NFC South: salary-cap status

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are last in our series of updates on the salary-cap status of each of the four NFC South teams.

Keep in mind, these numbers are very much in flux at the moment as teams sign players to future contracts and incentives reached in 2008 haven't been factored in yet. The cap is expected to be $123 million.

Salary-cap status: $40.4 million under the salary cap.

Overview: Throw in the fact that high-priced wide receiver Joey Galloway almost certainly will be released and the Bucs are going to have a ton of salary-cap room. That's the good news. But don't get to excited because Tampa Bay needs a good chunk of that money to keep receiver Antonio Bryant and a few other potential free agents. Still, there's going to be plenty of money for the Bucs to be major players in free agency. But that might not be as encouraging as it sounds for a team that clearly has some holes to fill. Sure, names like Donovan McNabb, Matt Cassel, Albert Haynesworth and Julius Peppers are being thrown around by fans right now. But the reality is that those four players and most big names probably will end up staying with their own teams. The guys who actually do hit the market aren't likely to be nearly as attractive. There's no doubt the Bucs are going to be one of the most aggressive teams in free agency, but they've got to be wise and sort through a class that probably isn't going to be filled with established stars.

Salary-cap status: New Orleans Saints

January, 15, 2009
1/15/09
12:05
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

The New Orleans Saints are next in our team-by-team series of updates on where each NFC South team stands as far as the salary cap.

Keep in mind, these numbers are very much in flux at the moment as teams sign players to future contracts and incentives reached in 2008 haven't been factored in yet. The cap is expected to be $123 million.

Salary-cap status: $4.6 million over the salary cap.

Overview: Yes, that's correct, the Saints are over the salary cap at the moment. But they'll have to get under the cap before the start of free agency and that probably will be painful. Running back Deuce McAllister, perhaps the most popular player in franchise history, appears destined for release and some other veterans also could go. The Saints will attempt to re-sign linebacker Jonathan Vilma, their best player on defense, and that's not going to be cheap. Getting a bunch of injured guys back might be the highlight of the Saints' offseason because they're not going to have the room to do much in free agency and they presently have only four draft picks this year.

Salary-cap status: Carolina Panthers

January, 15, 2009
1/15/09
11:54
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

The Carolina Panthers are next in our team-by-team series of updates on where each NFC South team stands regarding the salary cap.

Keep in mind, these numbers are very much in flux at the moment as teams sign players to future contracts and incentives reached in 2008 haven't been factored in yet. The cap is expected to be $123 million.

Salary-cap status: $10 million under the salary cap.

Overview: Don't get too excited by that number because it's very deceiving. The Panthers are trying to re-sign offensive tackle Jordan Gross, whose value got a big boost with an All-Pro season, and defensive end Julius Peppers. Re-signing both or re-signing one and using the franchise tag on the other would put the Panthers well over the salary cap, no matter how the deals are structured. Carolina has to clear room somewhere and cornerback Ken Lucas, who's carrying a big cap number and didn't have a good second half of the season, could be a target for release or restructure. Wide receiver D.J. Hackett, a free-agent pickup who didn't work out, also looks likely to be gone. The Panthers also have a lot of veterans whose contracts can be restructured to free up some cap room. But don't look for Carolina to do much in free agency because the Panthers aren't going to have much room to work with.

Salary-cap status: Atlanta Falcons

January, 15, 2009
1/15/09
11:35
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

Many of you have been asking where each team stands as far as the 2009 salary cap. It took some digging, but we've got the numbers.

I'm going to do a team-by-team analysis on the cap. Keep in mind, these numbers are very much in flux at the moment as teams sign players to future contracts and incentives reached in 2008 haven't been factored in yet. The cap is expected to be $123 million.

We'll start with the Atlanta Falcons.

Salary-cap status: $20.8 million under the salary cap.

Overview: The Falcons seem to be in a pretty healthy spot. But they've got a lengthy list, highlighted by punter Michael Koenen, of their own free agents that they want to re-sign. They also have to think about the implications of Michael Vick's situation. Obviously, there's no way Vick returns to the Falcons. But, if he comes off the suspended list, the Falcons will either trade or release him very quickly. Vick still has about $15 million in prorated bonus money that is required to be counted against the cap. If he's released, the Falcons could designate him as a June 1 cut and divide the cap hit between 2009 and 2010. No matter how that plays out, the Falcons have some room to work with and they'll probably free up some more space by releasing some players or restructuring contracts. Don't look for the team to be a big player in free agency, but it could make several moves for mid-level free agents.

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