NFC South: salary-cap room

Looking at Buccaneers' cap situation

September, 5, 2013
Wednesday was a key day for salary-cap purposes. Each team’s cap commitment switched from the top 51 players to all players that count against the cap, including dead money.

With that in mind, let’s check out the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' cap situation.

They now are $10.2 million under this year’s cap. They might have to tap into that room if they have some injuries, but I wouldn’t expect any major signings.

The Bucs will do one of two things with the cap space they have remaining for this year. They’ll either carry it over to next season, a maneuver they’ve used in the past. Or they’ll eat up cap space for this year by restructuring the contracts of cornerback Darrelle Revis and safety Dashon Goldson to lower their cap figures for next season. The Bucs made a similar move last year when they restructured Vincent Jackson's and Carl Nicks' contracts of at the end of the season.

Either way, the Bucs are likely to free up somewhere close to $10 million for next year’s cap. As it stands right now, the Bucs have $114.5 million committed to 40 players toward the 2014 cap, which is likely to be around $123 million.

That means the Bucs will have plenty of flexibility if they decide to lock up quarterback Josh Freeman for the long term. The good news is the Bucs don’t have a lot of other key players headed toward free agency.

Of the projected starters for this season, linebacker Dekoda Watson and fullback Erik Lorig are the only players besides Freeman that can become free agents in 2014.

NFC South cap check

July, 8, 2013
As we count down the days until the start of training camp, let’s take a look at the current salary-cap situation for each NFC South team.

The Atlanta Falcons are $6.3 million under the cap. First-round draft pick Desmond Trufant remains unsigned, but the issue that stands out even more is the status of quarterback Matt Ryan. The Falcons want to sign him to a contract extension and it’s likely he’ll be one of the league’s highest-paid quarterbacks. But the Falcons could end up freeing up some cap space for this year if they structure a potential deal with Ryan properly.

The Carolina Panthers are $9.7 million under the cap. I think you still could see the Panthers add a veteran defensive back or two. But I think Carolina wants to “carry over’’ a good chunk of its space to help ease the 2014 cap situation.

The New Orleans Saints are $5.17 million under the cap. That’s the lowest figure in the division. But the Saints might not be done yet. They still could look to add a pass-rusher after losing linebacker Victor Butler to injury during the offseason program.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are $18.27 million under the cap. They still could add depth at a few positions, but I’m not expecting anything major from the outside. The Bucs want to get receiver Mike Williams signed to a contract extension. They also want to carry over a good bit of their space to next year because they already have $119 million committed toward the 2014 cap.

NFC South salary-cap check

May, 1, 2013
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers freed up $1.75 million in salary-cap space by trading running back LeGarrette Blount to the New England Patriots during the NFL draft.

That leaves the Buccaneers $19.024 million under this year’s salary cap. Only four teams have more room. Tampa Bay still could make a move or two in free agency, but I wouldn’t expect anything flashy. The Bucs will need somewhere between $3 million and $4 million to sign their draft picks and they also are likely to give receiver Mike Williams a front-loaded contract extension. The Bucs likely will try to carry over about $10 million in cap room to 2014.

The rest of the NFC South teams don’t have nearly as much cap room as the Bucs. The Carolina Panthers are $5.28 million under the cap. That’s enough to sign the draft picks, but the Panthers won’t have much room left over.

The New Orleans Saints are $3.1 million under the cap. We still could see some contract restructures or releases. The Atlanta Falcons are $2.18 million under the cap. The Falcons will have to free up a little cap space just to be able to sign their draft picks.

NFC South salary-cap check

April, 16, 2013
When it comes to the salary cap, there’s a huge discrepancy between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the rest of the NFC South.

The latest cap figures have the Bucs at $32.8 million under the cap. Only the Cleveland Browns ($33.6 million) have more room.

The New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons are among the teams with the least room. New Orleans is $1.635 million under the cap and only four teams have less cap room. The Falcons are $2.027 million under the cap.

The Saints and Falcons will have to restructure contracts or release players to be able to sign their draft picks.

The Carolina Panthers are $5.134 million under the cap. They’ll have enough room to sign their draft picks and could have enough to sign another free agent or two.

What’s Tampa Bay going to do with all that room? In addition to signing their draft picks, they could have several major expenditures. They still could trade for New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis and give him a hefty new contract and they reportedly will try to extend the contract of receiver Mike Williams after the draft. The Bucs also could sign several more free agents.

NFC South 2014 salary-cap check

April, 10, 2013
The New Orleans Saints have been able to be fairly active in free agency due to a series of contract restructures. But that will come with a heavy price in the future.

I just got a look at how much all NFL teams have committed toward the 2014 salary cap and the picture isn’t pretty for the Saints. They already have $139 million committed to next year’s cap. That’s the second-highest total in the league (Dallas leads at $146 million).

Next year’s cap is expected to remain less than $125 million and the Saints’ commitment will only grow once they sign this year’s draft picks.

The Carolina Panthers, who once had nearly $140 million committed to the 2014 cap, gradually have been shaving cap space for the future. After releasing cornerback Chris Gamble and making some other moves, the Panthers currently have $125 million committed toward next year’s cap. That number will drop by $5.9 million next spring when the contract for offensive tackle Jordan Gross voids.

The other two NFC South teams are in decent cap shape for 2014. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are at $98.5 million. They’re expected to use some of that room to sign receiver Mike Williams to a contract extension this offseason, but they still will have plenty of room to sign Josh Freeman to a long-term extension if the quarterback has a solid 2013 season.

Speaking of quarterbacks and long-term extensions, the Atlanta Falcons are well positioned to absorb the long-term contract they want to get done with Matt Ryan this offseason. The Falcons currently have $98 million committed toward the 2014 cap.

