The 2012 league year begins in less than two weeks, but as of right now no salary cap number has been established by the NFL for next season. Pro Football Talk reported earlier in the week that the salary cap number could end up being lower than originally anticipated, but nothing is official right now. The expectation is for the number to be out "very soon," which, you know, I would hope given that the next league year is almost here.
Based on the current cap situation, the Lions are going to have some work to do in the next couple weeks to be in compliance with the cap. I say this because according to Pat Kirwan, the Lions are one of four teams over the cap (either last year's number or the projected number for this year) right now (the other three are the Carolina Panthers, New York Giants and Oakland Raiders). What exactly is the cap number based on in the offseason? I'll let PFT explain.
In two weeks, each team must be in compliance with the 2012 salary cap, whatever that number may be. In the offseason, cap compliance is based on the cap numbers of the 51 highest-paid players on the roster.
Based on PFT's "top 51" cap numbers, the Lions appear to be right around where the cap will end up for this year. Their number is $123 million, which isn't great, but hey, at least it's not as bad as the Raiders' number of $145.7 million. Now that would really require a lot of work to become cap compliant.