Bengals in good shape under changing cap

CINCINNATI -- Every week now it seems a new number gets reported for where the NFL's 2014 salary cap will ultimately settle.

The latest figure of $132 million was reported last weekend by ESPN's John Clayton. Several days before that, ESPN Insider Adam Schefter reported that the salary cap limit for each team this upcoming season would be $130 million, some $7 million more than had previously been estimated.

At some point between now and the official start of free agency March 11, the league will give teams the actual and final figure. Could the estimates go up even more in the meantime? We'll soon see.

Using Clayton's reported $132 million mark as a guide, it appears the Cincinnati Bengals will be in very good shape when they start trying to set their roster for the next couple of seasons next month. According to ESPN's Roster Management tool, the Bengals are currently operating about $29.4 million under the cap, if the cap does indeed end up getting set at $132 million.

In his "Inside Slant" from Wednesday, ESPN's Kevin Seifert ranked each NFL team under the salary cap, using the latest cap estimate. According to a chart in this post, the Bengals rank eighth in terms of cap space they'll be able to use. The Oakland Raiders have the most to spend, coming in at more than $66 million under the projected cap.

This latest development, just like the one Schefter previously reported, is a good one for the Bengals. It means they have just that much more money at their disposal when it comes to balancing the books with players on their roster. While its still likely they only retain one of their two highly-valued unrestricted free agents -- defensive end Michael Johnson and offensive tackle Anthony Collins -- the extra cash could help them attempt to either woo both or start re-signing players whose contracts expire next March. Among those up for renewed deals in 2015 are quarterback Andy Dalton and receiver A.J. Green.

It seems the Bengals are most interested in using what they can to bring back as many of their 14 free agents as possible. They also want to spend some of the proposed nearly $30 million on draft picks, shoring up long-term free agents and possibly bringing in at least one veteran from the outside via free agency. For an organization that has done an admirable job in recent seasons building from within via the draft, the good news is that the money appears to be there as it tries to make itself even stronger using a mostly similar formula.