NFL Free Agency 2017: Updated Salary-Cap Status for Every Team
There's an old saying in business that it takes money to make money.
In the NFL, it's a little different. It takes money to acquire players. And without those players, teams aren't going to win much.
Ask the Cleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers.
Those two clubs had the worst records in the NFL last year. They entered free agency with the most salary-cap space in the league. They've been among the most active teams so far in signing players.
And they remain the two teams with the most wiggle room left.
Who else is like the Niners and Browns, flush with available cash to add more players? Who is up against the 2017 cap of $167 million?
And who lies in between?
Let's find out with an updated look at the cap status of all 32 NFL teams.
Remaining Cap Space: $16.73 million
The Arizona Cardinals' biggest acquisition this spring wasn't an acquisition at all. The team re-signed Chandler Jones to a monster five-year, $82.5 million deal with over $50 million in guarantees, bringing back their No. 1 pass-rusher from 2016.
The Cardinals watched safety Tony Jefferson depart for the Baltimore Ravens, but the Redbirds wasted no time in procuring a replacement, inking veteran safety Antoine Bethea to a three-year deal.
Arizona also added veteran kicker Phil Dawson, a move ESPN.com's Josh Weinfuss called their best pickup this year:
Last season, kicker Chandler Catanzaro contributed to three losses because of misses. Had he made all three, Arizona likely would have gone to the playoffs. Adding a veteran such as Dawson, who has made his share of pressure-packed kicks in 18 seasons, will likely help the Cardinals win close games down the stretch.
With Kevin Minter hitting free agency, inside linebacker remains a priority for the team, as does finding depth behind (and a potential successor to) Carson Palmer at quarterback.
And like just about every other team in the NFL, the Cardinals could use help at cornerback, as the depth chart behind Pro Bowler Patrick Peterson isn't exactly imposing.
The Cardinals have the resources to make another signing or two, and there are some solid options still remaining in the secondary. So a deal in the desert in the defensive backfield wouldn't be a stunner.
Remaining Cap Space: $6.7 million
The Atlanta Falcons entered free agency low on cap space, and while they were able to create some wiggle room, a lack of financial resources led to a quiet period where acquisitions are concerned.
That space had a purpose and was eaten up in a hurry, however. As ESPN.com reported on Thursday, the Falcons agreed to terms with defensive tackle Dontari Poe on a one-year deal that could be worth up to $10 million if Poe hits incentives.
Head coach Dan Quinn told D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he can't wait to put his new big man to work.
I want to feature him where we are really are going to try to penetrate and play aggressive. We'll see how it goes as we get into the season. [We want] to just have him at his best the whole time. I didn't put a number on it, but he's been accustomed to being able to play a pretty high rep count for a long time. I'm anxious to put him in the group.
Given Poe's arrival in Atlanta, the Falcons are probably just about finished in free agency. The team will look to the 2017 NFL draft to try to bolster the pass rush and offensive front in an effort to rebound from their devastating loss in Super Bowl LI.
Sorry. I know you don't like to be reminded.
Remaining Cap Space: $7.68 million
There's been good news and bad news for the Baltimore Ravens in free agency.
The good news was the addition of safety Tony Jefferson (who ranked second among players at his position in run support last year, per Pro Football Focus) and the return of lane-clogging defensive tackle Brandon Williams. Both will help a Ravens defense still reeling from the sudden retirement of 2016 leading tackler Zachary Orr.
So will veteran cornerback Brandon Carr, whom the Ravens signed Thursday, per Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News.
The bad news relates to the departures of starting right tackle Ricky Wagner (Detroit Lions) and Pro Bowl fullback Kyle Juszczyk (San Francisco 49ers), creating sizable holes in an offense that ranked a so-so 17th in the NFL in 2016.
The arrival of veteran tailback Danny Woodhead will help offset the four-game suspension levied against Kenneth Dixon, but it's the offensive side of the ball and finding Orr's replacement that are GM Ozzie Newsome's focal points from here.
Given the team's lack of salary resources, that focus will probably be addressed in April's draft.
Remaining Cap Space: $18.19 million
The Buffalo Bills have been busy in free agency, even if none of the signings were huge names.
In addition to bringing back 2016 surprise star Lorenzo Alexander (who came out of nowhere to post 12.5 sacks last year), the Bills switched out safeties Corey Graham and Aaron Williams (who were released) with Micah Hyde (Green Bay Packers) and Jordan Poyer (Cleveland Browns).
The Bills also fortified the NFL's best ground game from last season, adding a pair of Pro Bowl fullbacks in Patrick DiMarco and Mike Tolbert.
There's still plenty of work to be done, though. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore and wide receiver Robert Woods left for a fat contracts in New England and Los Angeles respectively, and last year's leading tackler, inside linebacker Zach Brown, looks unlikely to return.
At least the Bills don't have to add quarterback to their list of needs. After weeks of speculation that the team would cut loose Tyrod Taylor, the Bills instead restructured the 27-year-old's contract.
