Like last year, the Detroit Lions entered this offseason in need of cap space. Through numerous methods (restructuring deals, cutting players, pay cuts, etc.), the Lions actually managed to create a good deal of cap space this offseason. They were able to go out and sign some notable free agents, and they actually have $2.4 million in cap space right now even after all of those moves.
A big part of being able to make so many moves was that the Lions kept the 2013 cap hits low in their new deals. Reggie Bush, for example, may have signed a four-year deal worth $16 million, but his cap hit for 2013 is only $2 million. The Lions were able to squeeze in additional signings by carefully managing the cap hits for the upcoming season.
The obvious down side of low cap hits this year is that they will go up in the future. Bush's cap hit is scheduled to go up to $4.5 million in 2014, and if you combine that with the change in cap hits for Chris Houston, Glover Quin, Jason Jones and Louis Delmas, the Lions are looking at an increase of $14.28 million against the cap next year. That number could obviously change if players are released or deals are altered, but the Lions are looking at another tough situation with the cap in 2014.
Don't believe me? It turns out that the Lions actually have the third-most money committed to the salary cap for 2014, according to ESPN's Pat Yasinskas (via MLive). The New Orleans Saints lead the way with $143.4 million committed to the 2014 cap, and the Dallas Cowboys are just behind at $141 million. In third are the Lions with $137 million committed to the cap for next year.
Considering the current salary cap is only $123 million and there isn't expected to be a big increase next year, the Lions are already quite a ways over the 2014 cap. However, it's worth noting that Ndamukong Suh and Matthew Stafford alone are responsible for $40.7 million in cap room next year. That's because their deals have been restructured in the past, giving them massive cap hits in 2014. The good news is their cap hits could be significantly lowered if new deals are worked out, in turn giving the Lions a significant amount of cap space in the process.
While the Lions' cap situation for 2014 may seem bleak now, it's important to remember that teams can easily manipulate their cap number. The Lions may have to do some extra work next year to free up cap room, and they may not be able to go on a signing frenzy like we saw this year (hopefully one won't be necessary anyway). But all it takes is a couple of restructured deals, an extension for a player or two and some general housekeeping and the Lions could go from well over the cap to well under it.