When looking ahead to the 2014 league year, the original expectation was the unadjusted cap would be set at $126.4 million. At that number the Redskins would be about $24 million under the cap before cuts. In recent weeks though various reports have said that the cap would actually be $130 million, $132 million and most recently over $132 million to upwards of $135 million (just an estimate). On the surface that seems like a major win for the Redskins if the cap will rise an extra $9 million or more, before the Redskins have to make a single cut. In reality though that extra $9 million isn’t as beneficial to the Redskins as one might think, for three main reasons:
-Yes the Redskins will have $9 million more to spend, but that doesn’t mean they can convert that into 2-3 extra players. All 32 teams will have that extra $9 million to spend, meaning the total will be $288 million in extra cap dollars that teams can spend. With that high of an increase that is going to significantly increase the demands of players on the market. While we almost always see demands go up at a position, in recent years under the new salary cap structure the increase had been fairly minimal (with the exception of quarterbacks). That figures to change this year with this much extra money out there. And we could see players demands rise by a million or two. Also, the rise in the cap will increase the franchise tag values if the Redskins go that route to retain Brian Orakpo.
The other thing that could change with the cap increase is the return of a strong second tier market. Since the new cap took effect, most of the money and increase flowed to prime positions and top tier players. Now the Redskins haven’t exactly followed that plan and as a result have grossly overpaid for a number of free agents and re-signings in recent years. Other teams though have been getting great bargains among 2nd tier free agents on short term deals, and we’ve seen a number of guys become real value signings. Now that could change where. That could now change and those bargains in recent years may end up being moderately expensive signings.
If that 2nd tier market starts getting paid solid money again, it’s going to make it really hard for the Redskins to address more than a few needs in free agency. Even if they aren’t making top tier signings, the money won’t likely spread around as much as one would hope. The extra $9 million may allow the Redskins to sign an extra FA or two, but it wouldn’t have the impact that one would typically expect.
Another thing that this extra money does to the market value is it allows for more suitors (which is part of the reason why demands will be higher). There were a number of teams that were expected to be relative spectators in the free agent market, particularly among guys on multi-year deals. Now though a couple of teams could change their stance given the extra money. A team like the Denver Broncos or San Francisco 49ers weren’t expected to have a ton to spend, and figured to use most of their money to retain their own guys. Now though with an extra $9 million, they could look to get in on a key free agent or two as they go for a title run.
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-Another major impact of the extra $288 million or more around the league is what that does to the actual size and quality of the free agent class. That is a lot of extra money floating out there, and it’s going to significantly impact the decision making of a number of teams in two major ways.
First, the free agent market is always bolstered by guys who are getting cut each year. While some of these cut players are guys you wouldn’t want to touch, many others are still productive players who were just slightly overpaid or their team couldn’t afford them due to their cap situation. Last year for example the Ravens signed former cut players like Darryl Smith and Elvis Dumervil to bolster their defense. Both of those players were good players on their former teams, but they just didn’t fit in for what their previous contracts were. They were cut and they bolstered the free agent market (plenty of other examples as well). Already this year we’ve seen or are expecting guys like S Louis Delmas, S Thomas DeCoud and DL Red Bryant set to bolster the market. Even if those additional cut players aren’t guys the Redskins would be interested in, just their presence on the market helps the Redskins chances of landing players that they do want. Take for instance the safety market. Maybe the Redskins don’t have an interest in either Delmas or DeCoud, but if those safeties sign with other teams, that could push a Chris Clemons or Malcolm Jenkins to the Redskins (among other names). While there will still be some cuts and the addition of some significant names, it probably won’t be as deep as expected.
From the Redskins perspective this doesn’t really help them. The players they would be looking to cut are not good players who are just a little too expensive. They are players who are well overpaid and are guys you really wouldn’t want to touch unless it was a last resort.
The second issue with the quantity and quality of players on the open market is that this extra cap money will allow a number of teams to bring back a quality free agent or two that they otherwise would have let test the open market. Teams like the Ravens and Chiefs are perfect examples of this. The Ravens have a solid amount of cap space, but a number of key free agents to re-sign. Most that available money is expected to go to OT Eugene Monroe and TE Dennis Pitta. That could mean that WR Jacoby Jones, OT Micheal Oher, DL Arthur Jones, LB Daryl Smith, and CB Corey Graham are all expected to hit the open market. Maybe with a couple cuts they would have kept one more of those players, but the rest definitely would be fair game. Now with an extra $9 million the Ravens could look to keep 2-3 more of those players. That was 5 players that could be of interest to the Redskins, and now perhaps just 1 or 2 of them actually hits the open market. The Chiefs are another team that have a number of free agents the Redskins could have looked to target including G Geoff Schwartz, G Jon Asomoah, WR Dexter McCluster, DL Tyson Jackson, S Kendrick Lewis. Maybe the Chiefs would have brought one of those guys back before hand, now the extra money could allow them to bring back two more of these guys.
From the Redskins perspective this doesn’t really impact them. They were set to have a lot of cap room (and plenty more with cuts), and they only had 4 free agents they could even consider bringing back at any significant money. DeAngelo Hall has already been re-signed, Brian Orakpo isn’t going anywhere as he will be re-signed or franchised. That just leaves LB Perry Riley and DL Chris Baker as guys they could bring back. If the Skins wanted to they could easily re-sign them at a fair market value deal, and still have plenty of cap room to work with.