Vikings Rumors

Falcons Prefer Kirk Cousins To Justin Fields?

The team most closely tied to a veteran QB upgrade going into free agency, the Falcons appear readier to come out of this offseason with a more experienced passer than Justin Fields.

Although a recent odds update placed the Falcons atop the list for Fields, some around the league believe the Rams-influenced scheme OC Zac Robinson will implement in Atlanta will lead the team toward pass-first options like Kirk Cousins or Baker Mayfield. If the Vikings or Buccaneers cannot keep their starters off the market, the Falcons appear poised to make a run.

Connected already to being interested in both passers, the Falcons indeed have done work on the veterans. The Vikings are “loosely bracing” for Cousins to remain unsigned by the March 11 legal tampering period and test the market, ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler indicates. This would open the door for the Falcons to talk to the free agent-to-be, with Fowler adding the team has done plenty of work on Cousins, Fields and Mayfield.

Mayfield has some ties to the new Falcons staff, with Robinson being his position coach during his brief Rams stint and Raheem Morris in place as Los Angeles’ DC at that point. The team has some degree of interest here. Fields is a Georgia native, and while the Falcons passed on the Ohio State product in 2021, some buzz has pointed the Bears QB to his home-state team. As it stands, the Falcons appear in good position to come away with one of these QBs this offseason, per Fowler.

Cousins may be the team’s top target. A Saturday report indicated the Falcons would compete for Cousins, and ESPN’s Dan Graziano takes it a step further by adding the team should be expected to make a strong pursuit of the six-year Vikings starter if he is unsigned by the tampering period. The Vikings and Cousins are still talking, but no Minnesota offer has satisfied the 35-year-old QB yet. The Vikings and Cousins have come to terms on three contracts — in 2018, 2020 and 2022 — but could not agree on a fourth deal last year. Guarantees stood as the sticking point there, and the Vikings are in crunch time with the rehabbing passer now.

Minnesota failing to reach an agreement with Cousins by the start of the 2024 league year (March 13) would bring $28.5MM in dead money onto its 2024 cap. Void years added as part of last year’s restructure will lead to that outcome. The Vikings ate some void years-driven dead money for losing Dalvin Tomlinson last year, but the Cousins figure would obviously bring more trouble by comparison.

Fields may well be taking a backseat to Cousins for Atlanta, per Graziano. This would be a pricier proposition for the Falcons, as Cousins — he of $231MM-plus in career earnings — is quite adept at maximizing his value. Fields also can be kept on a rookie salary this season, as his fifth-year option number — a decision due in May — would affect 2025. But Cousins has certainly been the more dependable passer. Though, if alternate invites are excluded, the ex-Washington draftee has one career Pro Bowl nod. Fields is 11 years younger, at 24, but has not shown himself to be a stable option as a passer just yet.

The Falcons are eager to upgrade on Desmond Ridder, and two years after widely believed to have finished second for Deshaun Watson, the team appears prepared to spend to acquire such help. One of the above-referenced trio should probably be expected to become Atlanta’s starter next season. Which one will end up in Georgia?

Vikings Trying To Re-Sign OLB Danielle Hunter

The Vikings have a lot of different priorities to focus on this offseason with both quarterback Kirk Cousins and wide receiver Justin Jefferson hoping for new contracts, but that hasn’t stopped them from discussing another possible deal that they’d like to see done. According to ESPN’s Dan Graziano, Minnesota is making an effort to re-sign veteran pass rusher Danielle Hunter, as well.

Hunter has been a Viking since the team selected him in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Heading into the final year of his rookie contract, the Vikings signed him to a five-year, $72 million extension. When that extension expired, Minnesota opted to keep him around for at least one more season on a one-year, $17MM deal. Having once more played through his contract, Hunter’s future with the Vikings will again be in question.

