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As to cap space, the minimum means as much the maximum

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The billion-dollar breathlessness already has begun regarding 2016 league year, which will feature unprecedented amounts of cap space and, presumably, unprecedented spending.

Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. The salary cap represents the most a team can spend. In any given year, teams can spend less, if they want.

For 2011 and 2012, all teams were required to spend on average 89 percent of the cap, and all teams collectively were required to spend 99 percent of the available money. All teams complied, individually, and collectively.

A four-year window then opened for the next round of compliance: 2013 through 2016. Collectively (and on average), 95 percent of the total cap dollars must be spent. Individually (and on average), teams must spend 89 percent.

So if the cap, to use the easiest numbers to digest, were $100 million every year, each team would be required to average $89 million in spending per year. For each year in which the $89 million is exceeded, less can be spent later. If, for example, a given team spent $100 million in 2013, 2014, and 2015, it would be required to spend only $67 million in 2016 to comply.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, only the Jaguars and Raiders currently are behind the 89-percent minimum based on the first three years of the current four-year window. Once the salary cap is locked in for 2016, the NFL and NFL Players Association will be able to calculate the total amount that each team needs to spend in order to get to the minimum.

For most teams, that won’t be an issue, making the achievement of the 95-percent league-wide number easier to hit. For some teams, it will be necessary to dig deep and find players to whom plenty of money will be given.

That still doesn’t mean the Jaguars and Raiders, or anyone else, will go nuts in free agency. For every team that has sailed over the 89-percent number, this is the reconciliation year in which they can both spend less and also carry over any unused cap space for the next four-year window, which opens in 2017 and closes in 2020.

The teams know how much they’ve spent, and they’ll know how much they need to spend. Ultimately, the predetermined budget for a given team means much more than the salary cap. And the 2016 budgets for most teams already have been determined.

As to the Jaguars and Raiders, there’s another important reality to keep in mind. The 2016 league year begins in March 2016 and end in March 2017. After Week 17 of the 2016 season, both teams will see key young players become eligible for second contracts — and both teams will have full coffers of earnings from a full season of football, including the new money from the expanded Thursday Night Football package. Whatever the deficit may be at that point, the Jaguars and Raiders can cure it with a stroke of the pen on the inevitable second contracts that Blake Bortles, Allen Robinson, and Allen Hurns and Khalil Mack and Derek Carr, respectively.

Will it be good for this specific business if teams bust the juke-a-box next month? Absolutely. But the availability of so much cap space doesn’t necessarily mean that the league will suddenly be transformed into a gang of drunken sailors the moment the new league year begins.

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26 Responses to “As to cap space, the minimum means as much the maximum”
  1. mikeremmersisvonsturnstile says: Feb 18, 2016 5:15 PM

    Looks like Mark Davis also spends the minimum on his haircuts too.

  2. raiderman81 says: Feb 18, 2016 5:23 PM

    Carr and Mack will break the bank for sure……they have the money pay them!

  3. mongo3401 says: Feb 18, 2016 5:26 PM

    Say what you want about Davis but you have to admit the Raiders are pretty good man and the arrow is in the upswing. They stayed low for a few years for good reason. Kansas City and Denver are about to find out why Oakland did it. Just sayin.

  4. mongo3401 says: Feb 18, 2016 5:27 PM

    I did not include San Diego for good reason

  5. ebdug says: Feb 18, 2016 5:53 PM

    Everybody’s happy. The money saved on player salaries results in speedier sports cars for junior.

  6. rjpats says: Feb 18, 2016 6:04 PM

    I’m as big of a raiders apologist (that isn’t a raiders fan) as you’ll find and I do think they’re moving in the right direction, but they were low for a few years? Dude, they were an embarrassment for over a decade. One of the worst runs by a franchise ever.

  7. Drunk Uncle says: Feb 18, 2016 6:05 PM

    Seahawks will have only 22 million in cap space this upcoming season, best case scenario. And after that, it gets much worse.

    Of course, some Seahawks fans have already been chirping about having $30m on the books this year. Facts, schmacts.

