I have taken every team in the NFL and compiled the to quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end, and one flex player (WR, TE, or RB) and got the data on their 2017 cap hit. I have ranked each team from cheapest to most expensive collective cap hit between the five players. 1st in the cheapest and 32nd is the most expensive. They are in order of what group of skill players I would take going into the 2017 season. I did not take into account where this group might be in 2020. I am not building a franchise; I am just focused on the 2017 season. I also did not take the cap hit for each team into account. That means a team like the Raiders is not getting put any higher on the list just because they are cheaper. It is only about the players listed. Each team has an analysis of the players above and some who are not on here, most notably players who are current free agents. I will be updating this after the draft, and after free agency so check back in the coming months. Between the draft, free agency, and contract extensions, this list is sure to change soon.

 

Team

Quarterback (Cap Hit)

Running Back (Cap Hit)

Wide Receiver (Cap Hit)

Tight End (Cap Hit)

Flex (Cap Hit)

Total Cap Hit of Above Players (Where total cap hit ranks in NFL)

 

*=Player could potentially be cut

**=Significantly more expensive player on roster could fill this spot, but does not have equivalent skill or importance as current player in the spot

***=Team has a current free agent who could be resigned and take this spot

****=Cost for franchise tag for 2017

 

UFA=Unrestricted Free Agent

RFA=Restricted Free Agent

ERFA=Exclusive Rights Free Agent

 

  1. Pittsburg Steelers

Ben Roethlisberger (18,200,000)

LeVeon Bell**** (12,400,000)

Antonio Brown (13,618,333)

Ladarius Green (6,187,500)

Martavis Bryant*** (799,805)

51,205,638 (32nd)

Two months ago I would have said that this was no question the best collection of skill players in the NFL. Now, I am not as sure. LeVeon Bell always seems to be suspended or injured, Ben Roethlisberger is contemplating retirement, Antonio Brown is showing signs of a diva wide receiver, and Martavis Bryant still has not been reinstated in the league after his yearlong suspension. That being said, I expect Bell back with either a long-term deal or the franchise tag, Roethlisberger should give it another go once his body has time to recover, hopefully Brown learned from his mistakes, and whether Bryant plays next year and stays out of trouble is anyone’s guess. The Steelers have a history of letting troubled players or diva players walk before, such as Plaxico Burress or Mike Wallace, so don’t be shocked if a star player is let go. Bell and Brown are both in the upper echelon of their position, if not the best. Ben Roethlisberger is one of the best quarterbacks of this generation. Bryant has 1314 yards and 14 touchdowns in just 21 career games. If this offense returns healthy and intact, they should be the best in the NFL and a Super Bowl contender. The offensive line is one of the better in the NFL, but like the rest of the team, struggle to stay healthy. The one weak spot on this team is at tight end. Ladarius Green was brought in to stretch the field and be the receiving tight end Big Ben hasn’t had in years. He was unable to stay healthy, only appearing in 6 games. If he can stay healthy and do what he was brought in for, this offense could become even better. The Steelers have over 35 million in cap space as of right now, but a lot of key pieces around the team are free agents. Look for the Steelers to release some of their deep receiving core, such as Darrius Heyward-Bey, which would free up 1 million, for more cap space.

 

  1. New England Patriots

Tom Brady (14,000,000)

Dion Lewis (1,600,000)

Julian Edelman (5,250,000)

Rob Gronkowski (7,000,000)

Chris Hogan** (3,000,000)

30,850,000 (12th)

Does it really even matter who Tom Brady has around him? He has succeeded throughout his career with a rotation of what were usually castoffs from other teams. The Patriots also game plan better than anyone else in the NFL and you never know from week to week who is going to hurt you. Jonas Gray back in 2014 looked like a future star for a couple weeks for the Patriots and he has totaled 176 yards since leaving the Patriots. Even with Gronk going down this year, Martellus Bennett was able to step in and help lead New England to a Super Bowl. Spotrac estimates Bennett’s value at 6 million, but with the Patriots having ample cap space, they should really think about bringing him back. There are rumors of the Pats looking to potentially trade Gronk with his injury history, and Belichick is known for getting rid of players a year too early than a year too late, and Bennett is a good enough of a backup to easily be Tom Brady’s number one tight end. Danny Amendola is going into the offseason with a 2017 cap hit of $7,916,668, but that Pats can save 6.5 million by releasing him. Amendola has restructured his contract once before to stick around New England and I see him doing the same thing this offseason. James White and Dion Lewis can hold down the backfield, but the decision on LeGarrette Blount upcoming free agency will be interesting. If most teams just had a running back that 18 rushing touchdowns they would do everything they could to bring him back, but New England just runs things differently. Belichick will probably draft a running back in the 7th round and he will get 19 touchdowns next year. The fact New England just won the Super Bowl, can keep their core intact, Brady has a cap hit of only 14 million and they have around 65 million in cap space is why they are the best team in football year in and year out.

 

  1. Green Bay Packers

Aaron Rodgers (20,300,000)

Ty Montgomery*** (788,636)

Jordy Nelson (11,550,000)

Richard Rodgers (826,504)

Randall Cobb (12,750,000)

46,215,140 (31st)

Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and Davante Adams looked like the best trio of wide receivers in the NFL last season. They could be even better in 2017 with Nelson given even more time to get back to normal from his ACL injury and another offseason for Adams to get acclimated to the NFL. Richard Rodgers is a serviceable TE, especially for the cap hit he brings. The Packers could look to bring back Jared Cook on a deal similar to the 1 year, 2.75 million deal he was on last year. The big question is at running back. James Stark was due a 3.75 million cap hit for 2017, but the Packers saved 3 million by releasing him. Eddie Lacy is a free agent who Spotrac estimates his worth at 5.1 million, but for an inconsistent player with weight issues, this seems like a little much to me and I don’t see the Packers paying that. Ty Montgomery did very well in his first season as a running back, but he is not a true 20 carries a game running back, and he is more of a gadget player. The Packers have running back needs to address in the offseason, whether it be through the draft or resigning current players. I don’t see them going out and spending money on a big name back but how cool would it be to see Adrian Peterson join this offense. Oh yeah, and they have Aaron Rodgers. Sorry Mr. Brady, but he is currently the best quarter back in football.