Hunter is expected to be a top target for many teams if he’s allowed to reach free agency, and for good reason. In his nine-year career, Hunter has reached double-digit sack numbers in five different seasons. He was twice racked up 14.5 sacks and reached a career-high this year with an impressive 16.5. His disruptive nature doesn’t stop there, though, as he led the NFL this season with a career-high 23 tackles for loss, as well.

The only potential detriment to Hunter’s negotiating stance is his past health issues. Hunter missed the entire 2020 NFL season with a neck injury and followed that up with only seven games in 2021. Now, the 2021 injury was completely unrelated to his prior season-long absence. In fact, when Hunter returned to the field after missing the 2020 season, he was off to a blazing start, racking up six sacks in only seven games. A torn pectoral muscle would put an end to that comeback campaign and force him back to injured reserve.

Since coming back from his second stay on IR, Hunter has shown no ill effects from his prior injuries. In the two seasons since, Hunter has started every game possible, accumulating 27.0 total sacks, 35 tackles for loss, and 44 quarterback hits. Not only have his injuries not slowed him down, he seems to have gotten better.

With Hunter showing no signs of stopping as he gets closer to 30 years old, he’s expected to fetch quite a price tag in free agency. As perhaps the top pass rusher on the market, multiple teams are expected to vie for his signature. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler volunteers that a price tag north of $20MM per year should be expected. The Vikings will need to focus a lot of efforts towards Cousins and Jefferson, but make no mistake, lots of attention and capital will need to be directed in Hunter’s direction, as well, if they have any hopes of retaining his talents.

Falcons To Pursue Kirk Cousins?

The Falcons have already been connected to a couple of available QBs, including Justin Fields and (most recently) Baker Mayfield. There could now be another big-name quarterback to add to the list. Dianna Russini of The Athletic expects the Falcons to “compete” for Kirk Cousins‘ services.

[RELATED: Falcons Interested In Baker Mayfield?]

According to Russini, the Falcons believe Cousins is the type of quarterback who can elevate the organization from “fringe playoff team to a contender.” Further, Falcons head coach Raheem Morris is familiar with Cousins based on their time together in Washington.

Quarterbacks coach Zac Robinson has never worked alongside Cousins, but he does come from the same Sean McVay tree as Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell. Russini cites that “seamless transition” as a reason why Cousins would make sense for Atlanta.

Despite coming off a torn Achilles, Cousins is expected to be the first QB domino to fall this offseason. A number of teams have been loosely connected to the veteran, but the majority of reports have focused on a return to Minnesota. Cousins has spent the past six seasons with the Vikings, guiding the team to winning records in three of those campaigns. However, the veteran only has a single playoff win to show for his efforts, and his playoff deficiencies will likely be reflected in his next contract.

Cousins has already earned $231MM in his career, including an initial contract with the Vikings (three years, $84MM) that was fully guaranteed. Cousins didn’t get the same kind of guarantees on his subsequent contracts in 2020 (two years, $66MM) and 2022 (one year, $35MM), but his camp has shown an ability to garner significant contracts throughout his career.

Those guarantees could end up being relevant during this year’s free agency. We previously heard that the Vikings were uncomfortable with some of the guarantee specifics during extension talks with the quarterback, resulting in talks ultimately breaking down. The Vikings have some incentive to re-sign Cousins as soon as possible, as the organization will be left with a $28.5MM dead-money charge if he isn’t re-signed by the start of the 2024 league year (3pm CT March 13). Considering the suitors that are starting to line up, Cousins may prefer to test the waters instead of immediately re-upping.

The Falcons will reportedly be active in looking for an upgrade on Desmond Ridder and Taylor Heinicke. The organization is currently armed with more than $25MM in cap space, and general manager Terry Fontenot has made it clear that he’ll consider every option as he looks to improve the position.

“That’s a top priority for us this offseason,” Fontenot recently said. “We are not going to close any doors. Be it trades, free agency [or] the draft. We’ll make sure we keep an open mind there. We’ll attack it and make sure that we get it right.”

