With the NFL Lockout in its twilight, franchises around the league aren’t only going to have to get their playbooks for 2011 in order, but their checkbooks as well. This year’s salary cap in the NFL is $120 million. This is not too much of an adjustment for the lion’s share of the league, but several teams who spent big money last year will be slashing payrolls to get under the cap.
There is a twist in this year’s cap system though, as teams will have a $3 million veteran exemption. This means teams can select the contract of one player and discount $3 million of his salary from their cap number. This essentially makes this years cap $123 million, easing the transition from last year’s uncapped rules. This exception will remain in place next year too, as teams will be allowed three exemptions of $1.5 million each. Another change in this year’s cap formula is the inclusion of a salary floor. Each team will be required to spend at least 89% of the salary cap this year, or $106.8 million. That number will be rising as well. By year three of this CBA, teams will be required to spend a minimum of 95% of the total salary cap. Additionally, 99% of all cash marked for player salaries league wide must be spent. In other words, teams will be spending a lot of money this offseason on free agents. Even the notoriously frugal franchises like Cincinnati, Buffalo, and Tampa Bay will be forced to open up the bank from now on.
How are teams in the AFC North faring in relation to the cap? The Ravens are in a position to make a few moves as they are $8.3 million under the cap, with $10 million in cash to spend. Cleveland and Cincinnati both have a lot of flexibility to add players this season. The Browns have $30.2 million in cap room with $41 million in cash to spend, while the Bengals are an astounding $52.9 million under this years cap and have $46.8 million in cash to spend. Pittsburgh, however, is going to need to shave payroll this season. As of right now, the Steelers are $7.5 million over this year’s cap.