The Tennessee Titans Salary Cap: What $19.4M Really Means


Hopefully we see more of this in 2013. But at what cost? Mandatory credit: Don McPeak-US Presswire

The Tennessee Titans are widely reported to have $19.4M in salary cap room going into the 2013 season.  Sounds like a good chunk of change right?  Here we’re going to do a little break down of how far that $19.4M will really go in this years free agency.

Who They Want To Keep

Let’s start with the Tennessee Titans’ Free Agents that they will probably want to keep:

Jared Cook:  The Titans would like to work out a longer term deal here to be a little more cap friendly,  but after Cook’s comments last year,combined with his sporadic play, I don’t see that happening.  Let’s assume Cook gets the the franchise tag for about $6M.

Rob Bironas:  Bironas had his worst year as a Titan this past season with 6 missed field goals and good deal less attempts than usual.  He’s been an integral part of the team for years now and is usually steadfast and reliable.  Not many teams can count on their kicker to nail 50+yard field goals like Bironas.  For arguments sake let’s say the Titans resign him at about $1.5M.

Sen’Derrick Marks:  A second round pick in 2009, Marks has slowly gotten better and better.  The question is whether he’s going to continue to improve or not.  He’s current ability on this squad is average.  He seems better than he really is due to his progression from the basement.  If the Titans can get someone like Canty to sign, Marks could be shown the door. Another team will probably overpay for #94 so in this scenario I say let him walk and give someone else the same money he’ll get elsewhere.

Fernando Velasco:  Velasco filled in for the injured Eugene Amano after Amano tore his triceps before the season even started.  Velasco was the interior offensive line’s lone star this year.  Earning a a solid +13.0 rating on PFF with over 1,000 snaps, Velascoe could easily be penciled in at center or guard.  Signing him is a must for the Titans.  Amano’s salary was $4.5M, so I say boot Amano or bring him back on the cheap and give Velasco a good long term deal.  Structured right he should only cost the Titans $3M next year.

The Rookies

For the purpose of this article, combined with the Titans high draft position, we’re going to assume that the Titans need to reserve about $5m in cap space in order to sign the upcoming rookie class.

New Contracts

The third part of this equation is reworking some of the existing contracts.

Matt Hasselbeck has already said that he is open to reworking his contract that would currently have him making $5.5M and counting $7.5M against the cap.  That’s simply too much for a back up even if he could be starter elsewhere.  Let’s shave some off that number and give him another year on the deal.  New cap number is $4M, a savings of $3.5M.

Steve Hutchinson signed on as a free agent last year and was supposed to fill the void on the interior line.  Hutch played well at times but not spectacular and his age began to show as injuries took their toll late in the season.  He’s currently scheduled to make $4.75M with a cap hit of $6.75M after his pro rated bonus and a roster bonus.  This is just too much for an interior lineman of his age and the production we saw last year.  Hutch either reworks his deal or we get someone cheaper for about $4M, which should save the Titans $2.75M.

Lavelle Hawkins is scheduled to make about $2M this year for some unknown reason.  This is ridiculous.  I say this number goes away completely and at worse gets replaced by another player making half as much.  $1M savings.

The bottom end of the roster will all wash out.  The Titans may or may not sign the likes of Tracy Wilson, Zach Clayton, or Collin Mooney, etc.  Either way, they will have a roster spot for someone that will make basically the same amount of money.

What We Are Left With

After resigning the guys the Titans would like to keep, as well as their rookies, it looks like they are left with a mere $4M.  

If they get to restructure the contracts we spoke of though, they can free up another $7.25M easily.

There’s also been an escalator in both Verner and Damien Williams contracts that’s going to cost the Titans another $1.5M.

Which all leaves the Titans with just under $10M to spend.

**** Here’s the trick****

If you cut 9 of the bottom end of the roster making about $500,000 each in order to find a place for your rookies, which we’ve already accounted for,  you pick up another $3.5M.

So the grand total is……

$13.5M.  Not near as good sounding as the $19.4M we started with, but still enough to work with.

What To Do

Most of the above is hypothetical of course, but I don’t think it will be too far off from what shakes out.  The Titans may sit down with and restructure a lot of the players scheduled to make good money, but not all of them are going to continue to push off a god pay day when they know they could get that money this year from another team.

The other way to free up more money is that you keep the bottom end of the roster and cut players like Hawkins that are scheduled to make a good bit more than the $500,000 we spoke of.  Babineaux, for example,  would save the Titans $1.6M in cap room if let go, depending on who they pick up.

Assuming the Titans end up with around $14M, and down a defensive tackle (remember we let Marks go), then the Titans should still have some good options:

  • Pick up another DT or keep Marks for around $4M. I.E. Chris Canty
  • Sign a stud Safety, Guard or DE that will cost you big.  Hopefully no more than $6M-$7M for 2013. This is your Levitre/George Wilson, Kruger category.
  • Sign another of the above on the next tier down for the remaining $4M or so.

The Titans may need to spend bigger money up front to land a top tier FA that they are targeting, which would obviously lessen the pool for the other positions of need.   I would hate for them to spend all their money in one place this off season, which would be unlike the Titans anyways.  They need to act fast though, as last year showed us if you wait too long, you still pay top dollar without getting top talent.

Now you have your main holes shored up and are ready to draft without “need” forcing your hand on a pick.

Simple, right?

How would you spend the money?

Find Me on Twitter  @gunnelsj