The most common question we get during free agency here at Pride of Detroit is, “How much cap room do the Lions have left?”
It’s a difficult question answer, and almost entirely impossible to answer accurately with an up-to-the-second figure. The main reason why being, simply, we have no idea. Contract details are never officially placed in the public’s eye by the league, so we simply have to rely on the reporting of beat writers, and pick out whatever details they can get out of contract terms. That’s why there’s always seemingly some discrepancy between beat writers’ numbers and sites like Spotrac and OverTheCap.
However, there is one specific source that is not only a good estimate, but the official number. The NFL Players Association has a daily Salary Cap Report that has the “official” cap space numbers for all 32 teams. The only reason I put the word “official” in quotations is because it is very often behind the transactions we know about. Sometimes this is because we know about signings before the teams officially announce them. Sometimes it just seems to be lagging behind for no good reason.
Right now, the NFLPA report has the Lions at $15.4 million in cap space. That number seems like it’s pretty current, although Spotrac and OverTheCap have Detroit closer to $18 million. But Justin Rogers of the Detroit News seems to confirm the NFLPA’s numbers:
With all contracts finally filed, the NFLPA has the Detroit Lions with $15.4M in cap space. Draft class will use approximately another $2.5M.— Justin Rogers (@Justin_Rogers) March 20, 2018
I'm still waiting to add in some bonus data for Christian Jones, Blount and Zenner, but that's within a million of my own calculation.
So with around $13 million in cap space to play with, we can certainly expect the Lions to make a few more moves over the upcoming weeks before the draft. Even if they wanted to make a play for one of the bigger free agents—HAVE WE MENTIONED JOHNATHAN HANKINS YET?—there are some cap-cutting moves they could created some extra space (ie: Cornelius Washington ($2.7 million in savings) or Akeem Spence ($2.75 million)).
Or the Lions can keep on their current path of spending frugally on second and third tier guys, before going after big role players in next month’s NFL Draft.