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The NFL Offseason Capital Rankings

The Super Bowl is in February, but championship foundations are built in March and April. Heading into the 2017 offseason, which teams have the most draft picks and cap space?

(AP Images/Ringer illustration)
(AP Images/Ringer illustration)

We tend to divide NFL roster construction into two camps: franchises that build through the draft and franchises that build through free agency. In reality, the best teams do both. The draft is the lifeblood of a roster. No club could fill out its 53 spots through free agency; it’d just be too expensive. But inevitable misses in the draft must be addressed via free agency, whether that means signing a rotational player for depth or going out and getting the final piece of the puzzle in the form of a top pass rusher, cornerback, or quarterback. Just look at the Patriots: The foundation — Tom Brady, the offensive line, Rob Gronkowski, and Julian Edelman on offense; Devin McCourty, Dont’a Hightower, Patrick Chung, Trey Flowers, and Logan Ryan on defense — is built through the draft, with the rest of the roster — which includes players such as Martellus Bennett, Alan Branch, and Dion Lewis — supplemented by free agency and trades.

So, utilizing each team’s pre-franchise-tag cap space numbers from Spotrac and the sum of their draft-pick trade values per the Jimmy Johnson chart, we combined the two key roster-building categories to look at where each franchise ranks in terms of total offseason ammunition.

There’s no guarantee that the teams at the top of this list will get better this offseason — identifying the most talented and best-fitting players for your scheme is the real test for building a winning team — but they’re in the best position to make major strides forward. As for the ones at the bottom? Hopefully they like what they see in the mirror, because they’re not going to look much different than they did last year.

1. Cleveland Browns

Salary Cap Space: $108,766, 997 (First)

Draft Capital: 11 picks valued at 5,627.1 points (First)

The Browns have far and away the most salary cap space of any team in the league — well over $100 million and nearly $30 million more than the next guy — so they will have plenty of power at the negotiating table. Cleveland clearly has a lot of holes to fill, and that cap space could help the Browns land three or four talented players. They’re well set up to come away with a big haul in the draft, too. Not only do the Browns pick first overall, but thanks to their blockbuster deal with the Eagles last year that sent the no. 2 pick to Philadelphia, Cleveland also owns Philly’s top pick (no. 12) this year. In all, the Browns have 11 picks — including six in the top 108.

There’s a reason the Browns are the Browns, and if history tells us anything, they’ll squander this pot of gold they’re sitting on. But no team has more capital to spend in free agency or the draft.

2. San Francisco 49ers

Salary Cap Space: $81,885,485 (Second)

Draft Capital: 10 picks valued at 3,619.4 points (Second)

First-time GM John Lynch and first-time head coach Kyle Shanahan have a lot of work to do after inheriting one of the least talented rosters in football. The good news is San Francisco could be a big spender in free agency right out of the gate, with more than $81 million in available space as they head into 2017. (That number will go down a bit once we learn how much defensive tackle Earl Mitchell counts against the 49ers’ cap, but if Colin Kaepernick opts out of his deal, that $81 million will jump an additional $16.9 million.) In any case, San Francisco will still need another quarterback, a few cornerbacks, a couple of offensive linemen, a handful of receivers, and some pass rushers … and that’s just to fill out the starting lineup. There are holes at just about every position group.

Lynch and Shanahan are also working with 10 picks come April. They pick second in the first six rounds, plus the Niners grabbed an additional fifth-rounder (from Washington for Derek Carrier), a sixth-rounder (from the Broncos in the Vernon Davis trade last year), and a seventh-rounder (from the Browns via the 2015 trade for Andy Lee). No one’s expecting the Niners to show up in the postseason in 2017, but with the amount of cash and picks at their disposal, expect a sizable infusion of talent.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars

Salary Cap Space: $73,567,963 (Fourth)

Draft Pick Capital: Seven picks valued at 2,724.3 points (Fifth)

With plenty of cap space, Jaguars GM Dave Caldwell has a chance to provide new head coach Doug Marrone with a stable of new playmakers on both sides of the ball. Jacksonville was a big spender last year, as the team doled out $178.3 million worth of contracts to acquire defensive lineman Malik Jackson, safety Tashaun Gipson, running back Chris Ivory, and a few others. The returns were mixed, but the Jaguars have the money to be aggressive again this spring.

