Looking at 2013 salary-cap numbers

With the season pretty much over for three of the four NFC South teams, let’s start looking ahead a little bit.

Let’s look at what each team currently has committed toward the 2013 salary cap. Next year’s cap won’t be set until March, but the NFL has told teams to plan on it being $120 million, although it could be slightly higher than that.

Atlanta Falcons. The currently have $113 million committed toward next year’s cap. But they face important decisions on whether or not to re-sign cornerback Brent Grimes and left tackle Sam Baker. The Falcons also are likely to give quarterback Matt Ryan a contract extension at some point in the offseason and, depending on how that deal is structured, the Falcons could free up a little more cap room.

Carolina Panthers. They have $134 million committed toward the cap, which is the fifth-highest total in the NFL. The Panthers are going to have to make some painful choices just to get under the cap. Whoever ends up as the general manager of this team is going to have to restructure some contracts and release some veteran players.

New Orleans Saints. They’re at a whopping $138 million, which ranks second in the NFL. General manager Mickey Loomis has plenty of experience at restructuring contracts and there likely will be plenty of that. But the Saints also likely will have to release some high-priced players. They’ll also need to make a decision on left tackle Jermon Bushrod, who is a potential free agent.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs currently are sitting right about $115 million, but that number will be in flux. The Bucs have are about $13 million under this year’s cap and they can carry over most or all of that money toward 2013. Still, I wouldn’t expect a free-agent frenzy like the Bucs had last year. Several of their players will hit escalators that will kick in next season and knock their cap room down. The Bucs also need to re-sign defensive end Michael Bennett before he becomes a free agent and that’s going to be costly.