According to Charley Casserly, on Sunday's CBS pre-game show, the NFL sent a Grinch like message to all NFL teams last week, that the 2012 salary cap will not increase, or at best only increase very, very slightly. He adds that around 1/4 of all NFL players will be UFA's (Un-Restricted Free Agents) in 2012. This will make for a buyers market for teams that have cap room, driving down players prices, because of less money to go around. Many players may be forced to settle for low price, 1 years contracts, and hope to try again in 2013, when the new TV money kicks in.
This is bad news for the Panthers, because they have the 3rd highest total amount already committed to 2012 salaries ($124 million). This will likely put the Panthers very close to salary cap maximum in 2012. The Panthers will have to work very hard to manage the 2012 salary cap, re-working downward the contracts of their 15 veteran players not on their rookie contracts, or free agents. Some veterans like WLB-Thomas Davis, LG-Trevelle Wharton, and DT Ron Edwards may even be cut, if they don't re-work their contracts, or we may not be able re-work them low enough.
Overlooked by many is that the minimum salary increases around $80-100,000 each year, as do the veteran minimum salaries (until they hit around $910,000 around their 9th year). Also, most veteran players contracts salaries increase each year. So, even if the Panthers sign no free agents, extend no players contracts, and only add the contracts of their draft picks, they may still need a little cap room to keep the ones they want to keep. Add to that, the Panthers have 16 of their own free agents to either re-sign, or let leave. Here they are:
Panther Un-Restricted Free Agents (UFA's):
QB-Derek Anderson - They probably want him back, but maybe at a reduced price.
TE-Jeremy Shockey - They need him back, or someone like him, but may need him to cut his $3 million salary.
WR-Legedu Naanee - His production (40 catches) may have moved him out of the Panthers price range.
RG/C-Geoff Hangartner - The Panthers need him back, but can they afford him?
OG-Mackenzy Bernadeau - I think it's unlikely he'll return, because of his current $1.2 million salary.
MLB-Dan Connor - They will want him back (insurance against Beason's injury), but can they afford him?
DE/OLB-Antwan Applewhite - They will want him back, but the may be outbid for him, 49ers gave him a good deal.
LB-Omar Gaither - The DC may want him back, but a rookie is 1/2 his price.
LB-Jordan Seen (undisclosed contract) - He's played well, and they will want to keep him, but may be ooutbid.
DB-Cletis Gordon - Not needed.
Restricted Free Agents (RFA's):
RG-Geoff Schwartz - They need him back, and his time on IR should keep his price down.
LB-Jason Phillips - They may want him back, and even more if Connor leaves.
LB-Thomas Williams - They probably want him back, if he's fully recovered (neck injury I think).
Exclusive Rights Free Agents (ERFA's):
CB-R. J. Sanford - They should keep him, he runs a 4.44-40, at least for camp, or trade.
DT-Frank Kearse - They will likely want him back, at least through camp.
TE/FB-Richie Brockel - They probably want to keep him, unless they draft a TE or FB.
Until the final roster cuts before the season starts, only the 53 highest salaries count against the salary cap, not all 80 players on the roster.