NFC South cap woes to continue in 2013

April, 6, 2012
4/06/12
8:17
AM ET
We’ve talked a lot this offseason about how the salary cap has prevented the Falcons, Panthers and Saints from doing everything they would like in free agency.

Well, guess what? The 2013 free-agency period is pretty much guaranteed to be even quieter than this year. Even the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who made a huge splash in free agency, are likely to join the club.

I got a look at what all NFL teams currently have committed toward the 2013 salary cap and the picture isn’t very pretty. The Saints have been back-loading contracts, the Bucs have been front-loading them and the Falcons and Panthers have done some restructuring that takes up more 2013 cap room.

ESPN’s John Clayton previously reported that the cap is supposed to go from $120.6 million to roughly $120.9 million in 2013. That’s an increase of only $300,000 -- not good news for any NFC South team.

[+] EnlargeDrew Brees
Derick E. Hingle/US PresswireHowever Drew Brees' contract works out, the Saints will be well over the salary cap in 2013.
The Carolina Panthers already have $118 million committed toward the 2013 salary cap and that’s with only 42 players under contract. Only four teams have more cap room committed to 2013 than the Panthers; Philadelphia leads the league with $134 million committed to 45 players. And remember: The Panthers haven’t even drafted their 2012 rookies yet. Once they draft and sign those guys, they’ll be over the projected salary cap.

The rest of the NFC South isn’t in much better shape for 2013. Tampa Bay fans can stop griping about ownership being cheap. The Bucs already have $112.2 million committed to 45 players and this year’s draft class likely will put them very close to next year’s cap.

The Falcons have $108.7 million committed to 42 players in 2013. Throw in this year’s rookie class and a possible contract extension for quarterback Matt Ryan and the Falcons aren’t likely to have much room to work with.

The Saints currently are fourth in 2013 in the NFC South with $108 million committed to 42 players. But that number is extremely misleading. Quarterback Drew Brees isn’t one of those 42 players. Brees currently is carrying the $16 million franchise tag for 2012. Brees and the Saints want to work out a long-term deal. If they do that this year, it’s unlikely they could structure a contract in which Brees' 2013 cap figure could be less than about $18 million, which would put the Saints well over the projected cap.

Clayton has reported that the bump in the 2014 cap will be similar to the increase from 2012 to 2013. So let’s say the 2014 cap is a little over $121 million. I also got a look at what each team has committed toward the 2014 cap, and that’s when things should get a little better for NFC South teams, with one big exception: Carolina. The Panthers already have $117.2 million committed to 26 players. Only Philadelphia ($117.3 million) has more committed to the 2014 cap.

The Saints have $83.3 million committed toward 19 players. Again, Brees isn’t one of them. If he does get a new contract, his 2014 cap figure easily will put the Saints over $100 million.

The Buccaneers and Falcons are in much better shape for 2014. The Buccaneers have $79.8 million committed to 21 players and the Falcons have $75.6 million committed to 18 players.

Pat Yasinskas | email

ESPN Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter

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