Arbitrator orders NFL to return $100M-plus withheld from players

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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

An arbitrator's ruling last week related to the shared revenue pool the NFL splits with its players is expected to result in the 2016 salary cap increasing by $2 million per team, sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

The cap, originally expected to be approximately $154 million per team, is now expected to be closer to $156 million after arbitrator Stephen Burbank ordered the league to return what the NFL Players Association calculates to be more than $100 million to the pool of revenue that goes to players, as reported Monday by The Wall Street Journal.

According to the arbitrator's ruling, the NFL will have to return the withheld money, which it amassed over the past three years, to the shared revenue pool immediately, and that will result in the cap increasing by up to $2 million per team in 2016.

The ruling in favor of the NFLPA, which filed a grievance over the discrepancy in January, found that team owners had mischaracterized a ticket-sale revenue exemption that had the effect of keeping about $50 million in salary out of players' pockets, according to the Journal.

"They created an exemption out of a fiction, and they got caught," NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith told the Journal.

To the Journal, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy characterized the ruling as the resolution of a "technical accounting issue under the CBA, involving the funding of stadium construction and renovation projects," but he wouldn't specify the exact amount going to players.

In December, league officials informed teams at the end-of-season owners meetings that the salary cap for next season would be between $150 million and $153.4 million. That number got another bump last week, with the NFL Network reporting that the cap was expected to increase to at least approximately $154 million for 2016.

The 2015 salary cap was $143.28 million. There are currently three teams that would be over a $150 million salary cap for next season: the Miami Dolphins, the New Orleans Saints and the Buffalo Bills.