 

  1. Atlanta Falcons

Matt Ryan (23,750,000)

Devonta Freeman (811,106)

Julio Jones (13,900,000)

Austin Hooper (768,357)

Tevin Coleman (866,311)

40,095,774 (22nd)

Taylor Gabriel is the only key player component of an offense that ranked 3rd in yards per game and 1st in scoring per game. He is a restricted free agent so there is a good chance that Falcons retain him. The big loss for this offense was offense coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who is being replaced by Steve Sarkisian. Sark has not coached since the fall of 2015, when he was fired from USC due to alcohol related issues, apart from calling the plays during this past National Championship for Alabama. A lot of the season will ride of the smoothness of this transition for the offense. If the offense plays as they did with Shanahan, they should compete for a Super Bowl again, but a Carolina Panther-like drop off could be expect if there is even the slightest hiccup. Matt Ryan set personal bests in passing yards and touchdowns this past season, after getting a label as a quarterback who couldn’t fully carry a team. We will have to see if this past year was the anomaly or the new norm. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are two do-everything running backs that can be on the field at the same time due to their versatility. They make life for Ryan easier but with Freeman and Coleman set for free agency after the 2017 and 2018 offseason respectably, they might not be a duo much longer. Julio Jones is a top 3 receiver in the NFL and has a LeBron James type of athleticism to him. He is bigger, stronger, ad faster than almost everyone he goes up against, while also carrying no off the field distractions. He, Mohamed Sanu, and Gabriel if he is brought back give Ryan plenty of weapons. Tight end has been a position of weakness for the Falcons since Tony Gonzalez retired and Austin Hooper seems to have secured his spot as the starting tight end and gives the Falcons a playmaker there they haven’t had in years. I am very skeptical of this offense going into 2017 and do not expect them to replicate their 2016 success.

 

  1. Dallas Cowboys

Dak Prescott** (635,848)

Ezekiel Elliot (5,671,895)

Dez Bryant (17,000,000)

Jason Witten* (12,262,000)

Cole Beasley (4,000,000)

39,569,743 (20th)

The Dallas Cowboys will surely have one of the more interesting offseasons of every NFL team. Dak Prescott proved he is one of the up-and-coming quarterbacks of the NFL, and has the best offensive line in the NFL to protect him. Having Zeke to hand the ball off to never hurts either. A full season of Dez Bryant should help as Dez came up big towards the end of the season after being hurt a lot of it, and Cole Beasley is filling that Wes Welker/Julian Edelman role that Belichick always loves. The Cowboys could definitely use another receiver if either of Terrance Williams or Brice Butler leave in free agency. The two big questions marks going into the offseason are Jason Witten and Tony Romo, two of Jerry Jones’ boys that he would hate to see go, but seeing the Cowboys are already over the cap going into the offseason, something has to be done. Jason Witten is due over 12 million, which he is clearly not worth, but cutting him only saves Dallas 7.4 million. They could still use that money, but with no replacement on the roster, a good portion of that would probably be spent on a replacement. I see a restructure of the contract more likely than a trade or cut. There is no real need for Tony Romo in Dallas anymore. Yes, he would be a nice backup to have but he also carries the highest cap hit in the entire NFL for 2017. The tricky part is that only 5.1 million would be saved releasing him. Trading Romo is a possibility but I doubt many teams would want him at that value. If he is willing to restructure his contract, it gets much more likely. My prediction would be Romo going to Denver or Houston if he leaves Dallas, but I expect him in a Cowboys uniform next season. Perhaps we see something similar to Sam Bradford this year, such as a QB going down in the preseason. Jerry Jones is like no other owner in the NFL and we have no idea what he is thinking but going into the 2017 season with both quarterbacks and Jones always running his mouth is not good for the development of Prescott.

 

  1. Oakland Raiders

Derek Carr (1,709,210)

DeAndre Washington*** (607,298)

Amari Cooper (6,180,850)

Clive Walford** (909,272)

Michael Crabtree* (7,000,000)

16,406,630 (1st)

Oakland is coming off a 12-4 season in which they looked like the only true competition to the Patriots in the AFC until quarterback Derek Carr went down with a broken fibula in week 15. They did this all with a fairly young lineup, especially at all the offensive skill positions. They did this with one of the best offensive lines in football that is for the most part all under contract for the next couple years. The Raiders are going into the offseason with almost 50 million in cap space with very few of their own key free agents and own all of their own 2017 draft picks. Doing this with the cheapest collective cap hit on this list is impressive and a scary thought for the rest of the NFL. Derek Carr should soon be one of the highest paid quarterbacks in the NFL assuming he can come back from his injury. Latavius Murray is the most important offensive free agent the Raiders have and shouldn’t hesitate to bring him back. He is still only 25 so even at the end of what will be his second NFL contract, he will still be relatively young. Amari Cooper are one of the best receiving duos in the NFL, each topping 1,000 yard this season after Crabtree barely missed that threshold in 2015. Each is on a bargain of a contract for their play through 2019. Clive Walford and Mychal Rivera, the latter of whom is a free agent, split tight end duties pretty evenly. Bringing Rivera back would give Carr some consistency and he shouldn’t be too expensive but if not, Walford should be able to handle the starting job just fine. Lee Smith is due a 3 million cap hit and the Raiders can save all that by releasing him. I think it is safe to say this is one of the most certain rosters moves of this upcoming offseason. Using the Raiders’ first round pick on an offensive skill player could put them in contention for best offense in the NFL if they were not already. Adding Christian McCaffery to be a gadget player in this offense and to return kicks is something I would love to see happen.

 

  1. New Orleans Saints

Drew Brees (19,000,000)

Mark Ingram (5,245,000)

Brandin Cooks (2,667,462)

Coby Fleener (7,500,000)

Michael Thomas (1,163,403)

35,575,865 (15th)

The only key skills player for the Saints who is currently a free agent is Willie Snead, who because he is an ERFA, should be back in New Orleans next year. He, Brandin Cooks, and Michael Thomas give Brees one of the better receiving cores he has had in recent years, with Thomas and Cooks each having over 1,000 yard seasons and Snead coming close. If Snead hadn’t missed a game this year he may have gotten it. Each should be around through at least 2018. Thomas is signed through 2019 with his cap hit never breaking 1.75 million. If 2016 was a sign of things to come, it will be one of the better bargains in the NFL. Coby Fleener and Josh Hill also give Brees two solid options at tight end, thought their combined cap hit of over 10 million is a little pricey for what they provide. Mark Ingram had his first season with over 1,000 rushing yards, coming a little late in his career. He is still only 27. Tim Hightower and C.J. Spiller are both free agents, but neither is drastically important to bring back. They Saints do need to find a third down back if Spiller isn’t it and someone who can give the aging Ingram a break here and there. There is a feeling around the league that 2017 could be Drew Brees’ last NFL season. He will go down as one of the best quarterbacks ever and he seems to be a nice guy who is easy to root for. I hope the defense finally comes together. It is crazy they have consistently been this bad. It would be nice for Brees to get one more run at a Super Bowl and has the offensive talent to do so. The injury bug just has to stay away and the defense has to just be not horrible. The NFC South is one of the toughest divisions in football and it would not be a surprise if all four teams finished over .500 next year. The Saints have around 28 million in cap space as of right now, and currently lead the NFL with over 10 million in dead money for the 2017 season, so like usual, do not expect them to be big spenders on the free agency market.

