Something interesting, at least I think so, when it comes to the NFL salary cap status of all NFL teams as they head into training camp in a few weeks now; how close just is everyone to the cap? When you look at the Steelers, Bengals, Browns, and Ravens it’s easy to tell just why two teams have been doing it right and why the other two teams have been doing it wrong.
Now before we get into the figures, yes the Bengals and Browns have both had good drafts the last few years and there is cause for optimism in their continued improvement. However the previous bad drafts, poor free agency moves, and just general head scratching managerial decisions of the past reassure you that the true top front offices run their teams in a manner that is condusive to annual success.
The following excerpt from an article on NFL.com shows the available cap space for all teams currently. For the AFC North you can see that the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals are in the top 5 in terms of available space. Conversely the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens are in the bottom 10.
According to a source with access to NFL salary-cap data, AFC teams have $162,554,428 in available space, led by the Jacksonville Jaguars andTennessee Titans, who are Nos. 1 and 2 in the league, respectively. (Don’t think Maurice Jones-Drew and Josh Scobee haven’t noticed where the Jaguars rank.)
With three teams in the top 10, the AFC South has nearly $64 million in available cap space. Teams in the NFC West have a league-low $19,019,732 in available cap space. Here’s how it all breaks down:
Detroit Lions: $3,775,829
Pittsburgh Steelers: $3,734,063
St. Louis Rams: $3,602,486
San Francisco 49ers: $3,394,599
New York Giants: $3,119,114
San Diego Chargers: $2,862,095
Atlanta Falcons: $2,834,873
New Orleans Saints: $2,272,081
Oakland Raiders: $1,347,040
Baltimore Ravens: $606,858
Far be it from me to give the Ravens any credit, because if you’ve read anything here on SteelerAddicts previously on topics such as rivalry or anything during the regular season you know that the bane of my very existence is Baltimore. However, Ozzy Newsome and the Ravens front office get the most out of their cap each year and they generally make sound decisions in terms of personnel. They’ve allowed themselves to get old at certain positions or fall into old philosophies with personnel just like the Steelers have done but both franchises have had solid drafts the last few seasons to replenish the talent.
Both teams are the class of the AFC North every year, without question. Just briefly looking at the cap numbers; the Steelers have little wiggle room but they atleast have some should they need to pull a Max Starks scenario like last year. The Ravens right now have next to zero wiggle room and may end up releasing more players to free up space at some point before the season starts. All NFL teams will see their cap situations change some once the final cuts are in but your top players aren’t likely going anywhere unless injuries hit hard.
When you look at Mike Brown and the Bengals, and the debacle that has been the Browns for last decade, you can clearly see why 2 teams are always competitive and 2 teams are consistently inconsistent. Cincinnati has been a bottom feeder team for the last decade, making the news more for offseason issues and off field problems than any successes they’ve had on Sunday’s. They spend what little money they are willing to part with on problematic names like Terrel Owens and would rather fill their team with lower priced talent than to go out and get the help they need. Or better yet, actually draft the right players for their system. At least that’s been their philosophy up until recently. Give them credit though, they seem to be headed in the right direction now but let’s not crown them champions quite yet shall we because old habits die hard, I’ll leave it at that.
The Browns draft franchise Quarterbacks every couple of years and change offensive schemes like most of us change clothes. They spend next to no money and have had very little depth to speak of for as long as most of us can remember. While the AFC North is always a competitive division, they Browns have been inconsistent at best. Maybe that will change in 2012, maybe not but one thing is for sure; I’m glad the Rooney’s are running the Steelers organization.
You don’t have to spend all of your money to be competitive every year necessarily but you better have a good front office and scouting team to find the diamonds in the rough if you’re going to be cheap. The Steelers always run close to the cap but when look at their success, it’s hard to argue with it.