As it appears that we are on the brink of a new CBA and the end of the NFL lockout, a new salary cap will reportedly be in the vicinity of $120 million, with lower salaries for top draft picks included. Under the terms of the old CBA we were looking at a cap of about $140 million; how will this restriction affect NFL teams like the Patriots?
I felt that the last couple of years the cap had grown to a point where it had very little effect on team’s roster decisions relatively speaking, in comparison to the effect it previously had eight, ten, twelve or more years ago. Granted some of that was due to teams having learned their lesson and managing the cap better, but I think a lot of it was that the cap had grown above and beyond team’s budgets; in other words, the cap was no longer a restriction to teams signing whomever they wanted to. Now I don’t have any hard data to back that up; it’s just an observation and opinion of mine.
What this meant was that teams could make an error in player evaluation and corresponding contract, and it did not hurt them nearly as much as it used to. As a result the teams who were more adept at working the cap and at making personnel decisions no longer had as much of a competitive advantage over those other teams, and franchises were no longer having to cut multiple veterans that they wanted to keep in order to avoid ‘cap hell’; similarly teams were able to rebound from those situations more quickly.
Now I’m not trying to imply a poor personnel decision or bad contract had zero effect on a team; that’s certainly not the case. Nor am I saying no teams got themselves into bad cap situations (the Panthers being forced to extend Jake Delhomme in order to clear space for the money paid to Julius Peppers is a good example); I’m just saying it was happening far less frequently because of the rapid growth rate of the cap.
It seems to me a tighter cap could mean that the more well run teams will have a competitive advantage once again. Remember how the cap was supposed to eliminate teams from doing well year after year – automated parity, if you will? The good teams were supposed to quickly fall back to the middle of the pack because they would lose so many players to free agency. Instead of that happening those well run franchises figured out not only how to survive, but how to thrive within the rules of the salary cap. My prediction is that will happen once again – which means organizations such as the New England Patriots will continue to be successful.
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