Looking at 2012 salary cap

A question came up in Friday’s NFC South chat about where the Carolina Panthers are in relation to the 2012 salary cap.

Let’s go into a little more detail on that now. At the moment, and this will change, the Panthers have $124 million committed toward the 2012 cap. That’s No. 3 in the NFL. The Pittsburgh Steelers ($141.7 million) are No. 1 and the Oakland Raiders ($136 million) are No. 2.

The league average for 2012 cap room now stands right about $105 million. The New Orleans Saints are the only other NFC South team above the league average and they’re only slightly over it. The Saints are at $106 million and let’s remember the Saints almost certainly will be signing Drew Brees to a massive deal at some point.

For those who like to blame everything wrong with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on ownership being cheap, that argument doesn’t really apply as we look ahead to 2012. I’m seeing six teams with more 2012 cap room than the Bucs, who are at $91.533 million. Tampa Bay's number also is going to climb after this season because the Bucs are playing a lot of young players who have escalator clauses in their contracts that kick in if certain requirements on playing time are met.

One of the teams well below the average is the Atlanta Falcons. They’re sitting at $89.3 million. The Cincinnati Bengals ($71.2 million) have the least committed toward the 2012 cap.