Cowboys: The Cowboys were projected to be over the $126.4 million cap by $24.5 million and they had very few players they could easily cut and clear room. The Cowboys would be forced to dump money into future years, not only meaning that they wouldn’t be able to significantly spend money this year, but going forward they would be continually hamstrung. Now with an extra $9 million, their cap situation is still poor, but far more manageable. They will still have to dump some money in future years, but they will be able to get out of Cap Hell sooner rather than later (particularly if the cap continues to jump by significant amounts). The other help here for the Cowboys is that the extra $9 million could help them retain star LB DeMarcus Ware. Ware was one of the few big contracts that could be cut and offer a big chunk of savings (over $7 million). It seemed almost inevitable that the Cowboys would need to cut Ware if he didn’t agree to a significant reduction to his contract. Ware may be pretty pricey, but he is the Cowboys best defensive player and a top 5 pass rusher in the league when healthy. Losing him would set the Cowboys back. Now the Cowboys wouldn’t be as backed into a corner and could keep Ware around for another year.
Giants: The Giants are one of those teams with a number of key free agents (S Stevie Brown, RB Andre Brown, DL Justin Tuck, DL Linval Joseph, WR Hakeem Nicks, CB Corey Webster, LB Jon Beason, to name a few), and not a ton of cap room with which to retain them. The would probably re-sign a couple guys after making cuts and clearing some cap room, but a couple quality players would end up hitting the unrestricted market. Now with an extra $9 million they could retain a few more guys, and perhaps could bring in a 2nd tier free agent or two. The extra money easily helps improve the Giants outlook for next year.
Eagles: The Eagles like the Redskins have a pretty significant amount of cap dollars to spend this year even before the increase, with $20 million in cap room. Though that is behind the Redskins in overall room, the Eagles have more starters and significant contributors set for next season and don’t have as many free agents as the Redskins do. This money allows the Eagles to be even more aggressive in free agency to fill their needs. Also, they are one of those teams that might not feel the need to make some cuts. It was expected that veterans Brent Celek and Jason Avant could be on the roster bubble since the Eagles could clear $7 million in cap space by releasing the two veterans. Now though if the cap rises $9 million extra, the Eagles may decide to hold on to one or both players. Maybe they are slightly overpaid, but they a still productive guys and the Eagles are probably better off retaining them if they can.
Redskins: As mentioned above, since the Redskins already have significant cap room the extra money doesn’t help them as much as a team like the Cowboys who are in cap hell or a team like the Giants who don’t have a lot of wiggle room. The Redskins can already re-sign their own free agents without the extra money (if they want them), so the extra money wouldn’t help them nearly as much as the Giants who have to be fearful of losing a number of key players. And unlike the Eagles, the players the Redskins should look to cut, aren’t productive football players. Keeping them around only weakens the Redskins cap position this year and next season, so there is no real benefit of retaining these guys. That isn’t the case for the Eagles who were considering cutting good players.
Yes more money is typically a good thing when we are talking salary cap space for a team, but in this instance it doesn’t seem like much of a positive for the Redskins. No it’s not a direct negative as it truly is more money to spend, but the benefits associated with that are pretty much washed out when you factor in the expected higher contract demands, more competitors in the market, and the smaller expected pool of quality players. Add in the fact that this extra money clearly benefits the rest of the NFC East far more than the Redskins, and it really starts to seem like this could end up being a negative for the Redskins. Washington having a moderate cap advantage over the Giants and a mega advantage over the Cowboys, was one of the few major positives the Redskins had over those teams. Now the impact of that is lessened. Yes the difference in cap room between the Redskins and Giants or Redskins and Cowboys actually didn’t change, but it put both of those teams on far easier paths going forward. The Cowboys were (still are) in Cap Hell, and the Giants were going to have to make a number of tough decisions in the next year or two to ensure they wouldn’t get there. That was going to make it hard to keep those teams relevant in the coming years, now it extends their window.
With the cap increasing like it is the Redskins have to be incredibly smart with their money if they want to make it into an advantage as much as possible. They can’t look at this extra cap room as justification to spend more frivolously. Whether it is signing more guys to good money deals, or overpaying an average player like a Perry Riley, the Redskins need to avoid poor decisions that could limit their flexibility going forward. Even with the increased money the priority should be bargain shopping and keeping a clean cap. Even if that means not spending all of their cap space since that money can be carried over.
This increase in the salary cap is likely a sign of the future as the cap with more TV money (among other sources) rolling in is expected to continue to make bigger jumps going forward (unfortunately that can really help the Cowboys dig themselves out of the hole they are in). Because of that the Redskins should forward think and look to lock up some players sooner rather than later. The Redskins should look at extensions to players like Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Williams this offseason instead of waiting for another year or two. If the cap keeps jumping like this, and those players keep up their level of play their contract demands 2 years from now could be dramatically higher. If the Redskins extend them now, they could end up having a relative bargain going forward. Smart teams like the Packers, Patriots, Steelers, Ravens, etc. extend top players sooner rather than later and for the most part end up saving money (Aaron Hernandez situation screwed the Patriots a little bit). For instance the Steelers extended Antonio Brown two years ago, and instead of him being an unrestricted free agent this season and set to make probably $12-13 million a year, he signed a 5 year deal that averages $8.5 million a year (this bought out his RFA year last year). That is a huge win for Pittsburgh over the length of the contract, and exactly the type of move the Redskins should look to make.