There must have been many players on NFL teams with sweaty palms during the recent debates over the NFL salary cap. This issue has developed into a collective bargaining agreement, or CBA, between the NFL Players Association and the owners of the teams; and, apparently, with the increase of success and revenue of sales in the NFL, owners may be holding out from their players more than they should.
I say, why not go without a cap? Why worry the players with restrictions on issues that aren’t directly related to the game they play? Money may seem like the big issue, but isn’t football supposed to be about playing football? The true secret to success in this sport is player relations and productivity – all aside from the aspect of “getting paid” and worrying about who’s getting the big dollars.
In 2005, the salary cap was set at $85.5 million. This year, it was originally set to be approximately $94.5 million; however, a new formula, recognizing the increases in the NFL’s league revenue, was presented to the CBA. In turn, the salary cap was increased to approximately $102 million, and the cap in 2007 looks to be $109 million.
Currently, each team has a $102 million salary cap – ultimately 59.5 percent of the NFL’s total league revenue (an 8 percent increase from the year before). But with NFL ticket sales and merchandise on the rise, the organizations and the owners were making all of the money, not the players. Ultimately, that was why the original CBA between the players and the owners was such a problem. Bargaining took so long that many players feared they were going to be cut overnight. Moreso, many team owners had the money to pay these players, but their hands were tied – not knowing how much they were allotted to afford. Luckily, the CBA was recognized and the inevitable compromise between players and owners suited each other’s needs symbiotically.
In 1993, the NFL first instituted a salary cap, which was intended to be a “hard” cap, having strict regulations regarding player salaries, but it eventually found a loophole in NFL signing bonuses. Signing bonuses allow talented players to still get paid what they are worth – outside cap limits.
So, I say let’s ditch the salary cap – much like how America’s pastime, baseball, avoided the issue (instituting a “soft” cap, in which teams could be fined if league standards weren’t met). This way, the players could get paid what they are worth without dealing with the outside pressures of a cap deadline and the owners could make the dividend that they would be making regardless – the leftover between funding the team’s expensive, talented players and the total generated revenue to the team (through ticket sales, endorsements, etc.).
But, of course, it may seem that having no salary cap would be impractical. Teams would not have boundaries to set them at an equal playing field with one another. One could say that having no salary cap would transform the NFL into one big fantasy football league, in which the players could be bought and left to a team with better pay.
However, having a salary cap would turn the NFL into a monster. Talented players will always cost a great deal of money to put on the field (and get paid in the form of signing bonuses, nowadays), but at the same time, the owners of these teams would be proportionally making the money back. The only problem with no salary cap is the monopolization of talented players with larger market teams. But as we learn from the example of baseball, the teams with all of the money (to buy players), like the New York Yankees, don’t always win the big games.
In the end, professionalism should be recognized on any level – from management to employee – and when the figures increase, the standards and expectations of the players should increase proportionally. No cap, or at least a “soft” cap, would promote this accordingly.
Fred Frenzel may be reached at email@example.com.