, but a few above average cornerbacks become available in the next few weeks; notably Prince Amukamara (NYG), Sean Smith, (KC), and Adam Jones (CIN).
Nobody benefited more from Marshawn Lynch's injury-filled 2015 than Baldwin, who became the goto offensive target for Wilson and the Seahawks. He responded with big catches and most importantly - touchdowns. His calculated value drops in at $8.6M, exactly double what he's currently earning.
After a 1,000 yard season in 2014, Morris quickly fell out of favor in 2015 and is almost certain to hit the open market. The 27 year old won't require teams to break the bank, and adding insurance for Thomas Rawls should be Seahawks' priority. Donald Brown's 2 year $6.5M deal with the Chargers seems like a good benchmark.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Cap isn't an issue for the Buccaneers, but leverage with Martin is. The projected tag for running backs in 2016 is $11.8M, a huge number for a player who earned $1.3M in 2015. Tagging him attaches him to the Bucs through the offseason (and away from the Titans), giving them plenty of time to hammer out a multi-year deal. Martin wants DeMarco Murray money ($8M per year), and is calculating at just under $7M per year, but the Buccaneers would do well to get him locked in at a deal resembling 4 years, $25M.
The Bucs have come on record to say they're reluctant to spend big in free agency this year, so with ample cap space, it seems logical start taking care of their own. Getting a jump on extending Gholston will likely save them a few bucks down the road, while locking in a versatile defensive edge guy. He's currently calculating at $8.8M per year, a figure that ranks 8th among 4-3 defensive ends.
The Dolphins are tight with their cap currently, so keeping Miller in town might be a struggle. The Titans would probably prefer to reel in Matt Forte and his versatility, but he's made it clear he's only interested in contenders at this point. Miller has shown flashes of above average talent, and shouldn't break the bank either. He's valuing at an even $5M per year, but might be able to squeeze $6M should the demand be there.
The Titans need proven pass rushers to complement their strong inside linebacker play, and both Hardy and Pierre Paul have shown they can wreak havoc in backfields. It's likely going to take $12M per year to get either's attention, but the Titans have ample cap space to take a run.
Both no-brainers for the time being. Releasing Griffin clears $16.155M, while the tag for Cousins is targeting at $19.7M currently. With Cousins' market value coming in at just over $20M, but the Redskins view this scenario similar to that of the Bengals and Andy Dalton ($16M AAV). There's a legitimate chance he's asked to play the year out on the tag.
Not exactly the same type of defensive backs, but Iloka is due for a nice payday, and the Redskins' secondary needs to get younger and better. Washington will need to trim more bodies to make Iloka's $6M per year value fit, but it's certainly doable.
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