 

  1. Seattle Seahawks

Russell Wilson (18,800,000)

Thomas Rawls (738,116)

Doug Baldwin (9,650,000)

Jimmy Graham* (10,000,000)

Jermaine Kearse (4,033,333)

43,221,449 (27th)

Imagine what this team could do if they did not have PFF’s worst rated offensive line. The problems around this team start hear and they drastically change the kind of offense that can be run behind them. Russell Wilson seems like he is always scrambling trying to make a play, which he is great at doing, but it is also a miracle he has not had more severe injuries due to all the hits. Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prorise look like a dynamic running back duo but when they are getting hit two yards behind the line of scrimmage, there is not much they can do about it. Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Paul Richardson, and Tyler Lockett are all pretty small for NFL receivers, but gives Wilson a very deep receiving core who can all make plays after the catch. Doug Baldwin has been great the past two seasons and comes at a relatively cheap price compared to his production. Jimmy Graham gives the receiving core a large downfield target. Even though his position says tight end, he could just as easily be a wide receiver, and there was some debate on this when he was renegotiating his contract with the Saints. Graham put together a season like what Seattle was hoping for when they traded a first round pick to get him. The problem is that he is due a 10 million cap hit this year, all of which can be saved with a release. I don’t see him taking a pay cut. Some team in free agency would probably give him a similar deal anyway. Graham will turn 31 during the season, but with Luke Wilson a free agent and no other tight ends with starting potential on the roster, Seattle cannot really afford to lose him. Seattle only has around 27 million in cap space, but not too many of their own free agents to resign. If the Seahawks can bring in some offensive line help while holding onto Jimmy Graham, they should be one of the NFC favorites, but if not, it will be a long season for Russell Wilson.

 

  1. Cincinnati Bengals

Andy Dalton (15,700,000)

Giovani Bernard (3,750,000)

AJ Green (13,500,000)

Tyler Eifert (4,782,000)

Jeremy Hill (1,194,328)

38,926,328 (19th)

What will it take to get the Bengals over the playoff win hump? A.J. Green put himself in the conversation for best wide receiver in the NFL this year. When Eifert returned from injury, he started to resemble the 2015 player that was one of the best fantasy players in the NFL. Bernard and Jeremy Hill are one of the best Thunder/Lightning duos in the NFL. Tyler Boyd and Brandon LaFell were serviceable number 2 and 3 receivers. Andy Dalton has been at worst an average NFL starter when you look at him over the past few seasons, but we have to start to wonder if he is being elevated by those around him so much that it is covering up his flaws. It may be time to get rid of Marvin Lewis and Andy Dalton and see if anyone else can take the talent on this team and get a playoff win. This team is aging on defense and may only have so much of a window before this defense needs to be rebuilt from the ground up.

 

  1. Kansas City Chiefs

Alex Smith (16,900,000)

Jamal Charles* (6,187,500)

Jeremy Maclin (12,400,000)

Travis Kelce (5,418,400)

Tyreek Hill** (586,260)

42,304,660 (24th)

Travis Kelce might be the second best tight end in the NFL after Gronk, but if Gronk has another season of injuries, Kelce may be able to overtake the top spot. Kelce is also almost as entertaining as Gronk to watch both on and off the field. Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware proved capable of handling the running back load for the Chiefs and each come at a little under 1.25 million cap hit. With an extensive injury history, it might be time to let Jamal Charles go and save his whole cap hit. They Chiefs have both Eric Berry and Dontari Poe on the defensive side of the ball who need to get paid, with currently only a little over 2 million cap space. Alex Smith will continue to be the player he has always been; not going to win you the game, but not going to lose you the game either. Jeremy Maclin has not performed like one of the highest paid receivers in the NFL, but the Chiefs would have to eat right around 14.4 million in dead cap space spread out over the next three seasons if they were to release him. Tyreek Hill emerged this year as one of the most electrifying playmakers in the NFL after being a fifth round pick in the 2016 draft. Hill had a very bad domestic violence incident in 2014 where he hit and choked his girlfriend. He was expected to go undrafted due to this incident and the stance the NFL has taken against domestic violence recently. The Chiefs received some backlash for the pick, but not nearly as much as I expected. It also did not get brought up much during the season, even as he became a star on the field, which was surprising. Hill had 1,836 all-purpose yards and 12 touchdowns, but it was how he made those plays that were impressive. He would go from stand still, to full speed in a instant, and his full speed made everyone else look like they were jogging. If he can stay out of trouble, he will be an extremely valuable player for the Chiefs and one of the bets bargains in the NFL for the next three years. One slip up though will probably cost him his career.

 

  1. New York Giants

Eli Manning (19,700,000)

Shane Vereen* (4,916,668)

Odel Beckham Jr. (3,311,063)

Dwayne Harris* (All Relevant TEs FA*) (3,800,000)

Sterling Shepard (1,351,039)

33,078,770 (13th)

The Giants looked liked one of the best defenses in the NFL last year. With only 25 million in cap space before today, the Giants released Victor Cruz and Rashad Jennings and are now at roughly 34 million. They should be able to retain most of their defensive free agents and keep the defense intact. That will take some pressure of the aging Eli Manning and Giants’ offense. The Giants have both Will Tye, who is an ERFA, and Larry Donnell as an UFA. The only tight end under contract is Jerell Adams, a 2016 6th round pick, who started two games when Larry Donnell was injured. The running back situation is also a question mark going into the offseason. Paul Perkins, a 2016 5th round pick, came on strong towards the end of the year. Shane Vereen is signed through the 2017 season but can be released with cap savings of 3.75. I saw them keeping one and getting rid of one of Shane Vereen and Rashad Jennings. With Shane Vereen’s injury history and more cap savings, I expected him gone soon, but reports today are that it was Jennings. It was a little shocking he was not cut with Victor Cruz today. Eli Manning is 36, but has started 199 consecutive games. He showed some regression last season, but this offense should still be focused around the passing game. Sterling Shepard had a solid rookie year and should see more targets now with Victor Cruz gone. Odel Beckham is one of the most gifted athletes in all of sports. He has been seen performing dunks that should be done during NBA All-Star Weekend, crushed huge home runs during softball games, and played soccer with Manchester United and looked legit. If he can keep his emotions in check, he can go down as one of the best receivers of all time, as his first three season stats show him on pace, or exceeding the best ever. He is one of the most exciting players in the NFL to watch, as he seemingly takes 2 yard passes and turns them into 80 yard touchdowns. He is still only 24 and hopefully will mature to the point there are no off the field or sideline issues.

 

  1. Detroit Lions

Matthew Stafford (22,000,000)

Theo Riddick (2,187,500)

Golden Tate (8,351,250)

Eric Ebron (3,897,455)

Marvin Jones (8,600,000)

45,036,205 (29th)

The Lions have no discernible weakness with the players listed above, but there is no standout strength or star player either. Stafford has never made the ascension to elite quarterback, but has never given you reason to draft a new one and I think that can be said about all the Lions’ skill players. Outside of Ameer Abdullah, who struggles to see the field and isn’t proven, the Lions’ players are young enough to not need to think about replacements, but old enough you know what you are getting out of them. This core with the superstar in Calvin Johnson might be a different story and I know I kept wondering if he might make a comeback right before or during the 2016 season, but it didn’t happen and the door seems to be closed on him every coming back. If Ebron and Abdullah can take big steps forward this year, the Lions may be able to make some noise in the NFC but I see them staying middle of the pack. For what you are getting, this is a very pricey group, but it is hard to argue any of them are overpaid.

