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Explaining the NFL salary cap, salary floor, what it means for Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Salary cap talk

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Confused about the salary cap, salary floor, free agency spending and all the rest? Let's see if we can help:

Is there or is there not a salary "floor" this season?

There is no minimum payroll. But the 32 teams combined must spend $3.8 billion in cash (salaries and bonuses) by the end of the season.

So what does that mean for the Bucs?

It means there is no set amount the Bucs must spend on their payroll this season. The only salary requirement for 2011 is that leaguewide $3.8 billion.

Well, if there's no minimum, is there a salary cap?

Yes, teams are capped at just more than $120 million. (Actually, they can borrow up to $3 million from next year's cap if they want, so it's more like $123 million.) So that's the most any team can spend in cap dollars. But be aware that "cap" dollars and "cash" dollars are not the same.

Explain.

Let's try an example. Say a player signs a five-year deal worth $20 million, which includes a signing bonus of $5 million and a base salary of $3 million this year. In cap dollars (this year's base salary plus the bonus pro-rated over the length of the contract), the player would count as $4 million toward the $120 million cap. But the player would actually get checks worth $8 million this year (base salary plus his signing bonus). So that is his "cash" number, the one applied toward the $3.8 billion that the league as a whole must spend.

So will that be the case from now on in the NFL: no cap floor, just this leaguewide total?

No. Just for the first two years of the new labor agreement. Starting in 2013, the league will return to a "cap floor," which is set at 89 percent of the cap. So if for example the cap in 2013 was still at $120 million, each team would have to spend a minimum of $106.8 million. No more leaguewide total. According to a report by profootballtalk.com, the Bucs have spent about $90 million in "cap" money so far this year. So if the "floor" existed this season, they would be required to spend another $16 million. But as we've explained, there is no "floor" this year.

What happens if the league doesn't get to that $3.8 billion?

Then the 32 teams must make up the deficit in cash, which goes into a fund and is distributed to the players.

Explaining the NFL salary cap, salary floor, what it means for Tampa Bay Buccaneers 08/04/11 [Last modified: Thursday, August 4, 2011 12:00am]

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