In the last few days you have probably noticed a number of changes to every teams estimated salary cap space for 2023 and I just wanted to take a second to explain what all the changes have been as I have gotten more than a few questions about it.
Right now we are working with an estimated salary cap of $225 million for each team in the NFL and this is the same number that we have been using since last year. This number could go up or down by a few million (the NFL thus far has only said the cap may exceed $220 million) but it should be a fair estimate. This week we added what should be the official 2022 carryover figures for each teams adjusted salary cap. Sometimes these have some minor changes but will most likely remain constant.
The other thing that we added were estimates for adjustments to every teams salary cap. These adjustments come from incentives that were earned but not counted on the 2022 cap, incentives that went unearned but counted on the 2022 cap, per game bonuses that were not earned, guaranteed salary recovery, termination pay that went unfiled and so on. These numbers are not official and may change by a lot but I think it is better to show some of the changes when we know that some changes could have a big impact on cap room, such as Geno Smith earning his incentives this year. We did not yet include the workout bonus hold. That will reduce each teams cap by close to $1 million when we add it on.
This week we also began adding the futures contracts which have been signed so far. This is where the bulk of the cap changes came from. In the modern NFL teams no longer carry large rosters year over year so there are big changes in roster size from the end of the regular season (or when a playoff team is eliminated) to the first week of the offseason. For the most part teams will sign most of their practice squad players to a “futures” contract and those numbers are now much bigger thanks to the 2020 CBA which finally saw the minimum salaries rise for inexperienced players.
The minimum for an NFL player in 2023 will be $750,000 so that eats the salary cap away very quickly. Because of that for teams that have less than 51 players under contract, the best way to estimate the cap room for each team is to take 51 and subtract from it the number of players under contract and multiply it by $750,000. That will reduce the shock of future signings’ impact on the salary cap.
On the salary cap page you can also view each teams “effective” cap space. This takes into account those future signs for you and also adds in the impact of the teams rookies who they will draft. This is probably the best estimate for how much room teams have to spend but teams have plenty of time to work around that number since rookies will often not hit the salary cap until mid summer.
One other thing to note during the offseason is that the numbers we have will differ from the occasional official NFL reports you see on Twitter or the NFLPA reports. While our numbers will always differ (those are official sources!) it is usually more glaring in the offseason. Typically this is from two things. One are restructures of contracts that we are not yet aware of, but the bigger one is the treatment of void years.
In order to present the most likely salary cap impact we will present the salary cap charges to reflect that the contract is set to void, unless it is a contract that is designed for a post June 1 release. For example we currently have Tom Brady’s salary cap charge at $35.1 million, which is the number it will be if the contract voids on the final day of the league year. The official figure until that date would be $10.8M plus whatever the void salary is (his cap could probably be as high as $50M or as low as $12M depending on what they have in there as a placeholder). When situations change we will change those numbers accordingly.
Just as a reminder you can view each teams salary cap space estimates on the cap space page. Also handy to work with the cap is our calculators that let you manage each teams roster. Our restructure page can give you an idea of the maximum that each team can create by “kicking the can” as much as possible on active contract. Finally the transactions page will break down the various cut and restructure mechanisms for each player over a certain cap figure. Just one side note that for very complex contracts like Aaron Rodgers these numbers are going to be off on trades due to the timing of options in the contract. We have articles on the site explaining them so if you see something that looks impossible for those big money QBs who are rumored to be traded don’t hesitate to ask for an explanation.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.