For one more year at least, Taylor will be scrambling around and tossing passes in Western New York. And with young receiver Jeremy Butler, who played with Taylor in Baltimore, that was reason enough to sign with the Bills.
"Comfort is the main thing for me," Butler told Robert Quinn of USA Today. "You can't really find that anywhere. Just familiarity and previous relationships with Rick Dennison the offensive coordinator, (offensive line coach) Juan Castillo and especially Tyrod. He actually threw me my first preseason touchdown in Baltimore my rookie year."
See what happens when you don't fix what isn't broken?
Remaining Cap Space: $16.2 million
The Carolina Panthers started off the new year by retaining a number of familiar faces. Defensive tackle Kawann Short received the franchise tag, and defensive ends Wes Horton, Mario Addison and Charles Johnson were re-upped.
Carolina general manager Dave Gettleman then looked to another familiar face (albeit one the Panthers haven't seen in a while), signing former No. 2 overall pick and future Hall of Famer Julius Peppers to a one-year deal.
Gettleman was only getting started. Veteran safety Mike Adams was brought in to bolster the back end of the defense. And departed tackle Mike Remmers was quickly replaced when Carolina signed Panthers center Ryan Kalil's younger brother, Matt.
The younger Kalil told Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer that he hopes a change of scenery will help him recapture the form that made him a top-five draft pick:
My first couple years with the Vikings were good. But I never progressed the way I should have. I don't know what that's attributable to. It's not all on other people. It's on me as well. I think it's a great change. It's new scenery obviously, new coaching. I think it's all for the best. It's kind of reigniting that fire that I lost for a little bit.
Still, the departures of Ted Ginn and Corey Brown were blows to a wideout corps that was already in need of work—blows that won't be alleviated by the arrival of Charles Johnson from the Minnesota Vikings. Both lines are more patchwork than powerful. And the running game remains a major concern.
It's that last area where the Panthers might be able to best make use of their $16 million in cap space, as a number of veteran backs remain available.
Remaining Cap Space: $24.56 million
And so begins the Mike Glennon era in Chicago—a sentence that just about sums up what kind of spring it's been in the Windy City in 2017.
Moving from Jay Cutler to the 27-year-old Glennon (who signed for $43.5 million over three seasons) isn't the only move the Chicago Bears made that could be viewed as a downgrade. After Alshon Jeffery signed a one-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles, the Bears turned to Markus Wheaton, a four-year veteran receiver who's never eclipsed 750 receiving yards in a season.
It hasn't all been bad. The Bears added cornerback Prince Amukamara and safety Quintin Demps, a pair of veteran defensive backs who should help a Bears pass defense that ranked seventh in the NFL last year but lacks experience.
However, ESPN.com's Jeff Dickerson wasn't blown away by the free-agent class for the Bears in 2017:
To be fair, the Bears filled a bunch of needs in free agency, and Glennon is a breath of fresh air after eight years of Cutler. You could tell after his 15-minute news conference last week that the atmosphere at Halas Hall is changing for the better. However, Glennon is still a relative unknown. Chicago's 2017 free-agent class ultimately will be judged by his success or failure.
In addition, I could sit here and start rattling off team needs for the Bears, but this article has a deadline that comes well before I'd finish.
The cupboard in Chicago is as bare as any in the National Football League. The Bears are at the beginning of a full-on, ground-up rebuild.
One that isn't going to be completed overnight.
Remaining Cap Space: $25.03 million
Last year, for the first time since 2010, the Cincinnati Bengals missed the playoffs. Early returns from free agency have not helped the odds that that was a one-shot deal.
It isn't that there's been a mass exodus of talent from the Queen City. But the players who did leave were massively important—both literally and figuratively.
Both veteran offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth (Los Angeles Rams) and guard Kevin Zeitler (Cleveland Browns) were top-10 performers at their respective positions last year, according to Pro Football Focus.
The Bengals did reunite with tackle Andre Smith and re-up wide receiver Brandon LaFell and corner Dre Kirkpatrick. But those losses on the offensive line can't be overstated given quarterback Andy Dalton's career struggles when facing pressure.
With over $25 million in cap space, the Bengals have more than enough room to attempt to get better up front. But they are not known for spending big in free agency, and even if they were, the offensive line market has already been picked over.
In a relatively weak draft class on the offensive line, help isn't going to be easy to come by there, either.
Young tackles Jake Fisher and Cedric Ogbuehi are going to have to grow up in a hurry.
Remaining Cap Space: $61.27 million
The Cleveland Browns have made an effort to make good use of their league-leading cap space during free agency in 2017.
The Browns took a buzz saw to their offensive line. In addition to re-upping left guard Joel Bitonio on a fat extension, the Browns made Zeitler the richest guard in NFL history.
And former Green Bay Packers center J.C. Tretter isn't exactly going to need to eat cat food to get by.
