Cap Analysis: Bears

Updated: March 1st 2016

Chicago Bears

Trending: Slightly Down ↓

It’s hard to be excited about the Bears in 2016. They’re heading into year eight of the Jay Cutler era. Barring unforeseen success, it’s likely to be the final year of the Cutler era. At this point in his career, he is what he is – just talented enough to win some games, just reckless enough to lose some games, and just brash enough to be unlikeable for the general public.

The Bears need to rebuild, and it could be a fairly long process. It seems likely that they will take one step backward in an attempt to take two steps forward. They’re probably going to let Matt Forte and Alshon Jeffrey walk in Free Agency. They’ll probably put a lot of young players around Cutler, and they could end up as one of the weaker teams in the league. The question isn’t really how good will they be in 2016, but who will still be in the most important positions – coach, general manager, and quarterback – in 2017.

Projected 2016 Team Salary$95.7M (not including escalators and NLTBE* incentives) *Not Likely To Be Earned

Projected 2016 Cap Room: ~$60.47M (~$155.27M Estimate; ~$0.9M Rollover)

Situation: Weak 

The Bears have almost $60M in available cap space and lots of needs, but it’s far from a certainty that they will make any real splash in free agency. Even if the team spent every penny, it’s not likely they would leapfrog the Vikings or Packers, and definitely can’t improve enough to compete for the NFC title in 2016.

Notable Free Agents:

Bears FAs

In eight seasons with the Bears, Matt Forte has played in and started 120 of 128 games. He’s been amazingly durable, averaging nearly 1,600 yards from scrimmage during that time. 2015 was the only year in that span in which he put up less than 1,400 from scrimmage, and he still put up 1,287 in 13 games. The Bears are making the right decision to move on, because Forte is still good enough to make them better, but won’t be by the time the Bears are good enough to compete.

Alshon Jeffrey, who has averaged 6 receptions, 88.5 receiving yards, and 0.55 touchdowns per start since 2013 will have many suitors if he enters free agency. There’s a significant gap between him and the next set of free agent wide receivers (T. Benjamin, M. Sanu, M. Jones, R. Matthews, R. Randle). Veteran tight end Zach Miller (no, not the one who had a few good seasons with the Raiders and won a super bowl with the Seahawks) emerged as a threat late in the season (31 receptions, 404 rec. yards, 5 TDs in 8 game span), and is also a free agent. **Editor’s Note: Alshon Jeffrey was franchise tagged subsequent to Matt writing this article.

The Bears released Jermon Bushrod after he fell out of the rotation while battling a shoulder injury. Starting guard Vlad Ducasse is also a free agent.

In the front seven, the team is likely to lose Shea McClellin, whose fifth year option was declined after he failed to meet his first-round expectations, plus Jarvis Jenkins and Sam Acho. In the secondary, veteran journeymen Tracy Porter, Ryan Mundy, and Alan Ball are free agents.

Top Projected Cap Hits:

Bears Cap Hits

Jay Cutler’s cap charge is very reasonable for any starting quarterback not on their rookie contract.  The cap figure of Pernell McPhee and Lamarr Houston are not completely unreasonable, although the team is paying roughly $1M per sack for their 14 combined sacks in 2015. Martellus Bennett turns 29 in March, and the team will need him to return to form, especially if Alshon Jeffrey departs.

Cap Casualty Watch List:

Bears Cap Cas

As mentioned earlier, this is likely the final year of the Cutler era. The Bears need to be bad before they can be good again. So why not just suck it up and eat his $13M cap charge in 2016? Separately from the cap decision, the Bears owe Cutler $10M in guaranteed base salary triggered by the fact that he was on the roster in mid-March, 2015. If the Bears cut him today, they would still have to write him a check for $10M. On March 11, 2016, the remaining $6M of his base salary becomes guaranteed. The team can release Cutler in February 2017 with only a $3M cap charge, and no additional cash owed.

Many of the other veterans on this list that manage to hang around in 2016, could find themselves on the chopping block a year from now.

