The National Football League employs a salary cap, something many teams are trying to figure out creative ways to circumvent. Some of those teams get greedy and backload massive contracts and try to restructure larger deals on a yearly basis, pushing the money further into the future.
At some point, you must pay the price. The New Orleans Saints are the ultimate case and point, but we will get there. Another problem for certain general managers is not knowing when to cut bait, keeping too many bloated contracts on the books.
5. Miami Dolphins ($1.7 million)
Miami has a ton of big contracts on the books, and there is no easy way to cut payroll without hurting the on-field product. The Dolphins are paying Dannell Ellerbe $9.85 million this season and could release him to save $5.6 million, but the dead money is fairly significant. Mike Wallace is slated for $12.1 million but has a $6.6 million hit in dead money if cut. Miami desperately needs to make a few upgrades but doesn’t have the money to do so.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (-$1.7 million)
Pittsburgh has been in salary cap hell for years, allowing players like Emmanuel Sanders and Wallace to leave in recent years. The Steelers once again have to get creative and will start by giving Ben Roethlisberger an extension. Once Roethlisberger’s cap hit is lowered, Pittsburgh is hamstrung in terms of opening up more space. The Steelers are locked into a bunch of larger deals including Cortez Allen, Lawrence Timmons and Mike Mitchell.
3. San Francisco 49ers ($1.3 million)
The 49ers are under the cap but have a litany of important players hitting free agency. San Francisco can cut Vernon Davis to save $5 million, perhaps helping it re-sign Frank Gore. Michael Crabtree and Mike Iupati are also hitting the market and are likely to walk, due in part to Colin Kaepernick’s insane contract. The 49ers might have a very different look by the time the NFL Draft rolls around on April 30.
2. Arizona Cardinals (-$10.1 million)
Arizona’s problem is simple; it has an extremely top-heavy cap. The Cardinals have massive contracts in Larry Fitzgerald, Patrick Peterson, Calais Campbell, Carson Palmer and Darnell Dockett. Fitzgerald could be cut as a post-June 1 designation for a savings of more than $14 million, but general manager Steve Keim has stated the team is interested in retaining him. Arizona needs to fix running back and the offensive line, but doesn’t have the resources.
1. New Orleans Saints (-$23.2 million)
This is a complete train wreck. General manager Mickey Loomis has been playing fast and loose with the cap for years and is about to pay the toll. The Saints will need to release a boatload of players even after they likely tinker with Drew Brees’ deal. New Orleans will probably be cutting Marques Colston, Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs. At some point, Loomis is going to blow this whole thing sky high and move on.