Oh, and the Browns added a quarterback (and a Round 2 pick to boot) when they agreed to take on the $16 million abomination that is Brock Osweiler's contract in 2017.
The Kenny Britt in-Terrelle Pryor out exchange at wide receiver is likely at best treading water, but it's hard to argue against the notion that the Browns are better than they were before free agency began.
That's also without considering their rumored pursuit of New New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. As Jason La Canfora opined for CBSSports.com, that pursuit may not bear fruit, but you can't blame the team for trying:
No team is now better equipped to withstand parting with such a draft-pick haul as the Browns. Even if the Browns don't end up landing an established quarterback from the move, I support their ambition. And even if they end up simply cutting Osweiler, I get where they're coming from. Let's see what else Paul DePodesta can do.
With over $60 million in cap room still remaining and more picks on the first two days of the 2017 NFL draft, the Browns still have an abundance of ammo with which to continue their rebuild.
That's a good thing because they still have holes all over the roster.
Remaining Cap Space: $6.58 million
It's been a quiet offseason for the Dallas Cowboys in terms of signings, but Valley Ranch has been one of the focal points of NFL free-agency coverage.
Because of the saga of Antonio Ramiro Romo.
As team owner Jerry Jones told the Ben & Skin Show on 105.3 The Fan (h/t Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram), he's still not sure what will come of their star quarterback-turned-expensive backup.
"I don't know how ultimately we will resolve this," Jones said. "Nobody should be alarmed because you don't have all the answers. There are some issues here that you [have] just got to see how the cards are played. But we'll work through this."
The problem is that while Jones holds Romo hostage in the hopes of getting a draft pick from Houston or Denver (in vain, most likely), Romo's fat salary's presence on the books is holding the Cowboys' plans for 2017 hostage.
As things stand, Dallas has little cap space to either add free agents or re-sign their own players. They've already watched Barry Church bolt for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne just signed with the Ravens and New York Jets respectively.
The team would get quite a bit more cap relief by designating Romo a post-June 1 cut, but frankly they may not be able to afford to wait.
If Romo Watch 2017 continues to drag on, it could wind up costing a Cowboys team with Super Bowl aspirations dearly.
Remaining Cap Space: $20.65 million
Meanwhile, on the other side of the Romo divide, it hasn't been the best couple of weeks for general manager John Elway and the Denver Broncos.
Since Day 1, Elway has downplayed Denver's interest in Romo. But if you believe for one second that the Broncos wouldn't add the four-time Pro Bowler in a heartbeat, I have some oceanfront property near Yuma I'm sure you'd be interested in.
The Broncos were in the running to obtain the services of Pro Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell, only to see him pass on Denver in favor of Jacksonville at the last minute.
Starting left tackle Russell Okung signed a huge contract with the Los Angeles Chargers. The Broncos were able to obtain a replacement in Menelik Watson, but while Okung was no world-beater in 2016, he was at least durable. Watson has missed 37 of a possible 64 games over four NFL seasons.
Guard Ronald Leary was a nice pickup from Dallas. Domato Peko should be able to replace Sylvester Williams at nose tackle. And Denver already had a replacement for the retired DeMarcus Ware waiting in the wings in youngster Shane Ray.
But for a Denver team that fell flat in its Super Bowl defense in 2016, treading water in the offseason isn't good enough.
It's almost as if Elway's holding on to his $20-plus million in cap space for a reason. Say, a quarterback he supposedly doesn't want.
Remaining Cap Space: $8.67 million
For the Detroit Lions so far in free agency, it's been all about trench warfare.
The Lions have taken a pair of steps to improve their offensive line. Early in free agency, Detroit signed Baltimore's Ricky Wagner to a long-term deal that makes the 27-year-old the highest-paid right tackle in the National Football League.
Detroit wasn't done. The Lions then signed guard T.J. Lang, who ranked 13th among NFL guards at Pro Football Focus last year. That was six spots higher than the departed Larry Warford, and an improvement that carries added value when you consider that it came at the expense of Detroit's NFC North rivals in Green Bay.
Lang told ESPN.com's Jason Wilde he's eager to help the Lions change the balance of power in the division:
I was really excited about moving back home and having a chance to play for the Detroit Lions, who I think—playing them the last couple years—are ready to take that next step. But at the same time, I had to make a lot of tough phone calls to some of my best friends over there, and it kind of put a damper on the mood a little bit at first. But at this point, I'm starting to get past all that and look to the future.
Those deals didn't come cheaply, though. Combined, they ate up $19 million in average annual salary—and most of the Lions' cap space along with it.
It's possible the Lions could still add a complementary player or two, but if substantial improvements are coming on defense or at the running back position, it's probably going to have to wait until the team gets to Philly for the NFL draft.
Green Bay Packers
Remaining Cap Space: $27.76 million
Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson has long had a reputation as an executive who approaches free agency with a frugal mindset. And 2017 has been no different.
