Money Talks: NFC East Edition

In this eight-part series, we will examine the Salary Caps of every franchise in the NFL and analyze their financial storylines going forward. Credit goes to OverTheCap for providing the official figures used in this article.

Washington Redskins

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PHOTO VIA Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports

Allocation of Spending: 65 percent on offense, 35 percent on defense
Top Cap Hits for 2016: QB Kirk Cousins ($19.9M); LT Trent Williams ($10.6M); WR Pierre Garcon ($10.2M); WR DeSean Jackson ($10.2M); DE Ryan Kerrigan ($8.4M)
Key 2017 Free Agents: QB Kirk Cousins; WR Pierre Garcon
Key 2018 Free Agents: OLB Trent Murphy; C Spencer Long; RT Morgan Moses
Projected 2017 Cap Space: $54M

Once known for making horrendous and questionable signings in free agency, Washington has finally rid itself of its aging, overpaid veterans to accumulate a young and inexpensive roster which won the NFC East last year. A stickler for the draft (in the past two seasons the Redskins have signed over forty different rookies), general manager Scot McCloughan has had the luxury of overseeing a team coming off its rebuilding years amidst the fallout of the RGIII/Mike Shanahan/Bruce Allen era. And since most of the team’s homegrown talent are still on their rookie contracts or have already been locked up (Williams, TE Jordan Reed), Washington has found itself in the envious position of having lots of money to spend and not enough people to spend it on.

Of course, McCloughan also has to spend some money in re-signing Cousins, who was franchise-tagged after a career season last year. And even though the league has created a premium in overpaying for quarterbacks, the team will likely retain most of their projected cap space in spite of a Cousins extension (as such contracts are structured to have low cap hits in their first year) — so expect Washington to make splashes in free agency next offseason as they did last April. Instead, the more intriguing dilemma will be directed towards how McCloughan will replace Cousins’ supporting staff with more affordable means once his contract (and that of the recently signed Josh Norman) finally becomes as expensive as advertised.

New York Giants

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PHOTO VIA Howard Simmons/New York Daily News

Allocation of Spending: 48 percent on offense, 52 percent on defense
Top Cap Hits for 2016: QB Eli Manning ($24.4M); DE Olivier Vernon ($13M); DE Jason Pierre-Paul ($9.4M); DB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie ($8M); DB Janoris Jenkins ($8M)
Key 2017 Free Agents: DE Jason Pierre-Paul; DT Jonathan Hankins
Key 2018 Free Agents: LG Justin Pugh; C Weston Richburg; ROLB Jonathan Casillas; WR Odell Beckham Jr.
Projected 2017 Cap Space: $43M

Like the Redskins, the Giants have allocated a healthy amount of spending money in 2017 due to some poor drafting choices in the past (none of the players from the 2012 class are on the team, and only three from the 2013 class remain). However, unlike the Redskins, the Giants are coming off a free agency splurge in which general manager Jerry Reese anchored the defense by re-signing Pierre-Paul and dealing out lucrative offers to Vernon, Jenkins and Rodgers-Cromartie. By saddling nearly half of the salary cap on the defense, New York — for better or worse — seems to be intent on “reloading” its roster and getting the most out of Eli Manning before he meets his inevitable decline (he turns 36 next year).

As such, while Reese can go after (and perhaps even afford) the league’s top brass again next off-season, it is more likely that he decides to focus on the draft and the retention of his most successful draftees. Hankins, Pugh and Richburg are all finishing their rookie contracts and have preformed exceptionally for the team, but with Beckham hitting free agency in 2018 at the same time, it will be difficult for the Giants to retain the homegrown talent they have built around over the past few years. The team can create some cap room by eliminating veterans like Victor Cruz or restructuring Manning’s contract, but such is the price for spending $200M on four players in one offseason.

Philadelphia Eagles

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PHOTO VIA Howard Smith/USA TODAY Sports

Allocation of Spending: 53 percent on offense, 47 percent on defense
Top Cap Hits for 2016: LT Jason Peters ($9.7M); RT Lane Johnson ($8.1M); DE Connor Barwin ($7.4M); DT Fletcher Cox ($6.5M); DB Malcom Jenkins ($5.7M)
Key 2017 Free Agents: DT Benny Logan
Key 2018 Free Agents: RB Ryan Matthews, WR Jordan Matthews
Projected 2017 Cap Space: $13.2M

The Eagles had a fire sale last offseason and somehow managed to free themselves of almost every expensive contract they had during the Chip Kelly era. Unfortunately, the offloading of DeMarco Murray, Byron Maxwell and Sam Bradford has saddled Philadelphia with nearly $22M in dead money this season. Add to the fact that general manager Howie Roseman has handed out $280M in guaranteed salaries since the last league year (including $22M to the recently traded Bradford), and it comes as no surprise that the Eagles are projected to have the least amount of cap space to spend out of every NFL team over the next two years.

But the good news is that the Eagles’ recent commitment to young talent (and complete philosophy change) has left them without many players they need to re-sign. Likewise, since most of the homegrown players on this team (Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Mychal Kendricks) have already agreed to contract extensions, Roseman doesn’t need to immediately cut and/or restructure the expensive contracts the team currently holds. Provided he continues to stick to the rebuilding movement, then there should be enough room to retain Benny Logan and Jordan Matthews — two of the key contributors to the Eagles last year. Should Roseman instead decide to make a move in free agency next year, he can release Barwin (freeing up $7.1M), Chase Daniel ($4M), Darren Sproles ($4M) and Brandon Graham ($3.5M) to get some flexibility in the cap room. Similarly, if the Eagles don’t feel comfortable about Lane Johnson’s ability to stay on the field (he’s currently serving a 10-game suspension) then they can cut ties with him to shave off a healthy $8M.

Dallas Cowboys

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PHOTO VIA Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports

Allocation of Spending: 65 percent on offense, 35 percent on defense
Top Cap Hits for 2016: QB Tony Romo ($20.8M); WR Dez Bryant ($13M); DB Brandon Carr ($10M); LT Tyron Smith ($6.8M); MLB Sean Lee ($6.2M)
Key 2017 Free Agents: DB Morris Claiborne; WR Terrance Williams
Key 2018 Free Agents: RG Zach Martin, RT Doug Free, DB Brandon Carr, DE Demarcus Lawrence, TE Jason Witten
Projected 2017 Cap Space: -$6.3M

A perfect storm of inconsistency, bad luck and poor decision-making forebodes the Cowboy next season, as they are projected to spend over sixty million of their 2017 cap space on four players (Romo, Bryant, Travis Frederick, Smith) and venture deep into salary cap debt. Alas, this deadlock couldn’t come at a worse time, as the young, oncoming talent general manager Jerry Jones has drafted (Williams, Martin, Lawrence) will soon be looking for contract extensions and salary raises to match their play.

At its present stage, it seems unlikely that Dallas will be able to do much in the next few years. But as with most salary cap scenarios, there are ways for the Cowboys to maneuver themselves to a more flexible situation next year. Restructuring the contracts of the players listed above will definitely create some needed cap space that Dallas desperately needs. However, while this maneuver is one that will help in the short term, it will ultimately hinder the team in the future. Should Dallas continue to restructure contracts as they previous did with Romo, they will be pushing a lot of the players’ costs into guaranteed money or extended seasons and soon find themselves in the same scenario three or four seasons don’t the line. Of course, when you have young stars like Bryant the news is easier to swallow, but we’ll see if Jones will do the same to their aging superstars.

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