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NFL salary cap skyrockets to $255.4 million for 2024 season, up record $30.6 million from 2023

The NFL has set the salary cap for the 2024 season, and the times are good for the league.

The official salary cap figure for 2024 will be $255.4 million, up from $224.8 million in 2023 that had previously been a record high. At the rate the league’s revenues are growing, each year will always be a new record high in the NFL. The $30.6 million increase represents the largest year-to-year increase in total money in free agency history.

The cap number comes out just as teams begin to travel to Indianapolis for the NFL Combine, where formal and informal meetings with agents of veteran players will take place. Knowing the cap number ahead of all those meetings will help all sides in their business dealings ahead of the start of the league year on March 13.

As recently as last week, teams were budgeting for a 2024 cap in the low to mid 240s. Many teams usually plan conservatively, putting their plan together with a cap number lower than expected just in case anything wonky happens.

But the growth of the league post-pandemic has shown those conservative plans to be unnecessary. The NFL signed a new broadcast deal with its partners in 2021 worth more than $110 billion over 11 years. Billions more continue to pour in with new streaming games and gambling revenue.

“The unprecedented $30 million increase per club in this year’s salary cap is the result of the full repayment of all amounts advanced by clubs and deferred by the players during the COVID pandemic as well as an extraordinary increase in media revenue for the 2024 season,” the league said in a statement.

Where the cap had to dip after the 2020 season due to revenues lost from COVID-19, the league has made up those deficits and then some. The 2020 cap number was $198.2 million, and the 2021 cap number went down to $182.5 million. But the league rebounded with a $208.2 million figure in 2022 before the next two years where the cap went up by nearly 8% in each season.

This $255.4 million figure represents a 13.6% jump in the cap, the largest spike in the cap in a non-COVID year since 2006, when the cap went from $85.5 million in 2005 to $102 million the next year for a 19.3% increase.

The massive cap increase this year could encourage teams to use the franchise tag more freely. With an extra $10 million in cap space for those who budgeted in the mid-240s, the tag now becomes more of a tool for teams to retain their top would-be free agent. Outside of tag candidates, just about any projection for a pending free agent’s salary should increase as well.

Typically, the league and the union prefer smoother cap increases. It allows teams to plan better, and it doesn’t unfairly benefit (or disadvantage) one particular free agency class. The NFL watched closely in 2016 as the NBA’s cap spiked by more than 34% and has not wanted a repeat of that.

Sources had indicated to CBS Sports last week there was some debate over how much this year’s cap should increase relative to the next few years. It’s possible — if not likely — the cap numbers in either 2025 or 2026 will not increase at this same rate.

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