Everyone makes some form of a stereotype at some point in their lives. Unfortunately, that's the type of society we live in and a lot of those stereotypes we make can be labeled as "unfair" or simply "not true". The particular stereotype that surrounds the Cincinnati Bengals and their Owner/General Manager, , is that they are a cheap franchise not willing to spend the necessary money to make them a perennial AFC powerhouse. Given the team's history under Brown, it's hard to label that particular stereotype as "unfair" or "not true".
While the Bengals have made some pricey splashes in free agency lately, they still don't traditionally spend the type of money that many other NFL franchises do. They very rarely land a big fish that's on the open market and prefer to spend the lump of their cap figure on the incoming rookie contracts, as well as retaining and extending the current players on their roster.
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel released a list of projected salary cap figures for every NFL team going into the 2012 offseason.
According to their figures, the Sun-Sentinel predicts that the 2012 NFL salary cap will be around $124 million. The publication puts teams into three categories, in terms of their statuses going into 2012: "Possible Big Spenders", "Working on a Budget", and ""Tightening the Belt". The first designation refers to teams that have plenty of cap space going into next season and could be big players in free agency. The second is reserved for teams that are right around the salary cap and have a little room to work with. The last is teams that need to shave some money off of the books to get under the cap. You'll need to note that every team will need around a $5 million cushion for their draft picks.
So where do the Bengals fall on this list? They have the lowest salary cap number at $80,640,237--placing them atop the "Possible Big Spenders" group by a very wide margin. The next lowest cap figure is the Tennessee Titans at nearly $14 million higher than the Bengals. A big reason for this low cap number is that the team shed the big-money contracts of Carson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco.
With the Bengals having two first round picks this season, they'll likely need to reserve about $6-$7 million for the draft. For those of you doing the math, that would leave the Bengals with about $36 million to hit the free agent market in 2012. Basically, there's no excuse for the team to be aggressive in signing their own coveted free agents, extending the contracts of some key current players, and/or going after a couple of big name free agents. Will they do this? That remains to be seen, but history tells us that they won't. Throw in the fact that a "salary cap floor" doesn't go into effect until the 2013 season, and Brown may opt to just save as much money as he can this season.
Aside from the financial state of the Bengals, it's interesting to note that the well-oiled machine that is the Pittsburgh Steelers franchise is facing major cap issues. They are projected to be at about $25 million over the 2012 salary cap, and there are rumblings that they may have to get rid of aging veterans like Casey Hampton, Larry Foote and/or James Farrior. We'll see what they do to right their own ship. The Cleveland Browns are lumped in the "Possible Big Spenders" category, though they have $23 million more on the books than the Bengals do.
Only time will tell if this figure will force Brown's hand into spending more money than he's traditionally used to. Given the strong foundation that the team built last season and the current roster holes that exist, he would be wise to make some major moves outside of the draft to fill these holes.