As we know the NFL will be experiencing a rather large jump in the salary cap as mandated in the 2011 CBA when money from the league's new TV deal starts to flow in. Some have postulated that this money will be coming next year, and I've heard figures ranging from an extra $20 million all the way to $70 million based on the influx of TV money. Unfortunately Charlie Casserly threw a wet blanket on that notion this afternoon.
Cap projected to be "flat" in 2013,2014 est 122.0, 2015 is when jump is projected/Reason for low projections is money was needed for this yr— Charley Casserly (@CharleyCasserly) March 26, 2012
While this doesn't preclude a long-term contract for Jonathan Stewart it certainly makes it more difficult. Obviously with Jerry Richardson's position as being one of the decision makers for the owners it's obvious the Panthers at least had an idea this money wouldn't be bolstering the cap for a few more years, but at the very least we can suspend all arguments that begin with "there will be a lot more money to spend in 2013".
More after the jump
There is a huge saving grace for the Panthers though, and that is the cap money is scheduled to open the floodgates in 2015- right when Cam Newton will need a new contract. This will allow Carolina to get him signed to a mammoth (likely) long term deal without needing to pay him the rookie version of the franchise tag; that's the 5th year option where the rookie is paid an average of the top 10 highest paid players at the position. For a quarterback this jump would be massive, and thankfully the Panthers wont need to worry about how Newton's extension will affect the rest of the organization.
Most of us aren't thinking three years down the road yet, and for those with a shorter scope the news that the cap wont raise significantly in 2013 or 2014 is a punch in the gut. Barring some mammoth restructuring the Panthers wont likely be big time free agent players anytime soon- which isn't necessarily a bad thing. The draft becomes ever more important as the final outcome of the 2011 class coupled with the next two draft classes will really define whether the Panthers are able to take the next step and become NFC elite, or whether this lack of cap space will blow up in their faces and keep the team middling until there's more money to spend.
Personally I don't believe the latter will occur, but it's important to keep the gravity of the draft always in focus- we can't afford to have another 2009.