Extension Watch List: 

Bears Ext Watch List

If I were Martellus Bennett, I would play out my contract and take one more crack at a multi-year contract in free agency in 2017. The team may be interested in keeping him around beyond this year, though it’s hard to know what the regime that inherited him (John Fox/Ryan Pace) thinks of his quirky personality.

Kyle Long is likely to have his fifth year option exercised, pushing his free agency out to March 2018.

Marquess Wilson won’t turn 24 until September and showed some flashes of promise. He’s coming off of a foot injury, but if he is healthy for camp, the team may decide to invest in a small extension before he becomes a potential starter.

Position Needs: 

Linebacker, Defensive Line, Offensive Tackle.

Sleeper Watch: 

Eddie Royal has been a perennial sleeper since his outstanding rookie season in 2008. He turns 30 in May, but with Matt Forte leaving and Alshon Jeffrey potentially joining him, there will be a lot of targets to go around if this team is playing from behind as often as I envision.


Matt Papson (@RealitySportsMP) formerly worked in football administration for the Philadelphia Eagles. He is the President, co-founder and creator of Reality Sports Online, a fantasy front office platform that enables fantasy owners to build and manage their fantasy team like a professional sports general manager. The Reality Sports Online platform has been featured in Fortune, on Bloomberg TV, and was the 2012 Fantasy Sports Trade Association Rookie of the Year.

Sources: Spotrac, Pro-Football Reference, and Rotoworld

Cap Analysis: Giants

Updated: February 29th 2016

New York Giants

Trending: Flat →

Just like two teams we have already covered (Titans; Buccaneers), the Giants decided to promote from within making former offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo a first-time head coach. There has been some confusion about his staff – the media quoted him as saying “This is a new staff…nobody was retained, there were no holdovers; everyone was hired.” The quote is accurate, but the context was lost – thirteen coaches on his staff were with the Giants last season. I’m fairly certain he was just trying to say that nobody was “kept” and he created his staff from scratch, with coaches from the previous season’s staff getting the opportunity to interview for and earn a spot on his staff.

While I think McAdoo is an excellent offensive coordinator, I am not certain he’ll be an elite head coach. I think the Giants, like the Bucs with Dirk Koetter, felt obligated to promote him or lose him. I think the team accurately assessed that it was time to end the Tom Coughlin era, but the Eli Manning era will continue through at least 2019, when he’s scheduled to become a free agent. It feels like the team went halfway on the changes – new coach, but from the same staff, and with the same franchise quarterback. The big differences between the Giants and the Bucs situation are that the Bucs have a young core, are trending up, and have a long runway – the Giants are not really built to win now, or later.

Projected 2016 Team Salary$107.6M (not including escalators and NLTBE* incentives) *Not Likely To Be Earned

Projected 2016 Cap Room: ~$58.87M (~$155.27M Estimate; ~$11.2M Rollover)

Situation: Weak 

For a team with almost $59M available to spend, the Giants are not necessarily in a great position, because they have so many holes they need to fill. The Giants are in the least desirable place to be in any sport with a salary cap – the middle. The Giants have only won more than nine games once in the last seven seasons, in 2010. That also means that they haven’t won more than nine games in any of the last five seasons. They snuck in a Super Bowl win during the 2011 season, in which they went 9-7. If not for the Super Bowl victory, Tom Coughlin likely would have been gone four years ago.

Notable Free Agents:

Giants FAs

This is the deepest list of free agents of any of the teams we have evaluated so far, and it might turn out to be the deepest list of all 32 teams. Some of these are by the Giants own doing – they released Will Beatty and Geoff Schwartz, and Jon Beason retired (rather than be released).

Jason Pierre-Paul produced only one sack in eight games, but despite his club-hand, I’m not convinced he won’t return to form (note that I chose to go double-negative here, because I’m also not convinced he will return to form). Between Pierre-Paul, Robert Ayers, Cullen Jenkins, George Selvie, and Markus Kuhn, the Giants are losing the majority of their front four rotation.

Prince Amukamara hasn’t lived up to the lofty expectations the Giants had for him, but serviceable corners don’t grow on trees and he’ll have suitors in free agency. On top of losing Amukamara in the secondary, the Giants third and fourth corners (Trumaine McBride; Jayron Hosley), and top strong safeties (Craig Dahl; Brandon Meriweather), are also free agents.