NFL Draft Notes: Harrison, LSU, Texas, DeJean, Bowers

We truly are starting to see a new era of pre-draft football in the NFL. On a day in which we saw every quarterback in the first group of passers except for Notre Dame’s Sam Hartman opt out of running the 40-yard dash, we continue to report on prospects who are seeing the NFL’s scouting combine as less and less of a priority.

According to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated, star Ohio State wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. will not be participating in any of the testing at the combine. It doesn’t stop there, though, as Harrison has made the decision to not even train for those types of drills in the runup to the draft. Harrison will continue to work on pure football drills, allowing his tape to do the talking.

Players like Harrison have the luxury of this approach. For the last two years, Harrison has widely been considered the top wide receiver prospect in this year’s crop. He only solidified that status with a second straight stellar season with the Buckeyes. He has a fairly good idea of where he’s going to fall in the draft, so he doesn’t feel the need to display his full set of abilities in an attempt to up his draft stock. Instead, he will focus on team interviews and preparing for the more practical aspects of NFL readiness. Breer also informs us that Harrison will head to the league without an agent, joining another recent trend.

The combine and pro days remain a crucial part of the pre-draft process for many of the mid- to late-round prospects, but for top players, workouts like these are beginning to become more and more superfluous.

Here are a few other draft rumors as the combine continues:

  • On the topic of non-participants, LSU Heisman-winning quarterback Jayden Daniels and his wide receiver Malik Nabers have both opted out of their workouts in Indianapolis, choosing to work out at their pro day, instead. Today we found out that both players are also skipping the measurements portion of the combine, as well, per ESPN’s Field Yates. The two Tigers will submit to measurements at their pro day before workouts.
  • One name that’s been climbing draft boards of late is Texas defensive tackle Byron Murphy. Murphy’s versatility across the line has scouts excited and makes him a fit for pretty much every squad. Reflecting this, Murphy reportedly had 25 official interviews set up at the combine, according to Tony Pauline of Sportskeeda. Pauline also reports that the Raiders, Colts, Seahawks, and Vikings have all scheduled to bring him in for an official-30 visit. The list of suitors for the Longhorn defender likely won’t stop there.
  • Another top Texas prospect, running back Jonathon Brooks continues to make his way back from ACL surgery that ended his final season in Austin. The top rusher on both ESPN’s Mel Kiper’s and Dane Brugler of The Athletic’s boards, Brooks is reportedly “healing well and as expected,” per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. While he obviously won’t be participating in any pre-draft workouts, he’s expected to be cleared for training camp.
  • Iowa cornerback Cooper DeJean‘s leg injury continues to hold him out of football activities in the leadup to the draft. After already learning that he wouldn’t be available to workout at the combine, Greg Auman of FOX Sports informs us that DeJean will also not participate in physical activities at Iowa’s pro day. DeJean claims to be fully cleared from the fracture in his lower leg and that he will work out at some point before the draft, but it looks like scouts will have to make personal trips out to Iowa City in order to workout DeJean.
  • Finally, one more top draft prospect made the decision not to workout at the combine this year. Georgia tight end Brock Bowers, the top prospect at his position per both Kiper and Brugler and a likely top-10 pick, will not work out in Indianapolis. Scouts interested in seeing this Bulldog in action will have to make their way out to Georgia’s pro day.

Vikings To Release RB Alexander Mattison

Re-signed during Dalvin Cook‘s extended goodbye last year, Alexander Mattison will join his former teammate in free agency. The Vikings are planning to release Mattison.

The team has informed its primary 2023 starting running back he will be cut, ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter tweets. Minnesota gave Mattison a two-year, $7MM deal that came nearly fully guaranteed. As a result, this will bring a bit of dead money for the Vikings.

