As you've probably heard by now, the NFL is projected to establish a salary cap of about $130 million for the 2014 season, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. Nothing is official yet as final calculations wrap up, but the report indicates the NFL might finally exceed its pre-lockout cap levels.
To review, the league's salary cap in 2009 was $128 million. The 2010 season was an uncapped year, and after the 2011 lockout and new collective bargaining agreement (CBA), it dropped to $120.375 million. It rose to $120.6 million in 2012 and $123 million in 2013.
The salary cap is based on a pre-agreed percentage of NFL revenue, but the final number is subject to negotiation with the NFL Players Association. In 2012, for example, the NFL was prepared to establish a $113.5 million salary cap, based on the revenue formula, before the NFLPA traded out $7.1 million in future benefit dollars to raise the cap to $120.6 million. (John Clayton's ESPN.com story on that move.)
Did the NFLPA make a similar request this season to account for the figure that Schefter reported, or was it the result of higher-than-expected revenue? We don't have that answer yet. But even if there are now revenue swaps, it's worth noting that the 2011 CBA stifled the cap to the point where it has risen only about 2 percent in five years.
As we discussed last week, NFL revenues are up about 11 percent over that period, and commissioner Roger Goodell's annual pay has almost quadrupled, from $11.5 million before the lockout to $44 million in the 2012 fiscal year. Players have not benefited nearly as much in terms of cap space, and at least part of its modest rise can be attributed to accounting transfers rather than actual growth.