With Toronto making another signing that will cause social media to once again start with the “Do they have a salary cap?” narrative I thought I’d give some thoughts on the current Salary Management System and the “Cap” as we know it.
The league does this to itself. It’s not 1985 anymore, the public likes talking about this stuff. All salary and salary cap information should be available and/or published. At the bare minimum if the CFL doesn’t want to spend the resources tracking it, at least allow independent nerds like ourselves put together the information available on to independent websites or discuss it while having the facts and not speculation.
Imagine being able to see where Toronto sits in relation to the cap? Imagine if we actually saw that Hamilton had 500K of available cap space and they weren’t spending it? Imagine taking the blame off of Lapolice when we could see what Ottawa was actually spending? This information would go a long way to providing the fans and public additional transparency. With sports betting being the talk of the town, cap information is indeed relevant when looking at teams’ chances of winning the Grey Cup and can also set fans expectations on what their team (and others) will be doing with free agency. This issue is one that likely needs to be collectively bargained and I can’t imagine with all of the issues that the league seems to has that this will be at the forefront.
Hard Cap or Soft Cap?
For years we’ve all thrown our darts at the usual suspects that “Break the cap” – but is it really a hard cap? In the NFL the league can flat out deny a contract that doesn’t fit the salary cap system, but in the NBA the league allows teams to overspend (as long as it falls within the rules) and pay a luxury tax. Does the CFL even have the ability to reject a contract if it puts the team over the cap?
The CFL’s system doesn’t seem to have much teeth to deter a team from overspending, so is it more of a hard cap or a soft cap?
For example: Toronto (with MLSE as their owner) can choose to go over the cap by hundreds of thousands and pay the applicable tax/fine, as well as loss of draft picks. Isn’t that their choice? How is that cheating? That option is available to all teams if they so choose. If the league wants to ensure a level playing field why don’t they just have a cap with some buffer for injury replacements, etc but at some point just put a hard cap on it and refuse to register a contract? Why do we blame the teams and call them cheaters when they make a choice to pay the associated tax/fine that goes with it? Also the idea that a team can sign as many players as they want and the cap doesn’t matter until the end of the season is absolutely absurd. It rewards failure of the GM to actually put a quality team together on the first attempt, and punishes the player who thought he was signing a contract in good faith.
If you put these two items together, sharing all relevant salary info including real time tracking as to where each team sits, as well as making a firm decision on what the actual purpose of the SMS is (to keep all teams under a certain amount, or to simply tax those that choose to go over) we can accomplish many things, including transparency which also betters the image of the league, potentially deterring teams that have little conscience when it comes to the salary cap, and gives the fans a clear indication as to where their team’s direction is headed.
It's just another thing in the long list of wishes I have for the CFL to get in a better place with its players, fans, media, etc.
Get this league in line with every other one - and start making this information public.