Reuben Randle won’t be 25 until May. The Giants would surely like to keep him, but they have a sizeable investment in Victor Cruz, and are a year out from having to negotiate with Odell Beckham. The team has Beckham under contract through 2018 (with the fifth year option), but he and his agent won’t be pleased with his $1.84M 2017 base salary, especially if Cruz and Randle are making two-four times as much.

Top Projected Cap Hits:

Giants Proj Cap Hits

With only three players costing more than $5M in 2016, this is the shortest list we have seen and is likely to be the shortest list we will see for any of the teams. It could get even shorter if the Giants decide to release or restructure Victor Cruz. DRC had a strong year in 2015, but there’s a reason he has changed teams three times in four years. If he’s your second corner, you’re in great shape – if he’s the best corner on your roster by far, the outlook isn’t quite as strong.

Cap Casualty Watch List:

Giants Cap Cas

The Giants do not want Victor Cruz accounting for nearly $10M of their team salary. However, if they wanted to create $6.1M in space by releasing him, they probably would have done so when they purged the law firm of Beason, Beatty, and Schwartz. The challenge with releasing Cruz is that he would still count for $3.8M against the cap, and if Rueben Randle leaves via free agency the Giants would be thin at the position. I think the Giants will ultimately be able to restructure with Victor Cruz to lower his cap charge, but it could end in divorce.

Extension Watch List: 

Giants Ext Watch List

The Giants have the ability to exercise the fifth year option for Justin Pugh, pushing his free agency to March 2018. Before his pectoral injury, Johnathan Hankins was the best, and most consistent player on the Giants 2015 defensive line. Even though Hankins did not produce a single sack in nine games after recording seven in 2014, the team will likely try to keep him around.

Position Needs: 

A bunch: right tackle, wide receiver, defensive tackle, defensive end, corner, safety.

Sleeper Watch: 

Will Tye looked impressive in multiple games as a 24-year old undrafted rookie, and I think he has the potential be the Giants feature tight end for years to come.


Matt Papson (@RealitySportsMP) formerly worked in football administration for the Philadelphia Eagles. He is the President, co-founder and creator of Reality Sports Online, a fantasy front office platform that enables fantasy owners to build and manage their fantasy team like a professional sports general manager. The Reality Sports Online platform has been featured in Fortune, on Bloomberg TV, and was the 2012 Fantasy Sports Trade Association Rookie of the Year.

Sources: Spotrac, Pro-Football Reference, and Rotoworld

Cap Analysis: Buccaneers

Updated: February 26th 2016

Tampa Bay Buccanneers

Trending: Up ↑↑

The Bucs, like their Florida brethren from Jacksonville, are in a strong position to improve quickly. Gerald McCoy, LaVonte David, Jameis Winston, and Mike Evans is a very solid young core to build around. They have only one true priority free agent in my view, a top 10 draft pick, and almost $50M in cap space. The team ousted Lovie Smith and replaced him from within with Dirk Koetter. Koetter is a first time NFL head coach, spending the majority of his career as an offensive coordinator on the college and pro level, but he was the head coach at Boise State and Arizona State in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. He got the most out of David Garrard and Matt Ryan when he was the OC for the Jags and Falcons, and should continue to help Jameis Winston develop into an elite quarterback.

Projected 2016 Team Salary$113.4M (not including escalators and NLTBE* incentives) *Not Likely To Be Earned

Projected 2016 Cap Room: ~$48.6M (~$154M Estimate; ~$8.0M Rollover)

Situation: Strong

The Bucs have almost $50M in cap space, and that doesn’t include the space they could create if they choose to move on from certain veterans. The Bucs have several veteran contracts that they can easily get out from under to create additional space without repercussions. There are some notable free agents available, especially on the defensive side of the ball, and I think the Bucs will probably target and land at least one of them.

