Today the NFL officially announced that the salary cap for 2012 with be 120.6 million dollars, which is only a slight increase of $200,000 from last year’s number.
With the official ceiling set, the Bengals got some information that they can now use with the free agency period just 30 hours away.
First, the “official” tender for franchise player Mike Nugent is 2.654 million dollars. Hopefully he kicks more like he did at the start of last season than at the end while making that kind of scratch in 2012.
Secondly, the data has now been compiled on how much salary cap space (free money) or deficit each club has. The numbers were released on several outlets, including PFT, with data adjusted to include carry-over cash from last season for teams that came in under the cap.
Guess who has the most cash to spend if he so chooses? Your Uncle Mikey.
The Bengals lead the league with 49.9 million dollars in their pockets, over 5 million more than the next financially-blessed team, the Broncos. Theoretically, Denver will be throwing their cash at a certain Tennessee Volunteers alum. The Bengals have shown no interest in Manning thus far, and most observers don’t expect them to.
49.9 million is 41.3% of the total cap, which is huge. Frankly its also an expected and natural result considering that the Bengals signed so many players to 1-year deals last year, unloaded Carson Palmer’s oppressive 12-million dollar cap hits from both 2011 and 2012, eliminated Chad Ochocinco’s salary, and got their replacements in the draft under the first year of a wage scale. All good news.
So the question now is how will they spend it? Obviously, they have a larger number of free agents than usual, with starters like S Reggie Nelson, LB Manny Lawson, DE Frostee Rucker, OG’s Nate Livings and Bobbie Williams, RB Cedric Benson and WR Jerome Simpson all unsigned. Add to them a long list of guys who played a lot of snaps as reserves, role-players and special teams contributors and you can see that the team has a lot of work ahead of them to bring back some of their own. They’ll clearly make a push for Nelson, Rucker, and fellow DE Jonathan Fanene, and they’ll likely try to bring back Lawson.
Obviously, some players will not be pursued or invited back, (See Benson, Cedric and Simpson, Jerome as just a couple) leaving room for the draft and free agents from outside.
So who are the Bengals interested in? How can make Uncle Scrooge tighten his grip on the purse for?
In terms of outside free agents, most speculation centers around running back, where Michael Bush from Oakland is a favorite. They also need a solid #2 WR, which is best to get from free agency. Indy’s Pierre Garcon and New Orleans’ Robert Meachem lead the way here. At OG, Carl Nicks from the Saints and Ben Grubbs of Baltimore are the guys most interesting.
We should find out soon enough.
Keep in mind that whoever looks good on paper may not be who the Bengals actually covet. Their scouting, film study, and their system philosophy will often lead them to names that are contrary to what fandom regards as desirable. Plus, the Bengals don’t have a history of throwing money at big names. Instead, they like that 26 or 27-year-old up-and-comer who could make a splash if given the opportunity.
With that in mind, we’ll likely see other names come to Cincy for visits.
No matter who the Bengals pursue, it’ll be a hugely important offseason of roster development. They have a very strong core of players on both offense and defense who are young, motivated, and committed to the program. Whoever joins the roster needs to bring with them the equivalent attitude.
Also, there are still 6 teams that are over the cap, and many others who will need to make additional space just to resign their restricted free agents and draft picks. Translation: More names will enter the market today.
Enjoy the next few weeks, my fellow Bengal fans, and let’s hope that the team strings together a second strong offseason in a row. With an effective free agency period and maximized draft, the Bengals can continue to build a young and talented foundation for a serious run in the seasons to come.