2019 NFL Free Agency: Here are six teams with ability to spend, but won't break the bank
Breaking down the teams with at least $35 million in cap space
NFL free agency is but a few days away. The league is still focused on the repercussions of the NFL combine right now, but 100 percent of the attention will be focused on the veterans in short order. With that in mind, we figured that now is as good a time as any to take stock of what each of the league's 32 teams should have on their radar beginning next week.
To do this, we're going to break the whole league down by spending power, rather than by division or by conference. This will give us a better idea of who the big movers and shakers in the market are likely to be, and who will have to get better by making adjustments on the margins.
We began Wednesday with a few of thewith more than $65 million in cap space or more. We'll continue today (Thursday) with teams that have the ability to spend if they want, but should not necessarily be expected to break the bank. These are the teams with $35-65 million in space. Note: All cap figures via Spotrac.com.
Cap Space: $57,614,133
The Ravens surprisingly cut ties with Eric Weddle earlier this week, and according to CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora, they are preparing to make a run at Tyrann Mathieu. That fit makes a good deal of sense as they now have a need at the position and he has a ton of experience playing next to Tony Jefferson in the defensive backfield from their days in Arizona, but the release of Weddle certainly is not something that was expected around the league. He should have plenty of suitors elsewhere.
Baltimore has two other important defensive free agents set to hit the market as well. Inside linebacker C.J. Mosley is one of the most interesting available free agents, especially when you consider that there is such a perfect fit for his services in the division rival Steelers, whose inside linebackers were a disaster last season without Ryan Shazier. It would be shocking to see the Ravens let Mosley walk, but it would be flat-out flabbergasting if they let him go to the Steelers. The smart money is on them figuring out a way to retain him, even without the franchise tag.
Za'Darius Smith is also set to hit the market, and he seems the more likely of the two to walk. Baltimore has let edge players like him leave in free agency before (Pernell McPhee, for example) and they've been drafting edge guys pretty much every year to keep the cupboard stocked. The Ravens would do well to add some perimeter talent on offense to help Lamar Jackson's development, especially after releasing Michael Crabtree earlier this offseason. They can't run their entire offense through the running game and their tight ends, after all. Baltimore is typically loath to sign players who affect the compensatory pick calculus, though, so I wouldn't expect them to go shopping at the top of the market, unless it's for somebody who gets cut by another team.
Cap Space: $50,518,221
The likelihood of the Bengals spending money on outside free agents is incredibly low. No team has been more disinterested in the free agent process over the years. The Bengals draft, develop, re-sign, and collect comp picks. That's how they do business. Maybe there are some changes with Zac Taylor coaching instead of Marvin Lewis, but the overall front office philosophy seems incredibly unlikely to undergo a wild enough shift that they suddenly become major players on the market.
Cap Space: 45,740,557
Are there any notable Patriots available in free agency? (Checks free agent list: Yes! Trey Flowers and Trent Brown and Chris Hogan and Malcom Brown and Danny Shelton and Josh Gordon and Phillip Dorsett and Jonathan Jones!) If things hold to form, we can consider the Titans suitors for one or some or all of those guys. They have, after all, signed Logan Ryan, Malcolm Butler, Dion Lewis, and Josh Kline away from New England over the past few offseasons.
Tennessee's pass defense was dreadful over the middle of the field last year, and the teams is expected to release safety Jonathan Cyprien this offseason. The market is absolutely flooded with safeties this year, and the Titans should be in the mix on the middle-market guys to complement Kevin Byard and Kenny Vaccaro, whom GM John Robinson made it clear he wants to re-sign. And they should also be into the corner market given how Butler's first year with the team went. They may not be high-end shopping but they could certainly use some depth.
Guard Quinton Spain should be a priority for the team to re-sign, and if the Titans want to figure out once and for all whether Marcus Mariota is the answer at quarterback, they've got to give him a better complement of playmakers on the outside. Corey Davis flashed in big ways during his second season but was not consistent enough, and without Delanie Walker for much of the year, the Titans' pass offense didn't have many reliable targets. The only true high-end receiver available this offseason is probably Golden Tate, but they Titans could take a flier on someone like Adam Humphries, Randall Cobb, Cole Beasley, Tyrell Williams, Chris Conley, Michael Crabtree, or Jermaine Kearse, depending on what kind of player they're looking for. They've got to add something at that spot, though.
