The ultimate 53-man NFL roster

(Note: Mark Dominik's ultimate 53-man NFL roster also appears in the NFL preview issue of ESPN The Magazine.)

The premise for the following exercise was simple: Assemble the best possible 53-man NFL roster under the salary cap, using each player's 2014 cap charge.

I thought this would be an interesting project; I didn't realize just how difficult it actually would be. I'd initially envisioned my super team featuring Peyton Manning handing off to Adrian Peterson and throwing to Calvin Johnson, while Joe Thomas protected his blind side. But then I realized those four players alone would have made up a whopping $57 million -- more than 40 percent -- of my $133 million budget.

So I had to go back to the drawing board, balancing star power with great rookie-deal values and some underrated role players to help me fill out the roster. I tried not to just pick the best players available based on the money, but to find players within each position group and unit who could complement each other. I wanted a balanced offense, a 4-3 defense and a roster that could hold up on special teams as well.

The only rule I gave myself outside of staying under the cap was not to take any rookies. (And no, this isn't an MLB All-Star team, so there isn't a representative from every team: No Giants, Falcons, Steelers or Chargers were selected.)

Here you have it: The best NFL roster that $132,971,300 can buy.


Tom Brady, New England Patriots ($14,800,000): Brady has consistently worked with the Pats' front office to allow the team to build the best overall squad around him. Even though I love Drew Brees and Peyton Manning, I like Brady just as much, and he saves me $3 million-plus in cap space to be used at other positions. Plus, he is a proven winner and leader.