Because beating a dead horse is awesome (and it's the premise of our entire site), let me drag up an old post by Showtime on the Bengals salary cap strategy. The main point is the Bengals don't take advantage of a "glitch" in the system like most teams that actually care about winning do (aka, the entire NFL ex Arizona) because it raises the amount they HAVE to spend.
The "glitch" allows teams to rollover unused cap space from one year to the next so if they want to spend a little more in the future to sign/retain key players they will have a higher salary cap to work with. This also raises the salary floor, though, which is a percentage of each team's salary cap.
Raising the floor clearly terrifies the Bengals much more than being able to spend more without adverse cap hits and, as this Football Outsiders post notes:
Arizona and Cincinnati have historically never rolled over unused cap space
...they just don't even bother to rollover cap space. So let's actually look at the numbers here to see exactly what's going on.
The Bengals spent $105,978,981 in 2008 against a cap of $116,729,000 implying they used 90.70% of their cap space. The 2009 cap, according to the FO post, will be $127,997,000. I do not know what the Bengals will spend this year but for our purposes we'll assume they just spend the minimum (up to the floor). This implies a payroll of around $110 million and represents a $4 million increase from 2008 (first row in the "Difference" column).
Notice that if the Bengals had figured out how to rollover all their unused cap space from 2008 they would have had a cap of $138,747,019 but also a floor of $119,322,436. The Bengals then must spend at least $119 million or an additional $9.2 million above their estimated payroll this year.
So basically, the Bengals did not even bother to try to rollover cap space last year because they might increase their floor by at most $9.2 million. It's not insignificant but it shows the small aspirations of this team. Having additional cap space allows teams to make bold moves without an associated penalty. Think how this may have helped the Bengals in the past:
- This offseason we could have franchised/signed TJ, made a huge play for one of the marquee free agent centers and perhaps made another signing without worrying about hitting the cap
- Remember when we thought we had to choose among signing Willie, Levi, Steinbach, & Justin Smith? I do not know if we had cap space to rollover into that year, however, we do know if that cap space did exist the Bengals would have just let it go to waste. Rolling over cap space can allow you to plan for times when a cluster of key players comes due and gives you the ability to keep more players than you otherwise would (how much better would we be with Steinbach still here?)
But no, the Bengals front office mentality precludes them from even considering exploiting every edge they can get to field the best team possible. Rather, they get scared by a rising salary floor and dream small instead of making bold moves for their fans.
It's the same story no matter what aspect of the Bengals you evaluate. The Brown family has their cherished taxpayer funded money-machine and they will never do something that might reduce the cash flow, even if it's only temporary and/or might result in larger cash flows in the future. Get the pitchforks folks.