The Jags have plenty of workable capital in the draft, too. They pick in the top part of every round this year and Caldwell will look to address both the offensive and defensive lines, the defensive back spot, and a handful of other glaring needs — possibly including a replacement for Blake Bortles.

4. Chicago Bears

Salary Cap Space: $58,783,321 (Ninth)

Draft Pick Capital: Seven picks valued at 3,161.8 points (Third)

As it stands, GM Ryan Pace heads into free agency with more than $58 million in salary cap space, but that number could jump another $14 million with the release or trade of Jay Cutler (which means they’d have about $72 million, pushing them past Tennessee to fifth in the league in cap space). Of course, that would mean that the Bears will have a big question mark at the most important position in sports, but at least they’ll have plenty of money to throw at it.

Chicago has a bounty of draft picks, too, starting with the third overall pick. The Bears need to add talent at receiver (especially after the decision to not use the franchise tag on Alshon Jeffery), in the defensive secondary, on the offensive line, and, again, at quarterback.

5. Tennessee Titans

Salary Cap Space: $67,615,138 (Fifth)

Draft Pick Capital: Eight picks valued at 2,952.8 points (Fourth)

GM Jon Robinson is in the NFL’s catbird seat: He’s got a ton of cap space to work with, he doesn’t have to pay his playmaking franchise quarterback big money until 2019, and he already has a playoff-caliber roster as a foundation. With over $67 million in salary cap space, Robinson has the luxury of targeting a few talented big-ticket pieces that could put the Titans over the top in the AFC South. Imagine DeSean Jackson or Jeffery catching passes from Marcus Mariota next year, or perhaps it’d make sense to pair Martellus Bennett with Delanie Walker in Tennessee’s tight-end-heavy, exotic smashmouth offense. Robinson will almost surely look to add pieces to the defense as well, where he could go out and grab a Stephon Gilmore, A.J. Bouye, or another top free-agent corner or add an additional pass rusher or linebacker to the front seven.

Tennessee also has eight picks in the draft, including two first-rounders; they hold their own top pick, no. 18 overall, and added no. 5 overall last year as part of the deal with the Rams to give up the top-overall spot. Robinson has a chance to add two long-term starters to his roster before the first day is over — and so far, his first-round track record is sterling: Despite garnering criticism at the time, his top last year (Jack Conklin) started 16 games at right tackle and earned first-team All-Pro honors.

6. Carolina Panthers

Salary Cap Space: $53,548,149 (10th)

Draft Pick Capital: Nine picks valued at 2,346.4 points (Eighth)

The Panthers saved a bunch of money against their cap last season by rescinding the franchise tag on cornerback Josh Norman, but the defense, which had to rely on young, inexperienced corners, took a big step back. This offseason, it’s looking like GM Dave Gettleman won’t be quite so tight with his purse strings, as he’s already re-signed pass rusher Mario Addison to a three-year, $22.5 million deal and placed the franchise tag ($14.7 million) on defensive tackle Kawann Short. Carolina’s sitting pretty in the draft, too, with nine total picks, including five in the first 115 spots.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Salary Cap Space: $79,303,361 (Third)

Draft Pick Capital: Seven picks valued at 1,526.6 points (18th)

After the release of cornerback Alterraun Verner, Bucs GM Jason Licht has plenty of cap space to work with, and that number could go up an additional $5.8 million if the team decides to release running back Doug Martin. That should give Tampa Bay the ability to address its secondary in free agency (both starting safeties, Chris Conte and Brad McDougald, are out of contract) and potentially add to its receiver corps to better support its young franchise quarterback, Jameis Winston. As for the draft, the Buccaneers are in the middle of the field, holding one pick in every round.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

8. Cincinnati Bengals

Salary Cap Space: $44,809,345 (12th)

Draft Pick Capital: 11 picks valued at 2,232.8 points (Ninth)

