NFC South: salary-cap space

NFC South salary-cap check

August, 12, 2013
8/12/13
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The Carolina Panthers haven’t won or lost any games since Dave Gettleman took over as general manager after last season. But you have to give Gettleman credit for one victory.

When it comes to the salary cap, Gettleman has pulled off a minor miracle. The Panthers were more than $16 million over the salary cap when Gettleman took the job in January.

As of Monday morning, the Panthers are $13.8 million under the 2013 salary cap. That’s been accomplished by a series of releases and contract restructures. But don’t look for Gettleman to go on any sudden spending sprees.

First off, it’s mid-August and there’s not much available. More importantly, Gettleman is likely to want to carry over as much cap space as possible to next year. The Panthers already have $126 million committed to a 2014 cap that’s likely to be slightly higher than $120 million.

The Panthers lead the NFC South in cap space for this year, but Tampa Bay is not far behind. The Bucs are $11.7 million under the cap.

The Atlanta Falcons are $7.5 million under the cap and the New Orleans Saints have $5.2 million remaining.

NFC South salary-cap check

August, 1, 2013
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There has been a lot of movement toward the salary cap lately with Atlanta’s Matt Ryan and Tampa Bay’s Mike Williams signing contract extensions and Carolina’s Jon Beason restructuring his contract. Now that all of those deals are on the books, let’s take a look at the cap status for all four NFC South teams.

The Falcons are $7.7 million under the cap. There is enough room to add some players, but I wouldn’t count on the Falcons bringing in any veterans unless they encounter some injury problems.

The Panthers are $12.8 million under the cap. That’s the most room of any team in the division and that’s a tribute to general manager Dave Gettleman because the team was more than $16 million over the cap heading into the start of the league year. But I don’t expect many moves for the Panthers. They’re facing more salary-cap issues next year and I think Gettleman wants to carry over most of the $12.8 million to free up space for next year.

The New Orleans Saints are $5.1 million under the cap. That’s the least amount of room in the division, but the Saints still have room to add a veteran or two and they’ve shown a willingness to do that in the past.

The Buccaneers are $11.5 million under the cap. But I doubt Tampa Bay is going on any spending spree. The Bucs already have a big commitment toward next year’s cap and I think they want to carry over as much space as they can.
On Monday, I showed you where each NFC South team stands regarding the 2013 salary cap. Now, let’s take a little further look and -- as we periodically do here -- check the salary-cap status of each team for future years.

With 75 players under contract for 2014, the Atlanta Falcons have $114 million committed toward a salary cap that’s expected to be a little higher than $120 million. It’s extremely important to remember that quarterback Matt Ryan isn’t one of those players. Ryan’s going to get a contract extension at some point and that means the Falcons are going to face cap obstacles in 2014. The good news is, if the Falcons can get through 2014, they’re set up well to absorb Ryan’s contract in future years. They have 43 players under contract for 2015 with a cap commitment of $62 million (the 2015 cap isn’t expected to be much higher than in 2014). I’m seeing only two teams with lower 2015 cap commitments.

The future is a lot tougher for the next two NFC South teams I’m going to talk about.

The Carolina Panthers already have $133 million committed to 61 players in 2014. That means the Panthers will face another offseason of releases and contract restructures. The Panthers have $119 million committed to 39 players in 2015 and quarterback Cam Newton isn’t one of them. Obviously, general manager Dave Gettleman is going to be digging out from the cap mess left by predecessor Marty Hurney for several more years.

The New Orleans Saints have 63 players under contract and a $148.8 million cap commitment for 2014. That's the second-highest total in the league. The Saints have $130 million committed to 41 players in 2015.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been swimming in cap room for several years, but that’s about to change. At the moment, they have $124 million committed to 60 players in 2014. But there is wiggle room. The Bucs should be able to “carry over’’ about $10 million in unused cap room from this year to next year. I also wouldn’t be surprised if general manager Mark Dominik restructures the deals of Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson to push more of their cap hits into 2013. The Bucs could end up having to hand quarterback Josh Freeman a big contract next year and they have some other potential free agents on the horizon. In 2015, the Bucs have $100 million committed to 34 players.
There have been some draft-pick signings and contract restructures lately, so let’s take a look at each team’s salary-cap situation for future years.

