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Bengals head to free agency with $49.9 million in cap space

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Now that the salary cap has been determined for 2012, the cap space for each team likewise has been calculated.

Earlier this evening, we posted the cap room, or lack thereof, for each team.

The Bengals lead the way with $49.9 million to spend.  If they choose to spend it.  There’s no per-team minimum spending requirement until 2013.

Other teams with $40 million or more in cap space include the Broncos ($44.7 million), the Buccaneers ($42.7 million), and the Jaguars ($40.6 million).

The Cardinals currently have the biggest current excess at $16.4 million.  The Lions also are $11.5 million over.

On average, the teams have $14.6 million in space.

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Team-by-team cap space, as of March 11

[Editor's note:  The following list shows the cap space for each team, as of Sunday, March 11.  Transactions occurring after 4:00 p.m. ET on Friday, March 9 are not reflected.  For example, the Vikings will have more space as of Monday, due to the termination of the contracts of several players.  Also, the Jets will have more cap space, given the extension of Mark Sanchez's contract.  The numbers is based on the 2012 unadjusted cap of $120.6 million, any 2011 carryover, any adjustments, and franchise tenders.]

Bengals:  $49.9 million under.

Broncos:  $44.7 million under.

Buccaneers:  $42.7 million under.

Jaguars:  $40.6 million under.

Chiefs:  $32.5 million under.

Redskins:  $31.1 million under.

Bills:  $30.8 million under.

Seahawks:  $29.8 million under.

Titans:  $28.1 million under.

Bears:  $22.6 million under.

49ers:  $21.8 million under.

Browns:  $17.4 million under.

Patriots:  $16.2 million under.

Chargers:  $14.9 million under.

Ravens:  $14.45 million under.

Dolphins:  $11.8 million under.

Colts:  $11.6 million under.

Steelers:  $10.5 million under.

Eagles:  $9.6 million under.

Vikings:  $7.9 million under.

Jets:  $7.1 million under.

Falcons:  $5.8 million under.

Packers:  $5.4 million under.

Saints:  $5.2 million under.

Cowboys:  $4.7 million under.

Rams:  $1.2 million under.

Giants:  $3.8 million over.

Texans:  $4.7 million over.

Panthers:  $5.3 million over.

Raiders:  $7.4 million over.

Lions:  $11.5 million over.

Cardinals:  $16.4 million over.

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If Cards want Manning, they’ll need to scramble to create cap space

File photo of Colts quarterback Manning playing against the Cardinals in Glendale Reuters

Now that the 2012 salary cap has been set at $120.6 million, we’ve obtained the full list of the cap space, or surplus, that the teams have.

With less than 48 hours until all 32 franchises must be in compliance with the spending limit, plenty of teams have work to do.

And if the Arizona Cardinals hope to sign Peyton Manning, they’ll need to roll up their sleeves and create some cap space.

The Cardinals are $16.4 million over the cap, as adjusted to reflect $2 million in 2011 carryover and $1.333 million in downward adjustments.

Amazingly, the Cardinals could have carried over $7.04 million.  They opted only to carry over $2 million.  (In fairness to the Cardinals, there’s a chance they engaged in a transaction that they somehow chewed up $5.04 million in 2011 cap space in the period between February 12 and February 28.  We’re trying to find out if that’s what happened, because it makes no sense not to carry over every penny available.)

If they’d carried over the full amount, the Cardinals would have had to clear only $11.4 million by Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. ET.  More importantly, the Cardinals would have had an extra $5 million to pay Manning.

For the Cardinals, the challenge will be to clear $16.4 million and then enough beyond that to fit Peyton’s contract under the cap.

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T.O. has his “Welcome to the IFL” moment

terrell-owens-vs-dallas-2000 AP

In his first IFL game, receiver Terrell Owens scored three touchdowns on three receptions.  In his second IFL game, Owens added one touchdown on five catches, plus 50 receiving yards.

More importantly, he got dumped over the boards.  (We didn’t know George Teague had come out of retirement.)

Here’s the best video we could find of the play, which occurred during the Allen Wranglers’ 45-28 win over the New Mexico Stars.

