NFL Salary Cap Increases, Ramifications in Cincinnati for Bengals

Kyle BattleCorrespondent IMarch 1, 2013

Cincinnati Bengals owner and GM Mike Brown have become notorious for pinching pennies, but with an increased salary cap and minimum spending, something has to change.

ESPN broke the news yesterday that league officials informed ESPN Analyst Chris Mortensen that the salary cap for the 2013 season will be $123 million. This number is increased from the $121.1million figure expected to be in place. 

"The increase is a result of greater-than-expected revenues last season -- primarily from NFL Properties -- and a jump in projected league revenues," the report states.

Heading into the 2013 season, the Bengals have more money to spend than any other team and the question is: Will the penny pinching continue?

The Bengals already had the most cap space of any team this offseason. Now, with this increased spending limit, the Bengals will have almost $57 million in cap space. With that money, they should focus on re-signing free agents Michael Johnson and Andre Smith, and improving at the LB, S, RB and OT positions through the draft. 

The City of Cincinnati and the Bengals have a terrible reputation as far as making financially-sound decisions. Paul Brown Stadium ended up costing the city $540 million, the brunt of which was absorbed by Hamilton County. No one anticipated how the deal would affect the city and the team but those suffering the most are the fans. He even charged fans $10 to attend a pep rally. 

Brown has the opportunity to show that he wants to win back the hearts of the Who Dey nation. Last July, when the NFL announced that they had lowered their media market blackout thresholds, Brown insisted on maintaining the old, higher thresholds. For those seeking an owner with high expectations, that's great. 

However for a franchise and fan base in such disarray that superstars had to buy tickets themselves in order to avoid blackouts, the owner should have welcomed the cushion space. It remains to be seen how generous or stingy Mike Brown will be with so much cap space this year. 

It should also be noted that there is a spending minimum for 2013, forcing teams to spend at least 89 percent of the cap on average in contract dollars. This minimum didn't exist as apart of previous CBAs but this change will challenge hesitant spenders like Brown and family.

In one hand, we know that Brown has a history of loyalty which lends to the fact that he'll try to re-sign Michael Johnson, Andre Smith and possibly even Rey Maualuga. This would mean that he'd spend the necessary dollars to keep these men in stripes. On the other hand, Brown is "frugal."

Bengals fans love swapping stories about Mike Brown's stinginess: He flies free agents in on coach and puts them up in hotel rooms without minibars; he employs four ticket reps for every one scout; and so on. Now, fans could see Brown's penny-pinching in spreadsheet form. Expenses were broken down by category, and the Bengals often ranked lowest in the league—and sometimes absurdly low. When it came to "team expenses"—football costs not related to player salaries, such as coaches, trainers, scouts—the Bengals spent millions less than many teams. -

Free agency starts in 11 days and the NFL Draft is in April. Between now and then, many of these questions should be somewhat answered. Whether or not Michael Johnson is franchised will determine a lot about the Bengals' financial mindset. 

The increase of the salary cap from $121 million to $123 million only magnifies the importance of this offseason to the Bengals franchise. They have the money and ability to put the necessary pieces around AJ Green and Geno Atkins to finally get a playoff win. But will they?


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