There's a lengthy list of players who have left Titletown this spring. In addition to Lang's departure to Detroit, the offensive line lost center J.C. Tretter to the Cleveland Browns. Defensive back Micah Hyde signed with the Buffalo Bills. Edge-rusher Julius Peppers bolted home to Carolina. And starting tight end Jared Cook and tailback Eddie Lacy are with the Oakland Raiders and Seattle Seahawks respectively.
It hasn't all been bad news, though. The team procured what many view as an upgrade over Cook when it acquired Martellus Bennett. And as Thompson is known to do, he did pony up the cash to keep a young star in town, re-upping 2016 sack leader Nick Perry.
Some will credit Thompson for sticking to his guns and going with what's worked for the team for so long.
However, as we watch the New England Patriots go nuts in free agency coming off another Super Bowl win, it's worth asking if it has worked, or has Thompson's penny-pinching in free agency wasted years of Aaron Rodgers' prime and cost the Packers' championships?
Whichever side of that argument you come in on, this much is true: Thompson's given zero indication that he's going to splurge despite the salary-cap space the Pack has left.
Even if he wanted to, most of the difference-makers are off the board anyway.
That's going to make for a busy draft, with the offensive front and tailback joining the pass rush and secondary as areas where the Packers need help.
Remaining Cap Space: $30.66 million
You'll have to forgive Houston Texans GM Rick Smith if he isn't feeling especially froggy in free agency in 2017.
One year ago, the Texans had just agreed to terms on a four-year, $72 million megadeal with quarterback Brock Osweiler—an abomination of a contract that Smith traded away, along with a second-round pick, one year later.
As Patrick Starr wrote for Scout, Smith put the best spin he could on the biggest free-agency gaffe of 2016: "The decision to trade Brock was made because it was in the best interest of the team. It frees up both cash and salary-cap room to continue to improve our football team. We appreciate Brock's effort and leadership while he was with us, and we wish him and his family well."
However, that doesn't change the fact that free agency hasn't been any kinder to the Texans this time around. Houston has lost three starters from last year's top-ranked defense, with outside linebacker John Simon (Indianapolis Colts) and cornerback A.J. Bouye (Jacksonville Jaguars) moving to AFC South rivals while safety Quintin Demps joined the Chicago Bears.
That's the bad news. The good news is that the Texans are well-equipped to be players in free agency's second wave. With Osweiler's albatross in Cleveland, Smith has over $30 million in cap space at his disposal.
That's a good thing because in addition to needs along the offensive line and at inside linebacker, the Texans have at least three new holes to fill on defense.
Time to get back on the horse, Rick.
Remaining Cap Space: $33.07 million
The Indianapolis Colts have been trying to upgrade their pass rush for several years with little success.
That didn't stop new general manager Chris Ballard from taking another bite at the apple. Ballard didn't make any marquee signings at the position. Instead, he went the quantity route, bringing over John Simon from the Texans and Barkevious Mingo and Jabaal Sheard from the Patriots.
It's a trend with the Colts in 2017. As ESPN.com's Mike Wells wrote, Ballard is taking a big-picture approach rather than trying to make a splash.
"Ballard isn't taking the quick-fix approach in approving the roster," Wells said. "Patience is a must because the previous regime’s style of improvement didn’t pan out."
We'll see whether Ballard sticks to those guns as free agency continues, though, as over $33 million in salary-cap space offers the Colts plenty of resources to add a player or two to upgrade their 30th-ranked defense from a year ago.
If not, then 2017 has the makings of a defensive draft in Ballard's first go-round as GM, although he also needs to find a replacement for the aging Frank Gore at running back.
Remaining Cap Space: $50.74 million
You can't take it with you.
That's apparently the mantra of Jacksonville Jaguars general manager Dave Caldwell. For the second straight season, Caldwell has gone positively bananas on the defensive side of the ball for the Jaguars.
Once again, Caldwell spent huge money on a big-bodied defensive lineman, handing $30 million in guarantees to veteran end Calais Campbell. That was only the beginning, as the Jags also inked arguably the No. 1 cornerback in free agency when they added A.J. Bouye on a five-year deal that averages over $13 million per season.
Add in veteran safety Barry Church, and ESPN's Michael DiRocco believes that the defensive overhaul is one of the biggest stories of free agency in 2017: "Those additions to a defense that also includes defensive tackle Malik Jackson, linebackers Telvin Smith and Myles Jack and nose tackle Abry Jones should make it hard for opposing offenses to have much success."
Even after spending well over $100 million in total contracts on upgrading the defense, the Jags are as flush with cap space as any team in the NFL. Only the San Francisco 49ers and Cleveland Browns have more.
It's unlikely the Jaguars will be able to use that to further bolster the offensive line (that talent pool has been thoroughly drained), but bringing in a running back or some more help in the secondary remains a possibility.
