Will the Cincinnati Bengals have to spend their full resources?
We could find out soon if the NFLPA has its way with mandatory spending of the salary cap, which is one of the biggest sticking points remaining in the new collective bargaining agreement. The league wants a rookie wage scale, which the players are open to. But in return, veteran players want to make sure owners do not take all the extra money saved and keep it.
Mandatory spending could affect the Bengals perhaps more than any NFL team. Cincinnati often maintains a low payroll and searches for cheaper alternatives in free agency.
Here are some additional thoughts on Cincinnati and mandatory spending:
The Bengals may want to hire a general manager. Cincinnati is known for making shaky personnel decisions, and that will only be amplified with increased spending. I’ve made the case for years that it’s more cost-effective for the Bengals to pay a GM to make good decisions than it is to have ownership make costly mistakes such as signing receiver Antonio Bryant. According to ESPN.com senior writer John Clayton, the Bengals have about $36 million in cap room and would have about $54 million available if embattled quarterback Carson Palmer ($11.5 million) and receiver Chad Ochocinco ($6.35 million) came off the books. A smart and talented GM could make that money go a long way. But don't expect the Bengals to view it that way.
This could be good news for in-house free agents Johnathan Joseph and Cedric Benson. Because of the high price good corners have fetched in the free-agent market ($8-$10 million per year), Joseph probably was a goner after Cincinnati failed to reach a deal before the lockout in March. But mandatory spending could put Joseph back in play for the Bengals and increase Cincinnati's chances of matching any offers. The same goes for Benson, who wants to return and was the Bengals' leading rusher the past two years.
Overall, proposed mandatory spending could be a victory for Bengals fans. The Bengals have gone 20 consecutive years without winning a playoff game, and there is doubt in Cincinnati whether the Bengals are truly committed to winning a championship. Spending to the salary cap every year would at least force the Bengals to spend more money on their product, as opposed to annually searching for bargain-basement free agents or troubled players down to their last strike.