At the moment, the Atlanta Falcons have the best salary-cap situation of any NFC South team for 2014 and 2015. The Falcons have $113.3 million committed toward a 2014 cap that’s likely to be a little over $120 million. They only have $61.6 million committed toward the 2015 cap. But we all know that’s going to change dramatically whenever quarterback Matt Ryan agrees to a massive contract extension. But the Falcons are positioned well to absorb the Ryan contract.

Carolina general manager Dave Gettleman did a nice job of digging out of a cap hole this year. But he’s going to have to do it again …and again. The Panthers already have $133.2 million committed toward the 2014 cap. They have $118.9 committed toward the 2015 cap with 39 players under contract. Quarterback Cam Newton isn’t one of those players. At some point, the Panthers are going to have to give Newton a new contract and that will create even more cap challenges.

The New Orleans Saints led the league in 2014 cap commitment the last time we checked. But they have dropped to second place now. They have $148.8 committed toward the 2014 cap and Dallas leads the league at $149.2. In 2015, the Saints have $130.6 million committed to 41 players. Again, that commitment is second only to Dallas ($140.4 million).

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have $124 million committed toward next year’s cap. But the good news is the Bucs are more than $18 million under this year’s cap and they’re likely to carry over most of that space to next year. The Bucs have $101.3 million committed to 36 players in 2015.

NFC South salary-cap check

June, 5, 2013
6/05/13
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I just got a look at the post-June 1 salary-cap figures for all 32 teams.

In the NFC South, there were two significant changes after June 1. The Atlanta Falcons got a $4.5 million credit for the release of Tyson Clabo and the Carolina Panthers cleared up $2.9 million for the release of James Anderson.

Here’s a look at where each NFC South team stands in relation to the salary cap:

Atlanta Falcons: $6.437 million under the cap.

Carolina Panthers: $9.716 million under the cap.

New Orleans Saints: $5.173 million under the cap.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: $18.749 million under the cap.
It’s time for one of our periodic salary-cap checks for all four NFC South teams. But let’s take this one a little further than usual.

Let’s look at where each team stands in relation to the cap for three years.

Atlanta Falcons: They’re $2.183 million under this year’s salary cap and they still have to sign their draft picks. But the Falcons will get $4.5 million in cap relief after June 1 when Tyson Clabo’s hit gets divided over two years. The Falcons already have $101.6 million in cap space committed for 2014 when the cap is expected to be slightly more than $120 million. That means the Falcons have some room to work with as they attempt to sign quarterback Matt Ryan to a contract extension. The good news is the Falcons have plenty of flexibility going forward because they only have $59 million committed toward the 2015 cap.

Carolina Panthers: At the moment, the Panthers are $5.28 million under the cap. That gives them room to sign their draft picks and enough room to sign some players if injuries come during the season. But the Panthers, who had to work hard to get under this year’s cap, are going to face similar obstacles going forward. They already have $125 million committed toward the 2014 cap. Perhaps more importantly, they have $109 million committed toward the 2015 cap. Carolina has only 21 players under contract through 2015 and quarterback Cam Newton isn’t one of them. General manager Dave Gettleman still has a long way to go to get out of the cap nightmare predecessor Marty Hurney left behind.

New Orleans Saints: They’re $3.1 million under this year’s cap after restructuring a bunch of contracts. But the downside to the restructures is that the Saints have pushed a lot of cap room into future years. They have $140.5 million (second only to Dallas at $145 million) already committed to the 2014 cap. The Saints only have 23 players under contract through 2015 and they already have $113 million in cap space committed toward that year.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: They still are $19.2 million under this year’s cap. It’s likely a good chunk of that will be carried over to next year. That’s a good thing because the Bucs already have $117.9 million committed to 2014 and they might have to sign quarterback Josh Freeman to a big contract extension. The Bucs have $99.7 million in cap space committed to 2015.
There could be a little extra benefit to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ trade of cornerback Aqib Talib to New England on Thursday.

The Patriots now inherit $871,764.71 in salary-cap space for this year. The flip side of that is the Bucs freed up the same amount.

