Cincinnati Bengals: salary cap

CINCINNATI -- It's Tax Day. Hopefully the vast majority of you have already calculatedyour personal finance numbers and filed.

There is no rest for the number crunchers in NFL front offices, though. With free agency continuing and the draft nearly three weeks away, they are still trying to move around figures in a way that allows them to pay the players they want in the fashion they want to, and to sign others.

Deadlines don't exist in the salary-cap world. It's a constant struggle to balance the books and keep a roster intact. That's one of the reasons the numbers fluctuate so regularly.

As we've mentioned often this offseason, the Bengals are among the teams that have had and continue to have a large amount of cap space with which to work. They began free agency just less than $30 million under the cap, and have barely moved from that after cutting a few players and avoiding big-splash free-agency signings. Currently, the Bengals are operating at more than $24,230,000 under the salary cap, according to figures from the NFL Players Association. ESPN's Stats & Information has them slightly higher, at just more than $24,309,000 under the cap.

Newly signed Bengals defensive end Sam Montgomery's contract hasn't yet been added to those figures.

Defensive tackle Domata Peko's extended contract, one that will give him $4.4 million of guaranteed money this year alone, was the most the Bengals spent on one player this offseason.

That, of course, falls in line with how the organization normally operates. The Bengals don't like to spend in free agency unless they're keeping some of their bigger-name stars. As you probably know by now, quarterback Andy Dalton, receiver A.J. Green and linebacker Vontaze Burfict are among the players whose contracts will expire next March. They're each seeking new deals.

Bengals executives have said they'd like to re-sign Dalton as quickly as they can, although the talks aren't as far along right now as they might like. They also have plans to keep Green, but are likely to exercise the fifth-year option on him next season. As a top-10 pick in the 2011 draft, Green has a fifth-year option that can be exercised. That extra year will give the Bengals another year to rework their payroll and it also will give them another year of anticipated salary-cap gains from the league. Teams were allowed to spend $133 million on players this year. They could be at an annual cap of $150 million within the next two years. So, Cincinnati has time with Green. Burfict probably will get done this offseason, although Dalton appears to be the immediate priority.

It's because of these three pending free agents that the Bengals have still set aside seemingly so much money. They also have a sizable portion allocated for their draft spending. With nine picks in this year's draft, they'll have plenty of players soon to pay. It is typically in the draft where the Bengals like to make their biggest offseason noise.

Three teams have more salary-cap space than the Bengals ... for now. At more than $30.8 million, the Browns are leading the league in available salary-cap space. The Jets have just more than $26 million and the Jaguars are at about $25.2 million, according to ESPN Stats & Information's findings. None of that takes into account the Browns' pending re-signing of center Alex Mack.

The NFLPA has the Browns at more than $39 million remaining, the Jets at more than $26 million and the Jaguars closer to $15 million left in cap space. Per their numbers, the Bengals are third in existing cap space.

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