Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports
After two years of a league-wide required minimum salary, according to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams will be required to spent at least 89 percent of their salary cap in 2013.
Any idea if this is the year that there is a salary cap floor?
Since the Collective Bargaining Agreement was signed in July 2011 and the NFL lockout concluded with glorious fireworks silhouetting angels plucking harps, NFL teams were required to spent 99 percent of the combined cap number in cash for the first two seasons. Momentarily rock bands sung classic hits, such as "You mean the Bengals have to spend all of their money..." (with an 80s James Hetfield growl). Information around that time was defined as chaos and incomplete, due to the overwhelming interest that the league's lockout was lifted.
Once things settled, it was reported that the 99 percent number didn't deal with the individual team, as much as it did a league-wide requirement. It required every team to spend a combined $3.8 billion in cash. What does that mean? "Cash". Let's use an example. If the Bengals signed a player to a four-year deal worth $24 million (with $20 million in base money split evenly over four seasons), with a $4 million signing bonus, that cap number translates to $6 million per season. That doesn't include Mike Brown's $1 million GM bonus. Just saying. However during the first two seasons, that player accounts for $9 million the year that he signed (in either 2011 or 2012), combining the base $5 million salary plus the $4 million bonus, giving you $9 million in cash that was applied to the league-wide minimum.
It wasn't a minimum cash floor, you sulky disappointed Bengals fan, you. It was required by the Collective Bargaining Agreement to give players more money and if the combined cash failed to reach 99 percent of the salary cap, the league itself would compensate the difference. This information is useless to you -- and have you really heard much of anything since the CBA agreement? -- because the league-wide salary floor ends when the new league year begins this March.
So disregard all of that. Our bad for wasting your time.
What replaces it is the much-discussed -- and eagerly anticipated -- salary floor that will be applied to each team. At it's most generic and simplistic, teams are required to spend at least 89 percent of the salary cap starting in 2013. The projected NFL salary cap for 2013 is approximately $121 million with an approximate minimum of $107 million, aka the floor (or the "Brown Line" as I used to call it in the 90s). Cincinnati carried over $8.5 million from last season, giving them a salary cap of roughly $129.5 million but as we understand the CBA, the floor is the projected $107.69 million, or 89 percent of the league's salary cap for individual teams. The language in the CBA reads:
Section 9. Minimum Team Cash Spending:
(a) For each of the following four-League Year periods, 2013–2016 and 2017–2020, there shall be a guaranteed Minimum Team Cash Spending of 89% of the Salary Caps for such periods (e.g., if the Salary Caps for the 2013–16 and 2017–2020 are $100, 120, 130, and 150 million, respectively, each Club shall have a Minimum Team Cash Spending for that period of $445 million (89% of $500 million)).
(b) Any shortfall in the Minimum Team Cash Spending at the end of a League Year in which it is applicable (i.e., the 2016 and 2020 League Years) shall be paid, on or before the next September 15, by the Team having such shortfall, directly to the players who were on such a Team’s roster at any time during the applicable seasons, pursuant to the reasonable allocation instructions of the NFLPA.
So per the CBA language above, the 89 percent cash spend requirement is over a four-year period (2013-2016), followed by a second four-year period with the same cash requirements.
Now let's factor some things. As originally reported by ESPN NFL Insider John Clayton, the Bengals have $55.1 million available under the cap. Factor that the rookie pool will be anywhere from $5-8 million. Let's add another $8-10 million if the team franchises either Andre Smith or Michael Johnson. If they sign the other to a long-term deal, it could be significant, but at least workable that first year. Andre Smith's hit against the 2012 cap was $7.5 million. Yikes. Not so much. Cincinnati is completely capable of back-loading the base salary, limiting the cap hit to a six-figure base and significant bonuses in the first year. Now let's factor extensions for Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap.
Yet we're just talking about retaining four players. Just four. Are we bringing back Thomas Howard, Rey Maualuga, Manny Lawson, Terence Newman or Adam Jones? And next year we have Andy Dalton and A.J. Green to deal with. And though they're already accounted into the projected availability of the cap number for next season, Andrew Whitworth and Domata Peko are a combined $11.45 million cap hit. Their contracts won't expire until after the 2015 and 2014 seasons respectively (though the cap number actually lessens in the final year of each contract).
We know salary cap information tends to become tedious and we caution that the data presented here is hardly concrete -- we're just working with what we have. Just keep in mind the salary floor in relation to the Cincinnati Bengals could really become a meaningless discussion when it's all said and done.
(Special Thanks to The_Black_Stripes)