How tight is Texans' salary cap situation?

How tight is Texans' salary cap situation?
February 13, 2013, 8:00 am
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The Texans don’t have a ton of cap room to work with this offseason. According to the NFL, the Texans will be around $6.1 million under the cap, which includes nearly $2.5 million that rolled over from last year.

It sounds like a lot but after re-signing a few key players, most importantly safety Glover Quin, the money won’t stretch very far. In fact, it’s hard to imagine the Texans going through free agency without restructuring a few of their veteran deals already in place.

The Texans are starting to hit the middle to tail ends of several lengthy contracts. That’s where players start to get really pricey because NFL deals are back-loaded to alleviate salary cap problems in the short-term.

In fact, five Texans will gobble up over $54.5 million in cap room or 44 percent of available cap room this season, according to NFL salary documents. Andre Johnson’s cap hit is brutal after he hit a $3.3 million performance escalator for 2013.

Here are the top five Texans’ cap hits in 2013:

Andre Johnson - $14,852,918

Johnathan Joseph - $11,250,000

Matt Schaub - $10,750,000

Antonio Smith - $9,500,000

Arian Foster - $8,250,000

But it’s not just those guys who will hit the cap hard in 2013. The next six guys on the Texans are paid well too and all have cap hits of at least $4.5 million each. Here they are:

Owen Daniels - $5,750,000

Danieal Manning - $5,500,000

Chris Myers - $5,500,000

Duane Brown - $5,000,000

Brian Cushing - $4,643,000

Kevin Walter - $4,500,000

That means that the top 11 contracts count for about $85.5 million against their cap or 79 percent.

If the NFL’s salary cap ends up being the reported $121.5 million in 2013, that means that the Texans will have around $36 million to split up among their 40 remaining contracts. (Salary cap figures account for the team’s top 51 contracts).

Other teams are in a similar situation as the Texans – owing a ton of money on a minimal number of contracts. The Ravens have just under $70 million between 10 guys according to NFL.com’s Albert Breer. And that’s before they re-sign Joe Flacco. And the Patriots have about $69.5 million tied up in their top nine guys, according to CSNNE.com’s Tom E. Curran.

So what will the Texans be able to do this offseason?

Well, they have a few guys – Quin, Connor Barwin, James Casey, Bradie James – who they’ll be interested in re-signing. Quin, however, is the top priority. He would keep together a very strong core in the secondary and the Texans don’t have anyone else on the team ready to fill his spot were to leave in free agency. Quin’s contract will likely depend on the contracts of the other top safeties in this free agency class. If any of those guys are franchised, Quin’s stock will rise with demand.

So couldn’t the Texans slap the franchise tag on Quin?

Well, probably not. The estimated franchise tag number for a safety in 2013 will be around $6.798 million, which would likely be too big a hit for the Texans. Besides, they’d presumably like to keep Quin for the next four or five seasons anyway.

It seems more likely they’ll offer him a four or five year deal with a minimal cap hit in 2013.

But still, they have a bunch of guys they want to re-sign and not much money to do it. That’s where restructuring deals comes into play. At the top of the list has to be Johnson. His nearly $15 million cap hit is glaring. This wouldn’t be the first time the Texans have restructured his deal but it might need to be done again.

Another spot where they can find some cap relief is with Smith. The veteran defensive end is entering the final year of his deal and will have a base salary of $6 million and a cap hit of $9.5 million. If they extend him now, they can relieve some of the pressure on the cap this season and spread him the cap money out over a few years.

The Texans are up against it, which is why thinking that they’d make a run at a big-name wide receiver free agent or at a trade with the Vikings for Percy Harvin, doesn't fit.

First, they have to worry about bringing back the key pieces from a 12-4 season in 2012 and it’s not going to be easy.

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