Although a new CBA deal is still far from imminent, we're starting to hear more and more details about a potential agreement. One big change that looks to favor the players is that teams will now be required to spend almost 100% of the salary cap each year. No longer will teams be able to keep cheap payrolls with $40M worth of cap space.
Fortunately, this change will not have too big of an impact on the Falcons. If the 2011 salary cap is set at around $120M, that would leave the Falcons with $16M worth of spending money, a nicely-sized chunk of change to invest in a free agent DE and of course this year's draft picks.
But it's not all sunshine and rainbows for everyone. The Buccaneers currently have a team payroll of only $63.8M, the lowest in the NFL. Right now the Bucs have a ton of talented young players signed to some really cheap rookie deals. Obviously, they're not going to want to resign those players when that would likely make them more expensive, so they may have to shell out their extra money in free agency. Too bad, Bucs!
On the other hand, the new salary floor would help out the Panthers. Right now Carolina has several costly impending free agents they would love to have back, including DE Charles Johnson. Stingy owner Jerry Richardson would be forced to spend close to $30M of his money in 2011, making it much less likely that Johnson will become a free agent. That pretty much makes it "Ray Edwards or bust" for the Falcons.