For decades the NFL wanted to reel in the increasing salaries and cap them. They got their wish but maybe it’s time to put an end to the cap as we know it today.
This year the NFL’s cap went up to $167 million and already people are talking about next years cap increasing another $10 million. Add to that carry over from a previous season and teams can have as much as $75 million to spend.
While some teams will spend close to the cap many teams like the Jaguars and Browns don’t always spend enough money to come close and those deals can lead to large amounts of available space for the following season. That inevitably doesn’t all get spent.
Should the NFL do away with the cap? Maybe but it may be better to simply retool the cap instead.
The implementation of a rookie wage scale was the best thing the NFL could have done. It shifted money away from unproven rookies to veterans who had earned their pay raises. Over the years contracts have inflated for players on the top end. Yet for all the money being “spent” contract details still show that most contracts are not close to being what the player’s agent is touting.
So how should the NFL keep a salary cap in place but make it easier for teams to manage contracts that may be killing their space? Is it fair to teams that spend up to the cap each year to find themselves unable to compete for free agents that are being wooed by teams with a ton of cap space?
The first thought is yes. Teams that don’t spend are basically banking their money and can then spend later but this is hurting the NFL. Teams like the Browns and Jaguars can set the free agent market by over-paying a player on the market. That in turn sets the salary bar higher for other players at the same position which is good for the players but bad for other NFL teams.
When looking at this problem again you might think “so what?” If a player’s market value increases then good for the players but if you take a closer look at how many of these players are now only finding one or two-year deals or some no deals at all, then the players are not making the money they should.
One option would be to kill the contract of the highest paid player on the roster as it relates to the cap. If the highest paid contract on a rosters cap is $20 million under a new structure that top salary wouldn’t count against the cap.
Another option would be to cut what counts against the cap. During the off-season only the top 51 salaries count against the cap. Reducing that number to say 45 for the entire season would at least free up some space and allow teams to be a little more aggressive in free agency.
Finally yet another option may make the most sense at all. With the NFL currently using a rookie salary cap why not remove the rookie caps from all teams salary cap for the life of the rookie contract? Add into that the 5th year option that teams could carry a player with no cap consequences and teams can maneuver to invest more in players.
Ultimately the idea is to find a system that pays players for what they do on the field while giving teams a flexibility that rewards teams who spend close to the cap all the while maintaining a competitive balance.
The next CBA won’t be negotiated until 2021 draws closer. League owners have spoken to the NFLPA about a new deal but nothing serious yet. It’s very likely that the salary cap structure will be renegotiated when talks begin. For now, it’s more or less just thinking out loud. On my part.
How would you retool the cap? Or would you leave it the way it is? Let us know in the comments.