    Meanwhile, the Cardinals have $18.5 million in cap space. Those same Seahawks fans say the Cardinals have a huge cap space problem, lol.

  8. i thumbs down your comment says: Feb 18, 2016 6:07 PM

    Raiders didn’t stay low for a few years… they put a horrible product on the field for over a decade.

  9. joetoronto says: Feb 18, 2016 6:20 PM

    The Raiders are now close and they have a ton of money available.

    Watch out.

  10. bjwbrown2011 says: Feb 18, 2016 6:58 PM

    I’m guessing that by 2025 the Raiders will have about $935 million available for the Cap and still only spend the bare minimum.

    I dread the day a super billionaire buys them for their cap space and they become the Yankees of the 90s.

  11. realtruthteller100 says: Feb 18, 2016 7:05 PM

    For many teams the cap is an issue
    Like it or not, they must deal with it
    Only the Cowboys seem to have an issue doing that.
    Regardless, they usually have decent teams.
    I want to see how they do this year with Romo back though.
    One had to think they’ll be contenders.

    In the AFC, the Jags are gonna have issues meeting the floor
    So we’ll see whom they decide to sign.

    However, I’d be more worried about the Steelers.
    In their situation, they’re going to have to be decisive.
    They could have to let some vets go.
    Losing those guys will hurt.
    Even still, their front office should get through it
    Really will be an interesting offseason.

  12. xbarkingfrogx says: Feb 18, 2016 7:07 PM

    mongo3401 says:
    Feb 18, 2016 5:26 PM

    Say what you want about Davis but you have to admit the Raiders are pretty good man and the arrow is in the upswing. They stayed low for a few years for good reason. Kansas City and Denver are about to find out why Oakland did it. Just sayin.

    oetoronto says:
    Feb 18, 2016 6:20 PM

    The Raiders are now close and they have a ton of money available.

    Watch out.
    ___________________________________
    Same seasonal cut and paste from Raider Homers. As usual, all mouth and no fist. Hey Oakie, wake me when you get within sniffing distance of a .500 season!

  13. raydahhs75 says: Feb 18, 2016 7:17 PM

    The Raiders are headed in the right direction due to the one inescapable rule for success in the NFL – you must have a plan. And you must have a leader with both the power and the resolve to see the job through. Not a constant stream of knee-jerk reactions. It’s why teams like the Patriots and Steelers stay at the top mostly, and why rudderless ships like the Browns (and until recently, Raiders), stay at the bottom. Sooooooo simple.

  14. pamperpro says: Feb 18, 2016 7:32 PM

    i thumbs down your comment says:
    Feb 18, 2016 6:07 PM
    Raiders didn’t stay low for a few years… they put a horrible product on the field for over a decade.

    **************************

    Yeah, they’ve sucked for a while now but until this last Super Bowl they had the most Super Bowl wins in their division. They probably still lead the division in playoff wins.

  15. jagsfan1 says: Feb 18, 2016 9:03 PM

    Raiders have stunk for years.
    Jags have stunk for years.
    Using cap money on player salaries cuts into your profit margins.
    Cheap greedy owners.
    I live in Jville. Khan is a phony who does London and throws in a swimming pool at the stadium and the dummies here think it is great.Jags just raised ticket prices. 12-36 over last 3 yrs and then extended Head Coach.
    Raiders have Jags ex coach as their Head coach.
    NFL is a total joke and getting worse every year.

  16. osiris33 (bandwagon since 1976) says: Feb 19, 2016 4:07 AM

    Drunk Uncle says:
    Seahawks will have only 22 million in cap space this upcoming season, best case scenario. And after that, it gets much worse.
    Of course, some Seahawks fans have already been chirping about having $30m on the books this year. Facts, schmacts.
    Meanwhile, the Cardinals have $18.5 million in cap space. Those same Seahawks fans say the Cardinals have a huge cap space problem, lol.
    ———————————————————
    With Lynch’s retirement, the Seahawks have $29.529 million to spend this year. Simple restructuring (do you even know what that is?) on Jimmy Graham and say, Sherman could push that number to $40-45 million in space. next year they have over $65 million in cap space. meanwhile the Cardinals have only about $18 million free and $49 million invested in Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald and Calais Campbell, all of who are long past their best days and well over 30.

