On Sunday, Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor became the first player to skip a regular-season game over a contract dispute since the 2011 labor deal was signed. He likely won’t be the last.
The real question could be this: How many more will there be?
Per a league source, multiple teams fear that more players will take a stand, with the argument they deserve a raise bolstered by the sudden annual spike in the salary cap. After slow growth from 2011 through 2013 (with a little hocus-pocus — and cap penalties imposed on Dallas and Washington — keeping the cap from shrinking in 2012), the spending limit has gone up by $10 million per team in each of the last two years. So guys who signed contracts at a time when the cap was creeping may now want some sort of an adjustment to account for the fact that, in comparison, it’s skyrocketing.
That raises the stakes for Seattle and Chancellor, with the NFL Management Council possibly urging the team not to give in, and ultimately not to waive fines or bonus forfeitures if/when Chancellor decides to stop the $267,000-per-week bleeding.
But that doesn’t solve the problem of players seeing the relative value of their contracts shrinking as the salary cap expands. On one hand, it’s on the NFLPA and the agents to plan for that growth. On the other hand, that growth could best be planned for by building a term into the contract that ensures the player will receive as his total compensation a predetermined percentage of the salary cap.
That could be the next trend in contract negotiations. Instead of selecting fixed amounts for player pay, the player would have a set “paragraph 5” base salary along with a bonus aimed at getting his total pay to a set percentage of a given year’s salary cap.
If nothing else, that approach would give players the ultimate protection against unexpected spikes in the cap. Of course, it also would expose them to the possibility of getting less money, in the event the cap drops. But with the cap going up by eight figures per year over the last two years, that’s unlikely to happen any time soon.