Hopefully, the folks in the front row had their popcorn ready.

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Report: Chiefs, Seahawks out of the Manning chase

Peyton Manning AP

Though Peyton Manning may still be a couple of days away from choosing his next team, the Denver Post reports that two more have joined the group of franchises who won’t be employing him.

According to Mike Klis of the Post, the Seahawks and Chiefs are out.

Both teams wanted to meet with Manning, and in each case Manning declined.

Klis also writes that the 49ers could make a late run at Manning, based on whether the 49ers can get Alex Smith under contract.  Both Manning and Smith are represented by Tom Condon of CAA.

Peyton has met with both the Broncos and the Cardinals,  Per Klis, money has not yet been discussed.

Speaking of money, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is reportedly “ready to make a major offer.”  But the Broncos, Klis says, will be competitive with whatever Ross offers.

Then there are the Titans.  Owner Bud Adams said Sunday that he wants to bring Peyton home to Tennessee, where he attended college.  It’s unknown whether Manning is interested in playing for the Titans.

A decision is expected by Tuesday or Wednesday.

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Wimbley, Raiders “drama continues”

Denver Broncos v Oakland Raiders Getty Images

In six days, a whopping $17.5 million in payments under Raiders linebacker Kamerion Wimbley’s contract will become fully guaranteed.  The Raiders undoubtedly will cut Wimbley before that happens, unless he agrees to a steep reduction in pay.

So where does it stand?  “The drama continues,” agent Joe Linta told PFT via email on Sunday.

Linta also pointed out something he shared with Jerry McDonald of  “No outgoing calls — and no incoming calls.”

And so, within six days, Wimbley could be going out of the organization, perhaps permanently.

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Redskins sound ready to break bank for Vincent Jackson

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It’s no secret that the Redskins and Bears will pursue Vincent Jackson vigorously when free agency opens. We’ve discussed Washington’s interest here and Chicago’s in this space. Buffalo and Tampa Bay have also been floated as possible Jackson destinations.

Kevin Acee of the Union-Tribune San Diego takes it a step further in a Sunday night report, confirming Chicago and Washington are expected to be Jackson’s two most aggressive pursuers and that the Redskins “will do almost whatever it takes” to land this year’s top free agent wideout.

The Redskins played it conservatively in 2011 free agency, saving cap space and gearing up for a monster run in 2012. They’ve got their franchise quarterback, and are now intent on surrounding him with an improved supporting cast.

Don’t forget that Redskins coach Mike Shanahan has been a “big fan” of Jackson’s dating all the way back to the 2005 draft. Shanahan was “not happy” when the then-division rival Chargers drafted Jackson five spots after Shanahan’s Broncos selected the late Darrent Williams.

Per Acee, the Chargers “seemingly” are resigned to the fact that Jackson will be playing football outside of San Diego in 2012. They may offer as much as $11 million per year, but Jackson is expected to be a Redskin if Washington proposes a contract worth in excess of $12 million. And that possibility, per Acee, “has been floated by knowledgeable people.”

Jackson is absolutely the top wideout available on the 2012 market, and it’s not close. Look for him to emerge from free agency as the NFL’s second highest paid receiver, behind Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald.

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Could Titans’ interest force Texans to chase Peyton?

88617_Colts_Collins_Football AP

The Texans, their fans, and plenty of the folks who cover the team seem to be blind to the reality that the difference between knocking on the door and kicking it in very well could be the presence of Peyton Manning on the roster.

If Sunday’s decision by Titans owner Bud Adams to make a public pitch for Peyton doesn’t wake up the defending AFC South champs, nothing will.

Adams has a thing about sticking it to the team now headquartered in Houston, the city from which he moved the Oilers.  Taking Peyton and making the Titans into the new bullies of the division would go a long way toward doing just that.

And so, if the Texans want to keep that from happening, the easiest way to do it would be to sign Peyton instead.

There have been whispers and rumors that Peyton would want to play for the Texans, if the Texans would want him.  Before Adams spoke out about Peyton, the answer should have been, “Yes.”

Now, it should be, “Hell yes.”