    So yeah, I’d say it’s a pretty safe bet that the Seahawks are in far better cap shape than the Cardinals.

  17. roddoliver says: Feb 19, 2016 5:59 AM

    “mongo3401 says:
    Feb 18, 2016 5:26 PM

    Say what you want about Davis but you have to admit the Raiders are pretty good man and the arrow is in the upswing. They stayed low for a few years for good reason. Kansas City and Denver are about to find out why Oakland did it. Just sayin.”

    So, without a winning season since 2003, the Raiders have decided to stay low on purpose, keep losing and watch the division rival win SB 50? Great plan.

  18. eaglesw00t says: Feb 19, 2016 8:22 AM

    Both teams have average to above average franchise QBs. I would be happy to have Carr in Philly. Or Bortles. Makes good business sense to save money for those huge QB contracts. Even mediocre QBs like Bradford want 18+ mill now. Makes that deal Romo signed look like a bargain (if he could stay healthy that is).

    QB contracts are absolutely ridiculous. Cripes, look what Nick Foles signed for. And what position is he now? Left bench?

  19. killxswitch says: Feb 19, 2016 8:42 AM

    “As to cap space, the minimum means as much the maximum”

    I think you accidentally a word.

  20. fordman84 says: Feb 19, 2016 8:47 AM

    So conceivably there could be a team that underspends the firt three years so bad that they would have to go over the cap in order to get their average up?

    That would be AWESOME. Not for any reason, but how funny would it be for a team to be in a no win position because they lowballed for so long.

  21. streetyson says: Feb 19, 2016 8:47 AM

    What a total con the cap system is – the league has a “limit” and then allows the double mega-fudge of cap-limit mobility on top of complex salary structure cap-massaging manipulations. You could not come up with a more obscuring, cheat-inducing, loophole-able system if you tried.

  22. nhpats says: Feb 19, 2016 9:20 AM

    The Panthers may want to spend some cap on a QB who isn’t terrified to jump on his own fumble…

  23. babygaga19 says: Feb 19, 2016 9:32 AM

    mongo3401 says:
    Feb 18, 2016 5:26 PM

    Say what you want about Davis but you have to admit the Raiders are pretty good man and the arrow is in the upswing. They stayed low for a few years for good reason. Kansas City and Denver are about to find out why Oakland did it. Just sayin.
    ____________________________________
    So, the Raiders intentionally sucked for over 12 years as part of a secret plan to get better?????? Son, do you see what homerism has done to your mind?

  24. babygaga19 says: Feb 19, 2016 9:36 AM

    The Panthers may want to spend some cap on a QB who isn’t terrified to jump on his own fumble….
    ____________________________________
    Or use his baby as a photo pr prop!

    “Cam Newton released his first public pic of his newborn son (not so incidentally named “Chosen”) on Instagram this week bracketed with his MVP Trophy and Offensive Player of the Year Trophy! The baby was merely a prop for his own self-promotion!!! What kind of man does this?”

    (Jarrett Bell, USA Today Sports, 2/14/16)

  25. gibbyfan says: Feb 19, 2016 10:34 AM

    Yeah, they’ve sucked for a while now but until this last Super Bowl they had the most Super Bowl wins in their division. They probably still lead the division in playoff wins.

    28 9
    That was all senility got the best of Al. Iv’e been a raider fan since the beginning–he was a genius once but truth is the team has been a disgrace for 12-13 years. Is Reggie that great? They had a better record 5 years ago when he was first hired. He has done well in the draft but has also struck out big time with DJ…I think they will eventually become an OK team (law of averages) but doubt they will return to the old raiders.

  26. babygaga19 says: Feb 21, 2016 10:22 AM

    Raiders believe Reggie “Toad Man” Mckenzie walks on water (18-46 as Raider GM). Only in Oakland can this guy be employed as a GM with those credentials. He drafted Mack and Cooper. Big deal, they were on everybody’s top 10 list. Raiders got there first because they sucked the most.

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