It's always interesting to see how teams at the bottom of salary-cap space calculations fared the season before. It's also interesting to examine how their fortunes can potentially change with just a few cuts. Franchise and transition tag season has placed a few clubs in interesting positions with free agency approaching, but as many contract advisors in the NFL like to say, the salary cap is the biggest excuse teams have. Cap magic is almost always possible, and even teams deep in the red should be out in no time.
We also have unveiled our list of teams with the most amount of money to spend during free agency, citing the latest available league records and the salary-cap analysis site Spotrac. Here are the bottom five teams:
Outlook: This number looks scary but will be flattened out after the team readjusts. Placing the franchise tag on Kirk Cousins at $19,953,000 for one year while momentarily carrying Robert Griffin III on a $16.15 million hit makes things look far worse than they are. The truth is that Washington is in good shape, even if they decide to keep DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon at their current salaries.
Outlook:Ndamukong Suh had a good season last year but for a non-edge rusher or skill position player, the $28.6 million cap number is absolutely ridiculous. We're assuming that new coach Adam Gase brought in a defensive coordinator that knows how to build a unit around Suh's strengths, but the rich deal raised questions from the very beginning. The Dolphins still have some more work to do after placing the transition tag ($12.734 million) on Olivier Vernon, unless a repeat of the Charles Clay incident happens again and frees them from the salary altogether.
Outlook: Like the Redskins, the Broncos are in better shape than they look. The team is carrying Peyton Manning at $21.5 million and Von Miller on the franchise tag number at $14.1 million. They can save more than $19 million if and when Manning is removed from the ledger. After that, the Broncos need to figure out what is happening next with DeMarcus Ware and key free agents like Malik Jackson.
Outlook: A $15.7 million hit from tagging Muhammad Wilkerson places the Jets under $10 million for the moment. The team still has to make a move with Ryan Fitzpatrick and decide if they want to part ways with easy cap casualties like Jeff Cumberland. Darrelle Revis has a big number in 2016, which won't help matters but the team saved money with the release of Antonio Cromartie.
Outlook: The Bills got into a safe space with a few cuts, but franchising Cordy Glenn -- a massive expense -- brought them back down to reality. Richie Incognito will be the next expensive domino to fall. The move puts a lot of pressure on general manager Doug Whaley, who now understands what it's like to manage a Rex Ryan team. Star power dominates, as does a win-now attitude. Cap space, however, is usually at a premium. Remember the cap space hell John Idzik walked into after the Jets let go of Mike Tannenbaum?