Notable Free Agents:

Bucs FAs

Henry Melton and Chris Conte were both drafted by the Bears while Lovie Smith was the head coach, so I would not be surprised to see the team let the Lovie loyalists walk. Doug Martin and Chris Ivory headline the free agent class of running backs. Martin finished second in rushing in 2015, and should be the team’s top priority. Tony McDaniel could be resigned, especially if Melton leaves, and would continue to be a nice option beside Gerald McCoy.

Top Projected Cap Hits:

Bucs Top Proj Cap Hits

The Bucs only have six cap commitments totaling more than $5M. Four of those commitments are to young star players. Two, Vincent Jackson and Logan Mankins, are 33 year-old veterans that could either have their contracts restructured, or be released, though the Bucs will probably be content letting them play out their contracts given the amount of space the team currently has available.

Cap Casualty Watch List:

Bucs Cap Cas

If they were so inclined, the Bucs could save almost $46M in a purge of veterans. That’s not likely to happen for two reasons: 1) they already have plenty of cap space and 2) it would leave the roster with some pretty gaping holes that they wouldn’t be able to fill with equal talent, even with all that money freed up. Most of these are included strictly because of age, contract structure, potential savings, and expiration. But, a few of the names on this list will undoubtedly be forced to restructure or be released. Major Wright is another player drafted by the Bears when Lovie Smith was the head coach, so I would not be shocked if he is shown the door.

Extension Watch List: 

Bucs Ext Watch List

The Bucs have a few players from the 2013 draft class they might consider extending, and two veterans on their offensive line. My guess is that the team will let most or all of these players play out the remainder of their respective contracts. If Tony McDaniel and Henry Melton are both allowed to leave in free agency, an extension for defensive linemen Akeem Spence and/or William Gholston could make sense.

Position Needs: 

Runningback, Safety, Corner.

Sleeper Watch: 

I’m holding out hope that 2016 is the year that things finally click for Austin Seferian-Jenkins. If he can stay healthy, I could see a breakout year ahead.


Matt Papson (@RealitySportsMP) formerly worked in football administration for the Philadelphia Eagles. He is the President, co-founder and creator of Reality Sports Online, a fantasy front office platform that enables fantasy owners to build and manage their fantasy team like a professional sports general manager. The Reality Sports Online platform has been featured in Fortune, on Bloomberg TV, and was the 2012 Fantasy Sports Trade Association Rookie of the Year.

Sources: Spotrac, Pro-Football Reference, and Rotoworld

Cap Analysis: Dolphins

Updated: February 24th 2016

Miami Dolphins

Trending: Slightly Down ↓

The Dolphins have not had a winning season since 2008 – I do not believe they will snap that streak in 2016. The team hired former Jets general manager, Mike Tannenbaum, to be the Executive Vice President of Football Operations a year ago, and the organization has several former Jets staffers. New head coach Adam Gase followed John Fox to Chicago last year after interviewing for the 49ers head coaching position (hired Jim Tomsula) and the Broncos (hired Gary Kubiak). Gase did not play college football, but Peyton Manning referred to Gase as the “smartest guy I know” before Super Bowl 48. I don’t believe you have to be a former player to be a successful head coach or GM, but I know that NFL players tend to have more respect for guys who have played at a high level. The Dolphins have a number of free agents, and very little cap space after major investments in 2015.

Projected 2016 Team Salary$155.4M (not including escalators and NLTBE* incentives)
*Not Likely To Be Earned

Projected 2016 Cap Room: ~$7.7M (~$154M Estimate; ~$9.1M Rollover)

Situation: Very Weak 

The Dolphins top 51 contracts total $155.4M, more than the projected 2016 cap of $154M, but the team has some room because of rolled over space. The team signed Ndamukong Suh to a monster 6-year contract last March, and followed that up with a Ryan Tannenhill extension, even though the front office that drafted him was gone. The Dolphins have a number of other expensive veteran contracts, a number of notable free agents, and very little cap room to work with. The roster definitely has a lot of talent, but they have been mediocre for a long time with seven straight seasons between 8-8 and 6-10 – and that’s the hardest place to be in the NFL.

