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Cap is about the company you keep?


If, in fact, numbers don't lie, then there would seem to be a direct link between the Jaguars, Titans and Ravens.

Those are the three teams that top the list of the league's greatest salary cap excesses for 2002. Using $72 million as the projected salary cap figure per team for the '02 season, the Jaguars lead the league at about $24.5 million above the cap figure. The Ravens are second at about $20.5 million above and the Titans are third with about $18.5 million to trim from their cap.

So what is it about these three teams? Is it fair to assume they were competing against each other and got a little too carried away? After all, they were division rivals for the past seven years.

That has to be the obvious conclusion we draw. We might even deduce that it was the Jaguars who blazed the trail, causing the Ravens and Titans to overspend as they attempted to unseat the Jaguars from the top of the AFC Central Division standings in 1998 and 1999.

Let's take a look at the opposite side of the ledger. Three of the four teams who have the most salary cap room in the league are products of the NFC East. The Cardinals lead the league with $25 million of cap room, followed by the Eagles at $18. The Redskins are just behind the third-place Bears, each with about $14 million of cap room. Logic suggests teams' salary caps are influenced by the company they keep. With that in mind, let's take a look at the company the Jaguars will be keeping in the AFC South.

We already know about the Titans. At least the Jaguars know the Titans will be following a course parallel to the Jaguars. The Colts are only $1.5 million under the '02 cap, which means the Colts aren't about to run away and hide, either.

The Texans have to be the big concern. They have an empty cap, an exciting list of players available to them in the expansion draft, and plenty of extra draft choices to stock their future. The Texans couldn't have drawn a more fortunate division placement. They have been placed in a capped-out division where they should be expected to close the gap quickly on the competition, with a general manager who helped create the favorable cap situation in Washington and with a head coach who should've learned from the cap mistakes he witnessed in Carolina.

Peyton Manning and Edgerrin James, and Steve McNair and Eddie George may be at the heart of the Jaguars' focus next season, but that's almost certain to shift to Houston in subsequent seasons, if, in fact, numbers don't lie.

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