<
>

Rating how active every NFL team will be in free agency

play
Clayton: Jags', Raiders' free agent options (1:18)

ESPN NFL senior writer John Clayton breaks down potential free agent targets for Jacksonville and Oakland. (1:18)

Last week, NFL Nation reporters took a look at the salary-cap flexibility of all 32 teams. Now, they're evaluating how active each team will be in using that salary-cap space in the free-agent market, which kicks off next week. Using three categories -- active, will pick their spots and standing pat -- here are the results.

ACTIVE

Cincinnati Bengals: There will be a flurry of activity for the Bengals just before and just after free agency begins, as they try to re-sign as many of their 14 unrestricted free agents as possible. Most of them have been key contributors the past two seasons. With more than $37 million in cap space, the team believes it can bring back a reasonable number of its free agents. Aside from trying to maintain roster continuity, the Bengals will be quiet in free agency. Their longtime approach has been to stand pat with respect to adding outside veteran free agents and opt instead to build the roster through the draft. -- Coley Harvey

Houston Texans: The Texans have a lot of needs and won't be able to get to all of them in the draft. Although most of the talk about the Texans' quarterback position has centered around the draft, they'll be keeping an eye on the quarterback free-agent market, in case someone who could help becomes available. A receiver could be in the works. They will also look to free agents to bolster their defense -- particularly at safety and defensive end. -- Tania Ganguli

Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars have the most cap space available (approximately $80 million) and have a slew of needs on defense. They are expected to pursue free safety Eric Weddle, as well as defensive end Olivier Vernon, who the Dolphins gave the transition tag on Tuesday. It wouldn't be a surprise if they went after a player (or two) who receives a non-exclusive or transition tag. The Jaguars did that with Alex Mack in 2014. -- Mike DiRocco

Los Angeles Rams: The Rams are flush with cap space and prepared to spend it, but there's an important caveat that goes with this designation: The bulk of the money the Rams spend will be on their own free agents, rather than on some lavish spending spree that brings in outside pieces. That's not to say they won't sign a player or two from another team, but their priorities are to keep their secondary intact -- they gave the franchise tag to cornerback Trumaine Johnson on Tuesday -- and sign young, core players such as defensive tackle Michael Brockers and linebacker Alec Ogletree, who aren't yet unrestricted free agents. -- Nick Wagoner

New York Giants: The Giants have the fifth-most cap room of any team in the league and need seven new starters on a defense that ranked 32nd last season. They also need a wide receiver to replace free agent Rueben Randle and could stand to upgrade at right guard, right tackle and tight end. They're working to re-sign pass-rushers Jason Pierre-Paul and Robert Ayers before free agency starts, but even if they do that, this is a roster in need of significant and extensive repair. The Giants have the means to use free agency on those repairs, and they will spend. -- Dan Graziano

Oakland Raiders: With more than $74.1 million in cap space, the Raiders have the second-most such room in the NFL, behind only the Jaguars. But the Raiders have a promising core with quarterback Derek Carr, wide receiver Amari Cooper and outside linebacker/defensive end Khalil Mack, which might make the team appealing to free agents. That's especially true considering the Raiders know where they will be playing this year -- Oakland -- as well as, potentially, the next two years, with the team holding options to stay at the Coliseum. Pay particularly close attention to the Raiders' rebuilding of their secondary. -- Paul Gutierrez

San Francisco 49ers: Whether they will be successful in utilizing their more than $55 million in cap space, which ranks sixth in the league, is another question entirely, especially given general manager Trent Baalke's recent failings here, which he has readily admitted. Sure, the Niners have all the bells and whistles that come with a shiny new stadium, but free agents have to want to play for new coach Chip Kelly ... and Baalke ... and CEO Jed York. Also, they have to believe that the recent dysfunction surrounding the franchise is more anomaly than norm. -- Paul Gutierrez

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs need help on defense, especially at defensive end and in the secondary, and are expected to pursue defensive end Olivier Vernon, though the Dolphins can match any offer. General manager Jason Licht hasn't exactly hit a home run in free agency the past two seasons, as he missed on Anthony Collins, Michael Johnson, Henry Melton and Sterling Moore. -- Mike DiRocco

Tennessee Titans: We can't say for sure, as we haven't seen Jon Robinson operate as a general manager yet, but the Titans have more holes than can be filled by rookies expected to contribute from the start. They have a leadership void they need to fill with some experienced guys. I think the class will include mostly players getting their second NFL contracts. -- Paul Kuharsky

