The Bengals will be stretching their normally tight budget to sign the likes of AJ Green
Before teams can start thinking free agency during the 2nd week of March, they have to worry about cap space. Next up is the Cincinnati Bengals and their current cap riches. Keep in mind that teams are required to spend 89% of their cap between 2013 and 2016, which is why there is carryover cap space for teams who did not reach the previous year’s cap number.
Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals are in a similar cap situation as the Browns in that they have plenty of space to make necessary moves to improve the team. The Bengals may have a current cap number that is $8M higher than the Browns, but they also have the quarterback position filled heading into the 2015 season. Whether or not it remains stable is another story. The Bengals also have less cap carryover heading into 2015, netting them roughly $17M less to spend than their instate rival. The Bengals still have some maneuvering ahead of them, but they also have a dozen cap friendly contracts that can open up tens of millions of additional dollars.
Current 2015 Rule 51 Cap number $115.4M
Dead money $0.8M
Estimated Team Salary Cap $151.1M ($143M NFL + $8.1M team carryover)
Estimated Cap Room $37.7M
Movable or adjustable (there are many more, but I will just hit the most impactful):
WR AJ Green (cap number $10.2M, dead money $0.0M = cap savings $10.2M) – If the Bengals do sign AJ to an extension this season, I doubt his cap number creeps much higher than his current $10.2M hit. However, if they have extra cap room in 2015, they should take more of a hit now instead of backloading his contract with unrealistic numbers.
CB Leon Hall (cap $9.6M, dead $1.8M = savings $7.8M) – The Bengals don’t normally renegotiate contracts, but Leon, although very good, is not worth a $10M cap hit. The Bengals also can’t afford to lose him because they generally do not test the free agent market. If Cincy is cap wise, they will extend Hall and lessen the 2015 cap burden.
RT Andre Smith ($6.4M, $1.0M = $5.4M) – Smith’s season came to an abrupt end when he tore his triceps late November. He has a 4.6M salary and $1.2M in roster and workout bonuses due in 2015. He has been more than solid for the Bengals, and it will be interesting to see how he is handled considering he is still a highly rated right tackle.
LT Andrew Whitworth ($6.2M, $1.0M = $5.2M) – Although his overall contract is ranked 6th in the NFL for left tackles, his cap hit is actually 20th. That’s an eyeopener for one of the steadiest left tackles in the league, and ranked #1 by PFF with only 9 QB disruptions in his last 529 pass blocks. That’s an amazing stat. Andrew should be signed to an extension, and his cap number shouldn’t go anywhere.
S Reggie Nelson ($4.8M, $0.6M = $4.2M) – Another solid performer that shouldn’t go anywhere. He does give the Bengals room to increase their cap space, but that’s generally not their way of doing business.
Domata Peko, Robert Geathers, Ken Huber, Vincent Ray, Adam Jones, Wallace Gilberry (combined to open up nearly $15.5M in cap space) – Some of these players are as good as gone, and others can open up more cash. Each player listed is worth between $1.8M and $3.7M in additional cap space.
Immovable players or contracts (excluding 2013/14 high round draft picks):
QB Andy Dalton ($9.8M, $9.6M = 0.0M) – Andy will be around in 2015 for better or for worse. He has proven to be a good quarterback and a head scratcher from week-to-week. The Bengals have stability at quarterback but need consistency. If Dalton doesn’t give it to them this season, a change may finally be in the plans. If they draft a quarterback during the first few rounds in 2015, perhaps that will light a fire with Dalton or lead him to the door.
DT Geno Atkins ($9.0M, $9.0M = $0.0M) – Obviously Geno will be around for at least a couple more years. His deal is cap friendly and his production should be worth the money over the course of his contract.
DE Carlos Dunlap ($4.9M, $4.8M = -0.1M) – He is entering the 3rd year of a 6-year deal. The Bengals have a solid versatile player with skills rushing the passer and stopping the run.
Although the Bengals have the ability to open up quote a bit of cap space in 2015, expect the same old philosophy of the Bengals signing their soon-to-be free agents during the player’s final season, instead opening up money by incorporating their last contract year into a new contract. That said, they could drastically change and potentially improve their team with decisions they make regarding their abundance of movable contracts.
Editors note: The cap numbers are rounded to the nearest $100K, causing the appearance of some calculation errors.