After Cincinnati's exhaustive shopping spree over the course of the past month, the Bengals only have $24.23 million available under the cap (per Coley Harvey and the NFL Players Association). Since March 10, the Bengals have used roughly $2.6 million against the cap and with the bulk of pricey free agents having already cashed their monstrous signing and roster bonuses, figure that Cincinnati's cap number will go largely untouched -- save for the estimated $4.5 million rookie pool that the Bengals will set aside for draft picks and undrafted free agents (might reach $5 million).
The Cleveland Browns lead the NFL with $38.95 million under the cap, followed by the New York Jets ($26.1 million) and then the Bengals. Philadelphia ($20.3 million) and Tennessee ($19.4 million) round out the top-five.
There's always the possibility that Cincinnati makes a delayed splash in free agency -- but those odds are not unlike a Stormtrooper actually hitting Han, Leia, Luke or Chewie with their blaster.
Bengals owner Mike Brown made it known last month that the consuming thought is whether or not to extend Andy Dalton beyond 2014 with an average salary north of $15 million...
"With a fixed cap there is a certain amount of money and no more," said Brown at the NFL owners meeting in March. "You allocate that on a quarterback you have less to hand out to everybody else. It can cause attrition. We are going through a difficult time right now because we are trying to work through a deal with Andy and trying to hold back enough money in the cap to do that, yet we don't know what that is."
...and the resulting dilemma has thus hi-jacked free agency.
"We are going to try to get something done but I don't know if we are going to be able to or not. At some point we are going to have to do something more than just let everyone else leave waiting to get something done with that situation. We held back this year trying to put ourselves in a position to get him done. If it turns out it can't be made to work we will do something elsewhere. I don't think we plan to go another year the way we did this year."