Early projections for the 2016 NFL salary cap come in low once again as a new report means the Detroit Lions could have more than $40 million in cap sapce.
A report in early December projected the 2016 NFL salary cap at beetween $147 million-$153 million. As has been the case in previous years, that early projection is conservative and sure to be low to where the number ultimately becomes.
According to NFL Network’s Rand Getlin, the 2016 NFL salary cap will be at least $155 million:
The Detroit Lions were already projected to have money to play with this offseason so the higher projection only adds to that situation. Of course, the Lions don’t really gain any additional buying power because all teams benefit from a rising cap, but more money means the Lions can chase more opportunities, whether that is in free agency or locking up players already on the roster to extensions.
Money will eventually be allocated to 2016 draft picks but those don’t have to be accounted for right away. Only the top 51 contracts on the roster count for salary cap purposes when the new league year begins until the end of the preseason when rosters are trimmed to the final 53 and all contracts must fit under the salary cap.
The $155 million question is how much money do the Lions have to play with this offseason?
According to overthecap.com, the Lions currently have about $133.8 million in top 51 cap commitments. That leaves $21.2 million before any roster moves are made.
Of course, the chances of the roster standing pat are slim considering the possible, or probable, retirement of Calvin Johnson. A Megatron retirement leaves almost $13 million in dead money on the books but frees about $11 million in 2016 salary cap space.
Stephen Tulloch was a liability in coverage last season and was reduced from full-time starter into a package player. It is widely speculated that Tulloch is a prime candidate to be cut rather than riding out the $7.3 million cap hit for the last year of his current contract. Releasing Tulloch results in a net gain of $6 million in cap space after accounting for dead money.
The rising cap and those two roster moves means the Lions would be looking at more than $38 million in salary cap space. Smaller cap-clearing moves like moving on from Brandon Pettigrew and Joique Bell means the Lions could ultimately be more than $40 million under the cap.