December 14th, 6:58pm: The NFL has officially informed clubs that the 2022 cap will indeed be projected at $208.2MM, per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero (via Twitter).
December 5th, 3:02pm: Back in May, the NFL and NFL Players Association met in May and agreed to a salary cap for the 2022 season of $208.2MM. There was some speculation that the numbers may change based on a few different factors, and while the official, final number has not been announced, Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero report that it’s expected to be revealed at the NFL’s annual labor seminar next week that the cap will indeed reach the all-time high mark of $208.2MM.
The league’s previous high was in 2020 at $198.2MM. The cap had shown consistent growth each year with an average annual increase from 2013-2020 of $10.74MM per year. This trend was disrupted by the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic which caused a loss of gate revenue and other income for the league. Because of those setbacks, the salary cap was reduced to $182.5MM for the 2021 season. The nearly $16MM cap reduction is not a complete reflection of the revenue lost by the NFL last year, since the NFL and NFLPA came to an agreement to spread out the anticipated losses over several years, as opposed to incurring it all at once.
The $10MM increase from the league’s previous high is about what the league expected the 2021 salary cap to rise to before the pandemic. This return to the expected increase doesn’t necessarily reflect a return to normalcy. It’s more of a sign of what may be to come as the losses from last year are already being offset by a potential increase in future revenue. The NFL is seeing, and will continue to see, an increase in revenue from the addition of a 17th game in the regular season, expanded playoffs, an influx of new gambling money, new TV deals, and many other new revenue streams.
It is even expected that the 2023 season will see another significant increase to the salary cap. The NFLPA is still recovering, paying back the league for what was essentially a low-interest loan that allowed players to continue making full salaries and bonuses last year, in addition to paying back players for benefits that were canceled in 2020, like performance-based pay, Pro Bowl pay, and tuition pay. But an increase is still to be expected when media “kickers” from the 2020 collective bargaining agreements are put into effect as money comes in from new TV deals. The “kickers” should increase the players’ share of revenue from 48% to as high as 48.8%.
The biggest takeaway from all of this should be that the moves and decisions made by both the league and the union show confidence that the league is done being affected financially by the global pandemic and that both sides are doing everything they can to protect the players from feeling that financial burden.