NFC South cap update

We now are less than a month away from the start of free agency, which is when all teams have to be under the salary cap.

Two NFC South teams already are under, but two are well over a salary cap that’s expected to be a little more than $120 million. No division team has made any major releases or done much in the way of restructuring contracts this offseason, but that’s going to change in the coming weeks.

So, let’s take a look at what the NFC South teams currently have committed toward the 2013 salary cap. If these numbers look slightly different than some others you’ve seen floating around, it’s only because I’m using only the top 51 salary-cap figures for each team. Only the top 51 count during the offseason.

Atlanta Falcons. They’re at $118.8 million. That’s under the cap, but not by much. The team has to clear some room if it’s going to re-sign potential free agents Brent Grimes, Sam Baker and William Moore. Michael Turner and Dunta Robinson could be candidates for release or restructuring. Oh, by the way, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Falcons give quarterback Matt Ryan a contract extension, which also could free up some cap room.

Carolina Panthers. They’re sitting at $135 million. New general manager Dave Gettleman is in a tough spot. Veterans like Jon Beason, DeAngelo Williams and Chris Gamble appear to be prime candidates for release, trade, or restructuring.

New Orleans Saints. They have $141.6 million committed toward the cap. Veterans Jonathan Vilma, Roman Harper and Will Smith all have high cap figures and could be released or restructured.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They have the division’s best cap situation, thanks in large part to the restructures for Vincent Jackson and Carl Nicks before last season ended. The Bucs will be players in free agency. But their first priority should be to re-sign potential free agents Michael Bennett and Roy Miller. They also might want to keep about $4 million available in case safety Ronde Barber decides he wants to return for another season.