Every year when the NFL league year starts, free agency is one of the most captivating times as all the big free agents don’t remain on the market for long. It is one of the most exciting times, not only to see where players are going, but how much they get paid.
Even when the initial wave of free agent signings has died down, big contract extensions usually occur before the season begins. Given some of the contracts we’ve seen this season, one has to wonder if the league should consider getting rid of the salary cap.
There have been a lot of big contracts this offseason to a number of players and there are expected to be some more in the coming months. Wide receiver Dez Bryant and quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson are all looking at big paydays soon that could define the market at their position. The problem with these big contracts is that they can take away money from other positions that need improvement. We’ve seen a couple of teams forced to make some drastic changes because they were up against the cap and it’s always a shame to see a team become worse because of cap reasons.
The absence of a salary cap would help teams remain together, but it would also hopefully end something ridiculous in the sport, guaranteed money. In no other sport do players sign a contract knowing that they most likely won’t get the full amount of the contract, especially when the guaranteed money for big contracts usually tops out around 50-60% of the contract’s value. The only players that end up seeing the majority of their NFL contracts are rookies.
If the NFL can get rid of the cap, it would ensure that some of the teams remain intact and not get broken up like they did this season. Denver wouldn’t have had to choose between wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and tight end Julius Thomas, and the Seahawks would not have lost a couple of pieces from their secondary in Earl Thomas and Byron Maxwell. This wouldn’t have meant that everyone would have stayed where they were, as the Cowboys most likely would not have paid DeMarco Murray and Darrelle Revis would have still gone to the Jets if he was released.
It is going to be hard for the NFL to get rid of a salary cap because owners do not want to pay more money to players. Even if it keeps their teams more competitive which will result in more money for the owners, most owners would balk at the initial cost. There would be a few that would embrace this change and the rest of the league would get there in time.
One thing about football players is that they usually have the shortest careers out of the four major sports. Unless you are a quarterback or a kicker, not many players play until their late 30s to early 40s. Nobody can blame them for trying to get the most money, especially given the number of the injuries they risk while playing the game. Nobody is going to blame them if they want to earn the most money they can while they can.
Another big fear is that it would mean that one team, probably the Dallas Cowboys, would spend as much money as they can and they would snatch up all the free agents. While this is true, players that wanted to stay with their former team would.
Looking at the other sport that doesn’t have a salary cap, the teams that spend the most money don’t always win. This is especially true this season as the team with the fourth highest payroll, the Boston Red Sox, have the fifth worst record in the major league. In fact most of the teams that were throwing money around, the Chicago White Sox, Miami Marlins and the San Diego Padres, are all struggling and either fourth or last in their respective divisions. It might take a couple of years, but teams in the NFL that don’t spend a lot of money would be able to compete.
The NFL is one of the most profitable sporting leagues in the world and if they wanted to, they could get rid of the salary cap. This would do a lot of things to help ensure the product remains good by keeping teams together longer. It is becoming harder for a player to retire with the same team that drafted him and the league should try and make this a more common occurrence.