With the new league year less than seven hours away, the salary cap stands at exactly $133 million per team. So where did the $10 million-per-team increase over 2013 come from?
No one is identifying the precise source of $320 million in new spending ability, which translates to $640 million in new total revenues. The NFLPA has gone on the record to identify one place the money didn’t come from.
“There were absolutely no adjustments made to any benefits to inflate the cap,” NFLPA spokesman George Atallah recently told Tom Pelissero of USA Today. An unnamed source from the NFL’s perspective told Pelissero essentially the same thing, pointing generally to “new and enhanced TV deals” as the explanation for the spike.
In past years, there has been some confusion regarding whether the cap comes from revenue earned in the prior year or revenue expected in the current year. Either way, the number isn’t spat out by a giant computer at 345 Park Avenue; it’s negotiated by the two sides each and every year.
While there’s no specific reason to dispute the claim that shell games weren’t played to push the cap up by $10 million per team, there’s no way to know without being privy to the negotiations. Based on past precedent, there’s reason to at least wonder. Two years ago, the league agreed to borrow against future cap dollars in order to avoid a drop in the cap. While that would have hurt many teams, it could have been disastrous to NFLPA leadership, especially with executive director DeMaurice Smith only weeks away from re-election. In return, the union agreed to the imposition of $46 million in cap penalties on the Cowboys and Redskins for treating the uncapped year of 2010 as, surprise, uncapped.
Regardless, the upward trend is likely here to stay. One management-side league source recently reminded PFT of a prediction made back in 2011, after the CBA was finalized: The first few years will be very good for the owners, the next few years will even out, and by the later part of the 10-year deal the cap could be “way up” and players could be making a lot more than they were in 2011 and 2012.
For that reason, agents representing players who’ll hit the market should consider negotiating short-term deals. Unless and until someone finds a way to ensure that future compensation will be increased to reflect the annual percentage increases in the cap, it could be better to get back to the market every year or two, if the cap will be climbing by $10 million or more per year.