One of the highlights of the labor deal, from the perspective of the players, comes from the requirement that each team muat spend at least 89 percent of the salary cap in cash on an annual basis. “We cannot have teams like KC spend only 67% of the cap like they did in 2009,” Saints quarterback Drew Brees wrote in an e-mail to his teammates. “It doesn’t matter how high the cap is if they are only going to spend that much. So with a minimum in place, it requires all teams to be at or above that minimum. More money in players pockets.”
The players got what they wanted. But it doesn’t apply until 2013.
Yes, for 2011 and 2012 no minimum cash spending requirement applies on a per-team basis. We were first alerted to this reality on Thursday morning, during a weekly segment with Steve Davis and Ed Norris of 105.7 the Fan in Baltimore. Davis said that Ravens president Dick Cass had explained the situation in a recent on-air interview, and Davis forwarded the audio to us later in the day.
The summary of the final deal that we obtained on Monday confirms that, indeed, the “minimum team cash spend” applies on a four-year basis from 2013 through 2016, and from 2017 through 2020. No minimum per-team expenditure applies for 2011 and 2012.
Still, on a league-wide basis, the labor deal requires the NFL to spend 99 percent of the salary cap in cash in 2011 and 2012.
So what happens if too many teams spend so little that the league isn’t able to average 99 percent of the cap in actual cash spent? NFL general counsel Jeff Pash, via NFL spokesman Greg Aiello, explained Friday night that the league would be required to pay the difference to the players.
That said, the league doesn’t believe that it will be a problem, even if teams like the Bucs and Bengals and Chiefs decide to spend as little as possible over the next two years. Based on the money spent to date, the league thinks that the average expenditure of $119 million per team easily will be met.
Remember, it’s not cap space but cash spent. So when a team like the Panthers gives defensive end Charles Johnson a $30 million signing bonus on a six-year deal, only $5 million counts against the cap — but $30 million counts against the league’s total spending requirement of $3.8 billion.
The more relevant point, for the next two years, is that teams like the Bucs, Bengals, and Chiefs can choose to stay as far below the salary cap as they want.