Next year’s salary cap is expected to be where this year’s cap would have been, but for the pandemic.
The NFL has essentially sent the in-house memo that the salary cap is expected to be $208 million in 2022. That represents a $25.5 million jump over 2021, and it lands roughly at the spot where the 2021 cap would have ended up, but for the dramatic reduction from $198 million to $182.5 million, due to the severe limitations on in-stadium attendance during the 2020 season.
The NFL and the NFL Players Association agreed to account for the multi-billion-dollar losses flowing from the pandemic over three seasons. Thus, even with the spike to $208 million, the cap would have been dramatically higher next year, maybe even as high as $230 million per team.
The per-team spending limit is negotiated by the league and the union every year. The final number emerges in the days preceding the official launch of the new league year, in March.
In past years, the NFLPA has expressed skepticism regarding the projected cap number annually generated in advance of the December ownership meeting, believing that the league deliberately keeps the number low, which in turn influences the setting of individual team budgets. Then, by the time the real number emerges, it’s too late for many teams to adjust spending plans based on the initial number.
Whatever the final number for 2022, it’s definitely growth-mode time for the cap. With new TV deals, an extra regular-season weekend, two extra playoff games (one of which will be played on a Monday night), and an ever-growing infusion of gambling money, everybody is going to be making more money, from the oligarchs down to the waterboys.