Late yesterday, Pro Football Talk released the latest round of NFL cap space, based on transactions up through March 26. They list the 49ers with $4.5 million in space, while our own Jason Hurley has the 49ers at approximately $4.6 million. It's close enough that we can be pretty certain of where the 49ers stand.
We've been keeping pretty steady track of the salary cap, but the timing of this works well with another story from earlier this week. Over at NFL.com, Gregg Rosenthal has looked at AFC and NFC free agency winners and losers. This was followed up by a look at the five strongest rosters in the NFL. The top five are ranked as follows (with cap space per PFT):
1. Seattle Seahawks ($6.8M)
2. Denver Broncos ($8.8M)
3. San Francisco 49ers ($4.6M)
4. Atlanta Falcons ($6.2M)
5. New England Patriots ($13.4M)
Cap space across the league ranges from $28.9 million for the Bengals to $51,000 for the Cowboys. For those wondering about the league's salary floor, here are a couple points of clarification:
1. The floor is cash spending, not cap spending. When a player signs a five year deal with a $10 million signing bonus, cash spending is $10 million this year, while cap proration puts it at $2 million this year (and $2 million in each of the next four years
2. The 89% spending requirement is based on the average of four years, as opposed to what they spend this year. As long as they hit the 89% spending requirement averaged out over four years, they are fine.
What I find interesting is that the five "strongest rosters" are teams that still have some cap space, but for the most part do not have crazy cap space. I suppose the Patriots are somewhat of an exception, but for the most part, good teams are spending solid money on their team, but leaving themselves with cap space to maneuver as needed. The 49ers have limited space, but even they can open it up a bit more with a contract extension or two this offseason.
It is not surprising the Seahawks are ranked at the top of this list. They have had a high profile offseason that featured some key additions and no really significant losses. The 49ers have made some valuable additions, but it is easier to see the losses. Losing guys like Dashon Goldson and Delanie Walker are obviously big losses. At the same time, with 14 draft picks in hand, the 49ers are in fine position to fill those roster holes. We can't know exactly how rookies will pan out, but in terms of maintaining cap flexibility, it has to happen at some point.