Mattison has been with the Vikings for five seasons, moving up on the depth chart last year after spending most of his career as Cook’s backup. Minnesota saw some promising signs from Ty Chandler late last season, and the 2022 draftee’s rookie deal runs through 2025. A year after they moved Cook’s pricey extension off their payroll, the Vikings will shed Mattison’s lower-end contract.

Although it was reported at the time that the Vikings fully guaranteed Mattison $6.35MM, they only locked in $3.6MM at signing. A $2.75MM guarantee was set to vest March 15, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Ben Goessling. That means this release will provide the team with $3.35MM in cap savings. Rather than pay Mattison a $3.3MM base salary in 2024, the Vikes will eat $1.25MM in dead money.

Averaging just 3.9 yards per carry in his first extended run as a starter, Mattison did not tally a rushing touchdown last season. He did total 700 rushing yards, adding three receiving TDs. Still, it represented a fairly disappointing run from a player the Vikings hoped would replace Cook at a fraction of the cost. Mattison, 25, had said he did not expect to re-sign with the Vikings. But his path changed when it became clear the team was done with Cook.

Cutting Cook after he had surpassed 1,100 rushing yards in four straight seasons, the Vikings ranked 29th in rushing last year. Granted, Cook struggled in New York, but Minnesota did not fare well on the ground without its longtime starter.

The Vikings traded for Cam Akers in October. After the ex-Rams back began to eat into Mattison’s workload, he suffered a season-ending Achilles tear. A fifth-round pick who played at Tennessee and North Carolina, Chandler finished with 461 rushing yards and a 4.5-yard average. Chandler is also 25, despite entering the league three years after Mattison. Chandler, however, has logged only 108 NFL carries. He should be a bit fresher, though that may not be a primary concern here; Mattison has only totaled 584 career totes. Regardless, the Vikings are moving on from their primary RB1 for a second straight year.

Mattison missed a late-season game due to an ankle sprain and worked as Chandler’s backup in the Vikings’ final three contests; the Boise State alum did well to score the guarantee he did last year. As 2023 showed up until the Jonathan Taylor extension, the market is not pretty for veteran running backs. Mattison now heads to free agency during the same year in which Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs, Austin Ekeler, Tony Pollard, Derrick Henry, Devin Singletary, Gus Edwards and D’Andre Swift are set to be available.

Latest On Vikings, QB Kirk Cousins

The Vikings’ latest negotiations with Kirk Cousins are coming down to the wire. The team’s exclusive negotiating rights with the veteran passer expire March 11, with March 13 serving as a more significant date due to dead money. Communication continues.

Kevin O’Connell indicated during an interview with KFAN radio (via the New York Post’s Ryan Dunleavy) he has spoken with Cousins several times this offseason, with the underlying theme of those talks being the team’s interest in reaching another deal with its six-year starter. The team continues to search for a middle ground with the third-longest-tenured starting quarterback in franchise history.

We have our interests; he has his, get to the table and see if we can figure out a creative solution of how to meet in the middle,” third-year Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah said, via Dunleavy. “What we do know is we have a really good quarterback, great leader and somebody we think we can win the ultimate prize with.”

Cousins, 35, has only appeared in the divisional round once during his years in Minnesota and Washington. What his resume lacks in postseason success it compensates for (and then some) in earnings. Last season pushed Cousins past $231MM for his career. Being close to testing the market again, the proven starter seems a lock to move past $300MM in the near future. Will it be with the Vikings?

If Minnesota cannot re-sign Cousins by the start of the 2024 league year (3pm CT March 13), the team will eat $28.5MM in dead money. That would not prevent a Cousins re-signing, though a deal after that date would cut into the team’s ability to build a roster around its longtime QB. The legal tampering period, which begins at 11am CT on March 11, could serve as the key window here. Cousins will be allowed to shop his services to interested buyers, while the Vikings still have a bit of breathing room until the QB’s void years hit their 2024 cap.

