Free Agency marks the beginning of a new league year and is often characterized by over-spending, buyer’s remorse and ultimately salary cap purgatory. Hopefully your favorite team gets it right and adds the missing link via free agency rather than trying to build their team through the annual NFL Off-season Sweepstakes.
Estimated Cap Space: $8 million
Key Free Agents: Jason Worilds OLB; Ike Taylor CB; Brice McCain CB
Team Needs: CB, S, DE, T
First Round Pick: 22nd Overall
Synopsis: The Pittsburgh Steelers historically aren’t big spenders during free agency and with less than $10 million available in cap space they won’t be this off-season either. They would love to jump into the Darelle Revis sweepstakes but that is out of the question. They will have to look in-house for answers in their secondary as Ike Taylor is an unrestricted free agent and Troy Polamalu is a shell of his former self. Re-signing Brice McCain should be the first order of business, then the Steelers should turn their attention to the draft to get younger and better in the secondary.
Estimated Cap Space: $30 million
Key Free Agents: Jermaine Gresham TE; Terence Newman CB; Marshall Newhouse OT; Eric Winston OT
Team Needs: T, G, DE, OLB
First Round Pick: 21st Overall
Synopsis: The Bengals have become annual playoff contenders but must improve on both sides of the line of scrimmage to get over the hump. With a healthy cap figure the Bengals can afford to take a big swing. A full court press to acquire Bryan Bulaga could be the difference between a good offense and great one. A situational pass rusher like Trent Cole could inject life into an under-achieving front four. Depth throughout the front 7 is paramount. The Bengals’ defense simply wasn’t the same without Mike Zimmer, Michael Johnson (left for Tampa in 2014 off-season) and a healthy Vontaze Burfict.
Estimated Cap Space: ($100K)
Key Free Agents: Pernell McPhee DE/OLB; Torrey Smith WR; Justin Forsett RB; Owen Daniels TE
Team Needs: RB, WR, TE, DE, CB, S
First Round Pick: 26th Overall
Synopsis: The Ravens’ cap situation is a bit of a quagmire but Haloti Ngata currently holds a $16 million cap figure so restructuring his deal to provide cap relief is priority #1. If the Ravens and Ngata cannot reach an accord Ngata will be released. General Manager Ozzie Newsome has done a fantastic job of drafting over the years and spending wisely on free agents such as Steve Smith Sr. and Elvis Dumervil. He will have to continue to work his magic in order to address the cap problem and generate depth in a secondary that was ravaged by injuries and exposed in 2014.
Estimated Cap Space: $42 million
Key Free Agents: Jordan Cameron TE; Brian Hoyer QB; Jabaal Sheard OLB; Buster Skrine CB
Team Needs: QB, WR, TE, C, DT, ILB
First Round Pick: 12th, 19th Overall
Synopsis: The Browns General Manager Ray Farmer absolutely has to nail the 2015 draft starting with their two first-round picks. Re-signing Buster Skrine should be a priority and they simply may have to overpay Jordan Cameron with Josh Gordon suspended for the entire year. I don’t understand letting Brian Hoyer walk and signing Josh McCown but it doesn’t surprise me, the Browns’ front office is proficient at doing it wrong. Free agency isn’t the answer for Cleveland. They simply need to re-sign their young talent (Cameron, Skrine, Sheard) and work the draft board.