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Cap crunch will highlight cash gap between classes of NFL players

Birk Getty Images

Regardless of the total percentage of revenue that has ended up in the pockets of the players since the new labor deal was reached in 2011, the salary cap hasn’t gone up much over the last three league years.  In 2012, the NFLPA was forced to agree to $46 million in cap penalties for the Redskins and Cowboys merely to ensure that the team-by-team cap number would go up, not down.  (And if the cap number had gone down, a mutiny would have ensued.)

This year, the increase will be modest again, despite past claims from the NFLPA that cap growth will not be primarily flat.  And that has spawned a new argument from the union and some agents:  The cap doesn’t matter and teams who want to spend will find a way to spend.

It’s accurate, to an extent.  A fairly hard cap remains in place.  While it’s possible to spend cash above the cap in any given year, every dollar given to a player must eventually be accounted for under the cap.  And with the cap not going up very much, more and more teams are in cap crunches every year — something that rarely happened under the 2006 CBA.

The next argument is that teams can create cap space if they want to.  And that’s entirely accurate.  As long as teams are willing to squeeze certain players with existing contracts to take less money, to shift their money around, or to cut veteran players prematurely.

In other words, teams are now actually robbing Peter to pay Paul, with “Peter” being a guy who once was “Paul,” and “Paul” being a guy who may eventually be “Peter.”  The process will further highlight the gap between a small handful of star players who will have enormous payouts and cap numbers and the collection of players who actually play in games but who get far less money.

So with Joe Flacco cashing in, other players will be cashing out.  Or cashing less.The new dynamic becomes crystal clear between Flacco and the guy who has snapped him the ball for the last four years, Matt Birk.  With Flacco swinging for the financial fences, the Ravens may not be able to afford Birk’s $2.75 million salary.And with both guys represented by Joe Linta, at a certain point Linta’s push to get one of his clients as much as possible is going to hurt one of his other clients.Other agents will be facing similar dilemmas in other cities.  While, in the end, the teams control how much they pay to their various players, the NFL now consists of four crops of players:  veterans who get paid a whole lot of money, veterans who get paid well and who have to worry constantly about being forced to take less, veterans who get the one-year minimum, and young players laboring under tightly-controlled rookie deals who look forward to the day when they can become veterans who get paid a whole lot of money.

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16 Responses to “Cap crunch will highlight cash gap between classes of NFL players”
  1. nolahxc says: Feb 13, 2013 8:02 AM

    And now I want some Cap’n Crunch for breakfast… Thanks!

  2. burnttoast71854 says: Feb 13, 2013 8:04 AM

    Its amazing D.Smith still has a job. The owners & Goddell played him like a 1st grader. He being the same moron agreeing to penalize the Cowboys & Redskins the 2 teams willing to spend money & spreading money to other teams that don’t spend money. Yup he failed 1st grade again. Like they say 1st grade 2nd day. That’s public School for U. Another union boss getting paid & the workers wondering what just happened. Lol

  3. bigredgoog says: Feb 13, 2013 8:13 AM

    Seems like there is a niche for an Agent who only represents linemen. He can then loudly call out the disparity in pay between his clients and QB’s.

    Watch a team with a bad line and see how even a great QB looks when he is buried within two steps.

    I predict there will be more jealousy on teams of other players contracts than in the past because there is both a floor and ceiling to how much the teams can pay. The “bad guy” no longer will be the “cheap owner” but instead be teammates who have landed a deal larger than their contribution. Not a good thing. Better to have a shared enemy than to be at odds against one another.

  4. steeelfann says: Feb 13, 2013 8:13 AM

    So, that is the way it goes. That is why they HAVE VETERAN MINIMUMS!!!!!!!!!!! GET IT?

    If one does not like the offers, one can go work minimum 40 hours like the rest of us humans generally do. Some of us work 60. Some of us are lazy and don’t do anything. So what? That is life.

    We all know that teams make decisions on players value against the salary cap. This is just a re-hashed story .

  5. jerryyouradisgrace says: Feb 13, 2013 8:16 AM

    Gee…just think if we commoners could make just 1 million a year and managed it right….

