Clearing up the NFL’s minimum spending requirements
Many readers, in emails and story comments, have referenced the NFL’s collectively-bargained, team-by-team spending minimums that go into effect this year under the league’s labor agreement.
The subject usually comes up when the conversation turns to the Bucs’ lack of aggressive spending so far in free agency, the obvious exception being safety Dashon Goldson’s $41 million contract. For a team with a massive amount of salary-cap space, even that deal leaves them with roughly $27 million in salary-cap space.
How can this be in an era when the league has instituted firm spending minimums designed to prevent the sort of thing the Bucs used to be infamous for – sitting on millions in unspent salary-cap space for years on end?
It’s a little complicated, but the details are important.
The most critical part of this is how these minimums are calculated. You might recall hearing that teams must spend at least 89 percent of the salary cap under the current collective bargaining agreement.
That’s technically true, but it’s actually more complex. For one, the 89 percent figure is “cash” spending, as opposed to “cap” spending. Under the current $123 million cap, that means the Bucs must pay players at least $109.47 million in real money, not cap dollars (cap spending includes technical aspects like proration, while cash spending is simply the total amount of cash the player was paid).
But this is equally important to understand: These minimums are not calculated year to year but, rather, over four-year periods. In other words, the Bucs won’t be judged on whether they spend that $109.47 million in 2013. Instead, what will be calculated is the team’s spending between 2013 and 2016. The cumulative spending over that period must equal 89 percent of the respective years’ salary caps.
So, if the Bucs don’t seem in a hurry to drop big contracts on average players, you now understand part of the reason for that. There’s no real urgency to do so, even under the NFL’s current economic system.
And when you consider the fact that the Bucs are preparing to do possible contract extensions for the likes of Mike Williams (this year), Josh Freeman (2014), Gerald McCoy (2015) and more (not to mention the fact that they’re dying to acquire Darrelle Revis), it’s hard to imagine the Bucs having much trouble meeting the spending minimums.
While all fans want the Bucs to address things such as the woeful secondary, those decisions won’t be driven by any pressure to meet the spending requirements. They’ll be football decisions, as they should be.
This is complex stuff. If any of this is confusing, leave a comment below and I’ll address the questions there.