Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Cap goes up, football less interesting

The NFL makes a lot of money, every year (see here for some details from the only team that publishes financials) and lately the cap hasn't been going up at all. Given that background I am certainly happy for the players with this year's $10 million rise in the salary cap for each team.

As far as my recent analysis is concerned, however, this means the already-limited practice of free agency is getting even more limited. I talked in part 4 of my series on free agents about considering why players are available. One of the best options for a good value was to seek out players who were cut for cap reasons. With an extra $10 million even capped-out teams such as Carolina, Dallas, Washington and Pittsburgh are suddenly not capped-out.

Bill Barnwell hits on all these points in a good roundup of winners and losers from the change.

The bottom line is that free agency this year will be an even worse place to get value than it usually is. Teams who would previously have made decisions for non-football reasons are now left to hold onto basically all of the players they want to hold. Teams who might have scooped up those players, such as Cleveland, Oakland and Jacksonville, will be left fighting for scraps. A boost from having no money to $10 million is far more impactful than a boost from $55 million to $65.

You could look at this and craft a narrative that the teams with tons of cap space are getting screwed, but given the steadily increasing revenue for the league and promises of a percentage of that to players in the CBA it was bound to filter through the extremely complex formula eventually. Teams that bet on it happening this year are big winners. All teams, more able to retain their best players, will be that much more dependent on the draft for now. That and finding longshots in the CFL.