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Bears interested in free agent linebacker David Hawthorne

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Michael C. Wright of reports that the Bears are interested in free agent linebacker David Hawthorne.

A run-stuffing middle linebacker in Seattle, Hawthorne would likely play strong-side linebacker in Chicago’s defense. If signed to a long-term contract, Hawthorne could begin his Bears career outside and eventually replace Brian Urlacher, who turns 34 years old in May.

Hawthorne has been a dynamite run defender with the Seahawks. He’s averaged 113 tackles per season over the past three years. Hawthorne has also intercepted seven passes during that span, produced six sacks, and forced five fumbles.

Hawthorne earned NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors in early December of 2011.

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Jets interested in LaRon Landry

Washington Redskins v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

LaRon Landry is likely to leave the Redskins in free agency after five years in Washington. The Jets may be his destination.

The Jets have made a few contract moves to position themselves to be aggressive when free agency starts on Tuesday, and Rich Cimini of reports that they’re expected to show interest in Landry.

Safety is a position that Jets coach Rex Ryan would like to upgrade on his defense, so Landry makes sense there. He also makes sense if the Jets are planning to enter their players in any bodybuilding competitions.

Landry has always been a starter when healthy, but he hasn’t always been healthy. He has missed 15 games in the last two years with Achilles, groin and hamstring injuries.

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Manning leaves Cardinals facility after 6.5-hour visit

Indianapolis Colts Release Peyton Manning - News Conference Getty Images

After meeting with Cardinals officials for six-and-a-half hours, free agent quarterback Peyton Manning was driven out of the team’s facility by coach Ken Whisenhunt on Sunday evening.  [Editor's note:  Brad Childress said in response, "Hey, that's my move!"]

During Manning’s visit in Tempe, he met with Whisenhunt, receiver Larry Fitzgerald, club president Michael Bidwill, and offensive line coach Russ Grimm. It’s unclear whether the sides engaged in any contract talks.

Manning also left his Broncos visit without a contract.

These things are subject to change, but it’s tentatively expected that Manning will now head back to his South Beach condo. He’s not known to have scheduled a visit with the Dolphins. Yet.

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Rams expect to learn Gregg Williams’ fate this week

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Peyton’s next place of employment has eclipsed, for now, the Saints’ bounty system as the NFL’s top story.  That could change once Commissioner Roger Goodell metes out discipline to those involved in the cash-for-crippling conspiracy.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Rams expect to learn the fate of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams this week.  Unless Goodell plans to hand out punishment in piecemeal fashion, this means that all of the other various sanctions on folks like Saints coach Sean Payton and G.M. Mickey Loomis and the Saints organization itself will come out this week, too.

As to Williams, we’ve heard that there’s support within the league for a lifetime ban.  There’s also concern that a banishment would not survive a legal challenge under the same antitrust laws on which the players relied a year ago today, after shutting down the union and wiping out the league’s multi-employer labor exemption.  In something closer to English, the NFL consists of 32 separate businesses, and if they band together and refuse to employ Gregg Williams, the NFL could be violated the antitrust laws.

That’s why the end result could be a lengthy suspension (one year or more), and a termination of employment by the Rams, for cause.  (Firing Williams for cause would cut off his right to pay.  His contract undoubtedly contains a provision mandating that any legal challenges be resolved via arbitration.  Arbitration conducted by the league office.)

Then, if no NFL team ever hires him again, he essentially has been banned for life, without being banned for life.

As one league source explained it to PFT recently, the only flaw in this approach is that one of Williams’ friends in the coaching profession may hire him several years down the road, after this incident becomes a faded memory.  Thus, the only way to truly ban Williams for life may be to indeed ban him for life.

It’s unknown at this point whether the NFL will go that far.  Combining the three-year use of a bounty system in New Orleans with consistent and repeated lies to the NFL about the use of the bounty system with, quite possibly, further falsehoods about the use of bounty systems with prior teams, ending Williams’ NFL career could be the best way to ensure that no one uses bounties again — and that anyone caught breaking the rules in the future won’t deny it until backed into a corner with irrefutable proof.

