NFL Teams Facing Salary Cap Nightmares
It's that time of the year in the National Football League, when the discussion around NFL teams often times has as much to do with math as it does with sports.
That's because the start of free agency and the 2013 NFL draft are right around the corner. That means that teams have to scramble to make sure they are in compliance with this year's salary cap, which is estimated to be in the range of $121 million for 2013.
For some teams, like the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, the problem isn't cap space. The Ravens have that, but they also have a bevy of prominent free agents including quarterback Joe Flacco.
That space could get eaten up pretty quickly.
Here's a look at those teams, where they sit against the cap and the steps they've both taken and may be forced to take to get into the black before free agency begins.
New York Jets ($6.3 Million)
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The New York Jets are actually under the salary cap at this point, but they certainly didn't begin Tuesday that way.
In fact, the Jets began the day in the worst salary bind in all of the National Football League.
However, on Tuesday the Jets took a chainsaw to their roster, cutting seven players in a move that saved nearly $30 million in cap space according to Josh Alper of NBC Sports.
The cuts included linebackers Bart Scott and Calvin Pace, safety Eric Smith and tackle Jason Smith, and they should serve as an object lesson to the teams farther along in this list.
Spend like a drunken sailor, and sooner or later the hangover will kick in.
Arizona Cardinals (-$2.5 Million)
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Not only did the 2012 season tailspin into a nightmare for the Arizona Cardinals, but as the team tries to rebound, they begin 2013 slightly over the salary cap.
The elephant in the room in the desert is quarterback Kevin Kolb, who carries a $13 million cap hit for the upcoming season.
That includes $9 million in base salary and a $2 million roster bonus due in March.
Arizona will all but certainly either ask Kolb to restructure or cut him loose altogether.
Add to that the nearly $5 million allocated to safety Adrian Wilson, who told Kent Somers of The Arizona Republic in December that he expects to be released, and Arizona can generate some wiggle room fairly easily.
Now if the team can just generate some pass protection.
Oakland Raiders (-$2.6 Million)
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They say that Rome wasn't built in a day, and that's the philosophy that the Oakland Raiders need to take as the franchise tries to dig out from under years of bad contracts.
The Raiders have already voided the contract of defensive tackle Richard Seymour, but that carried with it a ton of "dead" money, so more tough decisions are going to have to be made.
Where they are made could be very interesting.
Quarterback Carson Palmer is well on the wrong side of 30 and counts for more than $15 million against the salary cap in 2013.
As Brian McIntyre of Yahoo! Sports reports, the Raiders have over $18 million committed to safeties Tyvon Branch and Michael Huff, $6 million more than the next closest team has allotted to the position.
Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly and wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey are also potential cap casualties, but the gist of things is that 2013 will be another year of addition by subtraction in Oakland.
Washington Redskins (-$5.1 Million)
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The Washington Redskins are in a salary cap prison of their own making.
Were it not for the penalties imposed on the Redskins by the NFL for overloading contracts during the uncapped 2010 season, Washington would be under the cap.
As things stand today, the easiest way for the team to get out of this jam may involve the player who got them into it.
Veteran cornerback DeAngelo Hall is set to make $8 million in 2013 thanks to the contract he renegotiated in 2010.
That's a hefty sum for a player who graded out as one of the worst cover corners in the entire NFL last year according to Pro Football Focus.
Carolina Panthers (-$6.1 Million)
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The Panthers are hard at work on their cap deficit, according to Jonathan Jones of The Charlotte Observer, who reports that head coach Ron Rivera says that the team is "on track" to get under the cap by March 12.
The team has already gotten the ball rolling, restructuring the contracts of tackle Ryan Kalil and running back Jonathan Stewart.
Jones speculates that running back DeAngelo Williams and cornerback Chris Gamble are candidates for release, which will get the team just about even.
There's going to be more work to be done after that if the team is going to add any pieces in free agency.
Pittsburgh Steelers (-$12.6 Million)
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The Pittsburgh Steelers have long been regarded as one of the best-run organizations in the NFL.
However, spending catches everyone eventually, and the tab has come due in the Steel City.
As Yahoo's McIntyre reports, the top five cap numbers on the Steelers' roster comprise over half of their adjusted cap number.
Among those players, outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley, who was ripped recently for being "awful" in 2012 by a teammate according to Ron Cook of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, would appear to be a prime candidate for either a pay cut or a pink slip given his $13.24 million cap number in 2013.
Woodley isn't only defensive starter who could be on the chopping block. Linebacker James Harrison, defensive end Brett Keisel and safety Ryan Clark are all on the wrong side of 30 and carry hefty salaries in 2013.
New Orleans Saints (-$15.7 Million)
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2012 was an absolute nightmare for the New Orleans Saints, and it hasn't gotten any easier to kick off 2013.
The Saints began the year between $15 and $20 million over the cap depending on the source, and according to spotrac.com the Saints presently sit nearly $16 million in the red.
The team got a bit of relief by getting Curtis Lofton to restructure his contract according to ESPN's Pat Yasinkas, cutting his 2013 cap number by $4 million.
However, the team is still way over the cap, making the switch to the 3-4 defense this year, and has a few prominent free agents including tackle Jermon Bushrod.
It's not going to be an easy spring in The Big Easy.
Dallas Cowboys (-$20.2 Million)
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It comes as very little surprise, but Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys aren't shy about spending money.
Unfortunately, that spending, according to Yahoo's McIntyre, has left the Cowboys in one of the worst salary cap situations in the entire NFL.
The Cowboys can free up some space by renegotiating the contract of cornerback Brandon Carr and extending quarterback Tony Romo, but years of juggling numbers have painted the Cowboys into a bit of a corner.
That's going to make this a very tricky offseason in Big D, especially with the team moving to a 4-3 defensive scheme.