As the new league year slowly approaches, the NFL has been crunching the numbers to find the true level of the salary cap, which looks to be higher than originally projected.
Once the 2012 NFL regular season came to a close, teams not involved in the post-season began to shift their focus toward 2013 and the new salary cap.
Original projections slated the cap to be only a few hundred thousand higher than 2012's cap of $120.6 million. As the post-season drew to an end, the projected number was narrowed down to $121.1 million; but as the league draws within weeks of the new league year, NFL cap mathematicians are now saying it could be even higher, now expecting the cap limit to exceed $122 million.
While the incremental increases aren't going to allow teams to cover the salaries of their best compensated employees or free-agent signings, but for teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers, the extra million could prevent the feared March Massacre.
Each team will be expected to be cap compliant with the top 51 salaries on their roster by the beginning of the new league year on March 12th, 2013. The Steelers are currently over the new limit by about $13.5 million. The team can get under the salary cap limbo stick with the restructures of their top three salaries - Ben Roethlisberger, LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons.
Depending on the team's plan for RFAs (Jonathan Dwyer, Issac Redman, Emmanuel Sanders) and UFAs (Keenan Lewis, Rashard Mendenhall, Ramon Foster), the team may still need to make a few additional moves to clear enough room for re-signings. However, once the team gets under the cap, they will have some extra time to make their decisions, because they will not be forced to make all of their decisions before the deadline.
The team may still be forced to part ways with well-paid veterans like James Harrison, Troy Polamalu or Ike Taylor; but if rumors of a higher cap are true, an extra million dollars could change the entire outlook of the off-season.
The league is still analyzing all of the financial data from 2012, and won't release a concrete figure until closer to the deadline.