For a few NFL teams this offseason, free agency should be exhilarating because they'll have the opportunity to throw money at the players they want the most.
At the moment, NFL teams are feverishly trying to shed extra salary, hoping to add even more financial flexibility. For example, the New York Giants cut wide receiver Golden Tate to create $6 million in extra cap space. Likewise, the Minnesota Vikings released tight end Kyle Rudolph to save $5 million. In the AFC, the Las Vegas Raiders parted ways with guard Gabe Jackson to free up $9.6 million.
As we continue to see cost-cutting maneuvers across the league, let’s take a closer look at the five teams with the most cap space in the NFL ahead of free agency.
Cincinnati Bengals - $42 million
Historically, the Bengals have been known for pinching pennies during this time of the NFL year. Rather than signing veteran players, the Bengals often focus on developing the players they select in the NFL Draft. But there are signs that this approach might be changing. Last year, Cincinnati signed cornerback Trae Waynes to a relatively large deal.
The Bengals' defense was porous in 2020, even with the Waynes signing. (He missed most of the year due to an injury.) As a result, the Bengals might be looking to continue their spending ways on the defensive side of the ball ahead of the 2021 NFL season.
Cincinnati could use major upgrades at every level, so expect to see the Bengals use their cap space to target cornerbacks, linebackers and defensive linemen in free agency.
Denver Broncos - $46 million
The Broncos are one of the most interesting, young teams in the NFL. They have exciting talent at virtually all of the offensive skill positions. With a plethora of cap space to fill in other holes on the roster, the Broncos could accelerate ther rebuilding process this offseason. They play in a tough division, but there’s a clear road map for their trip back to the playoffs in 2021.
Still, there’s a cloud of uncertainty hanging over Denver regarding their best defensive player, Von Miller. He missed all of last season due to injury, which promptd questions about his ability to regain his status as an elite NFL player. Plus, there's some concern surrounding Miller's involvement in a legal situation.
Needless to say, it would behoove the Broncos to utilize their available cap space, either to replace Miller’s production or supplement it if he can to play a full season in 2021.
New England Patriots - $64 million
The Patriots are regarded as one of the NFL’s most strategic teams when it comes to managing the salary cap. They usually enjoy successful offseasons by planning ahead, and New England is also renowned for its roster evaluation process.
Despite their financial flexibility, New England is not known for throwing boatloads of money at players to fill needs. But the Patriots' roster doesn't include the greatest quarterback in NFL history anymore. As a result, the team might feel compelled to take a more aggressive approach this offseason.
Beyond their plans for free agency, New England will also benefit from the return of several notable players next season. The team lost multiple defensive players that opted out of the 2020 season, but most of this group should be back in 2021. With these reinforcements, the Patriots could use their cap space to bolster their offense.
The Jacksonville Jaguars are tied for the most cap space in the NFL with $78 million
It seems like a decent bet that the Jaguars will be all in on some of the biggest free agent names this offseason. Jacksonville may be involved in some of the earliest signings once the free agency period opens because they have an embarrassment of riches to spend.
Plus, with beautiful weather and the arrival of a legendary coach, the Jaguars should have some ease in their recruitment efforts. Who wouldn't want to play in the Sunshine State? It's a premier destination for NFL players.
The Jaguars need help in virtually every area of their team. First and foremost, the anticipated addition of Trevor Lawrence would be an easier transition if the Jaguars give him a talented offensive unit. Look for the Jaguars to bid on prized offensive weapons like Chris Godwin, Kenny Golladay, and Hunter Henry, among other players.
New York Jets - $78 million
The New York Jets are looking to bounce back after an embarrassing 2020 NFL season. Their 2-14 record left fans feeling quite pessimistic about the team's future.
It’s hard to know exactly where the Jets will focus their attention this offseason. Incumbent starting quarterback Sam Darnold's future is up in the air, and the Jets could look to replace him.
Regardless, the team could opt to beef up its offensive line and bring in a dynamic running back with game-breaking speed. These additions could take some of the weight off of the Jets' signal-caller, whoever it may be.
No matter what, these five NFL teams will have a lot of money to spend this offseason, so fans can expect to see this group step up in free agency.