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Salary Cap Explained: Impact on NFL Off-Season Moves and Roster Changes

John Perrotto

by John Perrotto in NFL Football

Updated May 31, 2023 · 8:29 AM PDT

ke Forest, IL, USA; Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles speaks during a press conference
Mar 16, 2023; Lake Forest, IL, USA; Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles speaks during a press conference at Halas Hall. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
  • The Chicago Bears have the most space remaining under the NFL’s salary cap
  • The Baltimore Ravens have been the biggest spenders this offseason
  • A look at the salary cap situation for each of the NFL’s 32 teams can be found below

The NFL’s salary cap system puts a limit on how much money a team can spend on players in a particular season.

The current collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and NFL Players Associations specifies that players receive 48% of the league’s revenues each year. The revenue comes primarily from media contracts, playoff and Super Bowl ticket sales and each team’s local revenue.

The players’ total is then divided by the league’s 32 times, giving each team its individual salary cap.

What Is the 2023 NFL Salary Cap?

The salary cap for 2023 is $224.8 million. While teams cannot exceed that figure, there are various ways to manipulate the cap by pushing more money into the future to create more current cap space.

Signing bonuses are usually paid to players immediately. However, signing bonuses are prorated over the life of the contract or five years – whichever is shorter. The player receives his money instantly, but the team does not sustain the financial impact all at one time.

Teams can restructure contracts to open space. By converting base salaries – money players earn during each week of the season — into prorated signing bonuses, clubs can create additional cap space.

2023 NFL Salary Cap Space Available

Team Cap Space
Chicago Bears $32,578,173
Carolina Panthers $27,249,322
New York Jets $24,382,295
Arizona Cardinals $24,344,614
Detroit Lions $23,721,793
Indianapolis Colts $23,408,906
Houston Texans $16,808,849
Green Bay Packers $16,567,483
Pittsburgh Steelers $15,726,194
Cincinnati Bengals $14,919,110
New Orleans Saints $14,271,778
New England Patriots $14,124,960
Philadelphia Eagles $13,454,764
Los Angeles Chargers $12,612,249
Baltimore Ravens $11,535,327
Jacksonville Jaguars $11,203,063
San Francisco 49ers $10,719,232
Atlanta Falcons $10,698,519
Dallas Cowboys $10,550,536
Minnesota Vikings $9,579,639
Seattle Seahawks $7,946,594
Tennessee Titans $7,737,260
Denver Broncos $7,123,976
Cleveland Browns $4,979,172
Washington Commanders $4,140,245
New York Giants $3,824,536
Las Vegas Raiders $3,367,129
Los Angeles Rams $1,493,514
Buffalo Bills $1,402,994
Miami Dolphins $1,314,327
Kansas City Chiefs $652,557
Tampa Bay Buccaneers $401,791

The Bears, Panthers, Jets, Cardinals and Lions are the top five teams with the most current NFL salary cap space as seen in the table above. With $32,578,173 the Bears have the most space free. Source: OverTheCap.com.

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Which NFL Team Has the Most Salary Cap Space?

The Chicago Bears have the most cap space remaining at $32,578,173.

This is not surprising because the Bears are in rebuilding mode after going 3-14 last season with quarterback Justin Fields, who is set to begin his third season, being their centerpiece player. Typical of a rebuilding team, the Bears have many younger players on their roster with lower salaries.

However, general manager Ryan Poles has a lot of money to play with if he wants to seek upgrades between now and the start of training camp in July during the NFL off-season.

The Carolina Panthers ($27,249,322) and New York Jets ($24,382,295) have the second- and third-most cap space. Like the Bears, both missed the playoffs last season.

Who Has Least Salary Cap Space?

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in a bad spot financially three years after winning the Super Bowl as they have just $401,791 in cap space. That limits what GM Jason Licht can do to improve a team that won the NFC South last season, albeit with an 8-9 record.

What is particularly hurting the Buccaneers is over $75 million in dead money, which is being paid to players no longer on their roster. Eating up a lot of that total is quarterback Tom Brady, who retired after last season – apparently for real this time – and is owed just over $35 million this year.

Right behind the Buccaneers in cap purgatory are the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs ($652,557) and Miami Dolphins ($1,314,327).

Ravens Big Spenders

The biggest spenders this NFL off-season have been the Baltimore Ravens as they have signed players to contracts totaling just over $300 million. Yet Ravens GM Eric DeCosta still has $11,535,327 left in cap space if he wants to upgrade the roster after the Ravens went 10-7 last season before losing to the Cincinnati Bengals in the first round of the playoffs.

The Ravens’ biggest expenditure was signing quarterback Lamar Jackson to a five-year, $260-million contract extension. The deal includes $135 million in guaranteed money – Jackson initially wanted the entire contract guaranteed – and has an average annual value of $52 million.

The New York Giants have been the second-biggest spenders at $251 million and the New Orleans Saints have shelled out $236 million. The Giants re-signed quarterback Daniel Jones to a four-year, $160-million pact with $81 million guaranteed and the Saints also spent big on a QB with a four-year, $150-million contract for Derek Carr that includes $60 million in guaranteed money.

Who’s Left on NFL Free Agent Market?

Arguably the top player remaining on the free agent market is wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who was recently released by the Arizona Cardinals. The Chiefs and Buffalo Bills are speculated to be two of the top potential landing spots for Hopkins, though Kansas City GM Brett Veach would need to do some cap maneuvering.

Other notable free agents include edge rushers Frank Clark, Jadeveon Clowney, Leonard Floyd and Yannick Ngakoue; running backs Ezekiel Elliott, Kareem Hunt and Leonard Fournette; and cornerbacks Ronald Darby and Marcus Peters.

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