Guarantees figure to be at the heart of Adofo-Mensah’s middle-ground comment. The Vikings were uncomfortable with guarantees going into Year 3 on a Cousins extension last year, leading to talks breaking down and only a restructure coming to pass. A year later, guarantees are again an issue. Minnesota famously guaranteed Cousins’ first contract (three years, $84MM), putting the team on its heels against the leverage maestro in the years that followed. Cousins signed extensions in 2020 (two years, $66MM) and 2022 (one year, $35MM). Neither of the latter two deals was fully guaranteed, but even coming off an Achilles tear ahead of an age-36 season, Cousins will be in good shape due to his consistency, a few teams’ QB needs and the salary cap spiking to $255.4MM.

The Falcons, Broncos and Raiders figure to join the Vikes as interested parties. Though, Cousins has said on several occasions he wants to stay in Minnesota. Denver, which bowed out of a Cousins pursuit six years ago (leading to a Case Keenum signing), is about to take on a record-smashing dead-money sum ($85MM over two years, via a post-June 1 cut) after separating from Russell Wilson. That will obviously hinder a Cousins pursuit. Atlanta may be the clubhouse leader in Justin Fields connections, while Las Vegas has been more closely tied to rookie passers thus far.

As the Vikings pledge to retain Justin Jefferson, the All-Pro wide receiver is understandably interested in knowing if Cousins will be throwing him passes in 2024. That answer will come soon. If Cousins departs, the Vikings — who hold the No. 11 overall pick — will need to scramble to make another QB plan.

Vikings Have “No Intent” To Trade Justin Jefferson

The Vikings made a late push to extend Justin Jefferson last offseason, and while both sides made it clear that they were fine with tabling talks until this year, that hasn’t stopped pundits from speculating on a potential divorce. Head coach Kevin O’Connell was quick to dismiss those rumors, stating during an appearance on PFT Live that the organization has no intention of trading their star wideout.

[RELATED: Justin Jefferson Wants To Remain With Vikings]

“I can tell you we have no intent to trade Justin Jefferson,” O’Connell said (via Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com). “We have had zero discussions, dialogue about that either internally, externally, on this planet or another planet. I feel very strongly that Justin is best in his position in football. Any time you’re trying to reset the receiver market — we know who he is, we know what Justin’s earned through his first four years in this league — you know how hard it is. . . . It was never gonna be something that was just be easy to get done, but the intent was there. The intent is still stronger than ever to get something done with Justin.”

The former first-round pick is set to play the 2024 campaign on his fifth-year option worth $19.74MM, so it’s only natural for both Jefferson and the Vikings to explore an extension. GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah admitted this week that the two sides got “unbelievably close” to an extension last offseason (per ESPN’s Kevin Seifert), and the executive reiterated that the Vikings want Jefferson to stick around Minnesota “for a long time.” Adofo-Mensah also said that any whispers of difficult negotiations were “completely false.”

Jefferson has expressed a desire to re-sign with the Vikings, but it doesn’t sound like he’s overly interested in giving the team a hometown discount. The 2022 first-team All-Pro said he wants to “break the bank,” a hint that he’s looking to surpass the position-leading $30MM average annual value set by Tyreek Hill. Three other WRs are currently making $25MM or more per season (Davante Adams, Cooper Kupp, A.J. Brown), and Jefferson will surely be looking to join that accomplished group with his next contract.

While the organization may be willing to commit to Jefferson’s AAV, it sounds like they’re drawing a line in the sand with the guaranteed money. According to Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com, it’s common for the Vikings organization to only commit to one year of guaranteed money in extensions. However, while that’s been their “typical structure,” the organization did make an exception with tight end T.J. Hockenson, a factor that Jefferson’s camp will presumably point to during negotiations.

After not missing a game through his first three seasons in the NFL, Jefferson was limited to only 10 appearances this past season. He still managed to pass 1,000 yards from scrimmage, and his 107.4 yards per game actually established a new career-high.

Vikings Hire Josh McCown As QBs Coach

Known for making a few team jumps during his lengthy quarterback career, Josh McCown has landed a second gig as a quarterbacks coach in as many years.

