Breaking Down Titans's Salary-Cap Situation Heading into Free Agency

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Breaking Down Titans's Salary-Cap Situation Heading into Free Agency
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Free agency officially opens on March 11, and when it does, there'll be a flurry among teams to get to the most desirable players—including some of their own former players—signed to their rosters.

The Tennessee Titans have already made a big impact by re-signing strong safety Bernard Pollard to a two-year contract, and in so doing, they dealt with a pending need at the strong safety position.

Even though Pollard fills a big need, the Titans aren't anywhere near done with free agency. There are many other holes on the roster that must be addressed, including some starting positions.

According to Spotrac.com, without factoring in Pollard's contract, the Titans have about $13 million of cap space. That includes the additional $10 million each team receives as a result of the NFL raising the cap to about $133 million, which was announced by Albert Breer on Twitter in late February.

Numbers are great, but what does that buy them? Not as little as you might think, actually. Pollard takes out slightly more than $3 million out of it, according to Ian Rapoport. That leaves the Titans with somewhere in the neighborhood of $9 million, but even that isn't nothing.

The $9 million would pay the salary of someone like Mario Williams in 2013, and it leaves a little more to spare. Even if the Titans don't make big cuts to the roster that they are predicted to, $9 million can land an impact player.

It would also be enough to re-sign a fair number of the Titans backups that have entered free agency, so the Titans have a little wiggle room as is.

All that said, the Titans are likely to make some big cuts. ESPN's Paul Kuharsky opined back in December that the Titans could sever ties with both running back Chris Johnson and right tackle David Stewart.

If they make either of those cuts, they free up about $6 million for each of the two players ($6.4 million for Stewart). If the team makes both cuts, that suddenly gives them a whopping $21 million to play around with.

That much cap space would give the Titans more salary space than 16 of the other 31 teams, according to Spotrac.com. They won't be big bidders, but they have a little more than average.

That kind of money can buy multiple impact players and really give the new coaching staff a lot of flexibility to land players that fit their schemes the way they want to play the game.

Since the Titans have traditionally been, and are currently built to be, a 4-3 team, and since Ken Whisenhunt, Ray Horton and Lou Spanos are all 3-4 guys, they'll probably need a lot of that flexibility to make the scheme fit with the Titans.

For an example, in 2013, $21 million dollars would have paid the salaries of Marshawn Lynch, Charles Johnson, DeMeco Ryans, and Joe Haden, with over $3 million left over to sign backups and draft picks.

Now, of course, the Titans can't put that much of their theoretical cap room into impact signings, since that would leave them without any depth at several positions, but the list gives you an idea of how much talent can be had for that much money.

Then, of course, if you also factor in the numerous backup and special teams players that the Titans are sure to cut here and there, they'll have a bit more than these numbers show, with or without the cuts of Stewart and Johnson.

The Titans will have to set aside a sizable chunk for draft picks, backup quality players, undrafted free agents and extra space to sign players midseason in case of injury. But no matter how you slice it, the Titans aren't on a very tight budget.

If they don't get blinders on when looking into particular players and they shop around and sign wisely, the Titans can add back just as much talent as was lost in free agency and field a very competitive team in 2014.

Still, even if Whisenhunt and Co. sign a great class of free agents, the Titans aren't making it to the postseason until Jake Locker learns to stay healthy for at least most of a season.

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