NFL salary cap rising by $7 million for 2008 season

Salary cap managers for several NFL teams say they were apprised this week that the league spending limit will rise to $116 million per franchise for the 2008 season.

The increase in the cap for 2008 was first reported by the Dallas Morning News.

Cap managers were informed of the bump in the cap during their annual labor seminar near Dallas.

The $7 million increase, from $109 million in 2007 to $116 million in 2008, was not unanticipated. It matched the increase for 2007 from this season, in which the cap is set at a record $102 million. Salary cap managers typically are provided such updates for planning purposes, because it allows them benchmarks as they work to negotiate future contracts.

How the increase for 2008 impacts the league remains to be seen, since there is one more free agency period and draft between now and that season. But in general, it means there will be more money to spend on players, which likely will further allow teams to retain their own best veterans, which promotes stability but further dilutes the free agent market.

Some personnel directors already feel that the free agent class for next spring will be one of the thinnest ever, because the increase in the salary cap for 2006 allowed clubs to negotiate long-term extensions with many of their so-called "nucleus" veterans. Still, the cap manager from one AFC franchise projected there will be about $700 million in cap room available to teams in the spring of 2007 to invest in free agents and draft choices.

Several teams are projected to have more than $30 million in cap space for 2007 and a few have more than $40 million available to them. Translation: Since the money has to be spent, even some players of modest abilities will command significant contracts.

With the cap set to soar to $116 million, it means that the spending limit will have increased by nearly 36 percent in the first three years of the extension to the collective bargaining agreement, which was approved eight months ago. The spending limit for 2005 was $85.5 million and was scheduled to rise to $94.5 million before the CBA extension. Approval of the extension set the cap at $102 million for 2006 and $102 million for 2007.