Popularity of American Football is at an all-time high and the money is flowing like crazy throughout the league. Before the 2011 season, the NFL Players Association and the league owners begrudgingly struck a deal to forge a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. One of the caveats outlined in the agreement surrounds the salary cap and its annual increase, due to a variety of factors, including the profits from the prior year.
NFL Network reporter, Rand Getlin, recently Tweeted about a potentially big jump from 2015's cap figure ($143.28 million) to a much higher this year.
I'm told the NFL's salary cap is expected to jump to at least $155M this year. Nearly $12M more than last year's ($143.28M).— Rand Getlin (@Rand_Getlin) February 15, 2016
Not only is this reported figure a big jump from last year, but it's substantially higher than we were led to believe it would be just a few months ago. Some reports from early December had the range going from $147-$153 million, making the possibility of the Bengals re-signing many of their of their 14 impending unrestricted free agents seem very possible. Now, Getlin's reporting of the cap being "at least $155 million", not only breaks the top end of the range we heard in early winter, but it might even go well beyond it. NFLPA spokesman George Atallah also noted that the official figure won't be released until a few days before the new league year.
There are a lot of confusing caveats to the CBA agreed upon a few years back, but one particularly interesting area for Bengals fans, especially with a cap figure looking to be heading at $155-plus million for 2016, is the "salary spending floor". In the CBA, it was agreed upon that teams need to spend at least 89% of the cap. If a team doesn't abide by this spending rule, they basically need to write a check to the NFLPA for the percentage difference that they didn't spend to get to 89%. If you're not a math whiz, 89% of $155 million is $137.95 million.
Let's also not forget the complex science teams can apply in terms of rolling over money to the next league year. This application provides a bit of a loophole for teams in the spending floor, allowing a franchise to "rollover" non-allocated funds to the next year. The Bengals have done this in recent years in an effort to re-sign their star players to long-term deals before their current contracts expire. Andy Dalton, Geno Atkins, Vontaze Burfict, Carlos Dunlap, and A.J. Green were all taken care of in this vein. The rollover period exists in four year increments, the most recent of which being from 2013 to 2016. With this methodology, funds from 2016 won't roll over to 2017 though, so the Bengals would be wise to use up their 2016 cap space including the rollover to the best of their ability this offseason. We addressed the minimum cash spend and rollover language a few years ago, for reference.
Here are a couple of excerpts from the CBA, citing language on "carrying over" funds and minimum team spending:
Article 13, Section 6, subsection (b)(v) A Club may "carry over" Room from one League Year to the following League Year by submitting notice in writing signed by the owner to the NFL no later than fourteen (14) days prior to the start of the next League Year indicating the maximum amount of Room that the Club wishes to carry over. The NFL shall promptly provide a copy of any such notice to the NFLPA. The amount of Room carried over will be adjusted downward based on the final Room available after the year-end reconciliation.
Article 13, Section 9, subsection (a) For each of the following four-League Year periods, 2013–2016 and 2017–2020, there shall be a guaranteed Minimum Team Cash Spending of 89% of the Salary Caps for such periods (e.g., if the Salary Caps for the 2013–16 and 2017–2020 are $100, 120, 130, and 150 million, respectively, each Club shall have a Minimum Team Cash Spending for that period of $445 million (89% of $500 million)).
Recent reports from outlets like Spotrac, have the Bengals' cap space at about $37.9 million this year. That may change a bit once the salary cap is actually announced, but the team will have significant space, either way. Director of Player Personnel Duke Tobin recently stated the Bengals don't heavily use outside free agency as part of their plan, so we'll see if that stays true with the jump in the cap and, thus, the amount of space the Bengals have.
It's also worth noting that George Atallah, Assistant Executive Director of External Affairs at the NFLPA is denying these and any other claims about the salary cap jumping to $155 million.
NFL combine week means (more) speculation about salary cap. The actual number is not calculated until a few days before the league year.— George Atallah (@GeorgeAtallah) February 15, 2016
The cap number is not a negotiation: it is a direct function of league revenues. Revenues increase -> cap increases = more $ for everyone— George Atallah (@GeorgeAtallah) February 15, 2016
Many a "journalist" have reported an actual cap number citing "sources" early, only to look silly later on.— George Atallah (@GeorgeAtallah) February 15, 2016