Clayton: Flat cap through at least 2015

In the hustle and bustle of last week's owners meetings, our post on the five-year outlook of the NFL salary cap might have slipped your mind. I know it can be a dry subject, but now that ESPN's John Clayton has filled in many of the details, I hope you agree this is one of the most important stories of the offseason.

According to Clayton, the NFL management council informed teams last week that the 2015 salary cap projects to about $122 million. That's not much of an increase from 2011 or 2012, and it's actually lower than the $123 million teams had in 2009.

The explanation is complicated and multi-faceted, but Detroit Lions president Tom Lewand offered one set of reasons last week. While the NFL's new TV contract will feature a substantially higher annual average when it begins in 2014, the first- and second-year revenue will be lower than the average. The cap will increase gradually as a result, but won't spike in the first year.

Untenable salary-cap situations sparked some of the biggest moves of the NFL offseason, including the Lions' $132 million contract extension with receiver Calvin Johnson and the Buffalo Bills' $100 million deal with defensive end Mario Williams. The Lions needed to extend Johnson's deal to lower his 2012 cap number, and the Houston Texans couldn't justify retaining Williams because of the franchise tag figure he would have commanded. And unless and until there is a substantially higher NFL cap limit, the issue will drive offseason moves for years to come.