Here in the second part of our discussion on the salary floor, we will take the information we learned in part 1 of the piece, about what the salary floor is and how it works, and apply it directly to the Oakland Raiders franchise.
As we discussed in the first part of the piece, last year the Raiders had approximately $88.5 million of the money they spent in both active contracts and dead money count towards the calculation of “spent money.” This amount fell short of the 89% benchmark but that is okay because the Raiders have three more seasons, starting Tuesday when free agency opens up for 2014, to bring their overall number up.
What would that mean for the Raiders? We need to take a look at some examples to get an idea of how this would affect the team and their negotiations.
First, let’s take a look at an unlikely but possible situation – that revenue falls flat and the salary cap does not move much or at all. If, say, the salary cap only grew at a rate of $2.5 million over the next two seasons, which is approximately the growth of the cap from 2012 to 2013 when the cap only moved from $120.6 million to $123 million, the four seasons’ cap numbers would be: 2013 $123M, 2014 $133M, 2015 $135.5M, 2016 $138M.
If these numbers were approximately correct, at the end of four years, the total amount of salary allowed over the four years would be $529.5 million. That would mean that every team in the league should spend at least 89% of that number, which in that case would be $471,255,000.
Because we know the Raiders have only spent approximately $88.5 million of that amount, they would need to make up the remaining approximately $383.7 million over the next three seasons. That would come to an average of approximately $127.5 million dollars in each of 2014, 2015 and 2016. Again, this is assuming the salary cap barely climbs in the next two seasons, which isn’t likely.
Another possible scenario is that the cap continues to skyrocket like it did from 2013 to this year, jumping from $123 million to $133 million in just one season. As we saw in part 1, ESPN’s Adam Schefter has had at least one league source tell him that they think this is likely:
Using the numbers given by Schefter for the next example, the salary cap would then be something more like: 2013 $123M, 2014 $133M, 2015 $140M, 2016 $150M. In this example, the total salary cap sum balloons to $546 million and the Raiders would need to spend approximately $132.4 million per season, on average, to hit the 89% salary floor.
As you can see, it’s difficult to predict what the numbers will be, although there is not much of a difference between the low end of $127.5 million per season on average and the high end of $132.4 million per season on average.
What is clear, regardless of which of those numbers is closer to being correct, is that the Raiders must spend and spend a lot over the next few season. It will not be sufficient to simply sit back and find bargain players anymore – the Raiders must start to be aggressive and lock up the players that they want in order to spend big on the right players.
Remember, the entire signing bonuses count as “money spent” during the year in which the contract is signed. This may incentivize teams to front load contracts a bit so as to take the brunt of the hit up front and have more flexibility down the road.
It’s possible that the Packers took this strategy when they recently re-signed Sam Shields. Here, NFL Network’s Ian Rapaport breaks down some of the leaked contract information:
Unlike some contracts, where the contract builds up season after season, the Packers chose to pay the bulk of their money up front, with $21 million being paid in the first two years of the contract. That $15 million 2014 will all go down as “money spent” for the salary floor in 2014.
So what happens if a team fails to meet this salary minimum? What kind of penalty will the league impose upon them? Forfeiting games? Losing draft picks? Total annihilation?
No, nothing so dramatic as any of that and a penalty that is not actually too bad. If a team fails to meet the salary floor spending, they will be forced to take the money that makes up the difference between what they’ve spent and what they were supposed to spend and divide it up among each of the players on their current roster.
If this penalty seems pretty light, you’re right. There actually isn’t too much of a downside to failing to meet the salary floor, as long as you’re pretty close. Instead of signing a player you have reservations about in order to reach the floor, teams could instead choose to give their players an unexpected bonus and divide the money up between them per the NFLPA guidelines. It seems unlikely but it is, in theory at least, a possibility.
The bottom line to the entire discussion, here, is that all teams will need to spend a decent amount but the Raiders will likely need to spend more than most. No other team had to deal with the amount of salary cap dead money that the Raiders did last year and that has put them behind the other teams on their average spending.
There isn't any need to panic or push because there is still plenty of time to get the right contracts in a row but it does indicate that the Raiders will need to be active in free agency, much more so than many people are predicting.
Activity in free agency doesn't mean that the team will get big name free agents but it does mean that the team will likely get a number of role players or secondary free agents as well as a name player or two.
If you have any questions about the salary floor or the Raiders, please ask in the Comments section or follow me on Twitter @AsherMathews