 

  1. Indianapolis Colts

Andrew Luck (19,400,000)

Frank Gore* (3,500,000)

TY Hilton (10,000,000)

Dwayne Allen (6,000,000)

Donte Moncrief** (840,880)

39,740,880 (21st)

Maybe now that Ryan Grigson is gone, the Colts can build a team around Andrew Luck, most notably on defense, but the offense has some work to do too. Andrew Luck hasn’t quite lived up to expectations coming out of college, but it has been pretty darn close. A lot of this can be attributed to his surrounding cast, most notably the offensive line, and injuries, although part has been because of Luck being turnover prone. That being said, out of the “young,” group of quarterbacks, Luck is whom I would want to build a franchise around. T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, and Phillip Dorsett are three receivers who have similar skill sets but give Luck two proven targets and one drafted recently in the first round with a high ceiling. Dwayne Allen was supposed Luck’s tight end of the future after Coby Fleener left in the 2016 offseason, but Jack Doyle emerged this past season as Luck’s primary tight end. With Doyle being a free agent this offseason, it will be interesting to see what the Colts do at this position. They have a lot of other needs before investing money in a tight end, but Doyle and Luck just clicked. At the top of the Colts’ priority list should be finding a running back of the future. Frank Gore will be 34 at the start of the 2017 season. The Colts can save Gore’s whole salary of 3.5 million by releasing him. Gore has defied father time so far, but at one point, he will hit that wall that will significantly slow him down. Gore still topped 1,000 yards this year but it is unrealistic to expect him to do the same next year. Watch him prove me wrong. Luck needs someone he can consistently hand the ball off to, which should help Luck stay a little healthier.

 

  1. Carolina Panthers

Cam Newtown (20,166,660)

Jonathon Stewart* (8,250,000)

Kelvin Benjamin (2,438,625)

Greg Olsen (10,350,000)

Devin Funchess (1,505,697)

42,710,982 (25th)

The Carolina Panthers looked like a perennial Super Bowl contender for years to come during the 2015 season as they made their way to the Super Bowl. If anything, the offense was going to be stronger with the return of number one wideout Kelvin Benjamin. Benjamin put up 199 yards and 3 touchdowns in the first two weeks of the year, but only had 742 more yards and 5 more touchdowns the rest of the season, a lot of games seeming like he disappeared. Part of this can be attributed to the team’s performance as a whole, but for this team to get back to its 2015 form, both Benjamin and fellow young wide receiver Devin Funchess will have to make strides in their games and give quarterback two more targets beside Greg Olsen. Olsen has his third consecutive 1,000 yard season, but will be 32 when the 2017 season starts. Tight ends tend to have longer careers than most but some drop off should still be expected. Olsen will have the 2nd highest cap hit of all tight ends this year and the 5th highest in 2018 with how contracts stand now. He can be released next season with only 3 million in dead cap, so to stay in Carolina, he may need to rework his contract. With a lot of young players in line for their second contracts, Carolina will need all the cap space it can get, while also hitting on the next few drafts to keep young, cheap talent around if they want to compete with the Falcons and Buccaneers in the NFC South. After an MVP season in 2015, Cam Newton regressed in 2016. Part was due to injury and part to poor offensive line and overall team play but most of the blame has to be put on Cam. He needs to realize that taking a hit for an extra half a yard is not helping his team win. Cam has said he will not change his game but maybe this offseason, as he ages and matures, someone will be able to get through to him. Jonathan Stewart will be the dreaded age 30 to start the 2017 season. All signs point to significant drop off for running backs at this age. Stewart could also be cut and the Panthers will save 4.75 million on the cap hit, but with so much dead money coming out of this, and over 50 million currently in cap space, I do not expect this to happen. Many mocks drafts are predicting Leonard Fournette or Dalvin Cook to the Panthers with their seventh pick in the 2017 draft. Giving Newtown a star running back should help Cam stay healthy and give this team a more balanced attack moving forward, but offensive line is also an area of need.

 

  1. Tennessee Titans

Marcus Mariota (6,603,811)

DeMarco Murray (6,250,000)

Rishard Matthews* (5,833,333)

Delanie Walker (5,333,333)

Derrick Henry (1,229,074)

25249551 (7th)

Every player above was probably underpaid for their 2016 performance. Even if you do not agree with that statement, it would be tough to argue any were overpaid. DeMarco Murray was third in the NFL in rushing, bouncing back from a disappointing 2015 with the Eagles. Derrick Henry looked like could have been a starter for most NFL teams and should be able to take over the lead back role whenever needed. DeMarco Murray can be cut after the 2017 season with his whole cap hit coming off the books for 2018. Marcus Mariota looks like a franchise quarterback and is still on his rookie contract three more years. He has the Titans in the playoff hunt for most of the year until he got hurt. In a weak AFC South, the Titans could take control of the division in 2017. The Titans have over 67 million in cap space going into the offseason, with not too many of their own free agents to sign and a few underperforming players they can cut to create even more. Harry Douglas had 15 receptions in 2016 and almost a 4.5 million cap hit for 2017. If the Titans cut him, it will open up 3.75 million more in space. Rishard Matthews proved a valuable signing for the Titans, but even he could be cut with a little over 4 million being saved. Matthews fell just short of a 1,000 yard season so expect him around next season. Many mock drafts have the Titans taking Mike Williams of Clemson with the fifth pick in the 2017 draft. This would not only give Mariota a number one receiver but would also slot the rest of the receivers down a spot on the depth chart to a spot that is probably more natural and representative of their skill set. Tajae Sharpe proved to be one of the best value picks of the 2016 draft and will not make more than 800,000 dollars through the 2019 season. This team is set up for a nice run over the coming years. Delanie Walker will be 33 when the season starts so his replacement needs to be considered but this upcoming draft seems like a deep one for tight ends, a rarity in recent years. The Titans have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL with a great running back duo, what looks like a future star a quarterback and depth at wide receiver. If they can come out of this draft with a number one receiver, a tight end of the future and can fill some holes on defense, watch out.

