The Storm Before the Storm II: AFC Off-Season Preview

As a follow up to last weeks article, here’s a run down of the cap/ roster situations across the AFC...


Buffalo Bills (Appx $16M over): The Bills will likely look to maintain continuity in a title window, however they don’t have much in the way of big salaries to create space from. Josh Allen and Ed Oliver are the only seven figure salaries they have on their books and Oliver is just barely over $10M on his 5th year option and would require an extension. Micah Hyde as a post June 1 cut creates about $7M, but that’s about their largest and most obvious cap cut. Meanwhile, Tremaine Edmunds, Jordan Poyer, Dane Jackson, Rodger Saffold and Devin Singletary hit free agency.

Miami Dolphins (Appx $16M over): The Dolphins have numerous large salaries they can rework. They also could part ways with Byron Jones and clear $13.5M (post June 1). The good news for the Dolphins is that they don’t have much in the way of key free agents. The bad news is that without cap space and a first rounder, it’s going to be tough to improve the roster much.

New York Jets (couple $100K over): Duane Brown is almost certainly a goner. A post June 1 designation creates $9.7M in cap. WR Braxton Berrios and Corey Davis would create $15.5M and if the Jets need more they could entertain a trade or release of Carl Lawson and create $15M more. All of that is likely needed to get a veteran QB. And that begs the question: would Aaron Rodgers really want to play for the Jets? Wilson and Hall are tremendous talents with upside, but still very young. The OL needs help. I’m having a hard time seeing it. I think Carr or Garoppolo are more likely candidates.


Baltimore Ravens (Appx $25M under): At first blush, the Ravens would appear to be in good shape. That however is not the situation. It will take them doubling their cap space just to be able to franchise Lamar Jackson and have room to operate. Releasing older players such as Calais Campbell ($7M) and Kevin Zeitler ($6.5M) would create a significant chunk of that and RB Gus Edwards seems too much of a luxury at $4.3M in a loaded RB market. Simple restructures from there would get them around that $50M. But if the Ravens plan to do anything in free agency, they’ll need to free more from there and that’s where it gets tricky. The more I look at it, the more I think a tag and trade with Jackson is a real possibility.

Cincinnati Bengals (Appx $35 under): The Bengals will have decision on DT DJ Reader which would free about $11M. He’s a quality interior guy but just hasn’t been able to stay on the field. RB Joe Mixon is also a potential casualty due to a down season, a robust RB buyers market and a healthy $10M (post June 1) savings. All of which is money they will likely re-direct (in part) towards their younger players and precisely why visions of Tee Higgins shouldn’t be dancing in other teams fan’s heads. If the Bengals do shop a WR it is likely to be 29 year-old Tyler Boyd, a highly productive #2 type in the final year of his contract at a very reasonable $8.75M. Jesse Bates is a key free agent they will also likely want to retain. But the Bengals are in very good shape (for now).

Cleveland Browns (Appx $13M over): The DeShaun Watson contract extension begins and he comes in at $46M salary. Cleveland will likely spend the next few years moving that money around as needed. There are other big salaries (Cooper, Garrett, Teller, Bitonio) there as well. These next 3 years look to be an "all-in" window for the Browns. Unfortunately, they’ll need their current group to play better. They’re down numerous high picks and not likely to be able to afford much more help than what they already have rostered.

Pittsburgh Steelers (Appx $1M Over): William Jackson is a near certain cap casualty at $12.176 cap savings. Releasing Mitchell Trubisky creates another $8M. That essentially creates the room to do some low-mid level type moves and operate. Chukwuma Okarfor could save them about $7M as a Post June 1 designation and the team will need to make a decision on DT Cameron Hayward. He’s still a highly effective player registering 10.5 sack and 23 hits last season, but will be 34 years-old this year and comes with a $22.156M cap number. Cam Sutton and Terrell Edmunds are their priority free agents. But it will likely be a fairly quiet off-season for them. Picking up #32 for Chase Claypool was a huge win. I’d expect they address needs primarily in the draft while they wait on Pickett.


Houston Texans (Appx $37M under): The Texans primary off-season questions revolve around their two largest (by far) cap number players: Laremy Tunsil and Brandin Cooks. Tunsil is looking for a "reset the market contract" and Cooks wants out. Both are trade candidates although both would make life on a rookie QB a lot easier. Armed with cap space and draft picks the Texans are poised for an eventful and impactful off-season. And don’t be surprised if certain Patriots FAs end up in their cross-hairs. Likewise, certain Texans players could be on the move to Foxborough as well to join Bill O’Brien via trade or free agency.

