Among the many things on which the NFL and the NFLPA disagree is the question of whether the salary cap will spike in 2014, the first year of the new network television deals.
In March, Patriots owner Robert Kraft expressed doubt that the cap will jump come 2014, explaining that the increases will be “smooth” and expressing hope that any team anticipating large bumps has membership in the Patriots’ division.
The NFLPA thereafter told players and agents that significant cap growth will occur in 2014 and beyond. More recent efforts by the union to explain the economics of the new labor deal to players and agents, both by NFLPA president Domonique Foxworth and chief outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler, have focused on increases in spending and guaranteed money, not increases in the salary cap.
On Wednesday, Kraft hinted that the long-term deal recently given to tight end Rob Gronkowski reflects the organization’s beliefs regarding the slow growth of the cap.
“We’re trying to always plan ahead for the future, do our strategic planning,” Kraft said after a luncheon for honorees of the Myra Kraft Community MVP Awards, according to Alex Prewitt of the Boston Globe, and as flagged via Twitter by Greg Bedard of the Globe. “In this age of salary cap, what’s going to happen in the next few years with the cap, you have to have a core group of players that you can plan around as the foundation of your team.”
Gronkowski’s deal has salary-cap numbers of $2.66 million in 2012, $2.75 million in 2013, $5.4 million in 2014, and $8.65 million in 2015.
Although Gronkowski’s cap number nearly doubles in 2014, it will still remain relatively low for a player who has become such a key part of the offense, until 2015.
While Kraft surely continues to believe that the cap won’t grow significantly through at least 2014, he likely opted to be a bit more circumspect this time around, given that the league ultimately wants the players to be happy with the labor deal they signed last year — especially if the owners are very happy with it.
In the end, the cap will grow, or not grow, based on a variety of factors, including the ongoing ability, or inability, of teams to sell all of their tickets to games. But to the extent that any 2014 increases in broadcast revenue won’t be reflected by the 2014 salary cap, Kraft is correct. The salary cap comes not from revenues in the current year, but from revenues in the prior year. So any spikes in cash flow in 2014 won’t be reflected in player salaries until 2015.
Regardless, and as Foxworth pointed out last week on PFT Live, the players now have a true partnership (from a revenue perspective) with the league, and they’ll share in any increases, or decreases, in the overall money generated by the game.
History and current trends suggest that the numbers will continue to go up.