Kansas City Chiefs
Remaining Cap Space: $5.04 million
The Kansas City Chiefs didn't have a lot of resources to dedicate to free agency in 2017. The team had fewer still after rewarding strong safety Eric Berry with a six-year, $78 million extension.
As such, the team hasn't been active on the open market. The Chiefs were at least able to fortify themselves against the loss of nose tackle Dontari Poe, replacing him with the Philadelphia Eagles' Bennie Logan.
That's probably going to be just about it. As things stand, the Chiefs have about $5 million in cap space—the least in the AFC. The team will have to restructure a few deals or make a cut or two just to get their incoming rookie class signed in a couple months.
With Nick Foles heading back to Philadelphia, that rookie class could include a backup and potential successor for quarterback Alex Smith. But general manager John Dorsey cautioned Albert Breer of the MMQB that teams will have to be patient with the signal-callers drafted in 2017.
"Are there any finished products here?" he asked. "I don't think so. So where are the warts, and are you willing to live with the warts? That's what people are asking."
In addition to that quarterback, the Chiefs also need help on both lines. And Dorsey and the team need to decide whether Spencer Ware is more than a stopgap solution behind Smith at tailback.
Los Angeles Chargers
Remaining Cap Space: $17.29 million
Los Angeles Chargers president Dean Spanos has long had a reputation for being rather, um, what's the word?
Time and again during his ownership, the team has let veteran stars like Vincent Jackson and LaDainian Tomlinson walk rather than pony up the big bucks.
However, in 2017 at least, the Chargers haven't been shy about spending money. In addition to re-upping safety Jahleel Addae and assigning the franchise tag to pass-rusher Melvin Ingram, the Bolts also made veteran Russell Okung the highest-paid left tackle in the NFL in terms of average annual salary.
With $17 million and change left in the war chest, the Chargers have enough money left to add a cornerback, whether it's by re-signing Brandon Flowers or procuring a replacement for the oft-injured 31-year-old.
Other than that, L.A.'s best avenue for adding O-line help, a play-making safety, wide receiver depth and a running back to pair with Melvin Gordon is probably the draft.
All things considered, while the Chargers' first offseason back in Los Angeles hasn't been great, it's quietly been pretty good.
Los Angeles Rams
Remaining Cap Space: $15.66 million
The Los Angeles Rams have added pieces all over the place in free agency. The question is how much those pieces add to the team.
Andrew Whitworth is a Pro Bowl-caliber tackle who will upgrade the blindside protection of young quarterback Jared Goff. But Whitworth is also 35, so the short term is all we're talking about.
Trumaine Johnson is a quality player at a premium position in the NFL. But the 27-year-old cornerback took a step back last year, but thanks to a second straight franchise tag, his salary took a big step forward.
After losing Kenny Britt to the Browns, the Rams made what appears to be a panic move, handing $15 million in guarantees to a fourth-year receiver who has never had even 700 receiving yards in a season in Robert Woods.
They aren't necessarily bad moves. But the Rams had two primary offseason goals: improve the protection for Goff and the weapons at his disposal.
It took a large percentage of their cap resources to accomplish one of those goals, and even then, that improvement could be short-lived.
Remaining Cap Space: $15.03 million
The Miami Dolphins haven't been playing around in free agency this year—especially on the defensive side of the ball.
In addition to re-signing defensive end Andre Branch, the Dolphins added another veteran body up front, swinging a trade with the Los Angeles Rams for William Hayes. Combined with Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh, the Miami D-line is now deep and experienced.
The Dolphins tendered restricted free agent Kiko Alonso at the highest level, all but insuring that the 26-year-old will return in 2017. When he does, it will likely be in a new position, though, as Miami also brought in veteran inside linebacker Lawrence Timmons on a two-year, $12 million pact.
Timmons told James Parks of 247Sports he's eager to start living up to that contract and helping the Miami defense improve: "I'm just trying to live up to these expectations. Football is what I love, what I live for. When I'm out there, I'm going to show that."
Miami also flipped tackle Branden Albert to the Jacksonville Jaguars for a late pick, re-signed 2016 starter Jermon Bushrod and brought in another potential starter at guard in Ted Larsen.
The Dolphins could still stand to add a veteran cornerback or perhaps some depth in the backfield behind Jay Ajayi.
But after what's been a pretty successful offseason to date, the Dolphins are in good shape to build on last year's surprising success and approach the draft more from the position of taking the best player available than hitting a particular area of need.
Remaining Cap Space: $18.6 million
There's been more than a bit of movement on the Minnesota Vikings roster in 2017.
The most talked-about switch is no doubt at tailback, where Latavius Murray's arrival signals the end of an era. There will be no more Adrian Peterson in the Vikings backfield.
That's far from the only move, however. Left tackle (and former top-five pick) Matt Kalil and right tackle Andre Smith are gone, with the Vikings handing big money to their replacements, Mike Remmers and Riley Reiff.
