An arbitrator has ruled that the NFL must return more than $100 million to the players because of what the league is calling a “technical accounting issue.” The ruling will result in the salary cap for the 2016 season increasing by about $2 million per team, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
A report by The Wall Street Journal details the decision by arbitrator Stephen Burbank, which ordered the NFL to rectify the problem. While the league said they simply made a mistake, those in the NFL Players Association have indicated that this was done on purpose.
"They created an exemption out of a fiction, and they got caught," NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith told The Wall Street Journal.
The money that was withheld will be put into the shared revenue pool after the NFLPA filed a grievance last month. A ticket-sale revenue exemption that was misrepresented by the owners alerted the NFLPA to the discrepancy.
“The NFL essentially created an accounting exemption that excluded a significant amount of revenue over the period of three years that really belonged to the general revenue pool,” Assistant Executive Director of External Affairs for the NFLPA, George Atallah, said on ESPN Radio’s “Russillo & Kanell.”
"The impact of that was about north of $100 to $120 million, and the specific impact that it has on the business of football is that it impacts the salary number that we calculate every year."
The salary cap was expected to increase from $143.28 million to $154 million, but that number will now be close to $156 million. NFL free agency officially begins on March 9.
With the salary cap nearly $13 million less in 2015, Ndamukong Suh led all free agents by signing a six-year contract worth $114 million with the Miami Dolphins. Miami is one of three teams that has a payroll of more than $150 million for next year.