- Associated Press - Thursday, July 28, 2011

Don’t be fooled by all those deep cuts on NFL rosters, with veterans such as Todd Heap, Roy Williams and John Kasay being released. Some of the dozens of players being shown the door might step right back through it _ for less money _ very soon.

The new labor deal hasn’t really changed the dynamics for teams dealing with the salary cap. Sure, the cap has been softened a bit, with teams allowed to exceed it this year by $3 million and to get creative with contracts for non-rookies. But that isn’t a wholesale change from the past.

“The NFL salary has always been a soft cap,” agent Ben Dogra said. “This year is no different in years when a salary cap has existed.”

What is different, of course, is the condensed period in which teams must make decisions on who to keep, who to bring in, who to renegotiate with, and who to say “so long” to.

Even for a very short time.

Consider that Heap has been an integral part of the Ravens for most of the last decade and is one of Joe Flacco’s most reliable targets. He’ll receive his walking papers Thursday, saving Baltimore nearly $5 million against the cap.

And on Friday, he just might jog back to the Ravens for less money, or for a similar deal spread out over more years to lessen the cap hits.

It’s all part of the “managing the cap” game every team has been playing for years. The surprise, according to agent Peter Schaffer, is that after a 4 1/2-month lockout, very little has been altered as teams negotiate contracts, and that there isn’t as much wiggle room under the cap as owners hoped for.

“For the last 18 months, teams said they wanted to reduce their cap numbers, which was what caused the lockout,” Schaffer said. “Then they complain there’s not enough cap room now in this system.”

There’s actually plenty of room, with as much as $123 million in cash available, for clubs that have spent wisely in the past. All 32 teams must commit to paying 99 percent of the cap in cash this season. So there will be spending sprees, some of which began Wednesday as the likes of Santonio Holmes, DeAngelo Williams and Matt Hasselbeck on offense, plus Charles Johnson, Paul Posluszny and Eric Weddle on defense, got rich. Uh, richer.

And there will be plenty of spending money for teams such as Tampa Bay, Cincinnati and Carolina, all well under the cap heading into this frantic week.

“Hopefully, they will spend it,” Schaffer said.

“The market is going to be flooded with players unlike anything that’s happened in the history of the National Football League,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh added. “We’ve got to do everything we can to improve our team, and we’re going to need a little space to do that.”

Thus, the jettisoning of veterans. And, most likely, the return of some of them to Baltimore or Dallas or New York or wherever.

What concerns many agents is that with the salary cap somewhat stagnant this year, teams will run out of money after wining, dining and signing the elite free agents.

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