Nov 4, 2012; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) before the start of the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports.

Why Detroit Lions New Salary Cap Space May Not Lead to Big Free Agent Deal

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The Detroit Lions are now nearly $4.9 million under the salary cap as a result of the contract extension Matthew Stafford signed earlier this week.

While on the surface that would seem to be enough for them to find one last nice piece on the free agent market, Eric Winston or Kerry Rhodes, for instance, don’t be surprised if the Lions don’t make that kind of move before opening training camp later this month.

There are three good reasons why the Lions might avoid a (somewhat) major move:

3. The Shopping List Was Already Completed
Lions management stressed during the offseason that they had a plan in place to accomplish their goals even if an extension with Matthew Stafford was not in place. That is the scenario the Lions had to work under with the Stafford deal not coming until July but the Lions were still able to do what they needed to do in signing Reggie Bush, Glover Quin and Jason Jones and re-signing Chris Houston. That’s not to say the Lions have to consider themselves ‘done’ – Martin Mayhew has proven that he is never ‘done’ – but any remaining moves may be limited to minor moves near the bottom of the roster.

2. There Always Needs to be a Cushion
Injuries happen. It’s a given in the NFL and players that go on IR don’t magically stop counting against the salary cap. They stay on the books while a new player is added to take the spot on the roster. It takes cap space to make that happen. How much should be reserved for dealing with injuries can be debated but the Lions’ current room under the cap doesn’t look so big when considering that the average amount of cap space league-wide is over $9.7 million.

1. Unused Cap Space Can be Carried Over
With the current collective bargaining agreement, teams no longer face a ‘use it or lose it’ situation with cap space. Whatever amount the Lions finish the year under the salary cap is applied as additional space on top of next year’s cap. The Lions carried over less than half a million dollars from 2012, one of the smallest amounts of all NFL teams. The average carryover from 2012 was near $6.3 million.

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