Fooch's Note: Andrew wrote this up over the weekend and I wanted to move it to the front page today to maximize potential eyeballs. It's extremely well-written and discusses a topic that is incredibly important in this year of no salary cap. This isn't exactly a secret, but it hasn't been discussed very much to this point.
As "reported" by PFT, the 2009 Salary Cap floor was $107 million, meaning teams had to spend at least that amount on players' salaries. Since 2010 is uncapped, there is no such floor and teams can spend as little (or as much) as they like. While many people were concerned about lavish spending and New York Yankee like spending, the little guys went under the radar. According to PFT, here are the teams benefiting from the floorless season:
Based on the numbers, the following franchises are, to date, taking full advantage of the lack of a salary floor: the Chiefs ($79 million), the Buccaneers ($79 million), the Jaguars ($81 million), the Bengals ($85 million), the Cardinals ($91 million), the Rams ($92 million), the Bills ($98 million).
Let's take into account that the offseason is still relatively young, but the Bills (being $9 million under) have a ways to go to reach the $107 million mark. Apparently there are five other teams (that PFT doesn't name) also under the old cap floor. Likely those teams are a lot closer than the $9 million Buffalo has under the "floor". Take a closer look at the list of teams and tell me if you notice a trend?
Fooch's Note: I've moved the rest after the jump...
The Bucs and the Cardinals are the most notable laughing-stock franchises from a pre-cap NFL era. Is it any surprise that those are two teams looking to squeeze a few extra bucks? Arizona lost three key players in Antrel Rolle, Karlos Dansby, and Kurt Warner, while the Bucs have a roster full of nobodies. The Cardinals at least have an excuse, and are actively pursuing Joey Porter, Larry Foote and Charlie Whitehurst. The Bucs, on the other hand, have been making "splashes" signing Jon Alston and trading a 2011 6th round draft choice for Reggie Brown. Considering Tampa let Will Allen, Antonio Bryant and Jermaine Phillips walk, the team has made it quite obvious spending isn't in the plan.
It could be that the Bucs are planning to build through the draft, but a team with so many needs can't build it all in a draft alone. In other words, another 30-year "re"building phase in Tampa may begin, especially if the salary cap doesn't return. Looking at Kansas City (same payroll as TB), there is a clear difference between the two teams. The Chiefs have a GM in his second season, after inheriting a pretty poor squad. Kansas City has at least went to the effort of resigning players (namely Chris Chambers), and adding a few via free agency (notably Thomas Jones).
Back to Florida, I can't exactly dog the Jaguars for being under the floor, because people in Jacksonville don't attend Jaguar football games. Jacksonville has let three players walk, and re-signed three players from 2009. Additionally the Jags signed Aaron Kampman and Kasim Osgood, much more impressive than Tampa Bay's "haul". Perhaps people in Tampa Bay will make the trip to Jacksonville on Sundays? Maybe that will happen in the Jaguars can land Joe Haden and/or Tim Tebow in this April's draft.
Cincinnati, being the other playoff team in the group, has gone to the trouble of resigning 3 of it's 11 UFAs, and added WR Antonio Bryant to the mix (after chopping Laveranues Coles). The Bengals (or Bungals) have made the playoffs twice since the Salary Cap era began. Prior to that (entering the NFL in 1970), Cincinnati made 7 playoff trips and 2 Super Bowl appearances. To be fair, the Bungals era began just before the salary cap was introduced (1991-1994; 16 wins, 50 losses) and had a brief shot at mediocrity right after the cap was introduced (1995-1997; 22 - 26). Comparatively, Tampa Bay was mostly a joke since 1976 (aside from 3 playoff berths) and only became relevant after the cap was put into place (7 playoff berths, 1 SB title).
In other words, the Salary Cap created parity in the NFL, and teams like the Bucs could compete (owners had to spend money). Now, teams like the Bucs can revert back to old ways (at least for this season). I understand that spending isn't the only reason teams become competitive, but it's hard to field a competitive team without money. Tampa Bay did benefit from great coaches like Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden, and the Bucs definitely prospered by spending what the league required.
Owners not having to spend a set amount of money is bad news for fans (and players). Teams aren't going to feel any pressure to add players (or extend contracts) to get the payroll up where it should be. I suppose that puts more emphasis on the draft, and less emphasis on free agent spending, but the league really doesn't need a basket full of Montreal Expos franchises (draft great players, watch them leave via free agency). The pressure should be on the league, the owners and the players association to get the salary cap back ASAFP. Otherwise, we'll start seeing teams vanish, both competitively and completely.