The Vikes brought back wideout Adam Thielen and veteran cornerback Terence Newman, but they have already watched at least eight players from last year's team land elsewhere—not including the franchise's all-time leading rusher.
General manager Rick Spielman revealed that the exodus wasn't unexpected.
"It did not catch us off guard," he said, per Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press. "We know specifically some of the areas that we had to target starting in the free agency. We knew that some of the players [who] did go elsewhere we were not going to be able to keep. You can't keep everybody."
The Vikings have over $20 million in cap space with which to address those departures, but if Minnesota is going to contend in 2017, Spielman will have to be judicious, both with the franchise's salary resources and his picks in the upcoming draft.
New England Patriots
Remaining Cap Space: $27.53 million
As Sean Wagner-McGough wrote for CBSSports.com, there hasn't been a bigger winner so far this offseason than Darth Hoodie and the Beantown Bombers.
"Unbelievably, the Patriots—already the best team in football—found a way to improve substantially," Wagner-McGough said. "They didn't do that by signing free agents but instead by engineering the trade of the offseason. Parting ways with a first-round pick, the Patriots landed Saints receiver Brandin Cooks."
That was only the beginning.
The Patriots also signed cornerback Stephon Gilmore to a five-year, $65 million whopper of a deal and acquired pass-rusher Kony Ealy and tight end Dwayne Allen in trades with the Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts.
And if that wasn't appalling enough, Simon Ogus of Forbes reported that the Patriots and New Orleans Saints are in talks on another trade that would get the Saints RFA cornerback Malcolm Butler and the Pats back some of those picks they used in their other trades so far this offseason.
Oh, and rumors continue to swirl that the Cleveland Browns will make a serious play for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo before the draft.
By the time the Patriots are done making the NFL's best team that much better, fans may well be talking 19-0 again.
New Orleans Saints
Remaining Cap Space: $12.38 million
The New England Patriots' trading buddies haven't done a lot in free agency so far in 2017. In fact, the Saints haven't done much of anything beside deal away a 1,000-yard receiver from 2016.
However, as Herbie Toepe reported for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the stars are aligning for at least one big acquisition after Saints head coach Sean Payton and the team had a "good" visit with restricted free agent cornerback Malcolm Butler.
"He's a sharp, sharp kid," Payton said on the Hardwick & Richards show on XTRA 1360 AM (h/t Toepe). "He's not too far from here as far as his hometown. His story coming out of a small town in Mississippi and through junior college and into West Alabama. I mean, it's pretty amazing."
Adding PFF's fifth-ranked cornerback from a season ago would no doubt substantially improve the NFL's 27th-ranked defense.
But in addition to figuring out compensation for the Patriots, New Orleans will also have to agree to terms on a new contract with the 27-year-old defensive back.
And that deal will likely just about obliterate whatever cap space the Saints have.
New York Giants
Remaining Cap Space: $3.28 million
One year after signing Olivier Vernon and Damon Harrison to fat free-agent deals, the New York Giants have invested even more heavily in the defensive line.
According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, the Giants have re-signed the franchise-tagged Jason Pierre-Paul to a four-year, $62 million mega-deal that gives New York two ends making more than $15 million per season. The Giants have over 20 percent of their total cap resources (in terms of average salary) tied up in three starters on the defensive front.
However, depending on how that deal is structured, it could free up more cap space for Big Blue in 2017. That's most assuredly a good thing, as the team ranks at the bottom of the NFL in that regard.
That lack of breathing room has limited New York's options. Wide receiver Brandon Marshall was a great addition to Eli Manning's pass-catching corps, but replacing Marshall Newhouse with D.J. Fluker at tackle doesn't do much to improve a New York line that struggled at times in 2016.
Unfortunately, the Giants will likely have to look to the draft for that—and this year in Philly, one of the biggest mysteries in the NFL might just be solved.
Given the state of their cadre, the Giants may be forced to draft a linebacker early.
Maybe then we'll find out why GM Jerry Reese has flatly refused to for years.
New York Jets
Remaining Cap Space: $24.12 million
So far, free agency for the New York Jets has been a lot more about who is gone and who might be coming to town than who already has.
The Jets kicked off free agency with a veteran purge. Wide receiver Brandon Marshall, cornerback Darrelle Revis and center Nick Mangold were all shown the door by general manager Mike Maccagnan.
Now all the talk is about Gang Green's new quarterback, a list headed by Jay Cutler, per ESPN.com's Rich Cimini:
The Jets reached out to him when he was released by the Chicago Bears and remain interested. He reportedly will take a visit. He's the most accomplished quarterback on the list, so his price tag will be higher than the others. There's also the baggage. It'll take a sell job by the Jets because Cutler probably isn't hot for a rebuilding situation at 34.
With well over $20 million in cap space, the Jets have the funds to be pretty aggressive in free agency. But outside signing tackle Kelvin Beachum and cornerback Morris Claiborne, the Jets have been relatively quiet.