Notable Free Agents:

Miami FAs

The Dolphins have more impact players reaching free agency than most teams. Matt Moore has thrown only 30 passes since 2012, but I still believe he’s one of the better backup quarterbacks in the NFL. Louis Delmas didn’t take the field in 2015, but was supposed to be one of the Dolphins starting safeties before a pre-season injury. Without releasing some other veterans to create cap space, the team probably can’t afford to keep Olivier Vernon (25.5 sacks since 2013) because there’s always a market for pass rushers. Lamar Miller turns only 25 in April, but it’s hard to see him returning (which will be a dream come true for all of the Jay Ajayi fantasy owners). Rishard Matthews has had an up and down four years in Miami, but seemed to be putting things together before his 2015 rib injury. The team has invested in Jarvis Landry, Devante Parker, Greg Jennings, and Kenny Stills in one form or another, so Matthews is not likely to be back unless the team decides to part ways with Jennings or Stills.

Top Projected Cap Hits:

Top Proj Cap Hits

There’s nearly $110M in 2016 cap charges on this list. There’s a lot of talent on this list, but there’s also some aging players on this list. If the team keeps each of these contracts intact, it will be forced to sit out in free agency and build through the draft.

Cap Casualty Watch List:

Miami Cap Cas

Cameron Wake’s 70 sacks rank fifth among all players since he entered the league as a 27-year old rookie in 2009. But, he’s 34 years old entering the final year of his contract, and will count for almost $10M against the cap. Brent Grimes is 32 coming off a mediocre season, and his fiery wife created multiple distractions during the season – that’s a recipe for an early departure. Dion Jordan has been a major bust since the team drafted him third overall in 2013. He’s under contract for another year even without his fifth year option, but the team could save $3.2M by moving on. Greg Jennings first year in Miami was not as productive as anyone had hoped, and he could easily find himself looking for a new place to play soon.

Extension Watch List: 

Miami Ext Watch List

Dion Jordan didn’t make the list, even though the team has the option to extend his rookie contract through 2017. Reshad Jones had his best season as a professional in 2015, but is already the seventh highest paid safety in the NFL. The team would probably be happy to extend his contract and reduce his cap figure, but Jones may prefer to play on his contract and reach free agency just after his 29th birthday.

Position Needs: 

Defensive End, Linebacker, Corner.

Sleeper Watch: 

I like Jay Ajayi’s chances to have a good year. 


Matt Papson (@RealitySportsMP) formerly worked in football administration for the Philadelphia Eagles. He is the President, co-founder and creator of Reality Sports Online, a fantasy front office platform that enables fantasy owners to build and manage their fantasy team like a professional sports general manager. The Reality Sports Online platform has been featured in Fortune, on Bloomberg TV, and was the 2012 Fantasy Sports Trade Association Rookie of the Year.

Sources: Spotrac, Pro-Football Reference, and Rotoworld

Cap Analysis: 49ers

Updated: February 23rd 2016

San Francisco 49ers

Trending: Slightly Up ↑

The Jim Tomsula era will be remembered for awkward interviews, a string of unfortunate retirements, and the benching of Colin Kaepernick…if it’s remembered at all. Despite a very fast, very public, fall from grace in Philadelphia, I believe Chip Kelly can succeed as a head coach in the NFL. The roster does not have the same talent that it had two years ago, but it’s not totally barren either. The 49ers have to compete in what should be one of the better divisions in football again in 2016, but they can use the year to rebuild and figure out if the quarterback of the future is on their roster.

Projected 2016 Team Salary$109.3M (not including escalators and NLTBE* incentives)
*Not Likely To Be Earned

Projected 2016 Cap Room: ~$57.0M (~$154M Estimate; ~$12.2M Rollover)

Situation: Strong 

The 49ers have a ton of cap space at their disposal, and only a few starters reaching free agency. It will be interesting to see the magnitude of Chip Kelly’s impact on the team’s transactions in March.

