NFL Teams Set to Be Big Spenders in 2020 Free Agency
With another expected uptick in cap space, NFL franchises are poised to spend even more money in free agency during the 2020 offseason.
That's impressive considering teams throughout the league doled out 11 contracts of at least $50 million last summer. Would-be contenders like the Detroit Lions who were looking for a bump went for specific players (Trey Flowers, $90 million), while rebuilders like the Washington Redskins sought out talent in any way possible (Landon Collins, $84 million).
A similar story will unfold in the summer of 2020. Some teams will spend huge amounts of money; others will hoard space.
The likeliest big spenders have a history of handing out large contracts and have reasons to do so again. Even if a team has droves of cap space, it won't make the cut if it's been reserved in the past like the Indianapolis Colts. The same is true of a team like the Dallas Cowboys that has many of its own players to re-sign rather than targeting outside additions.
These featured squads are set to be the biggest spenders on free-agent additions in 2020.
Projected 2020 Cap Space: $71.4 million
Biggest Needs: OL, Edge
Similar to other would-be contenders, the Arizona Cardinals now figure to go all out in helping quarterback Kyler Murray fulfill his immense potential.
Coughing up 46 sacks over 14 games isn't a good way to do so. When the number climbs that high, onlookers can't just brush it aside as the quarterback taking unnecessary sacks. The Cardinals have problems up front and enter an offseason in which free-agent offensive linemen such as Brandon Scherff and Daryl Williams could help reinforce the trenches.
While on the topic of sacks: Chandler Jones and his 15 quarterback takedowns could use some more help. Arizona is a year removed from showing a willingness to spend in that area on Terrell Suggs, though the 37-year-old recorded only 5.5 sacks in 13 games before he was released and picked up by the Kansas City Chiefs on waivers.
And almost regardless of what Larry Fitzgerald decides to do with his playing future, installing more weapons around Murray isn't a bad idea.
Aside from Fitzgerald, the Cardinals don't need to have major money allocated to retaining their own free agents. A big influx of outside talent seems inevitable.
Projected 2020 Cap Space: $110.2 million
Biggest Needs: QB, OL
The Miami Dolphins have received attention largely for their hoarding of draft picks via tanking. But maybe "tanking" isn't an entirely fair word. Unlike many organizations, this team at least seems to have a long-term plan and intends to stick to it.
That plan happens to include the most projected cap space of any team this summer.
The Dolphins are likely to spend a top-10 draft pick on a quarterback, but they could also select a top-flight pass-rusher such as Chase Young out of Ohio State. Anything works in the draft, so long as they're taking the best player available.
Miami has to be more zeroed in on specific targets during free agency, though. Since it doesn't appear as if the team intends to play Josh Rosen at all, a free-agent passer like Teddy Bridgewater could always be a fallback plan.
And realistically, using some of that cap space on a solid lineman such as Brandon Scherff or Andrew Whitworth to shore up a unit that has coughed up 54 sacks is a must. Rookie under center or not, the rest of the plan won't progress properly if the Dolphins can't protect the quarterback.
New York Giants
Projected 2020 Cap Space: $72.2 million
Biggest Needs: OL, LB
Now seems like the right time for the New York Giants to throw big dollars at the free-agent market.
The Giants have the luxury of having quarterback Daniel Jones playing on a rookie contract, so the front office should flex that cap space elsewhere to ensure his long-term development. This means fixing a putrid line that has coughed up 38 sacks, as well as addressing every level of a defense that permits 27.3 points per game.
The good news? While the NFL once again doesn't figure to let top-tier offensive linemen hit the open market, prioritizing that position in the draft would allow New York to splurge on defense in free agency. And with players like Jadeveon Clowney, Dante Fowler Jr., Jimmy Smith and Danny Trevathan set to hit the open market, it's a good time to need a defensive overhaul.
While the Giants do figure to commit some of their cap space to keeping their own players such as Leonard Williams, it's safe to project that a coaching change will coincide with an influx of talent acquired through various methods over the course of the offseason.
Projected 2020 Cap Space: $70.5 million
Biggest Needs: LB, WR
The Oakland Raiders made the biggest needs on their roster painfully obvious last summer.
At wideout, they took a gamble on acquiring Antonio Brown, and the move had well-publicized results. They also brought on last-second options at linebacker, and Brandon Marshall and Vontaze Burfict had similar showings.
This time around, it's not a bad summer to need either position if a front office is willing to spend.
Linebackers like Nigel Bradham and Whitney Mercilus provide intrigue in different ways, the latter more from a pass-rushing perspective. And at wideout, a class headlined by A.J. Green speaks for itself, though we can't forget about names such as Emmanuel Sanders and Amari Cooper.
The Raiders' biggest needs have shown up on the field throughout the season. The defense permits 27.6 points per game, and wide receivers comprise only two of the first seven names on the team's receiving leaderboard.
Luckily for Oakland, there should be plenty of wiggle room to fix these problems the right way over the summer.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Projected 2020 Cap Space: $90.8 million
Biggest Needs: QB, RB, OL
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are proof that a team doesn't have to be a big spender in free agency to win. A year ago, they threw a small deal at Shaquil Barrett (one year, $4 million), and that's morphed into a league-leading 16.5 sacks.
But that doesn't mean the Buccaneers shouldn't spend big, either.
Though they're .500 for now, a one-year trial with Jameis Winston hasn't worked, and quarterback seems to be atop the menu for the draft. If not, coughing up big money for Teddy Bridgewater could be a course of action to consider.
Otherwise, the Buccaneers have needs throughout their roster.
Both sets of trenches need help, though starting over at quarterback would also mean investing in a line that has coughed up 43 sacks. The defense needs help at every level, as the unit has ceded 28.4 points per game. Only the Miami Dolphins have been more porous.
Barrett was a good add last year, but Ndamukong Suh on a one-year, $9.25 million deal was not. This time, Tampa Bay needs to spend smartly at each of its problem areas.
All contract information courtesy of Spotrac.com.