Over the last few weeks, the NFL salary cap has been projected to rise steadily in the upcoming years with projections already confirming that it will rise from $123 million last season to a staggering $130 million in 2014. And while that five percent rise and record high cap number is significant, it pales in comparison to the $140 million and $150 million salary cap totals that are being projected for the 2015 and 2016 season. These numbers are not only eye-popping, but they will hurt the league for years to come if proven true.
For a league that saw combined revenues of close to $9 billion during the 2013 calendar year there is no doubting that giving the players a bigger piece of the pie looks good on paper. And it can be made that certain teams like the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers can afford this while maintaining a mass amount of money in their owners’ pocket books, but there are many teams that will be drowned in deficits because of this number.
Franchises such as the Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and St. Louis Rams are amongst the many teams that do not consistently sell out games every week and also lack the external revenues that some of the other NFL teams do. In fact, during the last calendar year there were only six teams that brought in revenues of more than $300 million, which means that a mass amount of teams will have to spend 50 percent of revenue on player salaries come 2016. Giving out this heap of money doesn’t include the big money that is spent to coaches, stadium personnel, executives and even to those teams that rent stadium space, which leaves the probability that this increase could leave teams under water financially.
Of course it must be stated that spending to the top of the salary cap is not a requirement, but if you have one class of five to ten teams that are spending right at the lid and the rest of the league is close to $20 million below you will see two classes of teams on the field. Over time the NFL has historically been known as the league that has the best parity and likewise affords teams and players to be equal because it is not possible to outspend the field. This increase threatens to change that standard and to make a league in which Dallas, New York, New England and other big market teams buy their way to Super Bowl victories.
Moving forward there’s no doubt the NFL has processes set in stone to set their salary cap based on league wide revenues, but the expected salary cap totals will reward the rich while killing the poor. Commissioner Roger Goodell surely has to be able to recognize this, and along with the rest of the owners and players he should be called on to negotiate an elevator system that will allow small-market teams to compete with their big market brethren without going bankrupt along the way.