 

  1. Arizona Cardinals

Carson Palmer (24,125,000)

David Johnson (799,843)

Larry Fitzgerald (15,850,000)

Troy Niklas (1,280,141)

JJ Nelson 667450

42,722,434 (26th))

Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald have each announced they will return for the 2017season. This must come as a relief to the Cardinals’ organization as there is no plan in place as of now to replace either as of right now, but after a sub .500 season, a lot will need to change for a successful 2017 season. The Cardinals were chosen before the 2016 by a lot of people as a potential Super Bowl contender, especially after Palmer’s career season in 2015. The 2017 season will only be as successful as Palmer takes them. Hopefully the Cardinals draft a quarterback in the 2017 draft so he can sit behind Palmer for a year and the lessons from Fitzgerald will help as well. Troy Niklas has totaled 71 yards over his first three seasons after being drafted in the 2nd round of the 2014 draft. The Cardinals can save almost 1 million by releasing him, so look for him to be a roster cut and either Darren Fells or Jermaine Gresham being brought back to start at tight end. J.J. Nelson and John Brown are cheap, young receivers who can give Palmer two reliable targets but neither looks like a future WR1, so the Cardinals must decide where these two are in the organizations future plans. David Johnson represents possibly one of the best values in the NFL and he is under contract both this year and the following. He is in the top tier of running backs in the NFL. He has his sights set on a 1,000 yard both rushing and receiving season, and after what Johnson showed this past year, that is definitely within reach. He is not your typical running back getting bubble screens and short little routes, but a true wide receiver. He might not have the whole receiving tree under his belt but comes pretty close and when he is lined up outside with linebackers, the Cardinals will always take that matchup. I expect him to put up another fantastic season and take the top spot as the most versatile back in the NFL.

 

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jameis Winston (6,913,985)

Doug Martin* (5,764,706)

Mike Evans (4,655,478)

Luke Stocker* (1,700,000)

Charles Simms*** (950,023)

19,984,192 (3rd)

The Buccaneers surprised a lot of people this year by finishing with a 9-7 record, and being in contention for a playoff spot most of the year. Mike Evans and Jameis Winston are arguably the best QB-WR duo for their price tag. The duo should both expect to be paid handsomely in the coming years and will carry this team. I was a huge Winston fan when he came out of college and the off-field issues did not bother me at all, but whether he could be an elite quarterback was a question that remains to be seen. Though he has done a great job the first two years answering any questions people had about him, as he is regarded as the leaders of the Bucs’ locker room. Cameron Brate had a strong 2016 season with over 600 yards and 8 touchdowns and is an ERFA so will almost assuredly be a Buc again in 2017. The Bucs can save Stocker’s full cap hit by releasing him so he should be gone with the assumption Brate will be back. Running back is the position of question to Tampa. Doug Martin has had an up and down career, and the fact they can release him without any dead money means he is on the roster bubble. Charles Simms is more of a receiving back and has had some injury history and the leader rusher from 2016, Jaquizz Rodgers, is a free agent. Rodgers has bounced around the NFL, and never broke over 400 yards in a season until this past one. His small stature also makes you question whether he can be a consistent back in the NFL. If LeVeon Bell happens to hit the open market, I expect Tampa to go very hard after him. Giving this offense an elite running back would make life easier for the whole team, but especially Jameis Winston. Vincent Jackson is a free agent who recently turned 34. Spotrac predicts his market value at 4.6 million a year. Tampa has the money to spend to bring him back for one or two years, but they might just want to work on the development of younger guys who plan to be more apart of the future of the organization.

 

  1. Miami Dolphins

Ryan Tannehill (20,300,000)

Jay Ajayi (670,203)

Jarvis Landry 1,105,654

Kenyan Drake (All Relevant TEs FA*) (800,315)

DeVante Parker (2,966,330)

25,842,502 (8th)

One of the top priorities for the Dolphin’s going into the offseason is going to be finding Tannehill a tight end. MarQueis Gray and Chris Pantale are both under contract but neither should be expected to go into 2017 as the starter. I do not expect Jordan Cameron back as his time in Miami was very underwhelming. Spotrac estimates his 2017 value at 3.4 million dollars and I do not see Miami paying that. Jay Ajayi showed signed of being a true number one back but can this short sample size be sustained over a whole season? Tannehill has showed signs of being a competent quarterback and keeping a solid supporting cast around him is vital in his continued development. I think Jarvis Landry is one of the most underrated players in the NFL and he should have more opportunities as DeVante Parker continues to develop.

 

  1. Los Angeles Chargers

Philip Rivers (20,000,000)

Melvin Gordon (2,909,938)

Keenan Allen (8,650,000)

Antonio Gates* (5,500,000)

Tyrell Williams** (615,000)

37,674,938 (18th)

After signing a 12 million dollar contract before the 2015 season with the Chargers, Stevie Johnson has played in only 10 of a possible 32 games due to injury. He is currently due a 4.5 million cap hit, but if released, the Chargers only incur a million of dead cap. If they think he can return from injury, they may keep him around. The chargers have only a little over 20 million in cap space and lots of needs, so the emergence of Tyrell Williams may have shut the door on the possibility of Johnson ever playing for the Chargers again. If the Chargers feel as though the relocation process may deter free agents from signing with them right now, they may try to keep as many players as possible regardless of cap hit. Keenan Allen is another Chargers’ receiver with a large injury history. He has only played in 9 games since the start of 2015 and has never played a full 16 game season, but when he does play, looks like one of the better receivers in the NFL. If he can return from his most recent ACL injury, a receiving core of Allen, Williams, and Travis Benjamin would be a very solid group for quarterback Philip Rivers. Antonio Gates can be released with only .5 million in dead cap and Hunter Henry coming on strong at the end of 2016 may signify a changing of the guards after Gates’ 14 seasons with the Chargers. Will the Chargers keep Gates around one more year and hope he retires after so he can be a lifelong Charger or will they let him walk for the savings? It would be weird to see Gates in another uniform but we also never thought we would see former Kansas City tight end Tony Gonzalez play for anyone else, but after 12 years in KC he finished his career in Atlanta. Both Gates and Gonzalez will go down as two of the best tight ends of all time. Melvin Gordon had a strong 2016 season after many were ready to label him a bust after his lackluster 2015 rookie performance. Gordon played in 13 games and recorded 997 yards and 10 touchdowns and will hope to build on that this year. Philip Rivers has been the starting quarterback for the Chargers since 2006, and always one of the better quarterbacks in the league. There were rumors recently that he might be traded but as of now he will be their starting QB in 2017. He has been very consistent over his career even if the team has not. 2015 and 2016 were two of only three losing seasons Rivers has endured in his professional career. If he doesn’t think they can turn it around in 2017, he may try to force his way out, and many teams would view him as the best possible quarterback option with regard to who is on the trade block and upcoming free agents.

 

  1. Denver Broncos

Paxton Lynch (2,153,704)

Devontae Booker (635,848)

Demaryius Thomas (12,033,333)

Virgil Green* (3,300,000)

Emmanuel Sanders (9,537,500)

27,660,385 (9th)

Denver has two players near the top of their depth chart whose jobs might be in danger. Virgil Green is due to have a 3.3 million and Chris Anderson a 3 million hit this year but Denver can save 2.8 and 3 million respectively by releasing them both. For players who underwhelmed in 2016 and have recently drafted players right on the tail, getting rid of these two might be the move. Devontae Booker and Jeff Heuerman can step up as cheaper alternatives with more potential. The Broncos have one of the top receiver duos in the NFL, albeit an expensive one. These two could use a little depth behind them, but for a team that will most likely be starting a young quarterback, this a nice duo to have as go0to weapons. Trevor Siemian performed admirably for a 2015 7th round pick, but with Denver having invested a 2016 1st round pick on Paxton Lynch, this should be an open competition again. Lynch was thought of as a project coming out of college, but you don’t spend a first rounder on a quarterback to watch him sit. The Tony Romo to Denver rumors could also mean that John Elway isn’t satisfied with his quarterback situation going into the offseason. You would think Romo would at least be able to replicate the game management that Peyton Manning did during the Broncos’ Super Bowl run.

