The 2014 NFL salary cap is going to be a little higher than it was initially projected, but according to a new report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, even bigger increases are on the horizon.
Salary cap projected to rise to about $133 million this year, expected to break $140 million next year and $150 million by 2016, per source
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 28, 2014
This presents an interesting discussion as it relates to the Lions and how they go about managing their salary cap.
In the past they have chosen to free up some salary cap space in the short term at the expense of the future with simple contract restructures. With this strategy, the base salary is converted in to a bonus, which for salary cap accounting purposes is spread out over the future years of the contract. The Lions did this with Calvin Johnson, Matthew Stafford and Ndamukong Suh in the past and it is a big reason why they face a 2014 cap number of $22.4 million. The Lions gained some cap space by restructuring Suh’s deal in 2012 and 2013, but pay for it later – either in a big way in 2014 or by pushing that dead money out even more with a contract extension.
So what do the Lions do? With the cap set for a big increase in coming years, there appears to be ample room such that having to account for some past dollars isn’t a big deal. Or, the Lions, should the be able to reach an agreement on an extension with Suh, could keep his 2014 cap number as high as they can tolerate to accomplish their goals while not sacrificing future salary cap dollars or flexibility.
It’s a question of pay now or pay later?
It is this strategy, not the number of high draft picks under the old CBA, that has the Lions in the situation they are in. Instead of allowing those large rookie deals to be water under the bridge at their expiration, the Lions have had to extend the contracts early to spread those accumulated cap hits as a result of restructures over the length of the new deal.
The increased cap will minimize the impact of the “old” salary cap money they still have to account for, but that means less buying power on the open market. If the Lions are to ever have the ability to make a big splash in free agency, they will have to start getting in the habit of paying for today with today’s money instead of relying on tomorrow’s.