Notable Free Agents:

SF Free Agents

Ian Williams isn’t the most well-known name on this list, but he’s the most important. Williams has started 25 games at Nose Tackle over the last two seasons, and had a very strong season in 2015. Anquan Boldin, who has amassed the 12th most receptions in NFL history over the last 13 years, seems unlikely to return to the team. Alex Boone has spent his entire career with the team, and has been a starter for the last four seasons. Reggie Bush had only 12 touches when his season ended with a knee injury. Bush would be intriguing in Chip Kelly’s offense, so there’s a chance the team will re-sign him.

Top Projected Cap Hits:

SF Top Proj Cap Hits

Colin Kaepernick is scheduled to be the team’s highest paid player, but it’s far from a certainty he’ll remain on the roster. Ahmad Brooks is one of nine players in the NFL who has produced at least 5 sacks in each of the last seven seasons. Torrey Smith had his worst season as a professional after signing a 5-year, $40M contract in free agency.

Cap Casualty Watch List:

SF Cap Cas

Most of these players are likely to return, but with a new head coach, any veteran that represents a significant savings is at risk. Colin Kaepernick was benched in favor of Blaine Gabbert after 8 games, and was eventually placed on injured reserve. Kaepernick reportedly wants out of San Francisco, even though he’s scheduled to earn more with San Fran than he could make on the open market, and even though he would fit better in Chip Kelly’s offense than most of the alternatives. His base salary becomes fully guaranteed on April 1, so the team will have to make a decision on Kaep before the draft. Additionally, Bruce Miller will likely not have a place in Chip Kelly’s offense.

Extension Watch List: 

SF Ext Watch List

The 49ers will exercise Eric Reid’s fifth year option, pushing his expected free agency to March, 2018. Blaine Gabbert finished 2015 with eight starts, just over 2,000 yards, 10 touchdowns, seven interceptions, and an 86.2 passer rating. He’s only 26 years old, and could very well end up the 49ers starter. The $2M he’ll earn this year makes him the 34th highest paid quarterback in the league at the moment. And, that doesn’t include the contracts Sam Bradford and Ryan Fitzpatrick will sign in the next few weeks. Neither he nor the team are likely to talk extension until mid-season, when it becomes clear if he’s the starter of the future, the backup of the future, or none of the above. There’s a thin line between unestablished starter contracts (Brian Hoyer, $5.25M; Josh McCown, $4.67M) and highly paid backups (Mark Sanchez, $4.5M; Shaun Hill, $3.25M). Even if Gabbert doesn’t start for the 49ers in 2016, he should still be due for a raise whether it’s in San Francisco or elsewhere.

Position Needs: 

Offensive Line, Tight End, Wide Receiver, and Corner.

Sleeper Watch: 

I think Chip could have success with either Colin Kaepernick or Blaine Gabbert, so long as he’s willing to tailor his offense to the strengths of the chosen starter, and upgrades the receiving options.


Matt Papson (@RealitySportsMP) formerly worked in football administration for the Philadelphia Eagles. He is the President, co-founder and creator of Reality Sports Online, a fantasy front office platform that enables fantasy owners to build and manage their fantasy team like a professional sports general manager. The Reality Sports Online platform has been featured in Fortune, on Bloomberg TV, and was the 2012 Fantasy Sports Trade Association Rookie of the Year.

Sources: Spotrac, Pro-Football Reference, and Rotoworld

Cap Analysis: Ravens

Updated: February 22nd 2016

Baltimore Ravens

Trending: Slightly Up ↑

2015 marked the Ravens first losing season with John Harbaugh, who became head coach in 2008. The team was 25th in passing, 26th in rushing, and 30th in turnover ratio. That was partially fueled by a lack of offensive identity, and four different starting quarterbacks. The defense is filled with talent, and had a really strong season when you consider just how poorly the offense performed. If the Ravens offense gets healthy, they should be able bounce back quickly.

Projected 2016 Team Salary$147.9M (not including escalators and NLTBE* incentives) *Not Likely To Be Earned

Projected 2016 Cap Room: ~$7.7M (~$154M Estimate; ~$1.6M Rollover)

Situation: Weak 

The Ravens find themselves with very little cap room, but also few priority free agents. The team needs Breshad Perriman to be the playmaker they believed they were investing in with the 26th overall pick, because they don’t have the space to add a big name in free agency. Joe Flacco has the third highest cap hit of any player in the NFL at $28.55M, trailing only Drew Brees ($30M; likely to be renegotiated) and Ndamukong Suh ($28.6M). An extension or a restructure with Flacco would give the team the spending flexibility needed to invest in the offense, but Flacco has significant leverage.