 

  1. Minnesota Vikings

Sam Bradford* (17,000,000)

Adrian Peterson* (18,000,000)

Stefon Diggs (617,928)

Kyle Rudolph (7,300,000)

Jarius Wright* (3,160,000)

46,131,928 (30th)

The way it looks now, Sam Bradford will be going into 2017 with Sam Bradford as the starter, with Teddy Bridgewater’s injury too serious to expect him back. With Bridgewater still on his rookie contract, have two quality starters is not messing with financials too bad for them. Although they can save 13 million by releasing Bradford, the Vikings are not in a position to do so. The big questions for the Vikings is whether or not to exercise Bridgewater’s fifth year option., which must be decided by May. If I had to guess, I would say they would. Adrian Peterson is due 18 million this year, but by releasing him the Vikings can save all of that money. If they cannot get Peterson to restructure his deal, I would expect the Vikings to release him. Jarius Wright is another player on the roster bubble. If he is released the Vikings only save 1.48 million on his cap hit, but with 2016 first round pick Laquan Treadwell waiting for an opportunity, Cordarelle Patterson, Charles Johnson, and Adam Thielen all free agents, the money they save on Wright might be worth eating the rest of that money. Stefon Diggs should continue being one of the best values at wide receiver in the NFL next season. Kyle Rudolph was clearly on the same page as Bradford, turning into a safety valve for him and set career highs in almost every major receiving category.

 

  1. Philadelphia Eagles

Carson Wentz (6,062,804)

Ryan Matthews* (5,000,000)

Jordan Matthews (1,574,767)

Zach Ertz (5,600,000)

Brent Celek (5,000,000)

23,237,571 (4th)

In the first couple weeks of the 2016 season, people had anointed the Eagles Super Bowl contenders and talked about Carson Wentz like he was the next Brett Farve. Things cooled off as the season went on, Wentz included, but he still has the makings of a franchise signal caller. He just needs some players around him and from the sound of things, the Eagles front office would like his input on who is brought in to help fix the mess Chip Kelly made. Darren Sproles has said that 2017 will be his last season and is due a 4 million cap hit, all of which can be saved being released. The Eagles are tight on cap space but if Sproles said he is coming back, it feels as though he must have gotten some assurance from management he will be an Eagle. Ryan Matthews is due a 5 million hit and the Eagles can save 4 million of that, so he is a much more likely cap causality. Wendall Smallwood also showed some promise during the 2016 season, but the Eagles should not plan on him carrying most of the rushing load. The roster holes on this deep run pretty deep, but one of the big ones that must be corrected for Wentz’s development is the receiving core. Zach Ertz and Brent Celek at tight end give him two reliable targets. Ertz led the team in both reception and yards with 78 and 816. The wide receivers are where the problems are. Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, and Dorial Green-Beckham were all either first or second round picks in recent years but none have produced even close to the level expect. If the Eagles can bring in a number one receiver such as Alshon Jeffery to drop everyone down a spot on the depth chart, I think Carson Wentz will be dancing his way to training camp. There have also been rumors of a DeSean Jackson reunion with the Eagles. This is not a bad fall back plan, but Jeffery or drafting a number one wideout should be priority number one.

 

  1. Buffalo Bills

Tyrod Taylor* (15,913,334)

LeSean McCoy (8,875,000)

Sammy Watkins (6,343,146)

Charles Clay (9,000,000)

Marcus Easley*** (1,875,000)

42,006,480 (23rd)

Tyrod Taylor will almost assuredly not be a Buffalo Bill next year and will in turn be the arguably the best free agent option not named Kirk Cousins. The Bills will only incur less than 3 million in dead money by cutting Taylor. Taylor has played pretty decently and there are plenty of other teams that would not mind his production at the quarterback position. Taylor just hasn’t looked like someone who has made any strides towards becoming an elite quarterback and not one that is going to carry a team to the Super Bowl. If the Bills do not get rid of him now, there are no other outs in the contracts in the coming years and that would be committing to him as their long-term quarterback. Cardale Jones was drafted in the 4th round last year, but thought of as a project and playing him at quarterback would be committing to a rebuilding year. Look for the Bills to go after the available players in free agency. The Bills lead the league in rush yard per game and return LeSean McCoy, the lead back, but with a new coaching staff and a few offensive linemen entering free agency, which may not continue into 2017. Sammy Watkins has not lived up to his draft selection, especially considering Odell Beckham Jr., and Mike Evans were drafted soon after. If Watkins can stay healthy this year, he has a chance to join the upper-echelon of receivers in the NFL, but a new quarterback may not help the matter. The Bills can save a little over 1 million dollars on the cap by releasing Easley, and with Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin entering free agency, I expect them to value the cap room more than the player in Easley.

 

  1. Washington Redskins

Kirk Cousins**** (23,940,000)

Rob Kelley (540,000)

Jamison Crowder (751,406)

Jordan Reed (5,800,000)

Josh Doctson (2,284,009)

33,315,415 (14th)

The Washington Redskins’ offense could look a lot different than the one from this past year. Kirk Cousins, Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson are all free agents. Jordan Reed has never played a full season due to injury and may never to live up to his potential because of this. Can either Matt Jones or Rob Kelley, both of whom were the starting running back at one point last year, take hold of the starting job this offseason? Jamison Crowder has outplayed his draft position but how well he will do as a top target without Garcon or Jackson to take some attention away remains to be seen. Josh Doctson was limited to two games in 2016 because of injury but was a first round pick last year. If he is recovered, the Redskins valued him enough to believe he can be a number one receiver, but I was not to high on him going into the 2016 draft. The big question mark though is Kirk Cousins. He played under the franchise tag in 2016, and may do so again in 2017 if a long-term deal cannot be reached. A franchise quarterback is the most valued commodity in the NFL. To not give Cousins a deal means the Redskins are not completely sold on him, but they also have no other option. I can’t see a scenario that the Redskins let Cousins hit the open market where a bidding war could begin. If Cousins comes back to the Redskins in 2017 under the franchise tag and has an even better season with his new supporting cast, it might drive up his value even more but the Redskins should take having to pay a extra couple dollars to be sure that Cousins is the man. If the Cousins is on another team for 2017, that will mean the Redskins in the 2012 draft will have traded 3 first round picks and a second round pick to draft Robert Griffin III, to follow that up by drafting Cousins in the 4th round of the same draft and neither would be on the roster come the start of 2017. The process to find a franchise quarterback would begin again.

