It’s fitting that, on April Fool’s Day, the NFL Players Association has opted to point out a past projection from the NFL that ultimately ended up being as accurate as the many phony reports that will be circulating on Tuesday.
From NFLPA spokesman George Atallah’s Twitter account comes the link to a SportsBusiness Journal article explaining that the league believes the salary cap will creep up slowly, maxing out at $130 million in 2016.
We were hearing similar things when the cap was barely moving up. In 2012, the cap actually would have dropped but for some creative accounting by the league and the NFLPA.
The creeping lasted through 2013. For 2014, the cap jumped from $123 million to $133 million, defying league estimates from October of a jump to $126.3 million. By 2016, the spending limit could be as high as $160 million.
It’s unclear why some thought the cap wouldn’t spike by 2014, the first year of the new TV deals. Still, in prior years multiple influential league figures were insisting both on and off the record that the cap wouldn’t spike but instead “smooth,” even as the NFLPA argued that “significant growth” is coming in 2014, “and beyond.”
While it appears on the surface to be a no-harm/no-foul situation, the problem for players is that budgets get set based on the information disseminated by the league. So when there’s an unexpected jump, it may be too late for General Managers to go back to owners and get authorization to spend more.
Still, not everyone in the league believed the cap would be flat or close to it. As one management-side source predicted in 2011, the first few years under the CBA will be good for the owners, the next few will be more of a push, and then the spikes will begin.
That’s what seems to be happening now, with the cap shooting up by $10 million per team from 2013 to 2014. Next year’s numbers will shed light on whether 2014 was a fluke or a trend.
Those numbers will take on even greater importance because, in the same month the new cap number is released, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith will face a challenge to the job he has held for five years from Sean Gilbert and possibly others.