Manning, Wilfork, Johnson & Meyers Signal Movement at Top
On Tuesday, I published a column on FBF titled ‘Which NFL Teams Have the Highest Number of Top 5 Salaries?’ You can find the link for your reference here:
In just three days, a number of teams have already started adjusting their Top 5 salaries.
Welcome to the NFL, where contracts often seem more like fantasy football figures that fund them.
Below, you’ll find a rundown of NFL teams and their current standings in terms of Top 5 salaries following recent adjustments.
Houston has emerged as the most proactive team in recent days, parting ways with two of their Top 5 salaries.
They released their longstanding center, Chris Myers, and have allowed star wide receiver Andre Johnson to explore trade opportunities, with an outright release being the more probable outcome.
Head coach Bill O’Brien’s decision to let go of these veteran players signals a shift towards a younger (and more cost-effective) roster.
While Houston may be on the brink of success, they seem to be opting for a strategy of creating space and investing in youthful talent rather than attempting to buy their way into playoff contention.
When you’re not achieving the desired results, there’s a natural inclination to reconsider holding onto high-value contracts.
New England finds itself in a somewhat uncertain position after choosing not to exercise the option on the revered Patriot, Vince Wilfork.
It remains to be seen whether they are shedding one Top 5 salary to accommodate another (potentially Devin McCourty).
As a result, the overall impact of these moves may ultimately balance out.
Philadelphia has been the most unexpectedly assertive team in terms of contract decisions this winter.
They traded their standout running back, LeSean McCoy, to Buffalo, making them the sole NFL team without a Top 5 salary in any position.
But the Eagles’ bold moves don’t end there. They also parted ways with CB Cary Williams and DE Trent Cole.
This holds significance because although the latter two didn’t have Top 5 contracts, McCoy, Williams, and Cole represented three of the four highest-paid Eagles on the 2014 roster.
Philadelphia essentially amputated its own salary cap constraints.
This move might indicate a philosophical shift across the entire roster, steering away from an over-concentration of top contracts in favor of a more evenly-balanced team composition.
Alternatively, they could simply be swapping out old Top 5 players for new ones. It’s unclear at this point.
However, keeping a close watch on how things unfold in Philadelphia after the conclusion of free agency—and observing the team’s success if they remain at the bottom of the league in terms of Top 5 salaries—will be essential viewing for salary cap enthusiasts.
Denver, a team that heeded my suggestion to restructure Peyton Manning’s contract, thus removing him from the realm of Top 5 cap hits, now finds itself in an intriguing position.
With Manning’s new deal, they transitioned from having four Top 5 salaries to three.
However, it’s worth noting that one of the remaining three is the franchise tag on WR Demaryius Thomas.
Additionally, considering that free agent TE Julius Thomas is likely to command what would constitute a new Top 5 contract for tight ends, the future composition of the Broncos roster is at a pivotal juncture.
Recent history indicates that franchised players often move on to other teams in the following year, making it far from certain that Thomas’s Top 5 contract will remain with the team for an extended period.
Moreover, while Manning’s contract saw a $4 million reduction, it remains uncertain whether the Broncos plan to allocate that savings toward retaining Julius Thomas.
All things considered, the Broncos could either return to the echelon of teams carrying a higher number of top salaries, or they could adopt a more balanced overall roster makeup.
The decision regarding the two Thomases could potentially exert a positive or negative influence on the team’s future composition, assuming Denver doesn’t seek out another player to add to the Top 5 list.
This represents a significant shift in one direction or the other.
As free agency unfolds, sometimes yielding results and sometimes not, the rearrangement of Top 5 contracts will persist, significantly impacting the composition of teams striving for a championship. The endpoint of this process remains uncertain.
However, as long as the ability to sign a highly productive player to a lucrative contract and subsequently release them exists, the whirlwind of changes at the highest levels of rosters is bound to continue.