According to Tom Pelissero of USA Today, there are 10 teams in the NFL currently below this 89% mark of salary cap spending. The Oakland Raiders were the lowest at 80.2% of the $256 million total over the past two seasons. The Carolina Panthers are not far off from the Raiders with a percentage of 80.8 according to the NFLPA calculations.
Pelissero wrote that for the Raiders just to meet the minimum if the salary cap goes up by $10 million in 2015 and 2016, “the Raiders' average payroll for the next two seasons must increase by more than $40 million just to hit the minimum.” The fact that the Panthers are only a half percentage point higher means that will need to be pretty close to this number as well.
The fact that the Panthers are so low shouldn’t come as a huge surprise considering that the front office has been in cost cutting mode the past few years and trying to rid themselves of bad contracts. According to Over the Cap, the Panthers will have roughly $11.8 million in cap space based on a salary cap of $140 million in 2015, which won’t be finalized until March 10th. The union expects to be a little more optimistic about the cap number believing it could upwards of $143 million.
The Panthers seem to be in a much better situation to reach this 89% minimum compared to the Raiders because they have a number of their top players becoming free agents after this season. Quarterback Cam Newton, tight end Greg Olsen, linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis and cornerback Josh Norman will all be looking for contract extensions at some point over the next seasons. The Panthers should have plenty of room for a majority, if not all of these players, with only 24 players under contract in 2016 and close to $82.5 million in cap space based on Over the Cap’s projections.
If the Panthers are not able to meet this 89%, they will be need to pay the union the difference. At this point, the union will disperse it as it sees fit.