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That's a fairly simplistic way to look at the rule. The rule is designed to give players the chance to earn money that is more commensurate with their performance. Guidelines for the bonuses are strictly for statisical performance, not playing time, conduct, or anything else. A team makes a provision in a contract that will give a player a bonus if he reaches a statistical benchmark next year that he reached in the last year. Teams have to account for that bonus in their salary cap during the year. So if the bonus isn't paid, then they get the cap space refunded into next year's cap.

There are two moving parts that you don't account for: 1. incentives have to be reachable, 2. players would have to augment their contracts every year.

1. Since the incentive is based on something that was previously reached, then it's possible that the player can reach it again. Teams will try to gamble and put in these clauses, but there is the very real possibility that the player will earn the bonus. That tends to keep the bonus reasonable.

2. Most players signing deals of significant value, sign them for over 4 years. In order to include incentive based bonuses, they would have to redo the deal every year. Players and agents aren't going to do that without a signing bonus, which would negate the payoff of the cap refund somewhat.

So, theoretically a team could play well one year, redo contracts of everyone who did well, and then make sure through coaching, and tanking, that the players did not play enough to reach the levels for incentives. But a team would never sacrifice success in a year before the season began to do that. And remember, each team is not an island unto itself. If a team attempted this, the other 31 owners would quickly move in with fines and penalties.


If you don't mind an outsiders comment, I've lived in the UK (no salary caps in sports) and Australia (salary caps).

The results are clear. Sports with salary caps keep competitions interesting. SPorts without (live UK soccer) get dominated by the 3 richest teams.

In short, salary caps work.

NFL Picks

Great Post. THe salary cap does keep the league pretty even, otherwise the cowboys would win every year rather than not at all recently. The MLB is a joke because of the "luxury tax"

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