Indianapolis Colts (Appx $12M under): Matt Ryan is a near certain release which will free $17M. DeForest Buckner ($19.75M) and Kenny Moore ($8.75M) are prime trade candidates as final year contracts with no dead money heading toward 30. Their only primary free agents are Yannick Ngakoue, Rodney MacLeod and Bobby Okereke. It’s a rebuild but it could go quick considering how many pieces are already in place. The down side they are in is that they may have to give up much needed assets to make sure they get "their guy" at QB-- whether it be draft or trade.

Jacksonville Jaguars (Appx $34M over): That number assumes Calvin Ridley is reinstated after the Jags traded for him at the deadline last year. And that was the Jags big move for this season. Cutting Shaquil Griffin will shed $13.7M and they’d likely be willing to give Darious Williams $11M guarantee away. Otherwise, they’ll restructure themselves under and likely look to address needs cheap and in the draft. With Walker Little in the fold, Jawaan Taylor, coming off a break out season, will likely depart in FA. It will be difficult, but not impossible, to retain Evan Engram as well. However, the Jags window is now officially open and they need add/ maintain around Trevor Lawrence.

Tennessee Titans (Appx $21M over): I pretty much addressed the Titans situation in the opener. They have a lot of bad money, numerous free agents (even if not high profile players) and no cap space. As I speculated last week, the tear down has already begun.


Denver Broncos (Appx $9M under): Graham Glasgow ($11M), Ronald Darby ($9.65M) and Chase Edmonds ($5.9M) look like they’ll be gone. The Broncos have numerous starters/ key players hitting free agency including Dre’Mont Jones, Dalton Risner, Kareem Jackson, Cam Fleming and Alex Singleton. Russel Wilson’s cap hit balloons enormously the next two seasons going from $22M to $35.4M to $55.4M. They’re pretty much all in on the return of Tim Patrick and Javonte Williams while also hoping that new HC Sean Payton can fix Russ.

Kansas City Chiefs (Appx $3M over): The easiest path to daylight is releasing 30 year-old Frank Clark thereby freeing ($21M) cap space. While that gets the Chiefs into the black, it doesn’t give them much room to deal with their free agents including both OTs (Orlando Bloom and Andrew Wylie) along with Juju Smith-Schuster and S Juan Thornhill. There is money to restructure (Chris Jones, Joe Thuney, Travis Kelce) but it will interesting to see how much the Chiefs balance the short-term with long-term when you factor how much time Andy Reid has left with how big the cap hits become for Patrick Mahomes down the road.

Las Vegas Raiders (Appx $48M under): The Raiders suddenly find themselves flushed with cap but without a QB. Along with plenty of needs and seemingly a short time line to turn it around after a disappointing year one for Josh McDaniels. You have to believe that Tom Brady was the secret plan and now that has gone kaput, it seems to me this is Aaron Rodgers or bust. I have a hard time believing they could sell Jimmy Garoppolo as a valid reason to run Derek Carr out of town. Josh McDaniels was already on the hot seat last season and a rookie or a dice roll on a Jarrett Stidham or something would very likely get him the axe. Meanwhile, they’ll need help on the OL, LB and across the secondary. Most of their free agents are fairly replaceable players, although many of those players played significant snaps for them and upgrading those areas will be costly. Two notable exceptions are Josh Jacobs and Foster Moreau and I have a hard time seeing either back as those resources likely are better utilized elsewhere. A Patrick Graham/ James Bradberry reunion would make a lot of sense. Once again, free agent signings from or trades with the Patriots is very much in play.

Los Angeles Chargers (Appx $20M over): The Chargers had hoped to create a fearsome pass rush between Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack, unfortunately Bosa was injured 5 games into the season and Mack simply isn’t what he once was. Prize free agent JC Jackson also went down a month into the season and was terrible when he had played. Keenan Allen is crossing 30 and having a hard time staying out there. The Chargers look ready to depart with him and create $14.8M in cap space. OC Cory Linsley and OG Mitch Feller are now both over 30 and would combine for a $19M cap savings. Mike Williams missed time and simply didn’t live up to his (ill-advised) $20M per price tag. There’s a lot of age and money, injury and under-performance here holding them back. And while the offense held it together for them, the defense simply (again) wasn’t good enough. Now players who had solid/ healthy season like LB Drue Tranquill, ED Morgan Fox and S Nathan Adderly are all poised to hit the FA market. Lots of work here to capitalize on the Herbert window.

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