The Vikings hired McCown as their quarterbacks coach, the team announced Tuesday. This comes months after the Panthers fired him in the wake of Frank Reich‘s early dismissal. Minnesota is among the cities McCown, 44, did not stop through as a player, but he will get to work under third-year HC Kevin O’Connell.

A candidate to become the Texans’ head coach in two offseasons, McCown did not land that job. Such an appointment would have come as controversial given his inexperience coaching. Following interviews for the Houston job in consecutive years, McCown landed in Carolina. That became a mistake.

In an attempt to assemble an all-star staff around Reich, David Tepper allowed a complex Bryce Young developmental effort to commence. This included marrying concepts from Reich and OC Thomas Brown, with McCown having an influence in the offense’s direction as well. The experiment faceplanted, and after Jim Caldwell and interim HC Chris Tabor orchestrated McCown’s firing, the Panthers have a new staff in place.

McCown played 18 NFL seasons, skipping the 2010 campaign while playing in the original United Football League, and bounced around the league. While the journeyman has no prior history in Minnesota, he did throw a rather important pass in Vikings annals. McCown’s final-seconds toss to Nate Poole produced a game-winning Cardinals touchdown that knocked the Vikings out of the 2003 playoffs. That was McCown’s second season; he will now aim to use the Vikings as a bounce-back opportunity in his second coaching season.

The Vikings are moving Chris O’Hara from QBs coach to pass-game specialist. O’Hara has been on O’Connell’s staff throughout the latter’s Twin Cities tenure. He came over from the Rams along with O’Connell and OC Wes Phillips.

NFC Coaching Updates: Falcons, Vikings, Garcia, Glenn

As the offseason chugs along, teams continue to reconstruct their coaching staffs. The Falcons made a number of moves just before the weekend, according to Michael Rothstein of ESPN. The staff continues to take shape under new head coach Raheem Morris.

On offense, two announcements were made on assistants looking to hold over from Arthur Smith‘s staff last year. Rothstein reports that assistant offensive line coach Shawn Flaherty and offensive assistant Patrick Kramer, who each came to Atlanta last offseason, will be retained in their previous positions.

A new hire was announced, as well, with the team naming Jacquies Smith as their new outside linebackers coach. Formerly a seven-year NFL defensive end, the former undrafted player out of Missouri will now accept his first NFL coaching position. After disappearing from the NFL-world for a spell and making an appearance in the XFL, Smith worked with draft-eligible players in pre-draft training. He most recently spent the 2023 season as an assistant edge coach for the Texas Longhorns.

In the front office, the team announced the hires of John Griffin as director of player performance and Rob Dadona as manager of coaching operations. Griffin follows Morris after spending the past three years with the Rams. Dadona replaces Brian Griffin, who departed to serve as Chief of Staff at the University of Maryland. Dadona spent the past five seasons with the Jets, serving as assistant to the head coach for the last three.

Here are a few other staff updates from around the NFC, starting with a couple out of Minneapolis:

  • The Vikings announced two staff additions this weekend, naming assistant offensive line coach Shaun Sarrett and assistant to the head coach Henry Schneider IV. Sarrett replaces Justin Rascati, who departed for Los Angeles to serve as the Chargers pass-game coordinator. The two essentially swapped places, as Sarrett spent the past three years in the assistant offensive line coaching role with the Chargers. Schneider spent the last five years with the Raiders, most recently as the manager of coaching operations.
  • The Cowboys added a hot, young name out of Washington to their defensive staff this weekend. Cristian Garcia, who spent part of last year as the Commanders interim defensive backs coach, will head to Dallas as a defensive quality control coach, per Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News. Garcia was a name that former Commanders head coach Ron Rivera turned to for leadership after firing defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. Now he’ll join the NFC East rival.
  • Washington added their own coaching assistant last week. According to ESPN’s John Keim, John Glenn will join the staff as the Commanders’ new assistant special teams coach. Glenn replaces Ben Jacobs, who had served in the same role since following Rivera from Carolina in 2020 but was not retained by the new staff. Glenn changes roles a bit after spending the past six seasons as the Seahawks linebackers coach.