The range of penalties for Payton and Loomis is far less clear.  We’re told that Goodell will be careful not to make the Saints non-competitive, even though there’s a belief in some circles that Loomis deserves as harsh a punishment as Williams.  As to Payton, a short suspension may be rendered meaningless, unless the league plans to monitor his whereabouts and communication habits around the clock.  For any suspension less than a year, he’ll be able at a minimum to work on game plans in which he’ll be involved after the suspension.

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Bengals will make Monday pitch to free agent safety Nelson

Mike Wallace,  Reggie Nelson AP

The NFL rumor mill has connected free agent safety Reggie Nelson to the Dolphins and Titans, but the Bengals won’t let him get away without one last pitch.

According to Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Bengals will reach out to Nelson’s representatives on Monday, the day before the free agent market opens. Reedy gives the club a “slight chance” to re-sign Nelson, but ultimately considers him more likely to hit free agency.

The 21st overall pick in the 2007 draft, Nelson was an early-career bust in Jacksonville, but has rehabbed his market value some over the past two seasons in Cincinnati. The 28-year-old intercepted four passes and caused two fumbles in 16 starts last year. He returned one of the picks for a 75-yard touchdown.

Nelson is still a timid tackler, though. His next team would be smart to put Nelson in situations where he has opportunities to make plays on the ball as a “center-field safety,” as opposed to forcing Nelson to support the run.

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Bud Adams wants Peyton Manning in Tennessee

Bud Adams AP

Peyton Manning played his college football at Tennessee. If the owner of the Titans gets his way, that’s where Manning will resume his professional career as well.

Adams told Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean that he wants Manning in Tennessee, and he’s willing to spend what he has to spend to make it happen.

He is the man I want. Period,” Adams said. “And the people that work for me understand that. They know who I want. I want Mr. Manning with the Titans and I will be disappointed if it doesn’t happen.”

From a business perspective, it’s easy to see why Adams feels that way: Manning remains an enormously popular figure in Tennessee, where he had a brilliant college career, and in a state where the Tennessee Volunteers are huge, the Titans would be able to charge virtually any price they want for season tickets if Manning were their quarterback.

However, Wyatt reports that Titans General Manager Ruston Webster, Chief Operating Officer Mike Reinfeldt and head coach Mike Munchak aren’t on board with Adams’ goal. The Titans’ football people think veteran Matt Hasselbeck and last year’s top pick, Jake Locker, make quarterback a position where the Titans are strong.

So that raises the question: Will the owner get his way? Or will the football people get to shape the direction of the football team? Adams sounds like he knows it’s a long shot that Manning would come on board, but he also sounds like he wants the fans in Tennessee to know he’s doing all he can.

“I hope to be one of the teams he looks at,” Adams said. “Since he went to school in Tennessee I think Tennessee is where he should be. I think he could play for two or three years. I think he’s the guy that could come in and turn this around for us. That’s why I am so anxious to get him to come visit with us and I want him on my team. I could sit down with him and show him what [we’d be willing to pay]. If he would come [meet] with me he would be happy with what he’d get. . . . I want Manning.”

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49ers working to re-sign free agent receiver Morgan

San Francisco 49ers v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

Two sources tell the Sacramento Bee that the 49ers are making a “strong push” to re-sign wide receiver Josh Morgan in advance of Tuesday’s free agency commencement. Morgan has been with the team since 2008.

Though Morgan has totaled only 1,764 yards and nine touchdowns across four NFL seasons, the Niners think more highly of the 26-year-old than his stats indicate. Specifically, according to the Bee’s Matt Barrows, the 49ers view Morgan’s production “more as an indication of the 49ers’ lackluster passing attacks” than his ability.

Morgan is a well-built 6-foot and 219 pounds, and he’s considered a strong blocking receiver. Morgan ran a 4.47 forty-yard dash coming out of Virginia Tech and has flashed the ability to stretch defenses vertically as well as rack up yards after the catch.

Some speculation and reports have connected Morgan to the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he’d have no trouble cracking the starting lineup. But the Niners want Morgan back to be their No. 2, lining up opposite Michael Crabtree.

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