In the NFL, cap space typically dictates how active you are in free agency. It makes sense. If you don’t have money to spend, you can’t sign players. That’s hardly ever the only reason teams essentially sit out free agency early on. The Cowboys have been notorious for that in recent years, as have the Packers.
This offseason, there have been a handful of franchises that have sat on the outside looking in, watching other teams throw around money like it’s pocket change. That doesn’t make them bad organizations, seeing as there are several reasons a team might be frugal in a given year.
Here are seven teams that have been fairly inactive since the start of free agency, and an explanation as to why.
Chuck Cook-USA TODAY SportsChuck Cook
The Texans have spent the least amount of money in free agency and have signed the fewest players after the new league year, retaining only tight end Ryan Griffin on a three-year, $9 million deal. They’ve also lost a boatload of players, watching John Simon, A.J. Bouye and Quintin Demps all sign elsewhere.
The main reason the Texans have remained idle is because they don’t have many holes, and they went into free agency with very little money to spend. Trading Brock Osweiler opened up about $16 million, but Houston was reluctant to spend that newfound money.
Why? Because Tony Romo is coming. OK, it’s not definite, but all signs point to the Texans signing him when he’s inevitably released by the Cowboys. Houston now has an opening at quarterback and $21 million in cap space, needing a signal caller to get over the hump and become a Super Bowl contender.
Not to mention, Houston doesn’t have any huge needs besides quarterback, so spending at other positions is unwarranted.
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY SportsTroy Taormina
The Steelers have remained quiet, spending only $6.4 million since the start of the new league year. They went at Dont'a Hightower on Tuesday, but it sounds like he’ll return to the Patriots after visiting Pittsburgh. Other than him, the Steelers haven’t made many strong attempts to sign players.
For one, they franchise tagged Le’Veon Bell and made Antonio Brown the highest-paid receiver in the NFL, so those two moves ate up a bunch of cap space. Additionally, the Steelers don’t have many holes to fill. The offensive line is solid, they have terrific skill-position players, and the defense is slowly getting younger.
Hightower would be a huge addition, but he wouldn’t make or break their season with Ryan Shazier already roaming the middle of the field.
Pittsburgh is using its limited cap space wisely so far.
The Bengals have had one of the most curious offseasons in the NFL. They’ve lost Andrew Whitworth, Kevin Zeitler, Domata Peko, Margus Hunt and Rex Burkhead, as well as Karlos Dansby. Both sides of the ball have taken major hits, and it’s somewhat hard to explain what the Bengals are thinking.
They have the cap space ($31.9 million) and holes all over the roster, but they’ve been reluctant to address them. Sure, they re-signed cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, but that was on a deal that far exceeded his actual value to the team.
I’m sure the Bengals tried to retain Whitworth and Zeitler, but not using their cap space to bring back at least one of them was a mistake. They just seem content on improving through the draft.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs got their biggest move of the offseason out of the way early, re-signing Eric Berry to a long-term extension. Besides that, they’ve kept their checkbook deep within their pocket.
Defensive tackle Bennie Logan was their only notable signing, adding him on a one-year, $8 million deal. The addition of Logan spells the end of Dontari Poe’s tenure in Kansas City, which was up and down, for the most part.
So why have the Chiefs been relatively inactive? Put simply, money. They have the least cap space in the NFL, and their hands are a bit tied when it comes to using it. Look for them to continue spectating as they attempt to manage their cap for the upcoming season.
The Raiders made their first “splash” move of the offseason the other day, signing former Vikings receiver Cordarrelle Patterson to a one-year deal. It was hardly a big move for the Raiders, who have only signed two players: Patterson and journeyman offensive lineman Marshall Newhouse.
Their inactivity has been a bit surprising, seeing as they have $35 million to spend. A reason for that could be the fact that they realize they’ll have to pay Derek Carr and Khalil Mack in the not-so-distant future. If they can save money now and allow it to carry over to next season, they’ll have more cap space when it comes time to pay their two stars. Not to mention, the Raiders spent a substantial amount of money last offseason, bringing in Sean Smith and Reggie Nelson, among others.
The Seahawks looked like they might be fairly active early on when they signed guard Luke Joeckel. He’s a lower-tier player, but it appeared as though the Seahawks would address a sagging offensive line early and often. That hasn’t been the case as their only other notable signing was running back Eddie Lacy on Tuesday.
The Seahawks have several needs on the offensive line, but their financial situation doesn’t allow them to add three or four players to address it. Instead, the Seahawks will likely draft a few offensive linemen and sign mid-tier offensive playmakers and potentially another corner to replace the injured DeShawn Shead.
USA TODAY SportsLogan Bowles
No team has suffered more blows this offseason than the Cardinals. They’ve lost at least five starters, including Calais Campbell, Tony Jefferson, D.J. Swearinger and Marcus Cooper. Who have they signed in response? Antoine Bethea, Karlos Dansby and Jarvis Jones – all of whom are inferior to the players Arizona lost.
So why didn’t the Cardinals make a more concerted effort to sign their impending free agents? That’s a question many fans have been asking. Signing pass rusher Chandler Jones to a colossal contract is part of the reason for that, but the Cardinals didn’t make much of an effort to retain any of the other players. Sure, Campbell and Jefferson were probably out of their price range, but Swearinger and Cooper wouldn’t have broken the bank.
Cooper has potential to be a decent No. 2 cornerback, a spot where the Cardinals struggled mightily in 2016.