For those of you keeping track of such things, the Bengals are currently sitting at $28,695,197.00 under the salary cap. They have the third most cap space in the entire league, bested only by the Cleveland Browns and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Using a little accounting acrobatics, Mike Brown plans to roll over $10 million of that space into 2014 and set aside another $7-$9 million in 2013 for draft picks and injury replacements, leaving around $10 or $11 million left for the rest of free agency.
The main target for that large pile of leftover money is Andre Smith, the team's 2009 first-round pick who seems determined to squeeze every last cent of his perceived value out of the Bengals before he considers re-signing. As previously reported, Smith is looking for a deal averaging $9 million per season, but the tepid market for right tackles has so far stymied his efforts. Realistically, the best-case scenario for both parties at this point would be a four-year deal worth around $26-$27 million, as proposed by The Cincinnati Enquirer's Joe Reedy. A deal of that magnitude would net Smith an average of roughly $6.5 million per year, significantly beneath his current demands.
Hypothetically--and I really mean hypothetically, because it looks like this contract stalemate is destined to continue indefinitely--if Smith were to accept Reedy's best-case offer, that would subtract another $7 million or so from the Bengals' stockpile of cap space, leaving around $3-$4 million left for the remainder of free agency. Which is more than enough to sign at least a couple more quality veterans, like safety Kerry Rhodes or linebacker James Harrison. Even with Smith potentially eating up a large chunk of the cap room, the team is still set up with enough money to improve key positions.
More realistically, however, it looks like the Andre Smith ship is sailing further and further away with each passing day. Of course, if he ends up not re-signing, then the entirety of the leftover cap space will be up for grabs and the Bengals will likely choose to parcel it out with a number of smaller signings.
Either way--with or without Smith re-signing --the Bengals still have enough money to add significant pieces prior to the draft, based on the latest salary cap figures. If a deal gets done, there will obviously be less money to go around, yet there will nevertheless still be enough to patch a few roster holes. The team has been slow to make moves so far in free agency, but now they are becoming more aggressive, like a hungry shark who senses cheap, veteran football-player blood in the water.
All along, the Bengals have been touting the message of re-signing their own players, and many fans have been worried that such a strategy would tie up all of the team's money internally. As the cap situation stands today, however, even if the Bengals manage to sign Smith to a long-term deal, they will still have enough leftover cap space to sign veterans like Rhodes, Harrison, and maybe even both.
The Bengals front office might not be flashy, but they have put the team in an excellent position to continue to add talent. They have the cap room, now they just have to use it.