Saturday’s contenders in good shape for 2009

NFL teams believe in now. But they also plan for the future. The teams involved in this weekend’s divisional playoff games are football’s top eight teams, but all are fairly well positioned for next season. Just take a look at Saturday’s teams and where they’re projected to be in relation to next season’s approximate $123 million salary cap.

  • Arizona — Projected to be at least $41 million under the salary cap, the money will go quickly. The Cardinals face two significant issues. Quarterback Kurt Warner is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent, as is linebacker Karlos Dansby. Plus, wide receiver Anquan Boldin, defensive tackle Darnell Dockett and safety Adrian Wilson all want more money. Who doesn’t?
  • Carolina — A mere $10 million under the 2009 salary cap, the Panthers could use another franchise tag. Both defensive end Julius Peppers and offensive tackle Jordan Gross are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents, and either will land a bounty if he doesn’t have the franchise tag.
  • Baltimore — At $25 million under the salary cap, the Ravens would seem to have plenty of flexibility. Problem is, each of their three starting linebackers — Terrell Suggs, Ray Lewis and Bart Scott — are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents. Baltimore can franchise only one. Chances are, Scott is the most likely to leave.
  • Tennessee — The Titans have left themselves $30 million under the salary cap, but it will go quickly. Quarterback Kerry Collins and defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth are scheduled to become free agents, and Tennessee is banned from using its franchise tag on Haynesworth.

See this blog Sunday for how the other four divisional playoff teams stack up for the 2009 season.

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