CINCINNATI — Now that Vontaze Burfict’s contract extension is official, the Cincinnati Bengals project to be slightly over the salary-cap limit for this season.
With the approximate $5.5 million cap hit the Bengals will take in 2014 on Burfict’s newly completed deal, the club now anticipates spending a little more than the $133 million the NFL will allow teams to dole out this season.
The $133 million figure the Bengals believe they are at is not an official one since none of that money has to be paid until the end of the season. It includes what the team projects practice-squad and injured-reserve spending will end up being. If you take the roughly $6 million or so the Bengals likely will dole on their practice squad and injured reserve group, they have just enough money under the cap as of now to pay player salaries.
Of course, with some cuts still to take place before this weekend and other personnel changes sure to come between now and the end of the season, the current cap figure most certainly will change. That’s one reason why determining a team’s exact salary-cap figure on any given day is far from an exact science.
If you were to take a look at the NFL Players Association’s latest cap numbers, you would see where the Bengals had $125.6 million devoted to cap spending before Burfict’s deal went through. You also would see where the NFLPA reported that the Bengals had a little more than $16 million left in cap space. What you wouldn’t see is that the $16 million takes into account the $8.7 million or so of carryover money the Bengals don’t factor into their spending for now. A good chunk of that money likely will end up going toward paying the practice-squad and injured-reserve debts outlined above.
So that means, using the NFLPA numbers — which don’t take into account practice-squad and injured-reserve spending — the Bengals actually had closer to $7 million to spend just before Burfict’s deal. That would have been enough to put them just shy of the cap limit. According to the Bengals’ projections, ones that include the other spending, this deal now puts them slightly over.
The bottom line is this: Regardless which numbers you use, just know that the team is right at the salary cap.
How does that affect the rest of the team? It means that barring any departures of major players who aren’t owed guaranteed money in 2014, the Bengals are probably done for now with their extensions and free-agent deals. A.J. Green already has been expected to finish his initial four-year rookie deal this year and make his $10 million next season as part of the fifth-year option he was granted. Any preexisting plans to restructure his deal in a way that will lock him up for long term with big bucks may have to be put on ice temporarily.
Don’t worry about that too much, though. The Bengals have proven in recent years that when they feel the time is right, they’ll make the right move to keep their big-money man. That time for Green probably won’t be next March.
But it could be next summer. The Bengals’ last four mega deals were all executed in June (Carlos Dunlap, 2013), early September (Geno Atkins, 2013) and August (Andy Dalton and Burfict, 2014).