That’s significant because the Bucs, who have some history of “carrying over’’ cap space now have about $12.4 million remaining in cap space for this season. They’ll need to use a little bit of that as the season goes on and they have to sign more players to compensate for injuries.

But the Bucs still should walk into the offseason with a large chunk of change to carry over to 2013. Presently, the Bucs have about $113 million committed toward next year’s salary cap. The NFL is telling teams to prepare as if the 2013 cap will be around $120 million, even though it probably will go a few million higher. With the expected carry over, Tampa Bay’s cap could end up being over $130 million.

No matter where the exact cap sits for next year, the Bucs should be sitting well underneath it. That will give them plenty of room to find a long-term replacement for Talib (through the draft or free agency) and some other needs.

Bucs capitalize on veteran benefit

September, 27, 2012
9/27/12
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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a team that prides itself on building through the draft. But the Bucs stepped out of character a bit this week by signing veterans Roscoe Parrish and Jeff Charleston.

But these moves were exceptions and came due to necessity. The Bucs needed to add defensive end depth after losing Adrian Clayborn to a season-ending injury, so they went out and signed Charleston. Sammie Stroughter, who was supposed to be the punt returner, got hurt. The Bucs then signed Jordan Shipley, but he had trouble fielding punts and the Bucs released him and went out and signed Parrish.

What’s important to note here is that the Bucs didn’t panic and pay big money for short-term fill-ins. In fact, they invested as little as possible on Parrish and Charleston.

The Bucs took advantage of the veteran minimum salary benefit when signing both players to identical contracts. Officially, Parrish and Charleston signed one-year contracts worth $700,000 and no signing bonus. But subtract the first three game checks and Parrish and Charleston each will earn $576,470 over the rest of the season.

But the Bucs won’t be charged the full amount toward the salary cap. The veteran minimum benefit is designed to help keep veteran players in the league, by making the affordable under the salary cap and it allows their cap figure to be less than their actual salary.

Charleston and Parrish each will count only $444,705 toward this year’s cap.

That leaves the Bucs with $12.8 million (sixth most in the NFL) for this year. They still may have to make more moves this year. But by signing veterans like Charleston and Parrish, they’ve kept a lot of cap room available. That’s significant because the Bucs can carry some of that space over to next year and they already have a lot of money committed toward the 2013 cap.

Carolina is the only other NFC South team with a chance to carry over much money to next year’s cap. The Panthers currently are $5.25 million under this year’s cap. New Orleans is $3.2 million under and Atlanta is $1.15 million under.

Saints, Falcons feeling cap crunch

September, 14, 2012
9/14/12
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Beyond the obvious, there’s another reason why the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints have to hope they don’t encounter many more injuries.

They don’t have enough salary-cap space to add many more players. I just got a look at the latest league-wide cap figures, and the Falcons have the second-smallest amount of cap room available.

San Francisco leads with only $754,618 available. The Falcons are just behind them at $761,498. They are the only two teams with less than $1 million in cap space.

The Saints are only slightly better off than the Falcons. They’re $1.72 million under the cap, and only three teams have less room than them. But the Saints’ situation is complicated because Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma's cap figures are counting fully. If their suspensions are reinstated, the Saints would get substantial cap relief.

If the Falcons or Saints have to make many more roster moves, they’ll have to free up some room by restructuring existing contracts.

The other two NFC South teams are in good cap shape. Carolina is $5.3 million under the cap. Prior to Friday’s signing of offensive lineman Derek Hardman and the release of defensive lineman Wallace Gilberry, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were $13.5 million under the cap.

Updated NFC South salary-cap space

September, 5, 2012
9/05/12
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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.

NFC South cap room update

July, 18, 2012
7/18/12
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Now that quarterback Drew Brees and rookie receiver Nick Toon have been signed by the New Orleans Saints, it’s time to provide an update on NFC South salary-cap space.

Really, the Saints are the only team that have had a change since the last time we updated you on this. Tampa Bay remains $15.7 million under the cap, although that number will drop by about $2 million once rookie safety Mark Barron signs. Atlanta still is at $2.8 million and Carolina is at $8.8 million.

