With the start of the 2013 League Year less than a month away, it is an appropriate time to evaluate where the Bengals stand with regard to their Cap Hits and Cash Spends for individual players.
Below is a table of 48 players currently under contract for next season. Two Exclusive Rights Free Agents (WR Andrew Hawkins and LB Vincent Rey) are included because the Bengals are virtually assured to tender both of them the required base salary in order to maintain exclusive negotiating rights in the event that the club desires to enter into a contract with them beyond the tendered amount. If the Bengals do not wish to subsequently offer a contract beyond the required tender, the club is still assured the services of the player for 2013. If the required tender is offered, the player is required to sign it. The required tender is a 1-year contract with a Base Salary ("Paragraph 5 Salary" to use CBA and player agent terminology) of at least the minimum base salary applicable to the player. Since both Hawkins and Rey have completed two "Credited Seasons" - as defined in Article 26 of the CBA - the required minimum salary for players with two Credited Seasons for the 2013 season is $555K. As such, $555K appears in both the Cap Hit and Cash Spend columns for both players. For both Hawkins and Rey, as long as the Bengals tender them by 4:00PM EST on March 12th, both players must sign the tender and the Bengals will be assured their services for the 2013 season at the tendered amount. The club is free to negotiate a contract (above and beyond the tender) with any of their own ERFA players either before or after offering the tender.
Additionally, some players who are under contract are not included in the table (e.g. Taveon Rogers, Lavasier Tuinei, etc). However, in the unlikely event that these players make the final 53-man roster, they would only slightly alter the team's overall Cap Hit and Cash Spend numbers listed below since their base salaries are at or near the league minimum.
I have placed two stars next to six UFA players who are the most likely to be re-signed by the Bengals (DE Mike Johnson, DE Robert Geathers, OT Andre Smith, WLB Thomas Howard, CB Terence Newman, CB Adam Jones). The number of players in the table quickly jumps to 54 if the Bengals re-sign all six of these UFA players. Even though the offseason roster limit is 90 players, only the Top 51 player salaries are used when determining/calculating a team’s Salary Cap compliance.
With that in mind, this table obviously does NOT include the 2013 draft picks who will be on the final 53-man roster, as well as the handful of players the team is likely to sign as free agents who were on other clubs last season. Judging by recent FA history, the Bengals will likely sign 5-8 Free Agents from
other teams (e.g. Last year, the team signed DE Jamaal Anderson, G Travelle Wharton, CB Jason Allen, CB Terence Newman, RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, DE Derrick Harvey, G Jacob Bell. Even though the last two players didn't make the 53-man roster, the team still signed them from other teams. The year prior, the team signed LB Thomas Howard, LB Manny Lawson, QB Bruce Gradkowski, CB Nate Clements, and traded for S Taylor Mays. Regardless of the abilities of these players, the bottom line is that recent history suggests that the Bengals will likely sign between 5-8 free agents from other teams).
Let's take a look (the table is an embedded Excel spreadsheet that you'll need to scroll):
Note that I have highlighted (in red) three players who are virtually assured to have their contracts terminated prior to the start of the new league year: G Travelle Wharton, CB Jason Allen, DE Jamaal Anderson. Terminating the contracts of these three players will save the Bengals real money (in the form of base salaries and roster bonuses), as well as create even more Cap room for the 2013 season.
Overall, this table confirms what various national media outlets have recently reported. That is, the Bengals have approximately $53-55M in Cap Room for the 2013 season.
Additionally, note the Overall Cash Spend column. As it stands today, the Bengals are projected to have a 2013 Cash Spend of approximately $59,723,367. Even though the 89% Minimum Team Cash Spending Requirement is calculated over a 4-season period, if the Bengals want to be at (or very near) this required 89% threshold in each of the 4 seasons, they will be spending close to an additional $48,055,633 (in cash) this season in order to reach 89% Cash Spend threshold ($59,723,367 + $48,055,633 = $107,779,000, which represents 89% of the approximate $121,100,000 Salary Cap).
Overall, the Cincinnati Bengals find themselves with an impeccably clean bill of salary cap-health heading into the 2013 season. As many other NFL teams scramble to restructure contracts, or even purge their rosters in order to comply with the salary cap, it is safe to say that the Bengals' salary cap situation is the envy of almost all other NFL front offices. As the dawn of the 2013 NFL season quickly approaches, the Bengals are in a great position to retain their own home-grown talent, as well as target other players who can further contribute to the team's recent success and propel them into much deeper playoff runs.