Some of you might already have seen John Clayton's projection of the NFL's 2011 salary cap, which will return at least some teams to the era of cap-induced cuts and adjustments after years of escalated spending.
Clayton estimates a 2011 cap of $120 million for each team. That's about a six percent drop from the most recent cap in 2009, and it would require adjustments for two NFC North teams in order to be compliant. Below is a look at the cap status of all four of our teams along with some thoughts on potential impact:
Cap status: About $37 million under
Comment: If anything, the Bears will have to spend significantly in order to exceed the cap "floor," or the minimum expenditure required. Regardless, all indications have been that the Bears are prepared to be active in free agency. At least one starting-caliber offensive lineman should be on their shopping list.
Cap status: About $16.5 million under
Comment: The Lions are positioned to pursue cornerbacks and/or linebackers on the free agent market. But the big question everyone is asking: Can they fit cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha under the cap? The answer, as always in the case of the salary cap, is yes. Any one player can be squeezed in as long as the team is comfortable with the consequences. The Lions would need to make a priority judgment on whether Asomugha is worth the cap percentage he would consume or if they should use it on multiple other players.
Cap status: About $62,000 under
Comment: As Clayton notes, the Packers have a couple relatively easy fixes. They seem likely to part ways with linebacker Nick Barnett, saving $4.4 million against the cap. Right tackle Mark Tauscher's presumed departure would erase another $4.5 million. And in reality, the Packers' biggest upcoming expenditures will be signing their draft class and probably kicker Mason Crosby.
Cap status: About $5.1 million over
Comment: Clayton suggests two fixes: Releasing receiver Bernard Berrian and extending the contract of tailback Adrian Peterson, who is scheduled for a monster base salary of $10.72 million. Coach Leslie Frazier said this offseason that he wants Berrian to return, and extending Peterson will be a delicate, complex and time-consuming project. You at least have to wonder how active the Vikings will be on the free agent market.