Show Me the Money

Jun 7, 2012; Why Deangelo doesn't fumble ^^ Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-US PRESSWIRE

By virtue of Miraculous Marty and his salary cap expertise, the Carolina Panthers have managed to go from some $7m over the cap to now being more than $8m under it. That's some pretty impressive work, and we'll look at some of the key maneuvers involved.

Perhaps of greater interest to the fans, though, is; "We have money, who should we get?" I don't want to burst anyone's bubble or squash dreams (or fanposts), but it is important to factor in future years when making financial decisions. So, we're also going to take a look at what's ahead and how it impacts the Panthers' current cap space.

I've looked at every Panther players' contract using this site (Rotoworld). A quick look shows we've got numerous 2013 free agents to consider. A little deeper look shows sizable jumps in salaries for some very key players. And lurking in the not too distant future is the expiration of the rookie contract for Cam Newton.

Hurney is a master money juggler, and I have full confidence that he's got a long-term plan. By their nature, long-term plans have to be flexible, especially when we're talking about contracts based on player performance... injuries, age, and simple poor performance are not things that can be specifically foreseen.

Below the jump, I'm just going to give you a taste of what Marty's having to think about. Of course, he knows more about the long term prognosis for the knees of TD and Gettis (as an example), but for this article, I will assume they're healthy until proven otherwise. Keep reading as we explore the hellish waters of Lake Salary Cap.

WARNING: NSFW "refreshments" are included after the break.

NFL tells teams to project flat salary caps thru 2015: 2013 ($121 mln); 2014 (122 mln) 2015 (125 mln), and then in 2016 $130 mln.

Benefits will rise sharply though, but media deals will not spike the cap, not even a bit. Offsets from artificially higher caps in 11-13 ...

... and staggering of media deals leads to almost no cap increase projection in 1st year of mega new TV deals.

If NFL projections are correct, it won't be until the 6th yr of new 10-yr CBA that cap exceeds level in last yr (2009) of capped year in old deal. [Source]

2012 Panthers Salary Cap Moves:
The NFL salary cap for 2012 is $120.6m, but for the Panthers it is actually $125.6;

  • So by what magic did our team get an extra $5m to spend? The rules of the CBA allow for teams to carry over any amount they're under the cap to the next season, bumping that season's team cap. The Panthers exercised that option by carrying over $2.8m from 2011. There were further adjustments (that I frankly don't understand) that were allowed due to prepaid bonus money from 2009.
  • Travelle Wharton’s 2012 cap charge goes from $7,562,882 to $1,862,882, with $1,862,882 in dead money left in 2013. Wharton is replaced in Carolina’s Top 51 by a player whose base salary is $540,000, so the Panthers have a net gain of $5.16 million in cap room and are now $8,383,625 under the cap.
  • Contract extensions and restructures for TD, Smitty, Olsen, Gross, (others??) were crucial as well.

I realize this is dry stuff, so here's a little something to wet your whistle:



2013 Outlook and beyond:

As previously noted, Wharton's $1,862,882 in "dead money" will carry over to 2013.

The following players are in contract years and will be free agents in 2013:

Applewhite Neblett (RFA)
Reggie Smith
Barnidge Nwagbuo R.J. Stanford (RFA)
Darius Butler Otah Jonathan Stewart
Hartsock Jason Phillips (RFA) Jyles Tucker
Sherrod Martin Pollack Jason Williams
Cap'n Munnerlyn Senn Jonathon Nelson (ERFA)

Obviously, this list includes some quality players, but most aren't making big money; so, if they earn a roster spot, there won't be much impact. If they want bigger money next year, though, there could be a problem. Some may become expendable based on players already added for this year and/or players added next year through the draft or FA.

is not on my most-favorite list at the moment, and he's carrying a $2.35m cap number in 2012. If he doesn't make the 53, we would still be on the hook for his guaranteed money, but we could save around $ 0.5m against the cap, which could be carried over to 2013. Phooey on him.

The big deal is Stewart. He IS on my most-favorite list, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed. I doubt any deal will happen soon, unless Stewart just offers up a great discount. A little help from Deangelo would go a long way towards keeping his backfield mate in town.

The Untouchables:
These "core" players signed long-term deals that have increasing salaries in 2013 and beyond, most with hefty signing, workout, and/or option bonuses. The impact to our future cap position is significant, and Hurney will have to take it into account. Taking history into consideration, I have to assume many of these deals will be re-worked when the time comes, but for now it isn't pretty.

Panther Core Player Contract Summary (click link to access spreadsheet). Essentially, for 10 core players (Smitty, Beason, Kalil, CJ, D-Will, TD, Gross, Gamble, Olsen, Godfrey), the cap increase based on current contracts is slightly under $20m for 2013 vs. 2012. In 2014, these same contracts will tack on an additional $13m+.

You're thirsty again already? Well, it is dreadfully hot this weekend...



Caaaam Oh Caaaaam: Thanks to the new CBA, we've got Cam locked in at $5m/2012, $6m/2013 and $7m/2014 (these are cap numbers). At the end of the 2013 season, we have to give notice that we will exercise the 5th year/2015 option. The option works like a franchise tag, meaning in 2015 we're committing to pay Cam the average of the top 5 QB salaries as of the end of 2013 (got that?). Right now, that average would be $14m, which would represent a $7m increase for our franchise QB. Realistically, Hurney will negotiate a long term deal that will lower the cap hit in 2015 by including a mega signing bonus.

I hope you found this article informative, and maybe better understand why cap management is a long-term process, not a one-year scramble. I'll leave you with one last tidbit ...From ESPN Story:

One of the nice parts of the 2011 collective bargaining agreement is the "carryover." Teams that don't spend all of their cap dollars in a particular year can carry over those dollars to the next year. It's a team's decision how much it wants to carry over, but if it manages its cap wisely, it can handle what is expected to be a flat salary cap for the next couple of years.

Where prudence was criticized as cheap in the past, smart cap management will be rewarded.

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