With all the talks about whether or not the Tennessee Titans need to go “all-in”, the fact is that they can be all-in without making stupid and reckless decisions in free agency.
Over the years many very smart people have used “the cap is a myth” as shorthand to refer to the fact that smart GMs and front offices have been able to structure contracts in a way that makes cap hits flexible enough to make most deals work.
Remember, for a decade the cap continued to rise as the NFL made more and more money. The only time that the cap became “real” was over the last two seasons when COVID restrictions meant that the NFL’s revenue took a steep hit.
With that in mind, there are two reasons why the Tennessee Titans shouldn’t be afraid to go “all in” on top free agents simply because of their potential cap hit.
Why the Tennessee Titans are in a better position than you think
It is hard to discuss how much money is realistically available for NFL teams if they restructure contracts because of the nuances of what a restructure could look like. The short version is that NFL teams can manipulate cap hits for players by converting salary (which counts against the cap) into a signing bonus (which does not).
Someone on Twitter posted an excellent visual that shows just how much space teams can create with their restructures in 2021.
The Tennessee Titans can open up around $100 million through restructures if they wanted to and if every team in the NFL opened as much space as possible then the Titans would have the 11th most money to work with.
Even if the Titans just restructured their contracts to open half of the space that they theoretically could, they would end up with $40 million without cutting anyone.
That alone would allow them the cash to keep Harold Landry (at his rumored $17 million AAV price tag) and leave room for one more huge signing without making it impossible to fill out the depth on the roster.
However, let’s just assume that the Titans restructure some contracts and cut four of the six players that they are most likely to cut. If they did that they could easily get to around $60 million and they would already have the starters to replace those cuts in-house.
The point is, it is easy enough to free up cap space for this season and that is the key.
A.J. Brown and Jeffery Simmons are going to get extensions at some point and be foundation pieces for the Tennessee Titans, and fans get nervous that restructures might hurt the team’s ability to pay those guys in the future.
Well, remember earlier when I said that the cap isn’t real? That is about to be true again because, in 2024 (not this offseason or the next, but the one after that), the NFL’s cap will reflect the TV deal the league made in 2020.
Conservative projections show that the cap could rise from $210 million in 2022, to $260 million in 2024 with a $300 million cap coming just a few years after that.
With that level of flexibility and cap growth, there is no reason that a smart front office couldn’t figure out how to manipulate the cap to do just about anything that they want to do going forward.
Does this mean that the Titans will try to sign every elite free agent on the market? No, but it does mean that if they really love a free agent they will be able to move money around to make a deal happen. Basically, the Tennessee Titans can get all the positives of “going all in” without any of the negatives attached, if they just continue to be smart with the structures of their contracts going forward.