NFL free agency 2014: Panthers have cap space, also problems

USA TODAY Sports

Ample money, but lots of free agents too.

Dave Gettleman projected it would take another two years to get the Carolina Panthers on the right side of the ledger, and it's clear to see why, judging from the latest salary cap projection from Spotrac.

In pure free money it seems the Panthers are not that bad off. They currently rank 10th in Spotrac's rankings with just a hair under $21 million in available space. This represents a roughly $8 million rise over a year ago, which allowed the organization to sign several low-price free agents to round out the roster, including Mike Mitchell and Ted Ginn -- both of whom became critical pieces to the 12-4 season.

On the surface it seems like $21 million is ample to re-sign Greg Hardy as well as a few priority free agents like Graham Gano and Jordan Gross.

The problem comes in weighing this money against the roster spots that need to be filled. Carolina currently has 24 players set to hit free agency, 21 of which are unrestricted free agents. Only seven teams have 20+ free agents and less money than the Panthers to spend.

Charles Godfrey's future with the team will be a focal point for the cap-conscious.

Year Salary Signing Bonus Misc. Cap Hit Dead Money
2011 600,000 1,000,000 0 1,600,000 11,300,000
2012 700,000 1,000,000 1,100,000 2,800,000 9,700,000
2013 1,600,000 1,000,000 1,100,000 3,700,000 7,000,000
2014 5,000,000 1,000,000 1,100,000 7,100,000 5,000,000
2015 5,000,000 1,000,000 1,100,000 7,100,000 3,000,000
2016 5,300,000 0 1,100,000 6,400,000 1,000,000

Two years ago I wrote a how there was a lot of misinformation surrounding Godfrey's extension and how it was being portrayed as far worse than it really was. In that piece I said that the breaking point in the contract would come following the 2013 season, and here we are.

Cutting Godfrey would mean the Panthers would still be on the hook for his remaining signing bonus, but the cap savings would be right at $4.1 million alone in 2014, depending on how his miscellaneous bonuses are applied. There would be greater flexibility in 2015 and beyond. If Gettleman is following the Giants model he wont likely retain a high-priced piece of the secondary, or go after someone like Jarius Byrd for that matter.

Things are not great, there's no doubting that -- but it's not a doomsday scenario either. Managing the cap sensibly is the key this season, even if it wont be very exciting.

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