I have included the necessary cuts in order to move towards the cap. I haven't done the math and calculated the savings etc., but there will always be the chance to restructure contracts in order to get under as needed. I have not kept any player on the assumption of coming back at a lower salary.
To really see how bad it will be, look closer at our contributing lineup as it stands for next year (with proposed cuts and FAs) and see what we really need.
DL - Hood, Heyward, RFA McClendon, Keisel - there has been talk about Hood to NT, but only talk right now. A nice start to a core DL with a NT needed, but we need to add to this. Also a chance to look at Corbin Bryant who looked pretty good last summer. Goodbye Hoke, Hampton, Smith
LB - Harrison, Woodley, Timmons, Sylvester, Worilds, Carter, Ivy - three proven starters finally healthy with another who has been waiting in the wings for two years. A couple of kids to look at in Worilds, Ivy, and currently IR Carter. Goodbye Farrior, Foote
DB - Ike, RFA Lewis, Brown, Allen, Troy, Clark - Tender RFA Mundy, which will be cheap. Pretty much what we already had except for Gay. Good news - Lewis, Brown, Allen all one year older and wiser. Bad news Troy, Ike, Clark all one year older and slower. Goodbye Gay, BMac, Will Allen
OL - Colon, Gilbert, Pouncey - Now does everyone see why this is our absolute #1 priority? This involves us cutting Kemo and Scott, but I think we all understand those moves. We just signed Malecki, Trevis Turner, and Chris Scott, but no huge contributors expected there. We only have three starters on a 5 man unit. And one of those has been injured for the past two years.....Goodbye Kemo, Scott, Starks, Essex, Meredith and I would tender Legursky and Foster cheap.
WR - Brown, Sanders, Wallace (first round tender), a position that was so deep in '11 is much shallower in '12. Our one WR on the practice squad was snapped up by another team. We don't have an urgent need for a starter, but we do need to address the position. Goodbye Hines, Cotch, Battle
TE - Heath, Saunders - RFA DJ is cheap so we can either bring him back or replace him. Otherwise no changes here.
RB - Mendy, Batch, Dwyer, Clay, Spann, RFA Redman - We will try to sign Redman. I really expect little out of Mendenhall in '12. He hurt it too late in the season to regain form until maybe late next year. Other than that, the same group from last year but with the return of the two kids.
QB - Ben..... - and the sound of crickets. Only Ben. Lefty, Batch, Dixon? We do need a vet backup and I hope it isn't Batch. If he was a confident choice then he would have started in Cleveland. Lefty definitely would have gotten the nod if healthy. Goodbye Dixon, Batch, and we will see about Byron.
So, we have just rid ourselves of:Hampton, Hoke, Smith, Farrior, Foote, Gay, BMac, Will Allen, Kemo, Scott, Starks, Essex, Meredith, Hines, Cotchery, Battle, Batch, Dixon, and maybe Lefty.
A huge list, no doubt, but the only "lets cross our fingers and hope that nothing implodes" openings are Hampton, Starks, and maybe Farrior (many will disagree). Beyond that we need some quality depth. I think that this team has enough veteran leadership - Ben, Heath, Keisel, Ike, Harrison, Woodley etc. to keep the team from falling apart without the presence of guys like Farrior, Foote, Hampton, Smith etc.
Based on this, the potential openings going into '12 would be (with the current slotted player in brackets):
OG x 2 - (Foster, Legursky)
Backup QB - (nobody, maybe Lefty)
RB - (Redman) again, going on the assumption that Mendenhall will not be healthy out of camp
NT - (McClendon)
ILB - (Sylvester)
FS - (Clark)
WR4,5 - (nobody at all)
CB - (Lewis/Allen/Brown) I think that at least one of these three kids step up, but who knows?
And some backup positions.....
Can a core like this contend next year? What say you?