If you have been following along here at TexansCap you would know that the Houston Texans are heading into the 2018 free agency period with approximately $57 million in available cap dollars. But what does this really mean? How much will the team really spend in free agency and on other areas of the roster? Let’s break this down by category, if you will, to determine how much money the team could spend. Note this exercise does not include any roster changes to the current roster. Regardless of how much cap space the team truly has each organization will have some sort of cash threshold budget which could limit the cap spending regardless of available cap space.
Starting Point – Team Adjusted Cap Number
The adjusted team salary cap number is a summation of the NFL cap number, team annual adjustment (+/-), and the team carryover from the previous season. Nothing is official for any of the three categories but we can project based on history and what we know. Initial reports have the NFL cap figure coming in anywhere from $174 million to $178 million based on a report from Ian Rapoport during the NFL league meetings in December. The finalized NFL salary cap number generally is announced by the NFL in early March at the franchise tag deadline. We have been using a figure of $179 million, and we will continue to use that for this exercise. The team carryover, which is unused cap dollars from the previous season, likely will be announced by the NFLPA at the end of January. The projection for the team carryover is set to be $9,949,209 to bump up the 2018 team adjusted cap number. The annual adjustment is usually reported (leaked) in March prior to the start of the new league year. Nobody outside of the organization truly knows what all is used in the annual adjustment as it can include grievances and other miscellaneous charges. There were some players that did not meet their LTBE (likely to be earned) roster bonus incentives; this will likely give the Texans a positive adjustment for 2018. Let’s use a round number of $750,000 for this exercise.
$179,000,000 + $9,949,209 + $750,000 = $189,699,209
$189,699,209 becomes the projected adjusted cap number for the Houston Texans.
Top 51 Spending
During the offseason the team will calculate their player cap spending on only the Top 51 cap charges of the 90 man roster, this does include pro-rated & roster bonus money paid to players outside of the Top 51. Currently the Texans only have 61 players under contract for the 2018 league year. This amounts to $130,842,534 cap dollars spent on Top 51 spending. During the Top 51 spending, players on Injured Reserve and PUP Reserve do not account towards the Top 51 spending. PUP Active players do count. All the players will count once the team moves to the Top 53 spending calculation.
$189,699,209 – $130,842,534 = $58,856,675 available cap dollars
The team could look to sign three key players to contract extensions; specifically JaDaveon Clowney, Christian Covington, and Bernardrick McKinney. Clowney is already accounting for over $13 million in 2018 as part of the 5th year option on his rookie contract; an extension should not change his cap number very much. However an extension for McKinney & Covington would take up cap dollars since both players are on relatively inexpensive rookie contracts. We will set aside $9 million in cap dollars for 2018 to cover the player extensions.
$58,865,675 – $9,000,000 = $49,865,675 available cap dollars
Since the Texans currently do not have a draft pick until the 3rd round, the draft pool is only projected to be $4,832,972. This is the amount it would cost to sign all the draft picks under the Top 53 spending. However this will have minimal effect on the Top 51 spending calculation. The initial cap dollar amount used on draft picks will be projected $561,682. Obviously this is subject to change should the team trade up on the draft, which will increase the cap space used.
$49,865,675 – $561,682 = $49,303,993 available cap dollars
Once the final 53 man roster is set in September, the team will sign 10 players to practice squad contracts. The minimum salary for the practice squad player is $7,600 per week in 2018. $7,600 * 17 weeks = $129,200 cap charge for each player. The minimum total cap dollars spent on the practice squad roster comes out to $1,292,000. The team could opt to pay a player more than the minimum. The Texans paid a couple of players above the minimum in 2017.
$49,303,993 – $1,292,000 = $48,011,993 available cap dollars
The team will need to set aside some cap dollars to account for spending on injured reserve replacement players. Specifically money used to sign a player to the active roster after the team has designated an active roster player to the injured reserve. Additionally the team will need to set aside cap dollars for players placed onto injured reserve during the final roster cut downs. With the increase in concussions and player injuries this number should be around $8 million to $9 million. Teams used to only account for $4 million, maybe $5 million.
$48,011,993 – $9,000,000 = $39,011,993 available cap dollars
It is difficult to project how much money the team could end up spending on dead money for the season. The team should have a good idea up front high that number will be based on projected roster moves early in the offseason. Since roster moves are not part of this exercise. For this exercise we will use an even figure of $6 million to set aside for dead money. Dead money is generally defined as cap dollars accounted for a player contract that has been terminated, traded, or renegotiated.
$39,011,993 – $6,000,000 = $33,011,993 available cap dollars
OTA Workout Debt
The players (except rookies) are paid per day during the offseason organized team activities (OTAs). At the start of the league year the NFL will debt a set amount as a placeholder for each team. The players are paid $215 a day for the 2018 season. During training camp the team will calculate how much was actually paid and that number will replace the debt placeholder. For the 2018 season the debt placeholder will be $619,200.
$33,011,993 – $619,200 = $32,392,793 available cap dollars
Top 51 to Top 53 Transition
During the final roster cut downs heading into the first week of the regular season the team will transition from the Top 51 spending calculation to the Top 53 calculation. We have already accounted for Reserve players, Practice Squad, dead money, and OTA workout debt. Now we need to include two more players to be accounted for in the calculation.
$32,392,793 – $1,100,000 = $31,927,793 available cap dollars
Regular Season Spending
The team will need to set aside money for regular season transactions. We already covered a portion of this under the Injured Reserve section. However the team will continue to churn the bottom of the roster and practice squad, either of which could eat into the available cap dollars. For this exercise the team will set aside $2 million in cap dollars.
$31,297,793 – $2,000,000 = $29,292,793 available cap dollars
Available Salary Cap Dollars
This amount could be loosely designated as available salary cap dollars for free agency. This doesn’t mean the team would spend this whole amount in free agency. The team could set additional miscellaneous money aside for pending grievances. This should be a sufficient amount of cap dollars to sign 2 high level free agents and 2 or 3 mid-tier free agents, or 5+ lower level free agents. The team should be looking at Guard and Safety for the highest tier spending as both of those markets have some good options to try to sign. The Cornerback market is just below that since there are 2 or 3 quality players before there is a drop off in performance availability. Tackle is shaping up to be a very weak market and would require the team to really overpay for a mid-tier tackle.