But the Saints’ cap situation has changed dramatically. They were only $2.1 million under the cap before signing Brees and Toon, but Brees is the key figure here. Although he got a five-year, $100 million contract, Brees actually helped the 2012 cap situation. Instead of counting for more than $16 million as the franchise player, Brees now counts $10.4 million against this year’s cap.

That puts the Saints right at $8 million under the cap. The Saints also would free up an additional $4.95 million for this year if the season-long suspension for linebacker Jonathan Vilma is upheld.

The Saints still have some areas of need, particularly in the pass rush. Now that they’ve got some cap room, don’t be surprised if they use it to try to give defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo some more guys that can get after opposing quarterbacks.

NFC South cap space update

July, 10, 2012
7/10/12
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It’s been a while since we’ve checked in on NFC South salary-cap space, so let’s do it now.

At the moment, the New Orleans Saints have the division’s least amount of cap space at $2.16 million. With franchise quarterback Drew Brees still looking for a long-term deal and fourth-round draft pick Nick Toon still unsigned, the Saints may have to make some moves just to fit those two under the cap.

The Atlanta Falcons are $2.8 million under the cap. The Falcons already have all their draft picks signed and have no pressing contract issues. They still have enough wiggle room that they could add a player or two before the start of camp, but I wouldn’t look for anything major.

The Carolina Panthers, thanks largely to spreading out Travelle Wharton’s cap hit over two years, are in very good shape at $8.8 million under the cap. You could see the Panthers make a few moves to shore up their depth during the preseason, but I wouldn’t count on any outside spending spree. If anything, I’d expect the Panthers to perhaps try use this cap space to work out contract extensions with some of their own players.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are $15.7 million under the cap. Whenever they sign first-round pick Mark Barron, he’ll count about $2.6 million toward the cap. That still leaves plenty of money and you could see some moves. But what’s really left out there? Not a lot. Like the Panthers, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bucs start extending some of their own players, once they see who really fits in coach Greg Schiano’s system.

NFC South salary-cap update

May, 24, 2012
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As we wait for the Saints and Panthers to hold media sessions after Thursday’s workouts, let’s fill some time by taking a look at updated salary-cap figures for each NFC South team.

The Atlanta Falcons are $2.8 million below the salary cap and have only one draft choice (fifth-round pick Jonathan Massaquoi) left to sign. The Falcons don’t have a lot of room to work with. But, if some veterans they like come available, it wouldn’t be that difficult for the Falcons to restructure some contracts to free up salary-cap room.

The Carolina Panthers are $3.2 million under the cap. That figure is a little misleading. The Panthers released guard Travelle Wharton and designated him as a June 1 cut. That means Wharton’s entire cap figure ($7.6 million) currently is counting against Carolina’s cap. Once June 1 gets here, the Panthers will be allowed to spread Wharton’s cap hit out over this year and next.

The New Orleans Saints are $2.3 million under the cap. Like the Panthers, the Saints could be looking at some dramatic changes in their cap room. If linebacker Jonathan Vilma’s season-long suspension is upheld, the Saints will immediately free up his $4.9 million cap figure. The Saints can use that room as they try to get quarterback Drew Brees signed to a long-term contract.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are $16.5 million under the cap. That figure is updated with the trade of Kellen Winslow, which freed up $4.8 million in cap space. The Bucs still have to sign first-round picks Mark Barron and Doug Martin, but there still is plenty of room if the Bucs see an available player they like.

NFC South salary-cap update

April, 24, 2012
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I just got a look at the updated salary-cap space for all four NFL teams.

It was current as of Monday night. It’s still current for Atlanta, even though cornerback Brent Grimes just signed his tender as the franchise player. Grimes’ tender already was counting against Atlanta’s cap.

With $1.7 million available, the Falcons have the least cap room of any NFC South team.

The New Orleans Saints are next at $4.7 million and that includes Jonathan Vilma's restructured contract and Jabari Greer's three-year contract extension.

Carolina is next at $5.8 million and that figure factors in the recent extension signed by receiver Steve Smith.

Tampa Bay is $16.9 million under the cap. Only five teams currently have more cap room than the Buccaneers.
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.

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