    Wow the possibility’s would be endless

  6. guvsta says: Feb 13, 2013 8:33 AM

    “…the NFL now consists of four crops of players: veterans who get paid a whole lot of money, veterans who get paid well and who have to worry constantly about being forced to take less, veterans who get the one-year minimum, and young players laboring under tightly-controlled rookie deals who look forward to the day when they can become veterans who get paid a whole lot of money.”
    *******************
    That’s the NFL in a nutshell- imagine working in these kind of conditions. And the sad thing is, it’s what the players wanted because they all think they’re going to be in the top category. There are lots of careers prematurely ending because of $$$.

  7. erikmc10 says: Feb 13, 2013 8:37 AM

    I guess this is where you say that the “middle class” of NFL players are getting squeezed. More is going to the top, and those middle class of NFL players are ending up on the bottom.

    Welcome to America!

  8. bartlettruss says: Feb 13, 2013 8:42 AM

    The veterans who voted in the current CBA on the backs of future rookie contracts are now finding out the cold truth which is that there will be far fewer fifth year players in the future.

  9. dietrich43 says: Feb 13, 2013 8:44 AM

    So it goes back to the early days of the cap when teams sometimes had to cut a veteran to make cap room. Teams survived then. There was a number of years before the new CBA that the cap went up so much each year, teams had few problems fitting under the cap.

  10. wolverine69 says: Feb 13, 2013 8:48 AM

    Yeah, when joe has nobody to block or catch for him, i don’t want to here people crying. …That goes for the Media and all the teams in the league…These QB’s have to be at the top of the pecking order, enjoy your last SB, Slacco…lol. As a steeler fan the same goes for Big ben his Phat contract sucks up too much money….

  11. mojosmagic says: Feb 13, 2013 8:59 AM

    Stay young, lean, draft well, and don’t overpay for “names”.

  12. mrone50 says: Feb 13, 2013 9:22 AM

    The NFL is quickly becoming like the NBA. From a league that showcase teams of good to bad, to a league of teams who can buy stars and teams that can’t/won’t buy stars.

  13. steelphins says: Feb 13, 2013 9:34 AM

    players should not be surprised by this change at all. the league has now gone from having over-paid 1st round rookies that hadn’t taken a snap, to selectively overpaying key veterans. in either instance it was the so-called lower tiered veterans that had to suffer. the only winners here are the top-level vets who are now garnering the most wages instead of the unproven rookies.

    in any case, the vet minimum sure looks nice compared to my everyday job’s salary.

  14. jwcarlson says: Feb 13, 2013 9:35 AM

    I really worry about some of these guys being able to make ends meet. I mean, at the veteran minimum just how do you expect them to be able to eat anything other than Ramen noodles and still be able to throw $300,000 birthday parties for themselves?

    On a serious note, if veterans are mad they aren’t getting to play as long… drop the veteran minimum and let teams decide what they are willing to pay for their services. Otherwise teams will continue to dump older, slower guys when they can get faster, younger guys for a third of the price. With more upside to boot.

    Duh.

  15. shaunypoo says: Feb 13, 2013 9:36 AM

    I fail to see a problem with any of this. People want to lament that some players are overpaid. I agree, but it is the owners who are deciding to pay these players. If the Ravens decide to pay Flacco for what is barely above mediocre talent and hamstring the team for the next 5-6 years, then that is a bad decision by management. But the fans are clamoring to keep Flacco because they won the Superbowl.

    You see very few top flight players taking less money to keep other players around, but the ones that do end up with better teams overall. And well managed teams are ones that have consistent success because they manage player money well as well as having good coaching.

  16. ppdoc13 says: Feb 13, 2013 10:15 AM

    I would not feel too bad for Matt Birk. He has cashed in a couple of times. He got a good second contract from the Vikings and the Ravens paid him very well for the last 4 years.

    This is the cycle of the NFL. This is why the draft is so incredibly important especially in the latter rounds when you stock your team with inexpensive talent.

    One of the reasons that the Ravens have become consistent winners is their ability to draft in the late rounds and find talent in the UDFA market. Danelle Ellerbe who is about to cash in was a UDFA. So was Jameel McClain, as was our new kicker Justin Tucker. This is why the GM’s hoard picks. But if you can’t identify talent and you can’t coach it up, it doesn’t matter how many picks you own.

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