Largest 2015 Cap Hits By Team: AFC East

Between now and the start of NFL training camps, we’ll be taking a closer look at the top 2015 cap hits for teams around the league. We began our series yesterday by focusing on the NFC East, and we’ll tackle the other East division today, as we move over to the AFC.

Listed below are the top 10 cap hits for the coming season for each of the four AFC East franchises, accompanied by some observations on the spending habits of those clubs. Let’s dive in….

Buffalo Bills:

  1. Mario Williams, DE/OLB: $19,400,000
  2. Marcell Dareus, DT: $8,060,000
  3. Kyle Williams, DL: $6,950,000
  4. Eric Wood, C: $6,650,000
  5. Jerry Hughes, DE/OLB: $6,175,000
  6. LeSean McCoy, RB: $5,500,000
  7. Charles Clay, TE: $5,000,000
  8. Leodis McKelvin, CB: $4,900,000
  9. Matt Cassel, QB: $4,750,000
  10. Sammy Watkins, WR: $4,530,819
    Total: $71,915,819

Mario Williams’ massive 2015 cap number is one of the highest in the entire NFL, and it won’t get any easier to stomach next year, when it jumps to $19.9MM. The figures make Williams a candidate to be released or to have his deal restructured if his production falls off, but he’s coming off an All-Pro season, so the Bills are likely content to carry that cap number for now, particularly with only one other player above $7MM.

While Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, Dareus, and Hughes may see their roles change this year in a new defensive scheme, the four players were all defensive linemen in 2014, so it’s interesting that they all rank in Buffalo’s top five cap hits this year. Rex Ryan and defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman will certainly enjoy working with the talented, albeit costly, group of front-seven players.

The Bills’ top-10 list also features a number of new additions, with McCoy, Clay, and Cassel all having joined the club this offseason, while Hughes signed a brand-new contract. The cap charges for McCoy, Clay, and Hughes will all rise significantly in future seasons — after totaling a combined $16.675MM cap charge in 2015, the trio will count for a combined $28.75MM against the Bills’ cap next year.

Miami Dolphins:

  1. Branden Albert, LT: $10,725,000
  2. Cameron Wake, DE: $10,450,000
  3. Brent Grimes, CB: $10,000,000
  4. Reshad Jones, S: $7,712,942
  5. Mike Pouncey, C: $7,000,000
  6. Mike Wallace, WR: $6,600,000 (dead money)
  7. Dannell Ellerbe, LB: $6,400,000 (dead money)
  8. Ndamukong Suh, DT: $6,100,000
  9. Ryan Tannehill, QB: $4,873,364
  10. Dion Jordan, DE/OLB: $4,682,276
    Total: $74,543,582

Many of the largest contracts on the Dolphins’ books have relatively modest cap numbers this year — Pouncey and Tannehill earn spots on this list, but they’ll almost certainly place higher in 2016, when their cap charges jump to $10MM+. As for Suh, his cap hit will soar to a staggering $28.6MM next season. With $157MM+ already committed to their top 51 players for 2016, the Dolphins will have some decisions to make next year.

In 2016, the team will also have to try to avoid the sort of dead money charges they’re carrying this year. Wallace and Ellerbe both earn top-seven spots here, and Brian Hartline‘s $4.2MM dead money hit nearly cracked the top 10 as well. Jordan’s cap charge might as well be dead money too, since the former third overall pick has been suspended for the season.

Despite some questionable entries within their top 10 cap hits, the Dolphins are optimistic about their chances in 2015, and that can be partially attributed to their talented and inexpensive offensive skill players — Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills, and Lamar Miller count for just over $3MM in total against the 2015 cap.

New England Patriots:

  1. Tom Brady, QB: $14,000,000
  2. Rob Gronkowski, TE: $8,650,000
  3. Nate Solder, LT: $7,438,000
  4. Sebastian Vollmer, RT: $7,020,833
  5. Jerod Mayo, LB: $6,100,000
  6. Devin McCourty, S: $6,000,000
  7. Darrelle Revis, CB: $5,000,000 (dead money)
  8. Rob Ninkovich, DE: $4,750,000
  9. Julian Edelman, WR: $4,656,250
  10. Stephen Gostkowski, K: $4,590,000
    Total: $68,205,083

Brady didn’t rank among the NFL’s top 2015 cap hits for quarterbacks, but he’s still atop the Patriots’ own list by a comfortable margin. For a team coming off a Super Bowl victory though, there aren’t many highly-priced players on New England’s roster, a reflection of the way the team manages its cap — the $68MM total for the Pats’ top 10 cap hits of ’15 is the lowest figure in the AFC East.

Of course, while the Patriots manage their cap well, that doesn’t mean that this is simply a list of their 10 best players. Revis shows up here after New England declined his option, the price the team had to pay for his one year of service. Additionally, the Pats are the only team we’ve seen so far with a kicker in their top 10, and even ones at talented at Gostkowski rarely have cap numbers this high.

New York Jets:

  1. Darrelle Revis, CB: $16,000,000
  2. D’Brickashaw Ferguson, LT: $11,698,670
  3. Nick Mangold, C: $10,407,100
  4. Brandon Marshall, WR: $9,000,000
  5. David Harris, LB: $7,500,000
  6. Antonio Cromartie, CB: $7,000,000
  7. Muhammad Wilkerson, DL: $6,969,000
  8. Eric Decker, WR: $6,500,000
  9. Breno Giacomini, RT: $5,125,000
  10. Dee Milliner, CB: $3,453,028
    Total: $83,652,798

John Idzik may not have been the general manager the Jets needed to lead the franchise back to the playoffs, but he did a good job managing the cap — New York has less than $3.5MM in dead money on its 2015 cap, which allowed the team to spend big in free agency this offseason. By comparison, the Bills have $7MM+ in dead money on their 2015 cap, the Pats have nearly $14MM, and the Dolphins are carrying over $22MM.

All the Jets’ cap room allowed the team to frontload contracts for its big free agent additions like Revis, who shows up on two separate top-10 lists in this division. Marshall and Cromartie also arrived within the last few months, while Harris signed a new contract with the team.

One name to watch from this list going forward is Wilkerson, who could be a fixture among the Jets’ top cap charges for the next few years if he signs an extension with the team. After drafting Leonard Williams sixth overall, however, the Jets are certainly under less pressure to pay Wilkerson a massive salary.

Committing nearly $84MM in cap room to the players on this list, the Jets’ total top-10 cap hit is the highest we’ve seen yet, but that can be attributed in large part to the fact that the team simply had space to burn, having carried over plenty of room from 2014. Most of those deals shouldn’t come back to haunt the franchise down the road.

Information from Over the Cap was used in the creation of this post.

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