 

  1. Houston Texans

Brock Osweiler (19,000,000)

Lamar Miller (6,500,000)

DeAndre Hopkins (7,915,000)

CJ Fiedorowicz (1,007,636)

Will Fuller (2,310,071)

36,732,707 (16th)

Houston had a top tier defense this year, and that was without J.J. Watt. The defense will most likely lose a few key players this offseason but expect them to be one of the NFL’s best again next year. Still do not expect them to be Super Bowl contenders though for one reason only: the quarterback. This is not groundbreaking news but until the Texans can get some consistencies at the position, they will not be competing. Before the 2016 season, I predicted DeAndre Hopkins to be competing for the title of best receiver in the NFL. Boy was I wrong, but I attribute that to QB play and not to Hopkins. The Texans should be a quarterbacks dream scenario; elite defense, a start receiver, solid offensive line, a running back who can carry the ball 30 times a game, a head coach brought in specifically due to his quarterback expertise, and young players with potential at the wide receiver and tight end position. I really hope the Texans can bring in Tony Romo, but unless Romo was to drastically restructure his contract that is not happening. Brock Osweiler will be in Houston next year as there is no out for the Texans. C.J. Fiedorowicz, DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Jaelen Strong, and Braxton Miller are all young player with high potential who could all theoretically take enough steps forward in their development that they could cover up even more of the quarterback flaws, but this is a QB driven league and the Texans are not winning anything important with their current quarterback situation.

 

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars

Blake Bortles* (6,571,985)

Chris Ivory (6,000,000)

Allen Hurns (7,000,000)

Julius Thomas* (8,300,000)

Allen Robinson** (1,117,095)

28,989,080 (10th)

The Jaguars seem to have talent all across the roster and simply cannot put it together. 2016 was supposed to be the season the Jaguars came together, yet here they are again with a top five pick for sixth year in a row. The good news is that they will add another highly regarded prospect with the bad news being, they were bad enough again this year to get to this draft spot. Blake Bortles looked deserving of his third overall draft position during the 2015 season, even if the record didn’t reflect that. 2016 was supposed to be the year for him to really blossom, but he three 500 less yard and 12 less touchdowns in 2016 than he did in 2015 and lost two more games. It didn’t help that Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns pretty much cut their 201 stats in half for 2016. Julius Thomas has never been able to replicate his success with the Broncos but Jacksonville should be able to get out of his contract after this season. The Jaguars have right around 65 million in cap space going into the offseason so money is not an issue this year, but possibly next year when it is time for some of the young players to get paid. The Jaguars have a new coaching staff this year so hopefully they can turn some of this talent into wins, and if some players do not perform, this coaching regime is not tied to any of them. Chris Ivory has not lived up to his large contract, but will most likely be in Jacksonville another 2-3 seasons due to how it is structured. He and T.J. Yeldon were supposed to be a strong running back duo behind Bortles but neither broke 500 rushing yards. Blake Bortles might be the player most in danger of losing their job. He also might be the player most likely to have a career resurgence. It would not be a surprise to see the Jaguars in the playoffs, and it would not be a surprise to see them picking in the top 5 of the 2018 draft. A lot of this will have to do with coaching because they talent is there, they just need to put it together. Having Tom Coughlin as executive vice president should help, and if 2017 does not go as planned, I could see GM David Caldwell fired and Coughlin put completely in charge of player personnel.

 

  1. Los Angeles Rams

Jared Goff (6,349,471)

Todd Gurley (3,769,959)

Tavon Austin (14,977,116)

Lance Kendricks* (4,250,000)

Tyler Higbee*** (685,215)

30,031,761 (11th)

Tavon Austin is signed with the Rams through 2021, and if he had a cap hit of almost 15 million in each one, it would be the worst contract in the NFL, but none of the other seasons are above 10 million. Austin can also be released without incurring any dead cap money after this season. Austin has not been a bad player, but he has not been anywhere close to what the Rams thought he would be when they made him the 8th pick of the 2013 draft, with only 2,610 yards from scrimmage in 4 seasons. To put that in perspective, avid Johnson has 2,118 yard from scrimmage for the Cardinals this year alone. Kenny Britt and Brian Quick finished with the two most receiving yards for any Rams players last year and both are free agents this offseason. Spotrac estimates their annual salaries moving forward at 6.7 million and 5.6 million, respectably. These estimates seem a little high and do not expect either to get quite that much money, but the Rams need to do everything they can to bring both players back or at least bring in adequate replacements for them. Lance Kendrick was the leading tight end last year but is also a free agent but can be cut with all 4.25 million being saved on the cap. Tyler Higbee did not contribute much last year, and has a criminal history If the Rams feel that he can take on the number one tight end role, both on and off the field, Kendricks might be out of LA, as he has not lived up to his contract. The future of this team will be focused around Todd Gurley and the first overall pick of the 2016 NFL Draft, Jared Goff. Todd Gurley has one of the better rookie running back seasons in recent memory, and followed that up with a disappointing 2016 campaign. He rushed the ball 49 more times and gained 221 less yards and 4 less touchdowns. Teams were able to better game plan for Gurley with having his rookie year of tape to follow, and the lack of a passing offense allowed defenses to stack the box against him. IF you put Gurley on the Cowboys, he probably would have had a similar season to what Elliot did. If Goff can shows signs of being a competent passer, Gurley’s numbers should rise back up to similar to his rookie year. Goff only started 7 games this past season and threw more interceptions than touchdowns. With the success of Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott, Goff currently looks like the third best rookie passer. I could have never predicted how good Prescott would be but thought around this time last year that Goff at number one was a mistake and all signs point to that. Football skills aside, he does not seem to have that fire in his eyes that makes quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers so good. It has only ben a year and that can always change but it is not a good look for the Rams who traded a lot to move up to select him. A coaching change is also not going to make the transition to year two any easier. It may help long term, but at least the beginning of 2017 should be another rocky start.

 

  1. Baltimore Ravens

Joe Flacco (24,550,000)

Kenneth Dixon*** (635,848)

Mike Wallace* (8,000,000)

Dennis Pitta (7,700,000)

Breshad Perriman (2,374,177)

43,260,025 (28th)

Joe Flacco is the most overpaid player in football. The only way he relinquishes that title is if Tony Romo is a backup this year, and even then I don’t know if that will be the case. Flacco got so lucky his contract was up right after the Super Bowl win, but even at the time we knew he was being overpaid. Now, he contract looks even worse. Wallace and Pitta both put forth respectable 2016 seasons, but are getting up there in age and are both over paid. The Ravens can save 5.75 million against the cap by cutting Wallace and 3.3 million by cutting Pitta. This will most likely not happen, as there is no one behind them to replace their production, but both are being overpaid. Kenneth Dixon didn’t show any signs of being a top running back, but with both rushing and receiving skills might show more promise in year two. Terrance West is a restricted free agent who could be brought back to help Dixon. Neither looks like a true number one back but compliment each other nicely. Due to the success of recent rookie receivers, we have come to expect them to come into the NFL and immediately dominate. After missing his rookie year due to an injury, his sophomore year showed no signs of stardom as he only started one game and did not break 500 receiving yards. 2017 will be an important one for Perriman, as he will have more opportunity to show he is fully recovered and worthy of the Ravens picking up his fifth year option.

