The salary cap number that gets released by the NFL is likely not the salary cap number applicable to your favorite team.
While the final salary cap number will be determined in advance of the start of the 2019 league year, the NFL announced in December that the salary cap for the 2019 season will be around $190 million. This information will help teams prepare for the moves that they will make during the offseason to prep for the 2019 season and beyond.
Another sign of the NFL’s continued success and growth. pic.twitter.com/K5Tw7nOnqE— Brian McCarthy (@NFLprguy) December 11, 2018
This number is called the Unadjusted Cap and this is the same for all teams. However, this is not the only number to be concerned about. Under the CBA, teams are permitted to carry over unused salary cap space to the following season. While this is an election that needs to be made, it is almost automatic that the teams will carryover the full amount from the prior season to provide for ultimate salary cap flexibility. When added to the Unadjusted Cap the new number becomes that team’s Adjusted Cap.
The NFLPA recently released the salary cap carryover amounts that the teams chose to carry forward.
The Los Angeles Rams will carryover only $446,000, while the Cleveland Browns will carryover the gigantic amount of $56.5 million.
The average carryover amount across the league is $10.6 million. However, 16 teams (half of the league) will carryover no more than $6 million.
Having a huge carryover number could benefit the team in a number of ways. The obvious reason is that a team with a higher amount of salary cap space could be very active in the free agent market. However, another benefit is that teams could use this space to re-construct their roster to jettison, via trade or release, unproductive or unwanted players that have received large contract guarantees (generally signing bonuses or guaranteed salary) that would result in large dead money salary cap hits.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are carrying over $18.2 million into 2019. While it would not be the preferable approach to utilizing cap space, and it would limit them in other ways for 2019, if the Steelers have determined that they will move on from Antonio Brown, they may decide that it is best to do so before June 1st to take the dead money cap hit all in 2019 instead of spreading the cap hit over two years. See our prior post for additional insight into the salary cap implications of trading or releasing Brown in 2019.
While teams can continue to carryover unused cap space, there are CBA requirements that require certain cash amounts to be spent. League wide, 95% of the salary cap must be spent in cash. Additionally, teams must have a minimum cash spending of at least 89% of the unadjusted cap (versus the adjusted cap) from 2017-2020.
For more details regarding the unadjusted and adjusted cap as well as the minimum league and team cash spending, see the CBA and the the CBA summary.