2024 NFL Cap Space, By Team

The NFL provided clarity to its teams on Friday by setting the salary cap ceiling ($255.4MM). Franchise tag figures have been locked in as well, and clubs can now proceed with their offseason planning knowing exactly where they stand with respect to financial flexibility. Courtesy of Over the Cap, here is the current landscape in terms of salary cap space:

  1. Washington Commanders: $79.61MM
  2. Tennessee Titans: $78.66MM
  3. Chicago Bears: $78.34MM
  4. New England Patriots: $77.96MM
  5. Indianapolis Colts: $72.34MM
  6. Houston Texans: $67.58MM
  7. Detroit Lions: $57.61MM
  8. Arizona Cardinals: $51.1MM
  9. Cincinnati Bengals: $50.67MM
  10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: $43.68MM
  11. Los Angles Rams: $43.11MM
  12. Las Vegas Raiders: $42.94MM
  13. Minnesota Vikings: $35.81MM
  14. Carolina Panthers: $34.57MM
  15. Atlanta Falcons: $33MM
  16. New York Giants: $30.8MM
  17. Philadelphia Eagles: $27.35MM
  18. Jacksonville Jaguars: $24.68MM
  19. Kansas City Chiefs: $18.19MM
  20. Baltimore Ravens: $16.63MM
  21. Seattle Seahawks: $12.97MM
  22. New York Jets: $12.76MM
  23. Pittsburgh Steelers: $9MM
  24. Green Bay Packers: $2.3MM
  25. San Francisco 49ers: $5.07MM over the cap
  26. Cleveland Browns: $7.76MM over
  27. Dallas Cowboys: $9.86MM over
  28. Denver Broncos: $16.81MM over
  29. Los Angeles Chargers: $25.61MM over
  30. Miami Dolphins: $27.92MM over
  31. New Orleans Saints: $42.11MM over
  32. Buffalo Bills: $43.82MM over

All teams must be cap compliant by the start of the new league year, but it will of course be more than just those currently over the limit which will make cost-shedding moves in the near future. Cuts, restructures and extensions are available as tools to carve out space in advance of free agency. Several have already taken place around the league.

That includes the Dolphins’ release of defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah and the planned cut of Xavien Howard. The latter cannot be designated a post-June 1 release until free agency begins but once it happens, Miami will move much closer to cap compliance. The Saints have moved considerable commitments into the future via restructures (as usual), but more transactions on that front will be required even with the cap seeing an historic single-season jump.

The roughly $30MM spike from 2023 will provide unforeseen spending power for teams already set to lead the pack in cap space while also making the task of those at the bottom of the list easier. Spending more on backloaded contracts this offseason at the expense of future space obviously carries risk, however. Still, the news of a higher-than-expected ceiling will add further intrigue to each team’s financial planning.

With Dak Prescott and Deshaun Watson each set to carry record-breaking cap hits for 2024, the Cowboys and Browns will be among the teams most in need of working out a deal to lower those figures. In Dallas’ case in particular, an extension would provide immediate breathing room in addition to clarity on his future beyond the coming season. For Cleveland, Watson’s fully-guaranteed deal has already been restructured once and will need to be again to avoid consecutive years of a $64MM cap charge over its remaining term.

If the Commanders and Patriots add a quarterback with the second and third picks in this year’s draft, each team currently in the top six in space will enjoy the benefits of having a signal-caller on their rookie contracts. That would allow for an aggressive approach to free agency, although the Chiefs’ success after Patrick Mahomes signed (and re-worked) his monster extension has proven it is possible to win Super Bowl titles with a substantial QB investment on the books.