Cap Space: $39,618,044
Almost all of what will prove interesting about the Cardinals in free agency is how it allows us to read into their draft day plans. Arizona owns the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NFL Draft and rumors are absolutely everywhere that they're planning to trade Josh Rosen so they can draft Kyler Murray at No. 1 overall. What they do in free agency could potentially give us some clues about their plans, though it's possible and indeed very likely that anyone and everyone will read too much into everything and also come away with disparate conclusions from the same series of moves.
The Cards have a ton of holes to fill everywhere on the roster and if they're not picking Murray at No. 1, the smart move would probably be to trade down out of the spot for a haul of selections that would allow them to start fleshing out their depth. If they do decide on Murray, then Rosen could be moved for another, later pick and they have to start bringing in the kind of infrastructure that will allow Murray to succeed.
Last year's team had an incredibly uncreative offense, but whatever creativity it did have was undermined by the dreadful offense line. That would be a good place to start. Adding another receiver to complement Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk -- both of whom are most effective in the slot -- would be a strong idea, and the Cards could be in the market for an edge rusher if they decide not to bring back Markus Golden.
Cap Space: $35,459,718
There is perhaps no team with more at stake this offseason than the Rams.
Valuable contributors like Ndamukong Suh, Lamarcus Joyner, Dante Fowler, and Rodger Saffold are all free agents. There is not enough money to bring all of them back. Decisions also have to be made on players like Marcus Peters, as well as potentially Jared Goff, Michael Brockers, Aqib Talib, and more regarding contract extensions. Hanging over all this is the situation with Todd Gurley, and whether or not they'll be able to -- or need to -- bring C.J. Anderson back for another go-round. Not having a full-strength Gurley dramatically changes the composition of the team and offense, and it will be fascinating to see how the Rams would react to that.
The best bet to return among the various high-level free agents seems like Saffold, if only because the offensive line is such an important part of the team's success and he has been there for longer than Suh and Fowler and hasn't already been franchised twice like Joyner. Still, if the Rams can bring any or all of them back on agreeable deals, that'd be a good idea.
They'll likely need to add another safety if Joyner walks, and they definitely need to find a way to add some talent on the edge. Clay Matthews has been mentioned as a fit given his southern California roots, but if Justin Houston is willing to come on down and play for Wade Phillips, that would be an excellent fit as well. Some guys slightly on the cheaper side might be Derrick Morgan, Marcus Golden, John Simon, or one of the Broncos' Shane Ray or Shaq Barrett.
Cap Space: $35,411,895
The Lions are likely to let Ezekiel Ansah leave for greener pastures this offseason, and they are a natural fit for the top available edge rusher in the Patriots' Trey Flowers given that both GM Bob Quinn and coach Matt Patricia came to Detroit from New England and were part of the team that brought Flowers there in the first place. The Lions have needed edge help for years and paying Flowers big money to be that guy would be as good a way as any to finally get it. They brought in Snacks Harrison last season to improve their run defense, and if they can finally start getting to the passer more often, maybe their pass defense will take a leap as well.
The Lions appear to have a well-rounded, three-down back in Kerryon Johnson, but Patricia has also made it clear that he just likes using a rotational system so it'll be interesting to see if they look for a LeGarrette Blount type who is not Blount himself after he was so ineffective last season. Theo Riddick essentially operates as another slot receiver but finding someone at that spot to complement Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay on the outside would make a good deal of sense. They seem to like big wideouts so Chris Conley could be a fit, but if they decide to go with a smaller, shiftier Julian Edelman type, well, Cole Beasley and Adam Humphries are available.
There's also been buzz about the Lions coming back onto the tight end market after Eric Ebron left for the Colts last offseason, and Jared Cook and Tyler Eifert could make sense as lower-cost(ish) fliers, unless they decide they'd rather address the position in the draft.
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