Perry: What new salary-cap ceiling means for Patriots originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
NFL clubs got some good news on Wednesday afternoon. When it comes to their team-building plans, they may have more money to play with next offseason than originally thought.
The NFL and NFLPA agreed to a 2022 salary-cap ceiling of $208.2 million, according to multiple reports, which would be a more than $20 million increase over the 2021 cap of $182.5 million.
That jump, should the cap hit its ceiling, would represent a bigger-than-usual year-to-year jump percentage-wise (14 percent). The 2020 cap number was $198.2 million. And prior to the COVID-related decrease, the cap was making about a $10 million jump annually. That would've put the 2022 number somewhere in the range of $218 million.
Looking at it that way, today's 2022 cap-ceiling agreement between the players and the league won't get the cap back on its pre-COVID track, but it's closer to on track than some expected.
For instance, the folks at Over The Cap have the cap for 2022 projected to be $203 million. And it still may end up there. But if the ceiling is reached, that extra $5 million would be a relative boon for teams like the Texans and Saints who -- as things stand right now -- would be right up against a $208 million cap. The Rams, Cowboys and Packers are still projected to be over the 2022 cap ceiling, but every little bit of space helps.
For the Patriots? The cap reaching its 2022 ceiling would mean, as of now, about $30 million in available cap space to play with next offseason. That's a far cry from the breathing room they had earlier this offseason to remake their team, but it's not an insignificant amount. It would put them smack in the middle of the NFL in terms of cap-space leaders.
Among the Patriots players scheduled to hit free agency in 2022: Stephon Gilmore, Devin McCourty, Trent Brown, Dont'a Hightower, Cam Newton, JC Jackson, Adrian Phillips, Ted Karras, Matt Slater, James White, Sony Michel and Ja'Whaun Bentley. Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski are slated to become restricted free agents next offseason. Some of New England's space, one would assume, would end up going to some of those names above.
Among the big-name talents set to hit the open market across the league in 2022: Von Miller, Allen Robinson, Chandler Jones, Chris Godwin, Davante Adams, Tyrann Mathieu, Jason Pierre-Paul, Akiem Hicks, Will Fuller, Marcus Maye, Jamison Crowder, Ndamukong Suh, Calais Campbell, Mike Williams and Emmanuel Sanders.
Depending on their team needs, the Patriots would have enough to go after a big name or two. (We went over the prospects of them landing a big-name receiver next offseason and why it might be smart to try to land one now instead here.) That was probably the case even before Wednesday's news. But now there's a chance every team has a little extra breathing room financially with which to operate a year from now.
Perhaps the biggest winners from Wednesday's news aren't the league's teams but its players -- its veteran players, specifically.
Veterans across the league will benefit from the cap reaching its max next offseason, if it gets there. A shrinking cap this offseason meant for many older players less money than expected in free agency. Some signed one-year deals in the hopes of hitting the market again next spring with more money available. For some, this offseason's cap cratering meant fewer opportunities just to remain in the league as younger players -- who may not be as productive but whose salaries cost a fraction of those of their older colleagues -- became more desirable.
But a bump in 2022 helps all involved. And a bump in 2023, thanks to new media deals and revenues seen thanks to gambling, seems inevitable. After a couple of years of working with pandemic-impacted books, NFL clubs will be back to making massive amounts of money and spending at expected pre-COVID rates soon enough.