Part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement that was ratified last year gave NFL teams the option to carry over any leftover salary cap to the following season. That is a pretty big deal when you think about it. Teams that have significant amounts of cap room one year can make even more room the following year and so on.
Pro Football Talk gave some good insight in a recent article by Mike Florio: Under Article 13, Section 6(b)(v) of the CBA, each team may carry over any remaining cap room from one year to the next by submitting written notice, signed by the owner of the team, to the league office no later than 14 days before the start of the next league year. The written notice must indicate the maximum amount of cap room that the team wishes to shift from one cap year to the next.
How could any team not want to do this? It's a no brainer as salaries continue to get higher and higher for veterans in the league. Fortunately the new rookie salary cap will help ease the burden of those rising costs a bit. For example, Cam Newtown got about $22 million for his rookie contract compared to Sam Bradford of the Rams who got $78 million over 6 years. The 2nd contracts those players get, significantly more for top players, will still be huge but at least teams can save money out the outset of a players career.
Further adding to the complication that is the new CBA, teams just spend 99% of their salary cap in 2012. In 2013 and going forward they must spend at least 95% so it's not as if there will be exorbitant amounts of cash to carry over each year but something is better than nothing right? The salary cap guru's of the NFL won't have quite as much flexibility to maneuver around the cap like they used too but that doesn't mean creative deals still can't be had.
How much it will benefit teams like the Steelers though remains to be seen. Head negotiator Omar Khan and the Steelers font office spend every last dime they can each season to make their roster the best it can be. They generally don't head into the year with very much space available but any amount they can save will be a benefit in years to come. That's not say that they can't sign veterans when needed in the middle of the season, there are provisions available for players that go on injured reserve for example, and the team used some of that spare cash they had to sign Max Starks.