When free agency starts March 9, NFL teams will be in a race to sign a class that can push them over the top and perhaps into Super Bowl LI. Here are Shutdown Corner’s free-agent rankings for defensive players and specialists ( for offensive players, click here ) with every relevant unrestricted free agent set to hit the market:
Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors clinched a playoff spot with more than six weeks to spare. The defending NBA champions wrapped up a berth when the Houston Rockets lost Saturday night to the San Antonio Spurs. A spokesman for the Warriors said they are the first team since the 1987-88 Los Angeles Lakers to secure a trip to the postseason before the end of February.
The NFL’s salary cap for 2016 will be $155.27 million, an increase of nearly $12 million. The NFL Players Association confirmed the figure Sunday, and will release the franchise and transition tag numbers on Monday. Among the players whose contracts have expired and might wind up getting tagged are Super Bowl MVP linebacker Von Miller of Denver, and other All-Pros such as Carolina cornerback Josh Norman, Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin and Kansas City safety Eric Berry.
Duke Williams had something to prove this week in Indianapolis – that he has learned his lesson. Four months after being booted off the Auburn football team for allegedly hitting several people including a teammate during a fight, the humbled Williams was trying to take advantage of his invite to NFL’s annual scouting combine by persuading someone, anyone, to give him a second chance. There’s little doubt Williams has some NFL traits.
NFL teams have an important choice to make before next Tuesday: To franchise tag, or to not franchise tag? Teams can choose to use the tag, which ensures a one-year deal at no less than the average of the top five salaries at his position, to keep their most valuable free agent off the market. The downside is that it’s generally a huge dollar figure ( here are the estimates for this year ) that eats up a lot of salary-cap room, and most players do not like getting the franchise tag because they want a long-term deal. But if it means ensuring the return of a superstar, so be it. A few teams, like the Denver Broncos, don’t have a tough decision at all on the franchise tag, because they aren’t letting a superstar go to free agency. Denver is trying to get a long-term deal done with linebacker Von Miller, but if they can’t before Tuesday then Miller will be tagged. Other teams will have to think long and hard about whether they’ll use the tag or take their chances on retaining a player once he hits the open market. Here are the teams that are realistic candidates to use the tag (if you don’t see your team it’s because it is very unlikely they will use the tag, though surprises happen all the time), and the chances they’ll use it on the player in question: DONE AND DONE Baltimore Ravens — K Justin Tucker The Ravens wasted no time. Tucker’s agent announced on Friday morning that the team put the franchise tag on his client, who is one of the best kickers in the NFL. Verdict: Wise move LOCKS Denver Broncos — OLB Von Miller
The NFL Players Association announced on Thursday that all 32 NFL teams are carrying over unused salary-cap money from 2015 that will be added to their 2016 cap amount, though the amount each club brought into the coming season varies greatly. The average carryover is $6.4 million, but the Seattle Seahawks’ amount is a league-low $11,587. The Jacksonville Jaguars’ amount is a league-high $32.8 million (see the per-team amount below). For reasons that are unclear, the Denver Broncos, Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints did not carry over the full amount available to them. With the leaguewide salary cap expected to be around $154 million per team for 2016, adding their carryover give the Jaguars an adjusted cap number of $186.8 million. Currently, Jacksonville has $114.7 million committed to player contracts for the 2016 season. What does all that mean? It means that without cutting a single player currently under contract for the coming season, and setting aside about $8 million for their draft picks, the Jaguars have approximately $64 million to spend in free agency. In other words: you’re looking for $12 million a year, Malik Jackson? Welcome to Jacksonville! Arizona Cardinals $3,031,663 Atlanta Falcons $3,905,771 Baltimore Ravens $1,633,944 Buffalo Bills $4,467,331 Carolina Panthers $3,731,200 Chicago Bears $867,589 Cincinnati Bengals $7,587,902 Cleveland Browns $20,734,144 Dallas Cowboys $3,571,239 Denver Broncos $3,300,000 Detroit Lions $862,191 Green Bay Packers $6,953,847 Houston Texans $1,637,055 Indianapolis Colts $4,950,629 Jacksonville Jaguars $32,774,928 Kansas City Chiefs $2,622,838 Los Angeles Rams $933,521 Miami Dolphins $9,137,544 Minnesota Vikings $2,090,409 New England Patriots $1,347,882 New Orleans Saints $1,400,000 New York Giants $11,193,231 New York Jets $2,484,216 Oakland Raiders $13,373,617 Philadelphia Eagles $7,255,362 Pittsburgh Steelers $3,000,327 San Diego Chargers $2,287,176 San Francisco 49ers $12,206,686 Seattle Seahawks $11,587 Tampa Bay Buccaneers $7,987,748 Tennessee Titans $20,783,801 Washington Redskins $5,837,734