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Once the clock strikes zero and the Super Bowl is decided, all 32 NFL teams begin their offseason, which starts with the always anticipated free agency period.
The 2015 crop of free agents boasts a number of superstars, many of which are expected to swap uniforms. But who is in the best position to land these prized players?
Here are six teams with excellent projected salary cap situations in order to make a run:
New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees‘ window coming to a close in New Orleans, so the team must act to keep the talent around him in order to perhaps give him one final run at the Super Bowl.
Expected to be on their way out the door is veteran wide receiver Marques Colston and guard Jahri Evans, which will further boost their cap salary situation. Already, the Saints are projected to be about $23 million over a $140 million salary cap limit.
Of course, Brees is likely to re-work his contract in order to provide further relief for his team, which needs to address the secondary, offensive line, and even wide receiving unit. Mark Ingram is an unrestricted free agent, and after a career year he’s due for a raise should the team retain him.
Kansas City Chiefs
Once the Chiefs slap pass-rusher Justin Houston with a franchise tag, the team’s cap space will rise to close to $15 million. Then you factor in that Tamba Hali, 31, is in the final year of his deal, and if released Kansas City can save another $9 million against the cap. And releasing Dwayne Bowe saves another $5 million.
For a team that needs to bolster its entire wide receiving corps, among other areas, the Chiefs would be wise to be aggressive in free agency. They were nearly a playoff team in 2014 with a lot of weak spots up and down the roster, so being that close with limited talent should motivate the front office to make some moves.
Alex Smith should, and likely will, have to rework his contract, too. The Chiefs could be a team that with the right moves could sneak into the playoff mix as early as 2015.
This situation is very much contingent on whether the Cardinals can restructure the deals of Larry Fitzgerald, Carson Palmer, and Calais Campbell, who are three of the four players who carry a cap charge of more than $14.5 million in 2015.
Releasing Fitzgerald gives Arizona another $9.2 million, which might have to be the direction it goes in if he’s unwilling to accept a pay reduction. Perhaps Palmer will also be a candidate for release, and the Cardinals could use that money on another quarterback.
Getting Daryl Washington and Darnell Dockett back after a lost season is almost like getting two new defensive stars, but Arizona also might want to continue to build its offensive line to protect whoever is starting under center in 2015.
Expect the Jags to be very aggressive in free agency, as the team’s head coach’s job might depend on it. Jacksonville has a projected cap space of $60 million and maybe more depending on who the team elects to cut.
The issue for the Jaguars is luring free agents to Jacksonville, where obviously the franchise lacks a winning tradition. Offensively, they’ll need to try and find weapons for soon-to-be second-year quarterback Blake Bortles. In addition, some offensive line reinforcements would help to better protect him and maybe spark semblance of a running game.
Defensively, Gus Bradley has assembled a solid core of defensive players, but the defensive line needs to be addressed. Hey, Ndamukong Suh is a free agent, and with so much money it’s hard not to consider Suh as a target.
The Raiders whiffed in free agency last year, spending enormous amounts on money on past-their-prime veterans like Justin Tuck and Lamarr Woodley, which proved to be horrible investments.
This year, again, Oakland is in position to go after high-priced free agents. The team is set up to have about $57.5 million before cutting the likes of Woodley, Matt Schaub and Maurice Jones-Drew, who combined can help that number balloon to almost $70 million.
Like the situation with Bortles in Jacksonville, Jack Del Rio must try to find weapons to help out rising sophomore quarterback Derek Carr, whose best wide receiver was James Jones a year ago. The team also needs to address its running game, as well as the defensive line and secondary.
New York Jets
The last two Jets general mangers were salary cap savants, and even though Mike Tannenbaum and John Idzik are now out of town, they left Mike Maccagnan in prime position to revamp this roster.
The Jets are projected with about $48 million in cap room, and maybe more depending on what they decide to do with Percy Harvin and his $10.5 million cap hit. By releasing veterans such as Calvin Pace and Chris Johnson, and maybe re-structuring Harvin’s deal, they could win up with upwards of $58 million in spending money.
It’s unknown whether the Jets will draft a quarterback, sign one in free agency or both, but that’s the top priority. C.J. Spiller has been mentioned as a target to perhaps replace Johnson and reunite with former head coach Chan Gailey. Linebacker David Harris is an unrestricted free agent, as are some key contributors in the secondary that Todd Bowles might want to try and rebuild around.
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