The NFL salary cap is a hard limit on the amount of money a team is allowed to spend on players salary in a given year. This year’s cap was set at $177,200,000. Ahead of free agency and the draft, the Titans had just over $45 million in cap room. However, after the deals they’ve made throughout the offseason they now have just under $35 million. The Titans haven’t struggled with cap room for years due to the lack of talent on the roster. Now that the Titans’ high draft picks are becoming stars, the team is going to have to pay up.
Stars Deserving Big Contracts
LT Taylor Lewan: The first player coming up on a pay day is the fiery bookend tackle from Michigan. Taylor Lewan deserves a new extension to become the highest paid offensive lineman in the NFL, but it looks more likely that he will play out the 2018 season on his fifth year option. Lewan has quickly become a star on the Titans’ line and in the Nashville community. It may have to wait until after the season, but he should and will be paid more than Nate Solder at around $16 million per year.
QB Marcus Mariota: Mariota will obviously be the most expensive player the Titans have to pay in the next few years. Quarterback is the premier position in the NFL and Mariota will be paid like a franchise quarterback. He struggled last year, but has proven when healthy he can take this team to new heights. Matt Ryan recently signed a big extension with the Falcons for $30 million per year. Mariota will most likely get more than this if he is able to return to form in 2018 at around $32 million.
RT Jack Conklin: Lewan will be the first tackle to get paid, but Conklin will get paid even more when his time comes. He is coming off of a major knee injury, but as long as he recovers well he should be the Titans’ right tackle for years. His salary will depend on how many other top tier lineman are paid before Conklin gets his extension. His overall salary will end up in the $19 million range.
Other Players Who Will Get Paid
FS Kevin Byard: Byard will be paid around the same time as Conklin as they both were drafted in 2016. This is the first player who isn’t at a premier position so even though he has emerged as a star, he will not be paid as much. Eric Berry currently holds the highest per year contract at $13 million. The price tag for Byard will most likely be higher, but the All-Pro safety deserves to be paid. His contract will likely be around $16 million per year.
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CB Adoree Jackson: The 18th pick in the 2017 NFL Draft looked like the real deal as a rookie. It is too early to say he will get paid as the best cornerback in the game. However, Jackson is a good, young cornerback which the Titans haven’t had in years. As long as he stays healthy, Jackson should get paid like a number one cornerback. When he gets his extension, it could be over $15 million per year.
Big Contracts Coming Off The Books
OLB Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan: The Titans’ edge rushing duo is being paid close to $8 million and $7 million per year respectively. Both are entering a contract year in 2018. One or both may resign with the Titans on a short deal, but their contracts will come off the books. These have been two of the larger contracts on the team for a while and should give some relief for the team.
SS Johnathan Cyprien: The big-hitting safety signed a 4 year, $25 million contract last offseason. He struggled last year, but still remains a starter on the Titans’ defense. He could play out his contract, but it is more likely his deal is evaluated before it ends. His contract ending will give Tennessee some room to sign the players listed above to their new deals.
CB Malcolm Butler: Yes, he did just sign a five year deal. His contract is now the largest on the team at over $12 million per year. Butler is 28 years old and it is unlikely the Titans will keep paying him like a top tier cornerback until he is 33. Getting Butler off of the books would do a lot to help other Titans get paid. It isn’t guaranteed his contract isn’t played out, but I doubt he plays five years in Nashville.
Can the Titans Do It?
The salary cap increases every year and should be well over $200 million come 2021. General manager Jon Robinson has kept cap space in order to make sure he doesn’t lose his key players. Lewan will be the first domino to fall, but they will go fast over the next few years. Getting older players off of the books will be key in order to insure the young superstars stay in Nashville for the long haul. With close to $100 million estimated for the extensions in the next few years, salary problems will start in Tennessee. However, having to pay your great players to go after a Super Bowl is a good problem to have.