Notable Free Agents:

Ravens FAs

The Ravens have only a few notable free agents, but three of them are key players. Justin Tucker is coming off his worst season as a professional, but is still the second most accurate active kicker in the NFL. Courtney Upshaw has started 51 games in his first four seasons and is an important part of a strong front seven. Keleche Osmele has started every game that he’s been healthy since his rookie season. The Ravens would need to create cap room via extensions/restructures of veteran releases to resign all three players.

Top Projected Cap Hits:

Ravens Proj Cap Hits

Joe Flacco, Terrell Suggs, and Dennis Pitta each have cap charges that the team will probably try to reduce, but the players have the leverage in all three cases because of the cap repercussions that would be associated with their release.

Cap Casualty Watch List:

Ravens Cap Cas

Jeremy Zuttah is returning from injured reserve, and could be replaced by math whiz John Urschel if the team wants to free up space to resign Keleche Osmele. Will Hill has started 22 games at safety over the last two seasons, but could become expendable as 2013 first round pick Matt Elam returns from injury. Daryl Smith and Steve Smith have been excellent for the Ravens and showed very few signs of aging, but with the team strapped for cap, a release is not out of the realm of possibilities. Justin Forsett wasn’t able to stay healthy, and wasn’t quite as impressive in his encore presentation with the Ravens.

Extension Watch List: 

Ravens Ext Watch List

Before any of the other guys on this list receive serious consideration for an extension (and I imagine Brandon Williams is atop that list), the Ravens will have to address Joe Flacco’s contract situation. Flacco still has three years remaining on the then-record-setting 6-year contract he signed in 2013, fresh off of a Super Bowl victory. Numbers certainly don’t tell the whole story with Flacco – the guy’s got a cannon and a terrific career record despite not always having many weapons – but it’s worth noting that he ranks eighteenth in career passer rating among active players.

His $28.55M cap charge ranks third in the league, though his average salary is now eighth among quarterbacks. He’s still got $25.85M in signing and option bonus proration remaining on his contract, and his cap number rises to $31.15M next year. He turned 31 years old in January, and will be 33 in the final year of his contract. The team is scheduled to pay him an $18M base salary this year. They could create $11.33M in space by converting $17M of his 2016 base salary to signing bonus, but it would inflate his 2017 cap charge to more than $36M. Plus, what would Flacco gain other than being a “team player”? The team can’t release him this year, because he would still count for more than $25M against the cap if he weren’t on the roster. Next year would be a different story, and there would surely be some teams a veteran quarterback away from contending that would be interested in his services.

The Ravens aren’t likely to want to increase their investment in Flacco by extending his contract with new money, but they might not have a choice. I could see an “extension” adding one additional year to the contract, with a $19M signing bonus, a 2016 $1M base salary, ~$20M salaries in ’17 & ’18, and a $25M salary in 2019. Such a move would reduce Flacco’s cap number to $16.3M, creating $12.25M in space, while also giving Flacco an additional $2M in the current year. However, it would also compound the issue for the future, raising Flacco’s 2017 figure to $35.9M, and forcing the team to make similar deals until Flacco’s retirement or release (a la Cowboys & Tony Romo).

Position Needs: 

Wide Receiver and Running Back.

Sleeper Watch: 

I’m still on the Lorenzo Taliaferro bandwagon, though Buck Allen could end up being the guy.


Matt Papson (@RealitySportsMP) formerly worked in football administration for the Philadelphia Eagles. He is the President, co-founder and creator of Reality Sports Online, a fantasy front office platform that enables fantasy owners to build and manage their fantasy team like a professional sports general manager. The Reality Sports Online platform has been featured in Fortune, on Bloomberg TV, and was the 2012 Fantasy Sports Trade Association Rookie of the Year.

Sources: Spotrac, Pro-Football Reference, and Rotoworld