Tip o' the cap
Team-by-team salary-cap figures for the 2001 season
By Don Banks, Sports Illustrated
The NFL salary cap is the absolute maximum each club may spend on player salaries in a capped year. The cap is set each year at a specified percentage of the expected NFL gross team revenue for the next year, as determined by the NFL's auditors. The salary cap remains in effect at all times, although certain exceptions may make it appear as though it's not always being applied.
A team may not exceed this cap with the salaries of players who are under contract and on its roster. If a team does exceed the salary cap at any time, the NFL can waive players from the team, starting with those earning the lowest salaries, until the team's payroll has fallen under the cap. In addition, the NFL may fine a team up to $1 million per day for exceeding the cap.
Only players under contract count toward the salary cap. Free agents do not count toward the cap until they sign a contract with the team.
Here is a look at the top salary-cap figures for each NFL team, including the players with the top five overall cap numbers:
$11.35 million -- 16.8% of team's cap
Jacksonville's cap situation is the bleakest in the NFL and Brunell's contract is a big reason why. His exorbitant cap number remains a front-burner issue and it still might wind up forcing the two sides to part ways. Brunell gave the team some short-term relief when he lowered his cap number by $2 million earlier this offseason.
But a March 30 deadline looms. That's when Jacksonville will owe him a $2.5 million roster bonus. The pressure is on. Brunell wants a new deal along the lines of Brett Favre's and Drew Bledsoe's, and is said to not oppose a trade.
$10.06 million -- 14.9% of team's cap
Aikman is a man without a team, but not without a cap number. The Cowboys were forced to absorb a mammoth cap hit when they released him last week, and Dallas will be weighed down by that "dead money" all season long. Think of it as payback for all those concussions he endured.
Texas really is the Lone Star State now. With Aikman gone, it's Emmitt Smith and little else. The Cowboys can do nothing this offseason in free agency thanks to Aikman's parting gift. Even replacing him must be done on the cheap. Aikman will have a low cap number if he signs elsewhere. Just not in Dallas.
$10 million -- 14.8% of team's cap
The Giants are paying their premier defensive player, i.e, the team's best player, the premier dollars. But after last season's Super Bowl run, it looks like money well spent.
Even with sack-man Strahan's big chunk, New York still had enough cap room to go out and land the second-best defensive end on the market this year -- Tennessee's Kenny Holmes -- to a five-year, $21.25 million deal. Holmes provides an obvious upgrade from underachieving right end Cedric Jones, the 1996 No. 1 pick who was released.
$8.45 million -- 12.5% of team's cap
The Colts are keeping things low profile this offseason, but don't blame it on Manning's money. Yeah, he hasn't won the big game since Pop Warner League, but he's the real deal and every night when he hits his knees, Colts general manager Bill Polians says thank you that he made this kid the franchise and didn't bite on the Ryan Leaf hype.
Manning and the Colts didn't really turn it on until December last year, salvaging an almost lost season with a heroic late playoff drive. Still, he finished as the AFC's second-leading passer with 4,413 yards and a 94.7 quarterback rating, and is worth every dime.
$8.45 million -- 12.5% of team's cap
You think the running back-needy Patriots wouldn't love to have such a big number sunk into Martin, if they only had it to do over? Martin's 1,712 total yard season wasn't monstrous (1,204 rushing, 508 receiving), but he remains the Jets' biggest offensive weapon and is one of the more versatile, reliable threats in the league.
New York choked away a playoff berth late last season, but if they get any kind of rebound from Vinny Testaverde, or quick acceleration from Chad Pennington, count on Martin again being the man in the middle of another playoff contention run.