Estimating the Growth of the NFL Salary Cap

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

One of the fascinating elements of the 2014 NFL offseason was the steep rise in the NFL salary cap. Back in February, everybody was projecting the salary cap to be around $126.3 million. By the time free agency began, the league announced that the cap was a whopping $133 million, which was $10 million more than the previous year. Once that happened, reports kicked in that the cap could get even more ridiculous in 2015 and future years.

In an interview with Sports Business Daily, Houston Texans owner Bob McNair commented on how the owners project the salary cap to grow over the next couple of years.

McNair a few years ago was one of the owners to talk publicly about what he called the "smoothing" of the salary cap after the 10-year labor pact was agreed to in 2011. The cap rose little from 2011 to 2013 but then jumped $10 million, to $133 million, for 2014 and is expected to rise as much as $15 million for 2015.

But that, McNair predicted, will end the big jumps. He ascribes this year’s increase largely to the new CBS Thursday night package and its new revenue for the league, and he attributes the increase for next year to the start of the new TV contracts. "I don’t think there are going to be big jumps [after that]," he said. "Our TV partners try to have some consistency so they won’t have big jumps. We are all interested in seeing a more consistent, more predictable [salary cap]."

I had wondered why estimates were so off with the 2014 salary cap, and the Thursday night TV deal with CBS explains why.

An additional $15 million to the cap in 2015 would be another huge leap in the cap, and it will be especially beneficial to teams who have managed their cap space appropriately. If C Alex Mack decides to stay with the team, then the contracts that he and CB Joe Haden received won't have too much of an adverse effect on the Browns -- plus, Cleveland would still be in good shape to extend a couple of other key players. Eventually, things will level out cap-wise for the Browns. Until it does, this is the make-or-break time over the next couple of years for this franchise; they can't let this opportunity go wasted.

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