Three cheers. Free agency begins in 28 days.
In the world of football economics, there are many ways to skin a cat. The Cowboys, for one shining example, managed the salary cap pretty badly after their dynasty run, but thanks to the apparent wizardry of Stephen Jones and his staff, avoided another such disaster as what befell them at the end of the 90's.
For years, the New England Patriots have avoided paying aging veterans high costs, often looking to release or trade them before they outlive their professional usefulness. This strategy seemed to work for them at the beginning of their dynasty, but hasn't allowed them to field a competitive defense over their last few attempts at greatness. We've seen that shortcoming manifest itself in two title games in five years; unable to stop game winning touchdown drives while trying to secure Lombardi number four.
The Washington Redskins miraculously stayed under the salary cap year after year, despite often signing some of the biggest free agent names available on the market, regardless of age or tread remaining on the tires. We all know how well that worked out for them, don't we?
Regardless, the Cowboys find themselves in a much different place than what was perceived at this time last year; able to spend with the rest of the competition. The new CBA allows teams to carry over remaining 2011 cap space and add it onto this coming season's available wiggle room. This might be where the previously unaccounted for $2-$3m of space is coming from.
According to Pro Football Talk, they rank eighth in the league, [UPDATE] of money available from the 2011 season's cap with just over $17 million available. Apologies, in the original write-up I claimed this total was their 2012 cap space, it is actually closer to the $12 million as discussed by Bill In DC and O.C.C. in the comments. [/UPDATE]
That is before the expected release of CB Terence Newman which frees up another $4-$6 million depending on when they do it, June 1st cut rules and all.
Follow the jump to see the full list from Pro Football Talk, including where the Cowboys NFC East competition ranks.
Here's a look at the 32 teams, ranked according to carry over cap space (as of 2/12/12), with the NFC East teams highlighted.
|Position||Team||2012 Cap Space||Position||Team||2012 Cap Space|
|1||Jaguars||$31.66 m||17||Cardinals||$7.04 m|
|2||Broncos||$27.88 m||18||Patriots||$6.66 m|
|3||Buccaneers||$25.05 m||19||Ravens||$6.18 m|
|4||Chiefs||$24.01 m||20||Packers||$5.48 m|
|5||Seahawks||$21.27 m||21||Saints||$4.22 m|
|6||Bills||$19.29 m||22||Rams||$3.5 m|
|7||Bengals||$17.59 m||23||Raiders||$3.23 m|
|8||Cowboys||$17.14 m||24||Panthers||$2.8 m|
|9||49ers||$16.87 m||25||Colts||$2.5 m|
|10||Redskins||$13.6 m||26||Chargers||$2.1 m|
|11||Eagles||$11.01 m||27||Vikings||$1.95 m|
|12||Dolphins||$9.05 m||28||Lions||$1.47 m|
|13||Browns||$8.98 m||29||Texans||$1.08 m|
|14||Jets||$8.39 m||30||Giants||$1.06 m|
|15||Titans||$8.11 m||31||Falcons||$0.747 m|
|16||Bears||$7.74 m||32||Steelers||$0. 506 m|
For a look at the entire free agency pool, check out Pro Football Focus' free agent tracker, here. Interesting to note that the Super Bowl champion New York Giants have some decisions to make with a lot of free agents and little cap space. CB Terrell Thomas and Aaron Ross are both UFA's as well as WR Mario Manningham. They also have to be considering getting Victor Cruz more money, after his phenomenal breakout campaign. All this is to say, in case Mat McBriar doesn't recover from his surgery. I'm sure his $2.2 million salary from 2011 could go to the true Super Bowl hero, P Steve Weatherford :).
Also note, the Saints will have a lot of restructuring to do after signing Drew Brees in order to keep G Carl Nicks in town. Remember though, all teams have the ability to do what Dallas did last year; extend their stars and turn "now" money into "later" money.