The NFL Players Association is debating whether to use a $2 million per team option to help increase the salary cap to more than $128 million in 2014 and end a string of four consecutive years in which the cap has been below its high-water mark in 2009 under the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Spending on players has been below $128 million per team in 2009, the final year of the cap under the previous CBA. A new CBA was agreed upon in 2011 in which players took a significant decrease in compensation.
In addition, the union is hoping to reverse two years of uncomfortable negotiations aimed at boosting the cap and avoiding player unrest. The union has had to fend off a possible decrease in the cap from 2011 to 2012 and then get a $3 million increase from 2012 to 2013.
In 2012, the union agreed with owners to move the payment of certain benefits to later years of the CBA and move that money to salary compensation. In the process, the union also agreed with the owners not to bring any charges of collusion against the NFL for actions prior to the current CBA. That was despite the fact that owners have acknowledged that they made an agreement in 2010 among themselves not to spend more than $120 million per team in the uncapped year.
In 2013, the union also agreed to defer the payment of performance-based pay to all players, causing a negative reaction in the agent and player community.
This year, the salary cap is preliminarily expected to increase to $126.3 million, which would mark the fifth straight year that the cap was below the 2009 level, when current NFLPA Executive Director De Smith was elected. The good news for the union is that the projected increase of $3.3 million is considered a conservative estimate.
However, if the cap comes in at the current projection, the union could use the $2 million option to boost the cap to at least $128.3 million.
NFLPA spokesman George Atallah declined to say whether the union would use the option.
“The new economic model places an emphasis on cash spending to players not on cap, which is the highest it has ever been. Any report on what the salary cap will be next season is speculative because we will not know until mid-March. No decisions can be considered until then. Any reporting on the salary cap without the context or understanding of how the new system works is incom-plete,” Atallah wrote in an email.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello confirmed the option exists, but deferred any question about what the union would do to the union.
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