Five years ago, the salary cap supposedly was smoothing. Four years ago, something happened.
The cap went from creeping to spiking in 2014, with a $10 million increase from $123 million to $133 million. As noted by league spokesman Brian McCarthy, the cap has increased by at least $10 million per year every year since then, with the most recent bump being $10.2 million.
The biggest jump happened in 2016, with an increase of $11.99 million over the 2015 number.
Before the uncapped year of 2010, the league’s biggest spike happened in 2006, when the cap shot up by $16.5 million per team, from $85.5 million to $102 million. That was a direct result of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement that management would quickly come to hate.
Since the salary-cap system began in 1994, the total spending limit has skyrocketed from $34.608 million to $177.2 million, a testament to the popularity of the league. But as the cap gets higher and higher, increases in the range of $10 million per year represent a smaller percentage of relative growth.
The spike from $123 million to $133 million represented an 8.13-percent jump. In 2015, an increase of $10.28 million amounted to a bump of 7.7 percent. In 2016, the cap grew by 8.33 percent. The cap jumped by 7.55 percent last year. This year, it grew by only 6.1 percent — the smallest increase since 2013.
So while the cap keeps going up by $10 million or more per year, it’s not growing at the same rate it recently was. The real question is whether it will keep growing, especially after the next wave of TV deals is finalized, and after the new labor deal is negotiated.