The Bengals are just fine when it comes to cap space, with over $44 million available to address urgent needs along the offensive line (starting left tackle Andrew Whitworth and right guard Kevin Zeitler are both free agents) and on the defensive line. But Cincy is built mostly through the draft — QB Andy Dalton, receiver A.J. Green, tight end Tyler Eifert, running backs Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard, most of their offensive line, defensive tackle Geno Atkins, defensive end Carlos Dunlap, and pretty much everyone in its secondary are all homegrown — and that’s where the team can do most of its damage this year. After finishing 6–9–1 in 2016, the Bengals will pick ninth in each round and have four compensatory picks.

9. Washington Redskins

Salary Cap Space: $64,623,935 (Sixth)

Draft Pick Capital: 10 picks valued at 1,709.4 points (16th)

Washington has to worry about what to do with impending free agents DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, and a few others, but they do have $64.6 million to help make those decisions. (That number will shrink about $24 million with the expected franchise-tagging of quarterback Kirk Cousins.) On the draft side, Washington’s in the midrange for overall value, but with super-scout GM Scot McCloughan’s penchant for unearthing mid- to late-round gems — receiver Jamison Crowder and running back Matt Jones in Washington; Frank Gore, Delanie Walker, and plenty others in San Francisco — the volume of picks might be more important than the Johnson-derived value.

10. Indianapolis Colts

Salary Cap Space: $60,915,819 (Eighth)

Draft Pick Capital: Seven picks valued at 1,854.7 points (14th)

Five years of Ryan Grigson’s substandard drafting and unsuccessful free-agency forays has left Indianapolis’s roster in need of a major makeover, so first-time GM Chris Ballard has a lot of work to do. The good news is that the highly respected personnel evaluator out of Kansas City has a lot of capital, both in the draft and in free agency. Free agency looks like their best, and quickest, avenue to giving Andrew Luck some support, and $60 million in cap space could make a big difference in shoring up the offensive line, secondary, and pass rush. Colts fans just have to hope that Ballard has a better eye for talent than his predecessor.

11. Denver Broncos

Salary Cap Space: $44,366,140 (13th)

Draft Pick Capital: 10 picks valued at 1,591 points (17th)

The Broncos have plenty of cap space now that they’ve decided not to pick up the option on left tackle Russell Okung’s contract. But with Okung gone, and with disappointing performances from both Donald Stephenson and Ty Sambrailo at right tackle last year, a good chunk of their spending may need to be invested in bookend tackles. In the draft, John Elway has 10 picks, so look for Denver to add some big bodies to the defensive line to help replace outgoing free-agent defensive linemen Sylvester Williams and Billy Winn and to fix what was a leaky run defense in 2016.

12. Arizona Cardinals

Salary Cap Space: $35,468,965 (19th)

Draft Pick Capital: Eight picks valued at 1,919 points (13th)

GM Steve Keim’s first order of business this offseason was to lock up pass rusher Chandler Jones with the franchise tag, but with over $35 million in cap space, he doesn’t have to stop there. Whether it’s re-signing some of their own out-of-contract players, signing veterans on the open market, or looking to the team’s eight draft picks, Keim and Co. need to address the offensive line and the linebacker corps, and add another defensive back or two.

13. New Orleans Saints

Salary Cap Space: $28,706,482 (22nd)

Draft Pick Capital: Six picks valued at 2,011.2 points (11th)

For the first time since 2011, the Saints cap situation isn’t a complete disaster. They should probably use all of it to add playmakers and depth to the defense, as the offense ranked sixth last year, per Football Outsiders DVOA. New Orleans has only six total picks, but the Saints are still in good shape value-wise, holding the 11th overall pick plus selections in every round except the fifth.

14. New England Patriots

Salary Cap Space: $62,946,093 (Seventh)

Draft Pick Capital: Eight picks valued at 1,144.6 points (28th)

Thanks to Tom Brady’s team-friendly deal, Bill Belichick and the Patriots just won the Super Bowl, yet have $63 million in cap space. Of course, they’ll need a big chunk of that in order to re-sign or franchise-tag middle linebacker Dont’a Hightower, and they’ll have decisions to make on impending free agents like cornerback Logan Ryan, safety Duron Harmon, tight end Martellus Bennett, running back LeGarrette Blount, and defensive tackle Alan Branch. New England picks last in each of the first four rounds, but they get a little bump with compensatory picks in the third and fifth.

