Help me understand the NFL free agency and salary cap rules.

Why does the NFL have the salary cap and free agency rules they have? This is a mini-rant as well as a genuine question, so please permit my rant to start off with. First a link to the article that set off this rant.

I am a fan of the Dallas Cowboys, and I fondly remember the days of the early and mid 90s. The salary cap was introduced by the NFL in 1994. I blame the salary cap for playing a role in the Cowboys decline in the late 90s. I also enjoy watching any franchise be dominant / establish a dynasty. It’s fun to watch a team like that. IMHO the closest the NFL has had since the salary cap was introduced is the Patriots.

It seems to me that the purpose of the salary cap is to punish the elite teams and reward the average to slightly above average teams. I think the bottom of the barrel teams are also disadvantaged. Is this the reason the salary cap was introduced, or at least one of the intended effects?

I don’t begrudge the elite players an elite salary. I think they should be paid top dollar, with competition between all the teams as there is now. What I would change would be that the players original team can match or exceed the offer of the other team for an elite free agent, and if the player stays with his original team, the additional salary would not count against that teams salary cap. This way the players are still getting fairly compensated for playing a dangerous sport, and the elite teams don’t loose the stars they can’t afford under the salary cap to the likes of the New York Jets or the Philadelphia Eagles. I believe, for example, that the Cowboys season would have been a lot different had they been able to match the Eagles offer for Demarco Murray, but not have the extra money count against their own salary cap.

Salary caps are there to keep owner’s expenses down.

Their effect on dynasties are a happy side effect. If one team wins all the time, it’s bad for the other teams. The American League suffered greatly in the 50s by the dominance of the Yankees, for instance.

I feel like there are sufficient checks and balances built in to the system like the franchise tag, transition tag, restricted free agency, and the ability to structure contracts with large signing bonuses prorated across the length of the contract (which essentially allows teams to exceed the cap in exchange for potentially significant “dead money” down the road), among other things.

If a team is desperate to retain their elite players, they are never just shit outta luck; there is always a way to make it work. Of course with the exception of the franchise tag, first a player must want to stay; it’s not just on the team.

The Cowboys’ 2015 season had nothing to do with the lack of Murray, but rather the injured Tony Romo. McFadden and Randle were, in fact, better than Murray was this season. Even if Murray was still on the team running for 1500 yards, they wouldn’t improve dramatically over the 4-12 season they had.

Wait - the OP is suggesting that whatever is good for the Cowboys is what the NFL should do? Well, that’s nonsensical.

Not quite so much this year, although it is fun to imagine a 2015 season with Murray in Dallas with a healthy Romo and Bryant. What I don’t like is that it seems that every year the 14-2 and 13-3 teams loose their 3rd, 4th, or 5th best players to teams that finished 9-7 or 8-8. Even if the best teams remain dominant like the Patriots have managed to do, it’s not as much fun to root for a whole bunch of new players every year. Part of what I enjoyed about the 90s Cowboys teams was that other than Charles Haley and Deion Sanders, the players were career Cowboys, not just a collection of free agents grabbed from other teams.

The Cowboys finished where they have more often than not with Romo. Home in January.

Free agency in the NFL is, in most cases, a fool’s game. In the 25 years or so of modern NFL free agency, there are only a handful of big-name free agents who changed teams, and were able to lead those new teams to success. Sanders is among them (the Cowboys traded for Charles Haley), along with Reggie White…but in far too many cases, big free agent signings turn out to not live up to their new contracts.

Two of the most consistently successful (and stable) franchises over the past twenty years have been the Patriots and the Packers, and neither of those teams have been extensive players in free agency. While the Patriots have brought in a few key pieces through free agency, they’ve usually gone after role-players in free agency, rather than stars. The few examples I could think of, of big-name players whom the Patriots have obtained – Randy Moss and Corey Dillon – they actually obtained via trade.

The Packers have been more extreme, building a team almost exclusively through the draft and undrafted free agents (there are only a handful of players on the current roster who have even ever played for another team). However, the Pack’s lack of postseason success in the past few seasons has been seen by many fans as wasting the prime years of Aaron Rodgers’ career, and there are increasing calls for GM Ted Thompson to become more active in free agency.

For fans of one team out of 28-32.

I dunno. The NFL did great in the 1060s when in 8 years the Packers were in 6 championship games and won 5, with the only exciting game being the 1960 loss. The NBA floundered in the parity of the 1970s but did great in the 1980s with the frequent Celtics vs Lakers finals and the 1990s when the Bulls won 6 titles in 8 years.
The problem with baseball may be due more to 1) television. 2) crime, or fear of, in the cities. 3) inept owners. Hank Greenberg, running the Indians in the 1950s, said the American league consisted of New York, Cleveland and six pygmies.

 To keep salaries low is the main reason. Competitive balance? As Leonard Koppett pointed out 40 years ago, NFL coaches are free agents and 1) you seldom hear of coaches moving to richer teams and 2) no one corners the market on assistant coaches. The Giants in the 1950s had Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry as assistant coaches but they ultimately left to coach at weaker teams.