Having good players can be a real pain, at least in terms of the salary cap.
When the Panthers used the franchise tag on Greg Hardy Friday, they committed 21 percent of their entire cap allotment for 2014 on a pair of defensive ends.
But no team is more top-heavy in terms of the cap than the Lions.
According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, the Lions have $51.3 million worth of their cap tied up in quarterback Matthew Stafford, wide receiver Calvin Johnson and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, or roughly 39 percent of the $133 million cap for the entire team.
That limits their ability to create depth, and field a team that is consistently competitive.
“It’s a difficult situation there with depth on the team,” former coach Jim Schwartz told WGFX-FM after he was fired. “They’re top heavy on their cap, and rightfully so. Guys like Calvin Johnson, Matt Stafford, Ndamukong Suh makes it difficult to have a lot of depth, and when you get those injuries, which everybody does, it’s going to be a difficult road to hoe when you get to the second half of the season.”
The common thread among the teams with more balanced ledgers is a young (i.e. cheap) quarterback, as Indianapolis and San Francisco are near the bottom with Andrew Luck and Colin Kaepernick working on post-lockout rookie deals.
Of course, that’s only going to last for the Colts and 49ers until they have to pay their quarterbacks, which is why they’re stockpiling free agents and draft picks until then.
That’s a luxury the Lions don’t have at the moment.