by Paul "Closer" Wanecski
If you want to see a team that can basically not trade a single player due to poor Salary Cap Management, you need go no further than the Tennessee Titans. Deemed as “Bills South”, Tennessee has been picking up the pieces of Bills-past for the last several years (George Wilson, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Andy Levitre just to name a few of the recent transplants). Reviewing the players currently under contract, the Titans find themselves with a lot of Salary Cap space going into 2015 and an equal space in adequate talent.
It isn’t too bad in Tennessee. They were able to lock down several offensive linemen in the last two off seasons via the NFL draft, snagging Chance Warmack and Taylor Lewan in the first round the last two years. While it is impossible to say these two will turn into cornerstones for the franchise, they haven’t been shy about addressing that need with valuable picks. They also selected Avery Williamson last year in the 5th round who went on to finish 3rd on the team with 107 tackles. These selections just move the emphasis to the continued search for a Quarterback, Pass Rusher, Cornerback, and to stabilize the running game. While the Titans invested a 2nd round pick Bishop Sankey, his season was dragged down with poor offensive line play and a carousel at the Quarterback position. The team actually had Bishop Sankey, Shonne Green, Dexter McCluster, Leon Washington, and Jackie Battle all combine for 1158 yards for an average of 3.8 yards per carry and 5 TDs. This needs desperate improvement.
While Salary Cap space is not a priority for Tennessee, it is important to address the contracts of players who are failing to meet expectations. This comes down to Andy Levitre, Kameron Wimbley, Shonne Green, and Jason McCourty. All of these players, while having filled a need, are not currently worth the contracts they are currently under.
Ryan Succop is among the only players that have earned the right to return. While not spectacular, he was solid enough to warrant a 2 or 3 year offer.
Selecting a Quarterback with the 178th selection is not a place you typically troll for a franchise player however that is where Zach Mettenberger was taken. Character concerns were paramount in his slide down the draft board, coupled with what some would call a “Solar Eclipse Release”, which means it takes him about one to two years to release the football. While Mettenberger played adequately, he isn’t the horse you want to hitch your wagon to. It wouldn’t be a shock to see Tennessee trade this pick to Philadelphia if Marcus Mariota falls out of the top spot, as the Titans need for a Pass Rusher, Cornerback may trump the opportunity to add Mariota. The only player that carries any real trade value is Tight End Craig Stevens who only has 1 year remaining on his contract. He is viewed as an under-utilized assets lost in the quarterback shuffle. The depth at that position in this upcoming draft is a hurdle as he would not be easily replaced.
With nearly $41 million dollars (and growing) in Salary Cap Space, the Titans can afford to be very aggressive in the next two seasons. Players such as Andy Levitre and Michael Griffin are set to have pretty stable cap numbers, so at this point no player will have a spike in that figure over the life of any contract that is currently on the roster. Tennessee will target another guard and tackle, after the release of former Baltimore Raven Michael Oher.
Quick Guide to the Rookie Wage Scale
by Paul "Closer" Wanecski
Assuming that Tampa Bay realizes that they are on the wrong track for building a winning franchise, expect the Buccaneers to look for young, controllable talent this offseason. Holding the 1st pick in this year’s NFL Draft, they have the possibility to either select whomever they feel is the best fit, or, trade that away to stock up draft picks for future years.
It is incredibly unlikely the Buccaneers see the post season following this offseason, as they have such a vast array of issues to address. Salary cap does not appear to be an issue in 2015, as they have around 25 Million is space. They also have had some regrettable contracts that could result in restructuring or release. Of course, no one on the roster holds more value than Mike Evans, who absolutely will not be traded. His counterpart, however, Vincent Jackson could see a move in zip code. True, his trade would cause a dead money cap hit of $4.8 million, but the move would ultimately free up $7.3 million and could allow Tampa Bay to acquire some mid-draft selections. Jackson's cap figure is the biggest hurdle in trading him; however, multiple teams will be interested. Logan Mankins has proven to be a bit of a headache, along with his play, which is not up to the $7 million he is set to make this year. If he is traded, they incur no dead money and wipe his contract clean off the books. Also, with the presence of Josh McCown (whom not one person outside of Tampa Bay thought was the answer at Quarterback), could make Mike Glennon available. Yes, Glennon is the most affordable of contracts however that might just increase his possible trade value.
Dashon Goldson may find himself in a restructure-or-be-released situation. He has not lived up to the bloated contract he signed in 2013. His release would save the team $4 million. No trade is likely given the size and remaining length on his deal.
Mason Foster (ILB) should be top priority. He was drafted in 2011, but only appeared in 11 games this season. While Foster was out, the defense saw a solid dip in production, as opposing teams scored over 12 more points a game against them. Tampa Bay could benefit from keeping him in the scheme, but as far as the defense goes, that is about all they should consider retaining with any real commitment.
The biggest question is not what position, but rather WHO the Bucs’ will draft. Jamesis Winston and Marcus Mariota are the top two quarterbacks in this draft. While many think the off-field issues with Winston will make Mariota a no-brainer for the #1 selection, nothing is ever certain on Draft Day. The rumors of Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles trading the farm for the #1 selection are running rampant, but the likelihood is slim at best. Also, with only two linebackers on the current roster, expect Tampa to address that with a player in the mold of Vic Beasley (OLB Clemson). He has the make-up Lovie Smith looks for in an outside linebacker and could be available at the end of first or start of the second round.
If there were the option of a “Check All That Apply” box that was available, it would be checked, circled and highlighted. The offensive line needs serious revision. They could conceivably need a starting Right and Left Guard, as well as a starting tackle. They should target someone like Orlando Franklin or Clint Boling, who could instantly upgrade that offense. Neither are 5-year solutions, however, having a rookie Quarterback under center should cause them to prioritize offensive line stability. Stealing Devin McCourty from New England also makes sense but after a Super Bowl ring, his price tag may have skyrocketed too far north, even though Tampa Bay does have a history of Twin defensive backs.
Quick Guide to the Rookie Wage Scale
by Paul "Closer" Wanecski and Mario "Game" Granata
With the NFL draft fast approaching, it is no mystery that money does talk, but so does draft position. To give a real brief overview on a complicated system, we are going to give you the Weekend Warrior version of how rookie contracts are handled in the NFL and how all this impacts the way teams go about players. Just to make sure everyone is aware, regardless of round, every player drafted is given a 4 year contract. Depending on where a player is drafted will impact his base salary, first and foremost. In some cases, an option year can be added, but the stipulation is that they player must have been selected in the first round.