That may just have to do with the huge question mark hanging over the team at the sport's most important position.
Remaining Cap Space: $38.41 million
There was a time when the Oakland Raiders were annually one of the most active teams in free agency. However, despite ranking near the top of the NFL in cap space in 2017, that hasn't been the case this year.
This isn't to say GM Reggie McKenzie has been sitting on his hands. Marshall Newhouse will add depth to one of the NFL's best offensive lines. Tight end Jared Cook offers quarterback Derek Carr yet another target in the passing game. And the Raiders are hopeful Cordarrelle Patterson can become their version of Kansas City's Tyreek Hill.
Still, the Raiders have done little to address a defense that was the team's weakness in 2016, and with Latavius Murray now in Minnesota, the Raiders should be in the market for a running back.
Oakland appears to at least be trying to get better in the former regard on the open market, although per ESPN's Adam Caplan, negotiations with free-agent inside linebacker Zach Brown apparently fell apart.
At running back, ESPN's Adam Schefter and Josina Anderson reported that Oakland may be turning to an unexpected source for help.
According to Schefter and Anderson, the Raiders are seriously considering taking a run at retired running back Marshawn Lynch, although he's technically still under contract with the Seattle Seahawks.
"It could really happen," one source familiar with the situation said.
The Raiders might not be the reckless spenders they once were, but it looks like they may still have a few tricks up their sleeve.
Remaining Cap Space: $6.1 million
It appears the Philadelphia Eagles entered free agency with a clear plan: improve the weapons in the passing game for second-year quarterback Carson Wentz.
Philadelphia's biggest acquisitions in 2017 have both been wide receivers. Eagles general manager Howie Roseman added speedster Torrey Smith on a three-year contract, and gave Wentz what they hope will be the true No. 1 receiver Philadelphia lacked in 2016 when Alshon Jeffery signed on a one-year, $14 million prove-it deal.
That's all well and good, but as ESPN.com's Tim McManus wrote, while the offense got better, the defense has definitely not:
The Eagles still need corners, a defensive end, a linebacker (assuming Mychal Kendricks is dealt) and a running back. That’s a pretty big wish list, and they won't be able to cross every item off. Tight against the cap, they'll look for bargains on the open market, whether that be a veteran corner or running back to help bolster a depleted position.
Many of those defensive issues are born of attrition. Veteran cornerback Nolan Carroll joined the reigning NFC East champions in Dallas. And the Kansas City Chiefs stole Bennie Logan away as a replacement for Dontari Poe.
In other words, while Roseman has accomplished at least one goal, much remains to be done—with little cap space with which to do it.
Remaining Cap Space: $19.96 million
The Pittsburgh Steelers aren't generally known as big players in free agency. After re-signing star receiver Antonio Brown and franchise-tagging running back Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh couldn't afford to be if they wanted to. And the Steelers are a playoff team that doesn't have any glaring weaknesses.
Still, that doesn't mean they couldn't stand to add a piece or three.
The departure of Lawrence Timmons creates a potential hole at inside linebacker—especially when you factor in Ryan Shazier's durability issues. Jarvis Jones was a huge disappointment in the Steel City, but his leaving puts the Steelers in an even deeper hole where pass-rushers are concerned.
And while Markus Wheaton was also no star for the Steelers, his loss—coupled with the uncertain status of suspended speedster Martavis Bryant—makes the wide receiver position a question mark opposite Brown.
Then there's the position where just about every team in the NFL is perpetually looking to add at least depth, if not starters: cornerback.
With almost $20 million to spend, Pittsburgh should be able to fill at least one of those holes prior to the draft.
Maybe two if they use those funds wisely.
San Francisco 49ers
Remaining Cap Space: $81.22 million
New San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch came into free agency with as much work to do as any general manager in the NFL.
He didn't waste any time getting down to it.
Lynch was incredibly active early in free agency, signing a bushel of players including bridge quarterback Brian Hoyer, wide receiver Pierre Garcon, linebacker Malcolm Smith and fullback Kyle Juszczyk.
He also swung a deal with the Baltimore Ravens for former Pro Bowl offensive lineman Jeremy Zuttah, and per Eric Branch and Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle, Lynch said he's open to more wheeling and dealing—including the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 draft: "We could stay pat right there and find a fabulous player, a game-changing player. It gives us a lot of flexibility to do some other things if we chose to be bold. There are going to be people that covet the pick we have, so there's going to be some people that want to move up."
The Niners have accomplished quite a bit, but there's still a ton of work to do. Simply put, Lynch inherited a hot mess where a football team used to be. Even after all the new faces, and with minimal losses (wideout Torrey Smith and safety Antoine Bethea chief among them), San Francisco might be the most talent-poor team in the NFL.
They still have over $80 million in cap space with which to address those deficiencies, though, so if Lynch wants to, he could set the pace for the next wave of free agency just as he did the first.