All told, the Patriots are in great shape to keep building this offseason. If they manage to wrangle a first- and a fourth-round pick out of someone for Jimmy Garoppolo (which is the reported asking price), they’d shoot toward the top of this list. Great. Grand. Wonderful.

15. Los Angeles Chargers

Salary Cap Space: $21,928,850 (27th)

Draft Pick Capital: Seven picks valued at 2,370 points (Seventh)

The Chargers came into the offseason with just $21.9 million in cap space, and then put the franchise tag on pass rusher Melvin Ingram (which should count for anywhere from $14 million to $17 million against the cap). There’s not much room for them to bring in any difference-making vets, but Los Angeles is sitting pretty in the draft, holding either the sixth or seventh pick in each round.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

16. Oakland Raiders

Salary Cap Space: $48,945,414 (11th)

Draft Pick Capital: Eight picks valued at 1,303.6 points (23rd)

The Raiders made a big splash in free agency last year, signing guard Kelechi Osemele, pass rusher Bruce Irvin, safety Reggie Nelson, and cornerback Sean Smith. With $49 million in cap space (11th most) and eight draft picks, GM Reggie McKenzie can add another piece or two to his 23rd-ranked defense by DVOA or keep building around Derek Carr.

17. Buffalo Bills

Salary Cap Space: $25,397,670 (25th)

Draft Pick Capital: Six picks valued at 2,039.2 points (10th)

The Bills’ cap situation will change if they decide to release quarterback Tyrod Taylor — the move would free up about $16 million more in space — but with reports indicating they may stick with their incumbent signal-caller, Buffalo’s main offseason additions will likely come through the draft. They hold only six picks, but the 10th overall selection could bring them a long-term starter (maybe a Mike Williams, maybe a Marshon Lattimore) and they possess three selections in the first 75 spots of the draft.

18. Detroit Lions

Salary Cap Space: $37,416,088 (17th)

Draft Pick Capital: Eight picks valued at 1,418 points (19th)

The Lions are in the middle ground in terms of both cap space and draft value. Detroit has about $37 million in salary cap room, and it’ll need a big chunk of that if it wants to re-sign starting offensive linemen Larry Warford and Riley Reiff and veteran receiver Anquan Boldin. With eight draft picks, the Lions should add to their secondary, pass rush, and offensive line.

19. New York Jets

Salary Cap Space: $20,251,538 (28th)

Draft Pick Capital: Seven picks valued at 2,477.3 points (Sixth)

The Jets’ salary cap is such a disaster that the team was forced to drop center Nick Mangold to save $9.1 million, and while dropping or restructuring Darrelle Revis’s contract would add another several million to the cause, the lack of cap space is an impediment to major free-agency movement. Instead, it’s the draft in which GM Mike Maccagnan can do the most work. The Jets are more than one player away from contending, so they have the luxury of going a number of directions with the sixth overall pick. At that spot, they could land one of the draft’s top players at its premium positions, whether it’s a quarterback, corner, receiver, or pass rusher. After that, they pick four more times in the top 150, where they should continue to address needs at linebacker, tight end, safety, and offensive line.

20. Miami Dolphins

Salary Cap Space: $42,444,383 (15th)

Draft Pick Capital: Eight picks valued at 1,322.4 points (22nd)

The Dolphins have plenty of money to work with in free agency with $42 million and change in cap space, more than enough to re-sign receiver Kenny Stills, starting right guard Jermon Bushrod, and/or ascending pass rusher Andre Branch before looking to the open market. In the draft, GM Chris Grier will attempt to find day-one contributors on the offensive line, at tight end, and at linebacker, but with Miami picking late in each round (and without a fourth-round pick), that will be a challenge. That’s why Miami’s best avenue for adding talent in the short term might be in free agency or through trades, like the one that brought tight end Julius Thomas to town for tackle Branden Albert.