WILL PICK THEIR SPOTS

Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons have the potential to make a lot of free-agent moves based on their variety of needs, but they seem unlikely to make a big splash, unless they decide to pursue Seattle's Bruce Irvin. Pass-rush help, speed at linebacker, a complementary wide receiver to Julio Jones and the interior of the offensive line are areas of emphasis. -- Vaughn McClure

Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals need a pass-rusher and might spend big on a top-tier rusher. Other than that, Cardinals general manager Steve Keim will pick his spots. Arizona will need to address cornerback and safety but might wait until the second or third day to begin filling those spots. -- Josh Weinfuss

Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens are often methodical in free agency and typically wait until the first wave to get better bargains. Since 2010, Baltimore has given more than $4 million guaranteed to one free agent from another team (linebacker Elvis Dumervil). It wouldn't be surprising if the Ravens add a veteran cornerback and wide receiver in free agency. -- Jamison Hensley

Carolina Panthers: General manager Dave Gettleman typically waits for the market to settle, preferring to sign his own players and go for bargains in free agency. Look for him to consider a player such as San Diego safety Eric Weddle once the market settles. The Panthers will also be looking for midrange free agents to add depth on the offensive line and at cornerback. -- David Newton

Chicago Bears: Just because the Bears are flush with salary cap space ($50 million-plus) does not mean general manager Ryan Pace intends to spend recklessly. Pace took a modest approach to free agency last year, when he awarded midsize deals to veterans Pernell McPhee, Eddie Royal and Antrel Rolle. The Bears are expected to use the same philosophy in 2016, which will mean spreading their resources to sign a couple veteran upgrades and bringing back their key free agents, notably wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, whom they franchised on Monday. The Bears are committed to rebuilding their roster via the draft, with free agency serving as a supplemental pipeline. There is no reason for Chicago to overspend when the new league year begins. -- Jeff Dickerson

Cleveland Browns: The Browns insist they will build through the draft, but there are too many needs to completely ignore free agency. Pay attention to the receiver spot, where two of the players Hue Jackson coached in Cincinnati are expected to hit the market. -- Pat McManamon

Dallas Cowboys: Stephen Jones is on record saying he is not a fan of free agency because good players get great money. The bang for the buck is not always worth it. The Cowboys will have enough salary-cap space to do what they want in free agency, and the goal will be to fill holes so they build a pure draft board and don't go into the draft with a pressing need. The Cowboys most recently spent big in free agency in 2012, when they gave Brandon Carr a five-year, $50 million deal that will cost them $13.8 million in cap space this year. They will not set the market on a player, but they will be able to find help. -- Todd Archer

Detroit Lions: Bob Quinn is in his first go-around as a general manager, so there isn't much on which to base his free-agency strategy. While the Lions need help in multiple spots -- offensive line, defensive line, secondary, wide receiver and linebacker -- a lot of the building will be done through the draft, in which Detroit is expected to have a plethora of picks. The Lions will make a run at some players -- a veteran cornerback is needed for a young group, and there are a lot of good options at safety as well -- but don't expect Detroit to make a ton of big-name moves. The Lions have a good amount of cap space, but expect them to be judicious in whom they sign. -- Michael Rothstein

Denver Broncos: For the most part, the Broncos will try to sign their own free agents and will largely stay in-house with their budget as they pursue deals with linebacker Von Miller -- who received the franchise tag -- quarterback Brock Osweiler and defensive end Malik Jackson, among others. They will work toward those and look to the open market only once they know how they have fared in those negotiations, particularly with Miller and Osweiler. Linebacker Danny Trevathan and safety David Bruton Jr. are also free agents. -- Jeff Legwold

Green Bay Packers: Considering general manager Ted Thompson's usual inactivity in free agency, the Packers might look active. The Packers were the only team in the league that did not sign a free agent off another team last offseason. Last week at the NFL scouting combine, coach Mike McCarthy said "we might shock you this year" in free agency. Perhaps that was McCarthy's way of urging Thompson to fill some holes with veteran players, but there's a sense that the Packers will make a move or two before the draft. -- Rob Demovsky

Indianapolis Colts: This year will see a completely opposite approach of last year's, as the Colts were very active on the free-agent market. They have only about $25 million in cap space, which means they have to be smart about how they spend their money to try to fill voids at offensive line, pass-rusher, cornerback and backup running back. -- Mike Wells

Kansas City Chiefs: Much depends on what the Chiefs accomplish in terms of re-signing their many potential unrestricted free agents before the market opens for business. If the Chiefs suffer heavy losses through free agency, which is possible, particularly on defense, they'll have no choice but to fill some holes with other teams' players. If they're able to retain many of the players they hope to, they won't be particularly busy in free agency. -- Adam Teicher

