5 NFL Contenders Set for Overhauls This Offseason
One year removed from winning a Super Bowl, the New York Giants are well into the process of overhauling their roster, but New York isn't the only NFL franchise that is set to do so in 2013.
In order to remain in contention for a chance to hoist the Lombardi Trophy year-in and year-out, general managers must make tough decisions that will shape the future of their franchises.
As a starting point, Giants general manager Jerry Reese has already let go of three key members of the team that brought home the title in 2012 in Michael Boley, Chris Canty and Ahmad Bradshaw. Bradshaw was the team's leading rusher in both of the franchises recent Super Bowl victories, scoring the game-winning touchdown in the latter of the two.
There's work yet to be done by Reese and his staff, though, in order for the Giants to bounce back from a sub-par season and get back into the playoffs in 2013.
So, which teams are in the same boat as Big Blue?
Note: Special thanks to ESPN's John Clayton for providing all the 2013 cap figures, to Ourlads.com for providing an easy-to-access list of unrestricted free agents for every team and to OvertheCap.com for putting together an epic site that lists every player's salary-cap figures, as well as how much cap room teams would free up by cutting each player.
New York Giants
Releasing Chris Canty, Michael Boley and Ahmad Bradshaw has allowed the New York Giants to clear nearly $14 Million in cap space.
Before these drastic, but necessary moves, New York was looking at entering the 2013 season $4.7 million over the cap, which means it's closer to $9 million under the cap after these cuts.
But, with Victor Cruz and owner John Mara reportedly butting heads over the receiver's worth (h/t Newsday.com's Bob Glauber) and the team's many unrestricted free agents, New York might not be finished trimming its roster.
Here's a short list of some key players due for a new contract as unrestricted free agents:
- Will Beatty, LT
- Kevin Boothe, LG
- Martellus Bennett, TE
- Domenik Hixon, WR
- Osi Umenyiora, DE
- Chase Blackburn, ILB
Safety Stevie Brown is a restricted free agent too and, after his eight-interception campaign in 2012, he'll cost the Giants a pretty penny.
Here are a couple players that might get cut:
- David Diehl, RT: Giants would save $4.8 million cutting Diehl.
- Corey Webster, CB: Giants would save $7.25 million cutting Webster.
New Orleans Saints
Before you jump all over my case about how the 7-9 New Orleans Saints didn't come close to contending in 2012, hear me out.
Last season was an aberration.
Since Sean Payton took over for Jim Haslett in 2006, the Saints have only had one losing season (minus last year's Bountygate-inspired crash) and have posted at least 10 wins in four seasons, including the team's 2009 Super Bowl victory.
The Saints are contenders.
New Orleans is in for some major changes in 2013, though. Payton's decision to move from a 4-3 defense (a unit that gave up an NFL-record 7,000-plus yards last season) to a 3-4 scheme necessitates a change in personnel on the defensive side of the ball, but so does the team's salary-cap situation.
New Orleans enters the 2013 season $14.7 million over the cap, which means bringing in players via free agency will be a tricky proposition.
With unrestricted free agents like offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod, wide receiver Devery Henderson and defensive ends Turk McBride and Sedrick Ellis already off the books, general manager Mickey Loomis has his work cut out for him just to get under the cap.
Players that might be cut:
- Will Smith, DE: Saints would save $7.76 million by cutting Smith.
- Jonathan Vilma, ILB: Saints would save $6 million by cutting Vilma.
- Pierre Thomas, RB: Saints would save $2.5 million by cutting Thomas.
- Roman Harper, S: Saints would save $3.6 million by cutting Harper.
The Dallas Cowboys are in dire straits financially heading into 2013 and, if Jerry Jones wants to keep fielding a team capable of contending for the playoffs year-in and year-out, he and his staff have some big decisions looming.
Dallas enters the season $18.2 million over the cap.
This figure doesn't take into account the team's desire to keep outside linebacker/defensive end Anthony Spencer or wide receiver Kevin Ogletree either, two of its top unrestricted free agents this spring.
Jones has really put himself in a tough spot by overpaying players like offensive tackle Doug Free ($10 million in 2013), defensive tackle Jay Ratliff ($7 million), cornerback Orlando Scandrick ($3.78 million) and guard Mackenzy Bernadeau ($3 million).
Given the team's needs on the offensive and defensive lines (plus the team's switch to a 4-3 defense), it's going to be really interesting to see what kind of maneuvers Jones has up his sleeve to make it all work in 2013.
Players that could get cut:
- Dan Connor, ILB: Cowboys would save $3 million by cutting Connor.
- Jason Hatcher, DE: Cowboys would save $2 million by cutting Hatcher.
- Ryan Cook, C: Cowboys would save $1.1 million by cutting Cook.
Obviously, these cuts won't make up for $18.2 million deficit and Jones will likely need to restructure some contracts to get under the cap.
The Washington Redskins surprised a lot of people by winning the NFC East in 2012, but the team's success last year won't be easy to replicate in 2013, thanks to a tenuous salary-cap situation.
Washington enters the 2013 season $4 million over the cap.
Making matters more complicated is the fact that Washington has a bevy of unrestricted free agents to sort through and there's a good chance it won't be able to retain some key players.
Offensive guard Kory Lichtensteiger, the team's most athletic guard and an invaluable member of the Redskins No. 1-ranked rushing offense, is just one of them. Washington would be loathe to let him leave and I'll be shocked if Lichtensteiger wears another uniform in 2013.
Here is a short list of some key free agents the Redskins might lose in 2013:
- Jammal Brown, RT
- Fred Davis, TE
- Adam Carriker, DE
In an effort to retain these key players, Washington will likely end up releasing a few players to clear up cap space. Here are a couple players that might be cut:
- DeAngelo Hall, CB: Redskins would save $8 million if they cut Hall.
- Reed Doughty, S: Redskins would save $1.38 million if they cut Doughty.
Sorry to break it to you, Pittsburgh Steelers fans, but the prospect of retaining wide receiver Mike Wallace doesn't look promising.
Pittsburgh enters the 2013 season $10.8 million over the cap.
Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported back in the middle of January that general manager Kevin Colbert says it's "very doubtful" the Steelers would use the franchise tag this season.
Furthermore, Bouchette wrote in a more recent article:
The Steelers could lose every one of their free agents, and they might have to lose a few more veterans if they don’t agree to take less money in 2013. They are so far over the salary cap that they would not be able to fill a 53-man roster without doing all of that.
In addition to Wallace, Pittsburgh could potentially lose left tackle Max Starks (not that Steelers fans would miss him), right guard Ramon Foster, tight end Leonard Pope, cornerback Keenan Lewis, nosetackle Casey Hampton and inside linebacker Larry Foote.
In an effort to retain some of these key players, Pittsburgh might cut these players:
- James Harrison, OLB: Steelers would save $5.1 million if they cut Harrison.
- Jerricho Cotchery, WR: Steelers would save $1 million if they cut Cotchery.
- Ziggy Hood, DE: Steelers would save $992,325 if they cut Hood.
- Brett Keisel, DE: Steelers would save $3.83 million if they cut Keisel.
Nobody said making these cuts is easy, but the Steelers, along with the other teams on this list, face desperate times. As we know, desperate times call for desperate measures.
Stay tuned to Bleacher Report as we cover NFL free agency, the NFL Scouting Combine and the 2013 NFL Draft.
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