21. New York Giants

Salary Cap Space: $34,440,039 (20th)

Draft Pick Capital: Seven picks valued at 1,332.9 points (21st)

The Giants’ 2016 free-agent class was a home run, with Damon Harrison, Janoris Jenkins, and Olivier Vernon helping turn a bottom-tier defensive unit into an elite group. New York doesn’t have quite as much cash to spend this offseason, especially after placing the franchise tag on Jason Pierre-Paul, but the Giants could still add another defensive lineman (to replace free agent Johnathan Hankins) or running back (to replace the recently released Rashad Jennings) and still get under the cap. In the draft, GM Jerry Reese will be focused on getting help for a struggling offense that finished 22nd in DVOA last year even with Odell Beckham Jr.

22. Philadelphia Eagles

Salary Cap Space: $11,638,476 (30th)

Draft Pick Capital: Eight picks valued at 1,924.8 points (12th)

The Eagles don’t have a ton of wiggle room given their cap space, but with just two starters (defensive tackle Bennie Logan and cornerback Nolan Carroll) hitting free agency, they don’t have to do a ton of contract gymnastics to hold on to a defense that finished last season fourth in DVOA. Philly can make its most noise in the draft: The Eagles hold eight picks, including no. 15 overall, where they could land a playmaking (and reliable) receiver like Corey Davis or John Ross or add a three-down back like Leonard Fournette.

23. Green Bay Packers

Salary Cap Space: $43,568,612 (14th)

Draft Pick Capital: Eight picks valued at 1,145.1 points (27th)

Ted Thompson has some playing money — if he decides to switch his normal course of action and venture into outside free agency. Thompson believes in building a roster in-house, through the draft and by signing your own free agents. As such, he rarely looks to big-money free agents from other teams. This year, he has some key pieces to take care of with running back Eddie Lacy, tight end Jared Cook, guard T.J. Lang, center J.C. Tretter, and pass rushers Julius Peppers, Nick Perry, and Datone Jones all due to hit the open market. He’s also got eight late-in-the-round picks, and with Thompson’s track record in the middle-to-late rounds — where he’s landed Corey Linsley, Mike Daniels, and Lang, just to name a few — those picks might be worth a lot more than the Johnson chart suggests.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

24. Baltimore Ravens

Salary Cap Space: $15,254,325 (29th)

Draft Pick Capital: Seven picks valued at 1,801 points (15th)

The Ravens are still saddled with Joe Flacco’s contract, which counts for $24.5 million against the cap this year and limits what they can do across the rest of the roster. With a lack of money to play with, GM Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens will hit the draft hard looking to fill holes at receiver (Steve Smith retired), defensive line (Brandon Williams, Lawrence Guy are free agents), cornerback (Shareece Wright is not the answer), and linebacker (All-Pro ILB Zach Orr retired, and OLBs Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil aren’t spring chickens). They hold seven picks, and they’ll have to make the most of them.

25. Pittsburgh Steelers

Salary Cap Space: $36,628,071 (18th)

Draft Pick Capital: Eight picks valued at 1,177.6 points (26th)

The Steelers came into the offseason in the middle of the pack in terms of cap space, but a big chunk of that is going directly to Le’Veon Bell (who got the franchise tag Monday) and Antonio Brown (who signed a big extension). Another chunk of it could go to free agents Lawrence Timmons and James Harrison. So, while they may be active in free agency, they’re restricted somewhat by retaining their core talent. In the draft, GM Kevin Colbert has eight picks to add playmakers at receiver, corner, and edge rusher.

26. Seattle Seahawks

Salary Cap Space: $26,618,640 (24th)

Draft Pick Capital: Seven picks valued at 1,342.1 points (20th)

With 11 players making $4 million or more this season, the Seahawks have most of their core locked up long-term, so there’s not a ton of room under the cap to make big-ticket moves in free agency. But, after adding a pair of third-round compensatory picks, GM John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll have a chance to land some talent for their bargain-bin offensive line, injury-prone running back group, and shallow defensive back group when they send picks to the podium five times in the first 106 picks of the draft.