 

  1. New York Jets

Christian Hackenberg (1,059,159)

Matt Forte (5,000,000)

Brandon Marshall* (7,500,000)

Austin Sefarian-Jenkins (1,136,582)

Eric Decker* (8,750,000)

23,445,741 (5th)

Like many of the other bottom-dwellers of the NFL, the Jets’ biggest issue is at quarterback. They have a 2015 fourth rounder in Bryce Petty and a 2016 second rounder in Christian Hackenberg under contract. 2013 second round pick Geno Smith is a free agent, but he hasn’t proven much so far in the NFL. The problem with the Jets that a lot of other quarterback needy teams don’t have is the cap space issue. The Jets are already over the cap so they cannot be much of players in free agency. That means they are either sticking with what they have, spending another high pick on a quarterback, or releasing a bunch of veterans to create cap space, all of which are bad options. The Jets can save 13.25 million collectively by releasing Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, but that is giving away your two best receivers to help bring in a quarterback. Whatever quarterback you bring in from free agency is one another didn’t want, so you want to surround them with as many weapons as possible, not necessarily give away your weapons to get one. The Jets have a lot of other veterans such as Ryan Clady, Nick Mangold and Erin Henderson who all have contracts where they can be released with no dead money, but they are also important parts of this team. The Jets have a lot of older veterans right now, like running back Matt Forte, who are still good NFL players, but are non making the Jets competitive right now, are too old to be around in a few years when whoever the Jets decide on at quarterback starts to develop, and are restricting the team from getting younger players now. Even Bilal Powell, who really just came onto the scene as a contributing player this past year, will turn 29 during the 2017 season. The Jets only two young players of note at skill positions are Sefarian-Jenkins at tight end, who hasn’t produce much anyway and has multiple DUI arrests, and Devin Smith, the Jets’ 2015 second round draft choice who has a total of 135 yards in two seasons. This is a bad situation that has no clear path to success and a situation as a coach or general manager I would not want to be in.

 

  1. Chicago Bears

Jay Cutler* (16,000,000)

Jordan Howard (602,005)

Kevin White (4,517,195)

Zach Miller (2,500,000)

Cameron Meredith*** (617,000)

24,236,200 (6th)

After this offseason, it is likely the Bears will have the lowest cap hit in the league for their top 5. Jay Cutler is almost guaranteed to be released, saving the team 14 million against his cap hit this year. If they use the #3 pick in the draft on a quarterback, he will be getting paid about 5 million, which would make them the lowest cap hit on this list. Bringing back Alshon Jeffery is another question mark for the Bears this offseason. Spotrac estimates his contract value at around 12.2 million. Does a rebuilding team want this on heir books for a player who doesn’t stay healthy or out of trouble? Probably not but they might not be able to let the talent get away. Zach Miller outperformed his contract but is only signed through 2017 and is getting older so he is likely not part of the future for this team. Jordan Howard and Cameron Meredith both exceedingly outperformed anyone’s expectations in 2016 so let’s hope they can continue. If they continue to grow as players and Kevin White can show start to materialize some of the potential that made him the 7th pick in the 2015 draft, this team will have the pieces in place to help whoever is behind the center in 2017.

 

  1. San Francisco 49ers

Colin Kaepernick* (19,365,753)

Carlos Hyde (1,171,443)

Torrey Smith* (9,600,000)

Vance McDonald (4,350,000)

Garrett Celek (2,575,000)

37,062,196 (17th)

Colin Kaepernick will almost assuredly be released, significantly dropping this group’s collective cap hit for the time being. Who will be the quarterback to replace him is another question, but Kyle Shanahan is a good person to be coaching and calling the plays for whoever it is. Both Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder, the other quarterbacks on the roster in 2016 are UFAs. The problem for whoever ends up at quarterback in 2017 has very little around them to work with. Carlos Hyde has had injury problems and has only played in 20 games the past two seasons. He has looked good in the games he played in, there just aren’t that many of them. None of McDonald, Celek, or Smith broke 400 yards last season. Jeremy Kerley and Quinton Patton were the only two players on the roster who did break 400 yards, and both are free agents. They are also not skilled enough to be who is leading the team in receiving. Torrey Smith has the 14th highest cap hit of all wide receivers in the NFL as of today and he totaled 267 yards in 12 games last year. The 49ers can n save 4.675 against the cap this year by releasing him, but they would also suffer dead cap from him in 2018 and 2019 by doing so. The 49ers have over 81 million in cap space going into the offseason, the second most in the NFL, so they may keep him with the hope he can be a locker room leader and they can get something out of him. The 49ers offensive situation is in my opinion the worst is the NFL and if I were a free agent player would stay as far away as possible. The 49ers will probably have to overpay to get some players to come to them, which down the line will only add to the problem. The only hope is that the 49ers hit on the next couple drafts and can get some homegrown talent, but the general manager they just hired, John Lynch, has never worked in a front office before. Good luck San Fran, you need it.

 

  1. Cleveland Browns

Robert Griffin III* (9,250,000)

Duke Johnson*** (830,023)

Corey Coleman (2,648,863)

Gary Barnidge (3,812,500)

Andrew Hawkins*** (1,800,000)

18,341,386 (2nd)

I have no idea what the Browns are going to do this offseason. They just released Josh McCown and Tramon Williams to get even more cap space, so now are sitting at over 100 million. I would think they would use some of that to bring back Terrelle Pryor, who Spotrac estimates his value at 8.9 million. We know the Browns are a very analytical front office so they may look at him as a player whose stats were inflated due to the fact that someone on the team had to get yards. The Browns could save another 7.5 million by releasing RGIII, but at with the release of McCown, this is unlikely. My prediction is RGIII, Cody Kessler and a 2017 draft pick in an open competition for the starting job. They will be hard-pressed to convince players to come to Cleveland as is and might have trouble just spending the available money they currently have. Isaiah Crowell will be a restricted free agent this offseason. With Duke Johnson as the only back currently under contract who saw snaps last year, Crowell looks likely to be brought back. Gary Barnidge will turn 32 at the start of the 2017 season, so he looks more like a bridge until the Browns find their tight end of the future, but a good veteran leading, who will be good for whatever young quarter back the Browns play next year. After drafting 5 WR/TE prospects in the 2016 NFL, expect to see a lot more of what they all can do during the 2017 season, with Corey Coleman leading the charge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All contract information from:

www.spotrac.com

www.overthecap.com

 

All Spotrac estimates are as of 2/8/17 and from:

www.spotrac.com

 

All PFF grades from:

www.profootballfocus.com

 

All stats from:

www.pro-football-reference.com

 

Image from:

http://a.espncdn.com/combiner/i?img=/photo/2016/1221/r164906_800x450_16-9.jpg&w=800