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: $4 million
Key Free Agents: Demarco Murray RB; Rolando McClain ILB; Terrell McClain DT; Bruce Carter OLB; George Selvie DE; Anthony Spencer DE; Henry Melton DT; Jeremy Parnell OT
Team Needs: DE, DT, RB, ILB, OLB, CB, S
First Round Pick: 27th Overall
Synopsis: Tony Romo’s cap number is over $27 million. That’s all you need to know about Dallas’ salary cap situation. Jerry and Stephen Jones will once again have to get creative in order to field a competitive roster. The offense is in pretty good shape as they have placed the franchise tag on Dez Bryant and re-signed Cole Beasley and Doug Free. If they manage to re-sign Demarco Murray or land a capable running back through the draft (loaded class) then they will be in terrific shape. The defense is a completely different story with needs at every level. Once again, they’ll have to rely on inexpensive alternatives to make a difference (i.e. Jeremy Mincey, George Selvie, Rolando McClain). In terms of their own free agents I think re-signing Rolando McClain is paramount at this point. He battled injuries last season but when he was in the lineup he was a difference-maker. McClain will test the market but his history of off-field concerns may depress his asking price in which case the Cowboys should pounce. The Cowboys will likely target 2nd and 3rd tier defensive lineman options such as Adrian Clayborn and O’Brien Schofield to round out their defensive line rotation. Dallas is expected to take a defender with their first round pick, I like Kevin Johnson, cornerback from Wake Forest, my third rated cornerback in the 2015 draft class.
Estimated Cap Space: $48 million
Key Free Agents: Jeremy Maclin WR; Nate Allen S; Bradley Fletcher CB; Brandon Graham OLB
Team Needs: CB, S, OLB, RB, WR
First Round Pick: 20th Overall
Synopsis: Byron Maxwell and Devin McCourty. If the Eagles land both highly sought after defensive backs they would still need another starter in what was the league’s 2nd worst secondary statistically in 2014. With Trent Cole gone and Brandon Graham likely to play elsewhere the Eagles have a need for edge rushers too. The draft is fairly deep but Philly won’t get one of the elite pass rushing options with the 20th overall pick. As far as free agents are concerned Pernell McPhee, Jason Worilds, Brian Orakpo, and Jabaal Sheard are all viable options. As for the offense, Chip Kelly may think he can plug and play just anyone to replace LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin but it’s not easy replacing that level of production. Fortunately, the running back and wide receiver class is deep in both free agency and the draft. If the rumors are true, the Eagles plan to go “all-in” via free agency and have designs to trade their entire draft to acquire Marcus Mariota. Conventional wisdom suggests this will go poorly.
New York Giants
Estimated Cap Space: $13 million
Key Free Agents: Stevie Brown S; Quentin Demps S; Mark Herzlich ILB; Antrel Rolle S
Team Needs: CB, S, WR, T, G, DT, LB
First Round Pick: 9th Overall
Synopsis: Yet another team that will have to re-build their secondary. The Gaints have a legitimate shot at Trae Waynes if he gets pass the other New York team but they can’t go wrong with an offensive lineman or defensive lineman with the 9th overall pick. What the Giants decide to do come draft time will depend largely on what they do in free agency. The offensive line options, particularly offensive tackle are limited with Bryan Bulaga heading the class. As far as interior offensive linemen, Mike Iupati is the best available but his price tag may be too rich for the Giants’ blood. Orlando Franklin may come with a more reasonable dollar figure. Nick Fairley or Jared Odrick would provide an immediate boost to the Giants’ run defense. Sean Weatherspoon comes with the injury risk but would be a significant upgrade to New York’s linebacker corps. As for the secondary, I’m not sure if the Giants can afford to join the Byron Maxwell sweepstakes so they may have to target the second and third tier defensive backs such as: Tramon Williams and Tyvon Branch.
Estimated Cap Space: $24 million
Key Free Agents: Brian Orakpo OLB; Brandon Meriweather S; Roy Helu RB
Team Needs: OLB, G, T, S, NT, CB
First Round Pick: 5th Overall
Synopsis: With the oft-injured Orakpo on his way out-of-town it’s safe to assume that the Redskins will draft one of the top pass rushers in the 2015 draft class to pair with Ryan Kerrigan. Washington also selected Trent Murphy last season so their biggest need should be addressed via last year’s and the upcoming draft. With a healthy cap number, the Redskins are in position to address a need at safety and offensive line, o-line being the bigger need. Outside of LT Trent Williams the Redskins could stand to upgrade the entire group. Mike Iupati, Bryan Bulaga, Rodney Hudson and Stefen Wisniewski should be at the top of their list. A B.J. Raji or Dan Williams would be a good anchor to the Redskins’ odd man front and Rahim Moore would be a quality addition to the back end of a young secondary.