Every year, the NFL salary cap rises. Well, every year since the new CBA in 2013, at least. This year, the salary cap is reported to grow to $155 million, according to Rand Getlin. That's a $12 million increase over 2015's $143 million salary cap, which itself represented a $10 million increase over 2014, which in turn was a $10 million increase over 2013.
That increase is good for the NFL, it's good for the players -- really, it's good for everyone in the game except stingy owners. But it's also doing something else: the constant increase means it's becoming less important to be prudent in spending. Being close to the cap in one year is still going to get you a $10 million increase in spending room the next year, even if nothing changes.
That also means that pushing cap hits into the future -- something the Bucs absolutely hate to do -- may be more sensible than when the cap didn't grow, between 2009 and 2013. When the cap is stagnant, spending now means robbing the future. When the cap is constantly growing, spending now means you're not so much robbing the future as spending dollars when there's more room to do so, relatively speaking.
One example: in 2013, $12 million represented 10% of the salary cap. Giving a player a contract at that price point per year was a massive investment. But this year, it's only 7.7% of the salary cap -- still a decent amount, but a lot more palatable. So pushing some of that $12 million you would have spent in 2013 into 2015 or 2016 means you're spending a smaller percentage of the cap on that player.
That's not something you can do with every player, of course, and you need to be careful with this strategy. But it's a useful tool to have in your toolbox, even though the Bucs don't seem to think so.