The Myth of the NFL Salary Cap Floor

December 22nd, 2012

image credit to USA Today Sports Staff Writer: Mike Tricarichi

Happy Holidays everyone (or whatever time of the year this article finds you)! I guess I should introduce myself first. My name is Mikey and I’m a Browns fan (Hi Mikey). I am a part of this great site not only for my obsessed fandom but also for my newly acquired knowledge of the NFL CBA, specifically the salary cap. I am here to break down financial transactions that occur in today’s NFL. A little disclaimer: I don’t have any “sources” (yet?), and as found everywhere else, contracts are freaking difficult to read and interpret. Therefore most of my analysis will be labeled estimated. If every player contract was public record then I would have exact numbers down to the penny, but guess what, I don’t. If anyone reading this has those, however, I would be thrilled to have access to it!

I’m positive that either from TV, Radio, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, hell even LinkedIn you have seen or even made comments like this:

“Did you hear that every NFL team HAS to spend their 90% of the league’s salary cap next year?!”

“Why didn’t the browns spend money on Mario Williams or Vincent Jackson with all the cap room they had!?”

“LOL look at those idiots in Jacksonville with $20.1m in cap space, they are going to be SO screwed”


You’ve also seen members of the media state that in 2013 a league wide salary cap floor begins, and every NFL team has to spend 90% of the salary cap. This is partially true; it is also deceiving and downright lazy on their part not to explain it on a more accurate basis. That is what I’m going to do today. I’ll start with a previous post from Pro Football Talk with updated cap space for all 32 teams. There are currently 7 teams not spending 90% of the leagues allotted salary cap, $120.6m, our beloved Browns have the 3rd most cap room according to Florio’s source. I have seen many a fan, even a few media, freak out over why were not spending our $14.5m to plan for the cap floor for next season.

Here is the exact section from the 2011 NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement outlining how it works, but as I’ve stated before, shit’s tough to read so I’ll make it a lot simpler to follow.

The percentage to follow is actually 89%, not the 90% that’s been thrown around. There are also 4 year periods to base the 89% cap floor on, 2013-2016 and 2017-2020.

I like to learn with examples so that’s how I’m going to break this down. In the previously linked CBA section, there is an example, however it is too simple. I have to make it complicated to fully educate. I’m going to ignore any speculation regarding how the salary cap is going to be much higher in 2014 and beyond based on a new TV deal for this example. The 2013 cap number of $121m was just announced today.

Here is an example of what the salary cap would be with a 5% annual increase 2014-2016, along with what a calculation of what the spending floor would be.



We have a $460.32m 4 year cap floor to deal with. With the estimated annual growth of the salary cap, the percentage of annual cap space a team needs to spend in 2013 is much less than future years to ensure they reach the spending floor. With this example, does anyone want to see how little a team can spend in 2013 and still reach the floor? “YES, MIKEY, STOP TEASING ME WITH THIS” Ok ok, here goes.


That’s right, the Cincinnati Bengals (or any other frugal franchise) can spend 52.6%, $63.1m, 63.74 million Wendy’s 5 piece spicy nuggets, of the 2013 salary cap. BTW yes I’m upset that the original Wendy’s nuggets aren’t 99 cents anymore. I’ll let everyone catch their breath for a minute because as Marty McFly says “This is heavy”. Remember, this is only an example, and the league salary cap numbers I used will, without a doubt, be different.

So after reading and understanding this, can we put to rest the myth of the 2013 salary cap floor? Please!? If you have any questions regarding anything here please ask me on Twitter, I’d be happy to answer.


Tags: NFL, Salary Cap Info

3 Responses to “The Myth of the NFL Salary Cap Floor”

  1. NEPD says:

    Great read Mikey, the salary cap is going to be very interesting the next couple of years. Some teams are going to be $30m under, others are going to have jettison some pretty good players.

  2. Oh my, you just gave me a great idea on my next barnburner, explosion of contract values vs the sloth like climb of the hard cap number.

  3. BBD says:

    How would the spending Cash to Cap philosophy change the way the salary cap floor is seen by a team like the Bills?

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