Cincinnati Bengals fans have heard all the jokes about Mike Brown's frugality. It would appear that Brown's years of living well under the NFL salary cap are about to pay huge dividends as the team heads into this off season. The team's current cap number is $80,641,237, twelve million more than the next closest team in the NFL.
The Cincinnati Bengals are far and away the team with the most salary cap space as we approach the new NFL year and free agency which begins on March 13. While other teams will be scrambling to adjust their rosters to make room for their own free agents or to fill holes, the Bengals are in a position where they can sit back rather comfortably and assess their needs and pay whatever they wish to fill them.
The anticipated 2012 NFL salary cap should be somewhere around $124 million with teams having the ability to borrow up to $2 million against future years. Each team will need to set aside approximately $5 million that will cover the 2012 salaries of their draft class. The Bengals may need to go a little higher than that assuming they use both of their first round picks.
The Bengals have several of their own free agents that they'll want to re-sign, but no one who will require a huge number to bring back. That leaves the team with with nearly $40 million in discretionary cash with which to pursue other team's free agents. What that means is if, for instance, the Bengals are players for an All-Pro guard like New Orleans' Carl Nicks, they don't have to be concerned with being outbid. No team has more money to work with than the Bengals.
It also means that the Bengals divisional rivals are going to have to make some decisions regarding their rosters that the Bengals won't be forced to do. The Cleveland Browns are also in a very good cap situation, with almost $20 million in cap space to work with. A good chunk of that, however, will go toward re-signing LB D'Qwell Jackson, the anchor of their young defense and considered by some to be the NFL's best linebacker.
The Baltimore Ravens aren't in horrible shape at $115 million, but need to re-sign RB Ray Rice, who will come at a premium, and offensive lineman Ben Grubbs. The Pittsburgh Steelers, however, are in dire straits with regard to the cap. They are already well over this year's number at nearly $150 million. That means their going to have to let some players go to get enough room under the cap to sign their own draft picks, much less be concerned with any free agents, even their own like WR Jericho Cotchery.
The Bengals are young, coming off a playoff season, loaded with draft picks and well under the salary cap. Mike Brown and Marvin Lewis couldn't hope for a better situation with which to build this team.
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