Managing cap space in the NFL is one of the trickiest things in sports. It is not just about spending money or not spending money; it is about spending available cap space wisely.
For instance, according to www.sportrac.com, the Oakland Raiders have a league-leading $64,982,921 of cap space. The problem is no one thinks the Raiders will spend that money well enough to make themselves playoff contenders next season.
Having cap space is great, but that normally means teams have been non-competitive in recent seasons and are desperate for talent. Being desperate means teams are willing to overpay to get players to sign.
Last season the Cleveland Browns signed Paul Kruger to a five-year, $40.5 million contract, with $20 million guaranteed. That is a ton of money to pay for 26 solo tackles, 47 total tackles, and 4.5 sacks. The team had a need at outside linebacker but overpaid to sign a player who is probably a fringe starter.
Sometime a team signs a player who is a quality player but he doesn’t fit their system. The Miami Dolphins signed Mike Wallace to a five-year, $60 million contract, with $30 million guaranteed. It appeared during parts of the season that the team did not know how to utilize him in their system. He ended up with solid numbers; 73 receptions, 930 yards, and five touchdowns. However, when a team pays top dollar to a player they expect top production and that was not the case with Wallace last season.
So the question for any team is who on the open market is worth the money and fits into our system?
Here is a free agent each AFC West team should sign this free agency period.
The Broncos are not a team that has a ton of needs, but I think on offense and defense they need to be more physical. The two players that should be brought in to help establish the Broncos with a more physical identity are Vonta Leach and Karlos Dansby.
Neither player is going to break the bank, but they will bring huge impact on the field. Leach is still one of the best blocking backs in the NFL and Dansby just has a knack for making plays. Leach has won a Super Bowl and Dansby played in one, so they both bring valuable leadership to an already veteran-heavy locker room. The more guys on a team who know the sacrifices of winning, the easier it becomes to relay that message to others.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs should find a way if possible to bring back Branden Albert. He is a quality offensive lineman and they are not easy to find. Also bringing back Dexter McCluster at the right price will be crucial for the Chiefs’ special teams. The free agent the Chiefs should target is James Jones. Jones is 30 and played with Aaron Rodgers who makes everyone a star. Still, Jones will come at a reasonable price. The team will have an opportunity in the draft to address the need at tight end. This means Alex Smith could have an offense with Dwayne Bowe, Jones, McCluster, and a quality rookie tight end to control the middle of the field. The Chiefs would have no struggles being a top-five offense.
The Raiders have needs everywhere, and there is not one guy who could single-handedly come in and change the culture. The team is more than likely going to draft what they hope is the future at quarterback, but why not let him sit and wait and watch behind Michael Vick.
Vick is clearly no longer a franchise quarterback but he is serviceable, and that is more than what can be said for the Raiders current quarterback situation. Let Vick come in and take the early hits and let him run around behind what will likely be an average offensive line at best. By week 10 or so Vick will be hurt and the rookie quarterback can be inserted with little to no pressure. The Raiders likely won’t be in contention and he can come in and just play.
San Diego Chargers
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie would be a great fit for two reasons. One, signing him will weaken the secondary of the Broncos. Two, he already knows the division. He is not in the class of Richard Sherman or Darrelle Revis but he is a quality starting corner, something the Chargers are lacking.
Depending on how the market shakes out, it is foreseeable that the Chargers could bring back Shaun Phillips. He had a solid season in Denver and the Chargers sorely need pass rush help.
(Jack Dempsey/AP file)