27. Houston Texans

Salary Cap Space: $26,716,388 (23rd)

Draft Pick Capital: Seven picks valued at 1,275.2 points (25th)

The Texans already had an elite deep-sideline pass catcher in DeAndre Hopkins on their roster when they spent a huge part of their draft capital last year on field-stretching speed, dropping a first-round pick on Will Fuller and a third on Braxton Miller. What’d they get out of it? Just 5.8 yards per attempt from Brock Osweiler — dead last among qualifying passers. With that disaster of a marriage between a quarterback and his weapons, Houston’s paying Osweiler $19 million against the cap in 2017 — $4.5 million more than J.J. Watt — to likely play backup to Tom Savage. That sunk cost limits what they’re able to do at other key positions of need, as does last season’s playoff run, which means they’re picking toward the end of each round despite a roster that ranked only 29th in overall DVOA last season.

28. Los Angeles Rams

Salary Cap Space: $38,985,625 (16th)

Draft Pick Capital: Eight picks valued at 928.8 points (31st)

The Rams will dedicate about $15 million of their cap to cornerback Trumaine Johnson in 2017 after placing the franchise tag on him. But they came into the offseason with about $38 million to spend, so there should be enough room to add an additional big-money free agent or two. Hitting on those deals is especially important because there’s just one team in the league with fewer resources going into the draft: Los Angeles doesn’t have a first-round pick (the Rams traded it to move up to get Jared Goff last year), and the team picks just twice in the top 100.

29. Atlanta Falcons

Salary Cap Space: $28,796,300 (21st)

Draft Pick Capital: Six picks valued at 1,054.9 points (30th)

The Falcons come into the offseason 21st in the league in available cap space, so there’s workable capital for them to add a playmaking tight end, a defensive lineman, or another interior offensive lineman to replace free agents Jacob Tamme, Jonathan Babineaux, and Chris Chester. Except, with just six picks — all which come near the end of each round — the Falcons don’t have much firepower in April’s draft.

30. Kansas City Chiefs

Salary Cap Space: $4,086,147 (32nd)

Draft Pick Capital: 10 picks valued at 1,301.9 points (24th)

Even if the Chiefs release Jamaal Charles to free up $6.2 million in cap space, they’ll still have a meager amount of spending money after the five-year, $41.25 million extension they gave to Laurent Duvernay-Tardif on Monday. Their picks aren’t worth a ton on the Johnson chart, but GM John Dorsey, who landed tight end Travis Kelce, playmaker Tyreek Hill, linebacker Ramik Wilson, guard Parker Ehinger, and receiver Chris Conley in the middle rounds, hasn’t had an issue of finding talent in less-valued slots.

31. Minnesota Vikings

Salary Cap Space: $23,153,209 (26th)

Draft Pick Capital: Seven picks valued at 927.2 points (32nd)

Unless he’s willing to take a big pay cut, the Vikings will release Adrian Peterson after the new league year begins on March 9. That will add $18 million to their cap space, but Minnesota will still be without a first-round pick this year (the team sent it to the Eagles in exchange for Sam Bradford), leaving the Vikings with the weakest collection of draft resources of anyone in the league. The draft starts on Thursday, April 27, at 8 p.m. ET, and the Vikings won’t pick until around 8:30 … on Friday.

32. Dallas Cowboys

Salary Cap Space: $6,528,915 (31st)

Draft Pick Capital: Seven picks valued at 1,138.3 points (29th)

The Cowboys will be in better shape when they unload Tony Romo’s deal (which will save them about $5.1 million against the cap), but that doesn’t get them to where they need to be in order to truly improve their roster through free agency. With a number of holes to fill on the defense, especially at defensive back, the Cowboys can’t turn to the draft for high-value-pick help either; they hold seven picks for a total value of 29th leaguewide. Ultimately, with relatively few resources to utilize, unless they can capture lightning in a bottle again this offseason and uncover a midround gem like Dak Prescott at one of their positions of need, the Cowboys may look a lot like they did last year.