Cap increase offers big bonus to FAs

The projected $10 million salary-cap increase, which would raise the overall cap to $133 million, came as a surprise to general managers and agents, but it's a reflection of the increasing revenues of the NFL.

During the first two years of the collective bargaining agreement (2011-2012), NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith had to borrow money from future years to get the cap over $120 million. Last year's $123 million cap was the first under Smith in which the number was strictly based off revenue, with the players getting 48 percent of the revenue pie.

Though the increase won't make GMs rush to award huge contracts, the $10 million increase -- third most since the cap was implemented in 1994 -- should lead to a few more $6 million-a-year deals. Over the past two years of unrestricted free agency, only 18 players a year received $6 million-plus deals out of the 400-plus players annually on the open market.

That's 18 players a year whether a player re-signed or went to another team.

The Carolina Panthers already benefited from the increase, franchising defensive end Greg Hardy on Friday. And the Washington Redskins will be in a better position to franchise linebacker Brian Orakpo if they can't get a deal done by Monday.

While many players will be trying to angle for contracts worth more than $10 million a year, the increase could mean maybe an improvement of $500,000 to $1,000,000 a year for a select group of players. For example, Kansas City Chiefs tackle Branden Albert might be able to secure $9 million a year instead of $8 million a year. Defensive tackle Michael Bennett might be able to make more than $8 million a year instead of $7 million.

The benefits could also prove valuable to a good cornerback market that includes Brent Grimes, Aqib Talib, Alterraun Verner and Vontae Davis.

What would help teams and players even more will be projecting cap numbers for the future -- a process that is already underway. There are already reports that the cap could increase to $140 million in 2015 and maybe $150 million in 2016, but those numbers aren't solid projections.

The NFL still needs to get a new deal with DirecTV and then open the 2015 Thursday night schedule for long-term bidding. Nevertheless, teams can start to plan for the addition of maybe a few more $6 million contracts in the near future.

Under the $123 million cap, it was hard to have more than eight $6 million-a-year deals. Knowing that there will be more cap increases over the next couple of years, the smart teams should be able to handle a few more big deals without having to cut players.