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2016 NFL salary cap estimated at $147 million; how does it impact Bengals?

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Reggie Nelson, Vincent Rey and Leon Hall are among many Bengals set to hit free agency in 2016.

John Grieshop/Getty Images

The Bengals are in the midst of a great season they hope extends all the way into February. But regardless of how the season plays out, it won't be long until they'll be making some hard decisions regarding next year's roster.

As of now, Cincinnati is set to have 17 players hit free agency next March unless their contracts are extended between now and then. Thankfully, we don't have to talk about A.J. Green and the massive deal he got over the summer, or even Andrew Whitworth, who got a one-year extension through 2016 at the start of this season.

However, with Green and Whitworth as well as a host of other key Bengals signed through next year, Cincinnati won't have a lot of cap space to work with this offseason in getting their free agents re-signed. The good news is it looks like the NFL salary cap is going to be bigger than it's ever been in the coming offseason.

Jason Cole of Bleacher Report is hearing that the salary cap for next year is going to be in the range of $147-155 million, while Albert Breer of the NFL Network is hearing $147-153 million:

Here are the latest 2016 cap projections for the Bengals based on a base salary cap of  $143,280,000, via Over The Cap.

Team

Cap Space

#

Team Salary Cap

Active Cap Spending

Dead Money

Bengals

$32,369,630

39

$150,000,000

$117,437,099

$193,271

Here are the Bengals' 2016 free agents arranged by their 2015 cap hit:

PLAYER

POS

AGE

'15 Salary Cap

STATUS

Leon Hall

CB

30

$9,600,000

UFA

Andre Smith

RT

28

$6,362,500

UFA

Reggie Nelson

S

31

$4,775,000

UFA

Vincent Rey

OLB

27

$3,100,000

UFA

Adam Jones

CB

31

$2,550,000

UFA

Emmanuel Lamur

OLB

25

$2,356,000

UFA

Wallace Gilberry

DE

30

$2,050,000

UFA

Mohamed Sanu

WR

25

$1,682,813

UFA

George Iloka

S

25

$1,582,075

UFA

Eric Winston

RT

31

$950,000

UFA

Brandon Thompson

DT

25

$795,300

UFA

Chris Carter

OLB

26

$745,000

UFA

Marvin Jones

WR

25

$700,700

UFA

Brandon Tate

WR

27

$665,000

UFA

Pat Sims

DT

29

$665,000

UFA

Chris Lewis-Harris

CB

26

$585,000

RFA

T.J. Johnson

C

24

$510,000

ERFA

Based on the projections, the Bengals could have anywhere between $32-37 million in cap space this offseason based on the reported cap figures.

At this point, it's going to need to be in the high end for Cincinnati to be able to afford getting all of their key guys re-signed. Marvin Jones, Leon Hall, Adam Jones, George Iloka, and Reggie Nelson are all going to command sizable contracts in free agency. That's assuming the Bengals pass on re-signing Andre Smith after drafting two tackles in the first two rounds of the 2015 NFL Draft.

The Bengals will also need to keep around $5-7 million of the final cap number saved up in order to sign 2016 draft picks and have some emergency funds to sign players during next season. There's also the possibility of Andy Dalton's contract accounting for an extra $1.5-3 million next year if certain playoff incentives are met this season.

At the end of the day, unless the Bengals find ways to shrink some of their current contracts and/or shed them completely, there's probably going to be at least one key players on this year's team leaving this offseason. Thankfully, there's still plenty of football left to be played this season before we really have to worry about free agency.