NFC South salary-cap check

April, 4, 2013
Salary-cap information generally is kept top secret, but the NFL Players Association took the rare step of making some of it public Wednesday.

Presumably in an attempt to show how much cap room remains unused, the NFLPA publicly put out numbers on how much each team is under the cap.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the second-most room in the NFL at $26.384 million under the cap. That number could grow if the Bucs release or restructure the contract of Eric Wright, who currently is costing the team $7.75 million in cap space. This probably will lead to some of the old claims that the Bucs are “cheap." But I think the more significant thing here is that they’re set up nicely to perhaps make a trade for cornerback Darrelle Revis. Part of that equation would involve giving Revis a long-term deal as the highest-paid cornerback in the league. The Bucs, who like to front load contracts, are in a position to make a Revis deal work.

The Carolina Panthers, who had to do a lot of work to get under the cap at the start of free agency, now are $6.187 under the cap (largely due to the restructuring of Jordan Gross’ contract). That figure doesn’t include the deal signed by receiver Domenik Hixon on Wednesday. But Hixon’s deal is probably for the veteran minimum and won’t take up much cap space. The Panthers, who haven’t made any major moves in free agency, have a little bit of wiggle room now and could make perhaps one or two moves of note.

The New Orleans Saints are at $2.05 million under the cap. That means they’re pretty much done with free agency. If they want to make any significant moves, they’ll have to restructure contracts. But the problem there is they already have restructured most of the veteran contracts that would make sense to restructure.

The Atlanta Falcons were listed at $2.4 million under the cap. That was before news broke Thursday morning that the team is releasing right tackle Tyson Clabo. The move will free up $900,000 in the short term. But Clabo will be designated as a June 1 release. After June 1, the cap savings will be about $4.5 million. The Falcons also hope to work a long-term extension with quarterback Matt Ryan sometime this offseason. Depending on the structure of the deal, an extension could create some cap room for the Falcons this year.

Updated NFC South salary-cap space

September, 5, 2012
Now that we’re into the first week of the regular season, the way salary-cap figures for each team are calculated has changed.

In the offseason, only the top 51 figures count against a team’s cap. Now, every contract counts and that includes practice squad players and guys who are no longer on the roster, but are counting for outstanding pro-rated bonus money.

I just got a look at where each NFC South team stands under the cap, so let’s run through it.

The Falcons are only $1.049 million under the cap. If this team suffers a serious injury and wants to sign a replacement of any significance, it likely will have to restructure a contract or two to free up room. The Falcons are carrying a lot of “dead money,” including some that stretches back to guys who haven’t played for Atlanta since 2010. Jamaal Anderson, Michael Jenkins, Chauncey Davis and Ovie Mughelli are taking up more than $2 million in salary-cap space.

The Carolina Panthers are at $5.1 million and some of that is due to smart accounting. Former guard Travelle Wharton is costing the team $1.9 million, but the hit for this year is spread out equally for next year. The Panthers do have about $550,000 tied up in former punter Jason Baker and kicker Olindo Mare and they also lost an injury grievance to safety Nate Salley, which is costing them $440,000. The Panthers already are projected to be close to the 2013 cap and would like to carry some of this year's room over to next year.

The New Orleans Saints are $8.7 under the cap, but that’s misleading. Defensive end Will Smith's $5.1 million figure is off the books during a four-game suspension, but comes back on as soon as it’s over. Smith also could come back on the books if the NFL Players Association gets a temporary restraining order on his suspension. Jonathan Vilma's $3.3 figure isn’t counting as he serves a season-long suspension. But, like with Smith, the Saints have to keep room open for him in case he is reinstated, even if it’s only temporary.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have $14.9 million in cap space. That figure doesn’t include Wednesday’s re-signing of cornerback Brandon McDonald and the release of offensive lineman Derek Hardman, but those moves likely will have only a minor impact. The Bucs rank third in the league in cap space, but don’t call them cheap. They spent a fortune in free agency and front-loaded the contracts of Carl Nicks, Vincent Jackson and Eric Wright. I wouldn’t anticipate the Bucs using most of their remaining salary-cap space. They want to carry it over to next year because they already are projected to be close to the 2013 salary cap. Carrying over some of this year’s cap space would give the Bucs room to add a few more free agents next year.

Keeping an eye on the salary cap

February, 13, 2012
The start of free agency is just about a month away and that’s when teams will have to be under the $120 million salary cap.

With that in mind, let’s take one of our periodic looks at where each NFC South team stands in terms of what it has committed to the 2012 salary cap since there's been a little change in some of the numbers recently. We’ll use figures for the top 51 cap numbers for each team because that’s what will be used from the start of the league year until just before the regular season starts and all cap numbers start to count.

The Carolina Panthers remain above the cap and obviously have some work to do. After signing long-snapper J.J. Jansen to a four-year contract last week, the Panthers are sitting at $128.1 million.

The New Orleans Saints, who are trying to get a deal done with quarterback Drew Brees and hope to follow that up with new contracts for guard Carl Nicks and receiver Marques Colston, are at $102.2 million and likely will have to release some veterans or restructure some contracts to make everything fit under the cap.

The Atlanta Falcons are at $100.4 million. They have a few free agents they want to keep, starting with linebacker Curtis Lofton and cornerback Brent Grimes. But the Falcons have enough room that they should be able to make some moves in free agency.

This may come as a shock to fans, who like to rip on Tampa Bay for being frugal. But the Bucs only have a slight bit more cap room than the Saints and Falcons. The Bucs are at $98.6 million and should be over $100 million by the start of the league year because they’re likely to re-sign a few of their own free agents. Still, the Bucs have room to make a little noise in free agency.