Plenty of (cap) room to improve
Teams have approximately $711 million of combined cap space; who's in best shape?
The numbers are in.
One of the new parts of the NFL collective bargaining agreement is the ability of teams to roll over remaining cap room into the next season. The 2011 season finished with $320 million of remaining cap room. Thirty teams carried over $301.78 million of unused cap money to give the 32 teams approximately $711 million of combined room as they start to prepare for the 2012 season.
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The 2011 salary cap was $120.375 million, and the 2012 ceiling is expected to be close. The exact number is calculated based on revenues and should be available in the next week or two.
The Jacksonville Jaguars didn't spend $31 million of cap room in 2011, so they now have $45 million of room. The Kansas City Chiefs have $62.995 million after budgeting $24.014 million from the 2011 season. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, thanks to $23.519 million of carryover cap money, have the second-most cap space with $60.496 million. The Cincinnati Bengals moved over $15 million from last year and have $60 million to spend. Dan Snyder of the Washington Redskins has plenty of room to get quarterback and receiver help, thanks to $47.56 million of cap space. The 2011 playoff teams in good shape are the Denver Broncos ($50.735 million of cap room), San Francisco 49ers ($39.33 million), Atlanta Falcons ($30.6 million) and New England Patriots ($20 million). To get to the $50 million mark, the Broncos carried over $26 million of unused cap.
Four teams still have to get under the salary cap by March 13. They are the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have redone three contracts to be $11.7 million over, the Oakland Raiders ($11 million over), the Carolina Panthers ($9.6 million over) and the New York Giants ($7.3 million over).
From the inbox
Q: Now that Cortez Kennedy made the HOF, do you think that bodes well for Steve Wisniewski's chances? To me he's the exact player Kennedy was -- except he was on the O-line. I'm sure if you asked Kennedy who one of his toughest foes was he would say Wiz.
Dino in Rochester, N.Y.
A: Unfortunately, I don't think Wisniewski has a great chance. We've voted in a lot of great guards. It might take time for Wiz to get people campaigning for him to get in.
To Bill in Fountain Valley, Calif., the reason Jeff Fisher is hyped as a great coach is because he kept the Titans competitive in tough divisions. The guy knows how to coach. Greg in Philipsburg, Pa., wants to go back to 2004 and review how Philip Rivers would have done with the Giants as opposed to Eli Manning, who was traded by the Chargers to the Giants. Like Manning, Rivers would have won a Super Bowl or two in New York. Until the past two years, the AFC was tougher than the NFC for championships. Zarrick in Springfield, Va., makes this suggestion for the much-criticized Pro Bowl. He wants to dump the AFC-NFC format and replace it with top rookies going against second-year players. He also suggests a skills contest on the Friday before the game and some more celebrity events. The only problem I have with rookies being involved is that it will be hard to find 44 qualified rookies to fill out all the positions. Joe in Los Angeles offers this thought on the Pro Bowl. He'd put the game in London and hope that the star quality of the game would generate interest. That might work if the players play harder than they do now. Dan in Ewing, N.J., thinks the Pats should go after DeSean Jackson or Vincent Jackson if they are available, then trade Aaron Hernandez for a top defensive player. I like the Jackson options more than the trade. Mike in Bethlehem, Pa., can't figure out how the Packers can go from the Super Bowl to a team with a defense that lets opponents drive up and down the field. They lost their ability to pass rush. That's the reason. What they have to do this offseason is find pass-rushers to augment the ability of Clay Matthews. The hiring of Todd Haley as offensive coordinator of the Steelers surprised Jeff in Atlanta. It surprised Ben Roethlisberger, too. How their fiery personalities work together could determine the success or failure of the Steelers next season. Dave in Pittsburgh wants a prediction on the Raiders, a team he said was in position to win the AFC West in Week 12, then collapsed. I think they will struggle to get to .500 next season, but they still should win six or seven.
Kaden in Helena, Mont.
A: That depends on the team that wants to sign Manning. I can see the Redskins doing it. They have needs at wide receiver, and a Peyton-Reggie combo would work well. I'm not sold that would happen with the Miami Dolphins, Seattle Seahawks or some of the other teams. If Dan Sndyer and Mike Shanahan sell the idea of bringing Wayne, that could help Manning in his decision-making process.
Q: Everyone is talking about Miami or Washington as a good place for Manning, How about K.C.? The Chiefs aren't hot on Matt Cassel. They could re-sign Dwayne Bowe, and Jamaal Charles will be coming back from injury. I think it would be a perfect fit and could make the Chiefs into a really good team.
Tyler in Springfield, Mo.
A: That is an interesting proposition and one that isn't being discussed. Romeo Crennel and Scott Pioli have gone on the record saying they will open up the competition for the starting QB job. The thought was that they would re-sign Kyle Orton to compete against Cassel. An upgrade to Manning would be interesting. I would say it's unlikely, but the Chiefs could warm up to the idea as Manning gets closer to being released.
Q: What do you think of ditching the Super Bowl halftime show? A shorter halftime would be better.
Jennifer in Seattle
A: From a football standpoint, that wouldn't be a bad idea. But I don't see Roger Goodell scrapping the halftime show. The NFL has the most watched entertainment package in television. It draws more than just football fans. The league needs to be cautious with what goes on during the halftime show, but I don't see it going away.
Q: Even though Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski were among the best in the league at their positions in 2011, it seems like the Patriots are still lacking that physical, outside receiver. What are your thoughts on whether the Patriots will fill that void or just stand pat with what they have?
Chris in Boston
A: I agree 100 percent. When a team can use man-to-man press coverage against the Patriots, it causes major problems. The Patriots lack speed at receiver. They need another Randy Moss-type threat to open up things on the outside. They thought Chad Ochocinco could do it, but that move didn't work out because he lacks speed at this stage of his career. Go back to the Detroit Lions preseason game and the game against the Steelers. When those teams shifted into man coverages, the Patriots struggled. They probably need to do something in the draft to fix the problem.
Q: As a diehard Saints fan, I am very concerned about how they will manage to keep key players such as Jonathan Vilma and Marques Colston. They will obviously do anything to keep Drew Brees, and it might not be the worst idea to move on from Will Smith.
Elan in Santa Monica, Calif.
A: It is a concern. You also have to be concerned as a New Orleans Saints fan about losing guard Carl Nicks, who is vital to protect the pocket for Brees. One of Brees' strengths is stepping up in the pocket and firing completions. Nicks and Jahri Evans keep the pocket clean. Give the Saints some credit, though. Remember last year, when they had close to 30 unsigned players. Management did a great job of keeping the team together. The Saints have some smart people in the front office working on these problems.
Q: Do you think the Dolphins should draft a QB or an offensive lineman with their first pick? I have to say I'm getting sick of seeing these offensive linemen being drafted with their first-round pick. What do you think?
Matthew in Naples, Fla.
A: The first priority is finding a quarterback either through the draft, free agency or trades. The easy thing to do would be go for Peyton Manning or Matt Flynn. They also should try to see whether there is a chance to trade up for Robert Griffin III. After that, they can look to upgrade the offensive line, but they don't have to go crazy. They are solid at left tackle and center and some of the other spots along the line, so they might be able to get some help in free agency.
John Clayton, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Follow Clayton on Twitter @ClaytonESPN
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