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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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NFL Combine Is Buzzing With Talk of Nearly $1B in Extra Salary Cap Space

  • The 2024 NFL salary cap is $255.4M, which is a $30M-per-team jump over last season.
  • Teams weren’t expecting such a big jump, but they’re loving it.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

“I was smiling.”

That’s what Bills general manager Brandon Beane (above) said his reaction was when he saw the NFL’s salary cap number for the 2024 season. The cap’s record jump of $30.4 million up to $255.4 million has dominated the talk so far this week in Indianapolis, where team executives are gathering for the annual NFL Scouting Combine. Teams had been anticipating a cap number of at least $5 million to $10 million lower, but the larger-than-expected increase came from more media revenue and deferred payments from the COVID-19 pandemic. “It saves you,” Beane added during an interview on PFT Live. “Maybe it’s one less guy you’ve got to release or restructure.”

Since the NFL operates under a hard cap—every team has the same amount of money to spend—the dollars and cents of it all aren’t typically as interesting as they can be in sports like baseball and basketball, which allow for more flexibility through owners’ willingness to pay a luxury tax. 

Deep-pocketed NFL owners can’t go all in as Steve Cohen did with the New York Mets last season, ultimately spending a record $374.7 million on the 2023 roster (that missed the playoffs), including a $100.78 million luxury tax bill. But they also don’t have to worry about balancing player talent with their bottom line, like Golden State Warriors owner Joe Lacob said is on tap this upcoming offseason.

So, that’s why the $972.8 million in combined extra 2024 NFL cap space is turning everybody into accountants. “Now maybe we can do more or plan more for the future,” Broncos GM George Paton said. “So it just provides us and really all the teams with more flexibility moving forward.” Even official team websites are leaning into the spike: “How the increased salary cap affects Saquon Barkley,” an article’s headline on the Giants’ website reads.

The combine, which began on Thursday, will conclude on Sunday. The official league year begins March 13, but the negotiating period with soon-to-be free agents begins March 11, and teams have already been allowed to assign franchise tags. So, with the salary-cap-crunching season set to be slightly less harsh this spring, who will be “saved” and who will still be looking for their next payday?

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