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Multi-million mega deals … tenders for restricted players … salary-cap dumps – yep, NFL free-agency is upon us.
It’s your other brand of March Madness.
Teams can start negotiating with unrestricted free agents beginning at 2 p.m. (MT) on Monday, and signings can commence 48 hours later with the kickoff of the new league year on Wednesday.
With those dates/deadlines looming rather large, here’s a pre-free agency snapshot of the AFC West and where all four teams stand entering the frenzy. (Note: All team salary cap figures courtesy of spotrac.com; all free agents are unrestricted unless otherwise noted)
Current cap space: -$1,812,589 (30th most in league)
Outlook: With Peyton Manning officially retiring Monday, the Orange & Blue’s No. 1 free-agency goal is retaining Osweiler now that Super Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller has been secured with the exclusive franchise tag. The Broncos would like to keep their all-world defense intact, but Jackson and Trevathan would appear to be goners at this point, with more money almost assuredly available elsewhere. And if Jackson and Trevathan get away, the Broncos should be able to ante up for Marshall and either David Bruton or Omar Bolden at safety. Obviously, these in-house free-agent priorities figure to keep the Broncos rather thrifty when it comes to adding outside help, but in any case, some cuts and/or restructuring with existing contracts will need to take place to create more cap wiggle room (yeah, that was a minus sign before the team’s current cap number).
Kansas City Chiefs
Current cap space: $18,898,301 (20th)
Outlook: K.C. has some work to do defensively with as many as 10 players in their two-deep depth chart up for free agency. The Chiefs already took one step in franchising free safety Eric Berry, but Hali, Johnson, Smith and Howard are key starters who will need to be re-signed or replaced. On the other side of the ball, K.C. might target some outside offensive-line help and look for a bargain wideout to pair with Jeremy Maclin.
Current cap space: $69,922,440 (second)
Outlook: As of the weekend, only the Jaguars ($81 million) had more cap space in the league, meaning the Silver & Black are set up to go on a mini spending spree — especially without many key in-house free agents to retain. And as more than a few team observers have suggested, Jack Del Rio and Co. could very well target some defensive free agents (the Broncos’ Jackson, the Chiefs’ Smith and the Chargers’ Eric Weddle) to strengthen a unit which allowed 24.9 points and 363.6 yards per game – both ranking 22nd in the league – this past season and now will be without retired veteran leader Charles Woodson. Offensively, re-signing Penn, Derek Carr’s blindside protector, is a priority before looking for outside help.
San Diego Chargers
Current cap space: $35,368,377 (12th)
Outlook: Fixing an offensive line which allowed 40 sacks and only paved the way for a league-worst 3.5 yards per rushing attempt looks to be job No. 1 for the still-San Diego Bolts, with center and tackle the two particular positions of need. Speaking of centers, how good would Alex Mack look in blue and yellow? Finding help at wide receiver and safety – with Malcom Floyd set to retire and Weddle most definitely on the outs – are next on the list, followed closely by re-signing Gates or Green, probably in that order.