NFL salary cap jumps $11 million to $188.2 million

NEW YORK — The NFL's salary cap will jump $11 million next season to $188.2 million.

In the ninth year of the 10-year labor agreement, the cap moves up from $177.2 million. It has increased in every year of the contract, with the biggest move in 2015 to 2016, when it went up by just under $12 million.

This is the third year out of four in which clubs must reach 89 percent in cash spending, and the NFL Players Association said Friday that four teams are under that threshold: Dallas, Buffalo, Indianapolis and Houston.

League expenditures for benefits are $40.5 million per team. Add that to the salary cap number and each club's player costs are above $228 million.

Benefits includes pension payments to former players; the Bell/Rozelle retirement and disability plan for active players; annuities and 401 (k) plans; health care; injury protection and severance; veteran performance-based pay; a separate pool of performance-based pay that's essentially a cash bonus to players who outperform their contracts.

With the NFL's revenues at more than $14 billion and every team worth at least $1.6 billion (Buffalo), with a high of about $5 billion (Dallas), it's hardly a surprise how high the cap has gone. In the first year of the current CBA, reached after a lockout of the players from March-July 2011, the cap was $120 million. It has increased by at least $10 million every year since 2014, when it went up to $133 million from $123 million.

There should be plenty of money available to free agents when the league's business year begins March 13. On average, teams have about $35 million in space after making offseason moves, with more certain to come. Also, only placekicker Robbie Gould of San Francisco has been given a franchise tag; the deadline is Tuesday.

Two clubs, Philadelphia and Jacksonville, still must make moves to get under the cap.

Agents for players can begin negotiating free-agent deals with teams on March 11, but can't officially close them before 4 p.m. EDT on March 13.

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