Figuring out the Salary Cap…Or Not


Getting a grip on the NFL salary cap requires a slide rule, a scientific calculator and an abacus.  It’s no wonder that teams have general managers working with accountants, lawyers and capologists.

An NFL fan wants their team to succeed so, naturally, they would like to see every big name in free agency signed to the roster.  But it’s the salary cap that determines what a team can do.  So, we went looking for the numbers.  At first I thought it would be a simple matter of going to Google, typing in something like “nfl team 2008 salary cap”  and getting back a long list of results.  I got results alright but none of them matched.

According to Pro Football Talk the Carolina Panthers are $4.9 million over the cap.  This number could be dated a bit so their accuracy may come into question.  It may not not take into account the roster moves that the team has made to this point.

Next, I found a report published by the San Diego Union-Tribune that told me that the Panthers were at the cap or virtual zero.  Giving them no wiggle room and at a point where they would have to make a number of roster moves to cut some fat and get into a position just to be able to sign their draft picks.

A recent article from the Rock Hill Herald sees it differently.  After some changes to contracts in ’07, a few moves this offseason, the figures listed here say that the team could be anywhere from $13 to $30 million under the cap.

It’s confusing to be sure.  But one thing we know is that the Panthers don’t speak publically about contracts.  An excerpt from the Herald article touches on that…

"The temptation for general manager Marty Hurney was to debunk the early reports, but he stayed as quiet, as he does with all contract matters. The Panthers don’t comment on any numbers, although they know full well they all eventually seep out.“Trying to explain the salary cap to the public is probably one of the most complicating and frustrating things there is,” Hurney said. “But we deal with that the same way we do with contracts. I don’t think we should talk about the particulars of the deals, but they come out. Then you get misconceptions about what’s actually happening.“There are some times you want to correct some of the stuff you hear, but you can’t, not if you’re going to be consistent about not talking about contracts.”"

Now, figure in moves that could be made (and should be made).  Releasing David Carr could add an estimated $2.8 million.  Then there’s the $14 million that Julius Peppers will count against the cap.  Is it possible that we simply don’t understand the cap?  Or…could we just be in the dark about the facts since the team doesn’t talk about contracts publically?

I’m a bottom-line kind of guy.  I would like to be able to reach some conclusion for you here but, honestly, I can’t.  I do know this – if the Panthers start making moves in free agency we’ll know they have money to spend.  If they make no moves, or very few moves, we’ll know there’s nothing available.

Figuring out the salary cap?  It might be easier to figure out foreign policy.