According to NFL.com's Chris Wesseling, the NFL has established the salary cap for the 2013 league year, which begins on March 12th. While it isn't much of an increase, the official cap figure is slightly higher than teams expected it to be, which will give a small amount of help to several teams who are currently scrambling to get under the cap.
The NFL announced to all 32 teams that the salary cap will jump from $120.6 million last year to $123 million in 2013, sources tell NFL.com's Ian Rapoport. There also is a per team minimum salary benefit of $900,000, setting total player compensation at $123.9M per team.
The additional $2.4M isn't going to get the Panthers under the cap on its own, but it's certainly going to help. According to Spotrac, the Panthers currently have a little over $127M committed in salary, which means they have to cut at least $4M to be even with the cap, and will have to trim even more than that if they want to have any hope of bringing in a moderately priced free agent.
We've beaten the "The Panthers must cut or restructure Player X" drum plenty of times in recent weeks, but now that we know how much money the organization has to clear off the books it's easier to predict which players they are either going to part ways with or attempt to restructure. As much as it pains many Panthers fans, the most logical candidate for release is still CB Chris Gamble.
Cutting Gamble saves approximately $7M in cap space, and if Spotrac's numbers are correct that move alone puts the Panthers under the cap. If you add in the savings from a few more restructured deals from guys like Jordan Gross and Jon Beason, and take away salaries of players who are likely to be released like Ron Edwards, it's possible the Panthers could end up with around $6M-$8M to spend.
That kind of money isn't going to attract the Mike Wallaces of the league to come to Carolina, but it could be enough to bring in a mid-level free agent like DT Chris Canty, who has already stated that he would be willing to take a team friendly deal to play for the Panthers. Adding a guy like Canty, and possibly signing Dwan Edwards to a new deal takes the pressure off finding a DT in the first two rounds of the draft and allows the Panthers to fill other needs with those selections.
While none of us really know what the team will do when it's time to shed salary, it's not completely out of the realm of possibility that they decide to do what I've highlighted above. While the fan in me hopes against all hope that they can find a way to keep Chris Gamble on the roster, the analyst in me just doesn't see a way to do it while keeping the team competitive and able to sign other players if the need were to arise.
It's unfortunate that first year General Manager Dave Gettleman is in this predicament, but it's not his fault that he inherited the mess that he did. The only thing he can do is find a way to get out from under the collection of over-priced contracts that were given out like candy on Halloween by Marty Hurney, and making the tough cuts like Gamble is one way that he can accomplish that goal.
There still is a small glimmer of hope that Gamble won't be cut, but until March 12th comes and goes we will have no idea what will happen. All we can do is sit back and wait.
With that being said, be sure to stay tuned to CSR for any breaking news regarding any transactions the team makes to lower their cap figure, as we will provide any new information whenever it becomes available.