Leon Hall ($8.5 million), Andre Smith ($7.5 million) and Andrew Whitworth ($6.75 million) were Cincinnati's top three salary cap numbers in 2012. Whitworth's 2013 cap number holds steady at $6.75 million but Leon Hall's drops $100,000 for 2013 before launching northward at $8.7 million in 2014 and then $9.6 million in 2015, the final year of his five-year contract. If the Bengals apply the franchise tag then Smith's cap number is expected to be around $9 million.
Get used to these numbers because they're not going anywhere. However there are still heavy cap numbers with players that aren't perennial Pro Bowl candidates, especially during recent free agency periods. Some will call them salary cap casualties, but they're not. There's a need for everyone, if only for some expensive training camp battles.
+ Domata Peko takes a $5.1 million cap number into 2013. Though his contributions are rarely promoted through statistics in the box score, much of Peko's production depends heavily on absorbing and neutralizing double teams. Winning constitutes anything from splitting the double-team to holding one's ground, which isn't the sexy argument around football circles unless you appreciate the epic battles within the trenches. That being said we can't stop looking at that cap number.
We're not promoting some mindless cap casualty argument for the team release Peko -- he's too much of a defensive leader, one of two players that led volunteer workouts during the NFL lockout in 2011. You can't replace that level of leadership with a Brandon Thompson, Devon Still or Pat Sims and Geno Atkins is too busy beating the crap out of quarterbacks.
+ It's not Jason Allen's fault that the Cincinnati Bengals were so obsessive last year stocking defensive backs through free agency. After signing Allen to a two-year deal worth $8.2 million, the veteran cornerback contributed with only three snaps on defense. Allen will enter the 2013 season with a $4.1 million cap number but his departure isn't guaranteed by any means.
Adam Jones, Terence Newman and Nate Clements enter the offseason as unrestricted free agents. If none return the Bengals suddenly find themselves in need of bodies again. After Leon Hall, Dre Kirkpatrick, the roster will prominently feature players that didn't contribute in 2012. Including Allen, we're talking about Chris Lewis-Harris, Shaun Prater, Brandon Ghee and Taveon Rogers.
+ Ouch. A season ending injury less than a quarter into the season and now Travelle Wharton isn't just rehabilitating, he's watching a much younger Clint Boling claim the starting left guard position with praise. In my perfect world the Bengals keep Wharton as a backup to Boling (and maybe Kevin Zeitler too) and deal with Wharton's $3.7 million cap hit this year.
As we've already noted, if a team can manage it, it never hurts having talented depth on the roster... and a little pressure for the starter to keep working, afraid to lose his spot in the starting lineup.
+ Jamaal Anderson was another pricey free agent acquisition after the Bengals lost two of their better defensive linemen in Frostee Rucker and Jonathan Fanene to free agency in 2012. Anderson signed a two-year deal worth $5.5 million then went on Injured Reserve after suffering a torn quad tendon against Cleveland in Week Two.
Like Allen, Anderson could stick around depending on how free agency pans out for purposes of depth. However Anderson also jabs a $3.1 million cap number next season where he'll earn a $1 million roster bonus and a $200,000 workout bonus this spring. With recent news that Frostee Rucker is a free agent after Cleveland terminated his contract, we could see a situation that Anderson is released in favor of Rucker, provided the Bengals are willing to deal with dead money.