Remaining Cap Space: $14.75 million
When the Seattle Seahawks make a big acquisition, they make a big acquisition.
From the moment running back Eddie Lacy joined the team, there's been speculation about his pants size. It mushroomed amid reports that on one of his visits, Lacy looked more like a guard than a tailback.
However, as head coach Pete Carroll told KIRO-AM, he's confident Lacy will keep both his weight and head down and revive a Seahawks ground game that sputtered a bit in 2016:
Not everybody can be big and tough and strong. Some guys are a little different style, but when you've got one, man, it's really special We went all those years with Marshawn, and everybody knew what we stood for and the style of play, so I'm hoping just to continue to add now with Eddie. And the way Thomas [Rawls] brings it, that's a good one-two punch sending a message about playing tough and physical. That's who we are and that's who we want to continue to be, so that's why we made this move.
It's the only move of real consequence the Hawks have made. They did re-sign tight end Luke Willson and corner DeShawn Shead, and Seattle took a one-year flier on former No. 2 overall pick Luke Joeckel in an effort to strengthen the offensive line.
It's that line that is easily the Seahawks' most glaring need. But with the big guns long gone and Seattle sitting on less than $15 million in cap space, odds are the team will continue to be quiet while gearing up for April's draft.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Remaining Cap Space: $32.14 million
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers entered free agency with one particular goal in mind: find a wide receiver to complement Mike Evans and help Jameis Winston take the next step as a professional quarterback.
Mike Evans was the first one to reach out to me, one of the first to reach out to me after signing DeSean and congratulate us. He told me that he couldn't be happier. And I said, 'You know, Mike, your day is coming. It’s coming.' And he said, 'I'm not even thinking about [it]. ... 'All I’m thinking about is winning a championship and this is going to help us.'
Jackson was easily the biggest and most talked-about pickup Licht made, but it wasn't the only one. The Buccaneers added a more than capable defensive lineman in Chris Baker. And Tampa avoided any major in-house departures, although starting safety Bradley McDougald remains unsigned and the status of suspended running back Doug Martin is unclear.
The Bucs did lose backup quarterback Mike Glennon, so that need joins the secondary and O-line (otherwise known as the needs all teams have every year).
But Tampa also has ample cap space, and none of those needs hits desperation level.
Licht has the Buccaneers in good shape to attack the draft without reaching to fill holes.
Remaining Cap Space: $44.68 million
The Tennessee Titans were one of the NFL's surprise success stories in 2016. But with that success comes increased expectations for this season.
Tennessee was aggressive in free agency on defense, adding a trio of starters on that side of the ball in cornerback Logan Ryan, strong safety Johnathan Cyprien and nose tackle Sylvester Williams.
Ryan is the crown jewel of that trio, and he told ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky that he intends to show off the ball skills he developed under head coach Greg Schiano at Rutgers in his new home:
You know how a lot of guys have interceptions and PBUs (pass break-ups)? He would have a stat called CTOTTY. And that would mean, 'Catch the ones they throw you.' It's not a PBU if you drop an interception. He used to say if you caught all the ones the quarterbacks threw you, you would lead the league in picks, you would lead college or whatever in interceptions. That's something I took from college.
There's no doubt the Titans defense should be better in 2017, but the offense remains an area that needs work. Wideout Kendall Wright may have disappointed in Nashville, but his loss weakens an already thin receiving corps. Ditto for guard Chance Warmack.
With around $45 million in cap space, there's plenty of coin in the Music City to get a veteran to help the passing game. But the Titans' best chance at getting line help likely lies in a 2017 draft, for which the club is loaded with early picks after dealing the No. 2 overall pick in 2016.
Remaining Cap Space: $16.73 million
By just about any objective measure, March has been a rotten month for the Washington Redskins.
For the first time in the history of the National Football League, two 1,000-yard receivers from the previous season (Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson) left a team at the same time.
As Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk reported, quarterback Kirk Cousins, who has set franchise passing records in each of the past two seasons, requested that he be traded. Just about everyone believes that 2017 will be Cousins' last year with the team—if he lasts that long.
The best defensive lineman from a front that wasn't that good to begin with bolted when Chris Baker signed with the Buccaneers.
And the firing of general manager Scot McCloughan has the Redskins, as Albert Breer of the MMQB noted, reeking of the dysfunction that has come to define Dan Snyder's tenure as owner.
"All the optimism and goodwill and the public trust that was restored over the past two years—the first consecutive winning seasons since Snyder bought the team—has vanished overnight," Breer wrote. "Now, the future of the franchise looks as murky as it did in that chaotic final season of [Jim] Zorn."
Terrelle Pryor is a young receiver coming off a 1,000-yard season Washington was able to sign on a one-year, below-market deal. D.J. Swearinger is a quietly solid young safety who should help strengthen the back end of the defense.
But it's getting hard to be excited about the Redskins.
Cap space courtesy of Over the Cap.