Miami Dolphins: Do not expect another Ndamukong Suh-like signing from the Dolphins this year. The team is in the process of cutting and restructuring contracts in order to clear enough cap room to make a few moves. Most of Miami's free-agent signings will add much-needed depth in areas such as linebacker, offensive line and secondary, and they will happen without the huge splash we've seen in recent offseasons. -- James Walker

Minnesota Vikings: General manager Rick Spielman said the Vikings could "dabble" in free agency, but they haven't done anything more aggressive than that in Spielman's time as GM. It could make sense for the team to look at an offensive lineman in free agency, and the Vikings have shown an affinity for defensive players Mike Zimmer coached in Cincinnati. But it's unlikely they'll throw large sums of money at players from other teams. Their biggest moves could be to re-sign a few of their own players and work on a contract extension for safety Harrison Smith. -- Ben Goessling

New Orleans Saints: As usual, the Saints are slammed pretty tightly against the cap, but they have never let that stop them from being aggressive with one or two key free-agency additions. General manager Mickey Loomis and coach Sean Payton typically prefer to seek bargains in the second or third tier of free agency ($4-5 million per year), rather than go after the elite, top-dollar guys. But they have gotten burned doing both over the past two seasons (Jairus Byrd in 2014, Brandon Browner and C.J. Spiller in 2015). -- Mike Triplett

New York Jets: Priority No. 1 is retaining their top free agents, namely Ryan Fitzpatrick, Damon Harrison and Chris Ivory. Muhammad Wilkerson was given the franchise tag. It'll be a neat trick if the Jets keep them all, considering they have limited cap space. The bulk of the spending could be done by March 9. If they need to replace a player, they probably will be limited to moderately priced free agents. -- Rich Cimini

Philadelphia Eagles: The team's recent focus -- signing current players to contract extensions -- can be read as a sign that there won't be a repeat of the 2011 "Dream Team" or 2015 Chip Kelly Spree. But Howie Roseman has the cap space and the inclination to shop the second tier of free agents, players who don't get the mega-deals but can add quality to the roster. -- Phil Sheridan

Pittsburgh Steelers: The Steelers have $14 million in adjusted cap space before Heath Miller's $4 million salary comes off the books. They have to spend coin somewhere. The Steelers are aligned with the Packers, Patriots and other teams that use free agency as supplemental bargain shopping. They won't entertain the first-week frenzy, but five key defensive backs are free agents, so the team can designate money to rebuilding that position, likely from the open market's second tier. -- Jeremy Fowler

San Diego Chargers: With more than $30 million in cap space, the Chargers have money to spend in free agency. However, the organization's philosophy is to build through the draft and use free agency to supplement the team's roster. Couple that with the fact that San Diego missed on high-dollar, free-agent signings such as Derek Cox and Donald Butler, and the expectation is the Chargers will go bargain-hunting at the lower end of the market, where they had recent success with signings such as Danny Woodhead, Patrick Robinson and Joe Barksdale. -- Eric D. Williams

Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks have the core of their roster in place, but seven of the team's 22 regular starters are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents. If those players find attractive offers elsewhere, Seattle will have holes to fill. Offensive line and defensive tackle are two areas of interest. If Bruce Irvin signs with another team, the Seahawks will look to add someone who can compete at outside linebacker. The profile for that position in this defense is a player who can provide pass rush off the edge but is athletic enough to drop back into coverage. -- Sheil Kapadia

Washington Redskins: This doesn't mean they won't try to fill holes, but it has been a while since the Redskins pursued big names, and their cap will restrict how active they can be. As such, they'll actively pick their spots. General manager Scot McCloughan said they won't go crazy, and besides, they have very little available cap space. They can free more room, but they also have to worry about re-signing some key players, notably linebacker Junior Galette. Quarterback Kirk Cousins received the franchise tag on Tuesday. -- John Keim

STANDING PAT

Buffalo Bills: Doug Whaley told reporters at the end of the season that they could take the first week of free agency off. I'm not sure that will fly with my boss, but Whaley's point was that the Bills' tight salary-cap situation will make them non-factors in the market for outside free agents. Their focus will be on retaining left tackle Cordy Glenn and left guard Richie Incognito. -- Mike Rodak

New England Patriots: The biggest free-agent priority for the Patriots is positioning themselves financially for four promising defenders whose contracts expire after the 2016 season: LBs Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower, DE Chandler Jones and CB Malcolm Butler. If the Pats break the bank in free agency, it would be a surprise if it's for anyone outside that group. That said, New England will likely make at least one strategic, mid- to low-level signing to address a need. -- Mike Reiss