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NFL salary cap projected to jump ‘$18 to $20 million every year’ by teams

Matt Johnson
NFL salary cap
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL salary cap in 2022 is $208.2 million per team, a massive leap after the COVID-19 pandemic shrunk the cap in 2021 to $182.5 million. As the salaries of the highest paid NFL players skyrocket, it’s easier to understand why based on the league’s projections.

Many of the best players in the NFL reset the market at their respective positions this offseason. At cornerback, Jaire Alexander and Denzel Ward each joined Jalen Ramsey in the $20 million per year club. Meanwhile, J.C. Jackson and Xavien Howard also signed lucrative contracts.

The spring proved to be even better for wide receivers. It started with the Christian Kirk contract (four years, $72 million) and it led to a domino of huge deals. Davante Adams ($28 million AAV), Tyreek Hill ($30 million AAV), A.J. Brown ($25 million AAV) and Stefon Diggs (four years, $96 million) reset the market at receiver.

It’s only the start of things to come. Quarterback and offensive tackle are both more valued positions by NFL teams and with young stars like Justin Herbert and Joe Burrow due for extensions, salaries will keep rising in the years ahead.

Addressing the rising NFL contracts on the Yahoo Sports’ You Pod to Win the Game podcast, Charles Robinson shared some insight on what teams are projecting with the NFL salary cap in future years.

“I hope the salary models are wrong because they’re going to need a bigger explosion, than at least the salary models that I’ve talked to teams about. They seem realistic to me, which is the idea that the cap is going to bump up $18 to $20 million every year. I think it’s going to need to be more than that.”

Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson on You Pod to Win the Game podcast

NFL teams will need the cap to keep soaring in the years ahead. The need for more financial wiggle room isn’t tied entirely to the rising salaries. Thanks to the Deshaun Watson contract, providing him with $230 million, quarterbacks and offensive tackles could push for more guaranteed money.

If the models projecting future years of the NFL salary cap are accurate, it could approach $230 million in 2023. Realistically, a $300 million NFL salary cap is possible by the 2026 season if the current trends continue.

Why is the NFL salary cap soaring?

NFL: NFL Draft
Gary Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

After experiencing a $4 billion revenue drop in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, things turned around for the NFL quickly. It’s all thanks to the league’s broadcasting rights deals and new partnerships with tech companies and sportsbooks.

From TV contracts alone, the NFL will generate at least $100 billion in revenue over the next decade. It’s a figure that doesn’t even account for the pending sale of NFL Sunday Ticket and future growth for the NFL International Series.

League officials also anticipate generating billions of dollars in the coming years thanks to the booming popularity of sports betting. With more states legalizing wagering through sportsbooks, partnerships with companies like BetMGM, DraftKings and FOX Bet will generate even more revenue for the NFL.

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It’s precisely why team values will skyrocket and billionaires are willing to spend record-setting amounts to buy an NFL team. Ultimately, the money the players are receiving is just a slice of a pie that no other sports league even approaches.

If the projections hold, it won’t be long before quarterbacks make $50 to $60 million per season and the best left tackles in the NFL make $30 million. Of course, things could get ugly for teams and owners if something goes wrong and the league falls short of its estimates.