In case you've been camped out under a rock this year, still waiting for the St. Louis Rams to draft QB Jake Locker, you're probably aware that there is no NFL salary cap this year. But what if there were? How would the league's 32 teams be fixed against the cap?
It won't surprise you to learn that it would look a lot like Major League Baseball's banana republic class stratification, with the big market teams spending cash like caudillos buying the love of all the peasants (and with that, I've put my history degree to use for the first time, $35K well spent). Anyway, Pro Football Talk ran the numbers of what each NFL team's cap value would look like this year if there were a cap.
Not surprisingly, the Redskins and Cowboys lead the way, with more than $20 million separating them from the third team, the Saints. I don't know what the cap value would have been this year. It was $128 million in 2009 and $116 million the year before that, increasing by $7 million from '07 to '08 and $12 million from '08 to '09. Assume it would have been somewhere in the low $140 million range.
And what about the Rams?
They're at $109.1 million, with eight teams below them in artificial cap value. Thirteen NFL teams are above the 2009 cap value. The lapsed CBA threw a monkeywrench into free agency this year, limiting the number of players available on the market which helps keep the cap numbers a little lower this year.
If there is a cap next year, the Rams will be considerably higher with QB Sam Bradford due for a bonus of $17.9 million.
Next question: what impact does that have on player acquisition, e.g. a guy like Vincent Jackson? Hard to say given the uncertainty around the CBA next year. Though nobody knows how profitable NFL teams are, save for the publicly owned Packers, teams are in the black because of revenue sharing. However, based on local revenues alone, i.e. ticket sales, stadium ownership, etc., the Rams would almost certainly be in the red. Bringing in players like V-Jax would have to be looked at as an investment, an expense that would help the team win games and sell tickets at the Edward Jones Dome. The flip side is the opportunity cost and what other routes the Rams can pursue to start building a winning team and get fans interested and spending increasingly limited personal resources on behalf of the Rams.
Another point to make. It's hard to say what the league, especially the salary cap, will look like in the coming years. Even if it isn't resolved for 2011, players and owners will forge a new CBA. The two teams at the top of this year's faux salary cap list are incredibly profitable operations, largely because they own the venues and sell them out week after week AND line their pockets with the other events that the venues get used for.
You can bet Stan Kroenke, a man who made his billions in real estate, isn't going to settle for just owning the team when there's so much more money to be made in the vertical integration of NFL ownership, as Dan Snyder and Jerry Jones have proved. It'll be a lot easier to get a favorable deal on a new venue and sell the luxury boxes et al that go with it if the Rams are a winning franchise.