PALM BEACH - The NFL salary cap went bye-bye for a year in 2010. When it returned in July 2011, it had lost some size since the last time we'd seen it in 2009 - from 123 million to 120 million.
This, one would imagine, was not what the players had in mind. But the NFL owners - savvy businessmen that they are - weren't going to make the same mistakes in 2011 that they did in 2006.
Back then, their revised CBA agreement with the players saw per-team player spending balloon from 84 million to the aforementioned 123 million in five years.
Now, the owners have more cost control. Robert Kraft spoke about this Tuesday at the NFL's Annual Meetings at The Breakers.
"I think what you'll see over the next five to six years is a smoother growth in the salary cap," said Kraft. "It won't be the kind of jump that you saw in '06 and so I think it'll require that people manage the resources they have as intelligently as they can."
Kraft then uttered a hard-to-follow sentence, saying, "I think there will be a lot of free agents in the market that just have to manage your cap wisely if you want to be competitive year in and year out."
Was that a false start on making a comment about free agent players? On keeping costs down? Both? Neither?
Clearly, the Patriots are extremely cost-conscious in free agency generally. They've appeared to be even more so this season with short, cost-effective deals to mid-tier free agent targets.
But the teams that have gone in big with deals have at least had the assurance that, when the new TV contracts are signed, more money will come into the league coffers and the salary cap will rise. In other words, the deal that looks fiscally risky because of the cap room it eats up today will look reasonable tomorrow.
Not so fast, said Kraft.
"People are assuming that because the TV spikes, that's all going to get paid. The networks aren't looking to pay us a lot of money right up front. They also smooth out how they pay us out, so I would think the later years of the deals would have higher payments," Kraft explained. "That's the reason for that. They agreed to these long-term commitments but they also smooth out. Part of doing long-term deals allowed for payments that (are gradual). They have to show their stockholders that they did a wise deal so... The good news is we have growth, we have it long-term and everyone's going to benefit by it. But it's not going to be Spikes that will not be good for planning. This way, people can plan."