Shawn Maher did a great job Tuesday of detailing some of the Bengals’ key offseason personnel decisions. I agree with most everything he said, particularly the tough decision that may need to be made in possibly replacing Andrew Whitworth.
Fortunately Cincinnati is well-equipped heading into the offseason to fill any holes. Per John Clayton of ESPN, the Bengals are currently an NFL-leading $55.1 million under the salary cap, which includes a carryover of $8.5 million Cincinnati left on the table prior to the 2012 season.
In past years, much of that cap space would have been fool’s gold. Oh sure, the Bengals would have retained one or two free agents, maybe picked up an over the hill defensive back, and called it an offseason. In 2013, however, one of the key features of the new CBA comes into effect—the minimum salary floor.
No longer will our intrepid Mike Brown be allowed to “attempt” to field competitive teams with total salaries tens of millions below the cap. Now, each team is required to spend at least 89% of the salary cap in cash on a yearly basis. With the projected cap next year expected to be at about $120.9 million, the Bengals would be then be forced to pay at least $107.6 million in player salaries, or face league penalties.
In practice, that isn’t exactly how the system works, with the 89% “in cash” being the important distinction. If Cincinnati signs a free agent to a contract with a large signing bonus, than entire bonus can go towards the 89% amount in that year, even though the signing bonus is prorated in regards to the cap. Under the previous CBA the minimum salary amount was 86.4%, but with no mention of actual cash spent. This allowed teams to add wacky, impossible to reach incentives to make it above the minimum salary floor, but not actually have to spend that amount on players. That kind of thing doesn’t sound like a good way to attract free agents, does it?