NFL salary cap for 2017 up more than $12 million from 2016 season

NFL salary cap for 2017 up more than $12 million from 2016 season

NEW YORK -- The NFL salary cap for the upcoming season will be $167 million per team, up more than $12 million over last year.

The league and the NFL Players Association compile the cap from specific revenues, and it has risen annually. It was $143.28 million two years ago.

This is the fourth consecutive year the cap has risen at least $10 million.

Player benefits also are included under the 10-year labor agreement reached to end the 2011 lockout. That comes to $37 million per team, bringing the players' total compensation package to over $200 million per club for the first time.

In comparison, baseball had 12 teams with luxury-tax payrolls beyond $167 million in 2016.

Since 2011, the cap has increased by $47 million.

Also, 2017 is the first year of a four-season minimum spending period of 89 percent per club and 95 percent leaguewide.

The added cap room should have a major impact on teams' spending when the NFL's new year begins next Thursday.

"A lot," Seahawks general manager John Schneider said Wednesday at the NFL combine in Indianapolis. "It's an ongoing process, trying to make sure you can hang on to your top players all the time, what we view as our core players. A lot of times when we do those deals we're like: 'Hey, look, there's going to be some tough decisions that are made. There's going to be some guys that have to leave.' It's just part of the game.

"This year in particular I think you see there's a huge discrepancy in terms of cap space with a number of teams. It's what the NFL's about. It's about parity, and so you have those teams that are just going to be able to that much more than you possibly can. It's all about trying to move those pieces around and try to stay in the game with the free agents and your own free agents as much as you possibly can."

Seven players were given franchise tags this year: Redskins QB Kirk Cousins and Rams CB Trumaine Johnson, both for the second straight year; Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell; Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul; Cardinals LB Chandler Jones; Chargers LB Melvin Ingram; and Panthers DT Kawann Short. Only Cousins and Bell got exclusive tags, meaning no team can talk to them except their current club. Compensation would go to any team losing a non-exclusive franchise player in the form of two first-round draft picks.

Quarterback, of course, has the highest franchise tag tender at $21.268 million. Next is defensive end ($16.934 million), followed by wide receiver ($15.682 million). Then it's linebacker ($14.550 million), offensive line ($14.271 million), cornerback ($14.212 million), defensive tackle ($13.387 million), running back ($12.120 million), safety ($10.896 million), tight end ($9.78 million) and kicker/punter ($4.835 million).

Pittsburgh GM Kevin Colbert believes more teams are taking the path the Steelers usually do of developing players they draft and rewarding their own free agents.

"As a result, you're seeing less and less quality free agents (on the market)," Colbert said. "There's an inherent danger in that, because some of the players who are hitting the market with the number of dollars that are available might not be quite worth what they're going to get paid because of the supply and demand. And I think that's reflective in a lot of the early cuts, the five- and six-year-deal guys who usually get cut after two or three, because maybe they were oversigned.

"I think that it reinforces that you're wanting to sign your own and keep your own. But again, you have to be careful about the free agent market and not overpay for maybe an average player."

Yet, beginning next week, the money will flow to many free agents, even though this crop seems lacking in franchise-type players.

McDonald toasts Shanahan for communication of trade talks

McDonald toasts Shanahan for communication of trade talks

SANTA CLARA -- Tight end Vance McDonald became aware of a report the 49ers had engaged in trade talks involving him at his brother’s wedding in Austin, Texas.

But McDonald said he did not give it much thought because he had another immediate priority.

“I still had my best man’s speech to do,” McDonald said.

Later that evening during last month's draft, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan called McDonald to keep him in the loop. There was no trade, and McDonald returned to Santa Clara on Monday to continue participation in the 49ers’ offseason program.

“The first thing I told him was, ‘Man, there aren’t a lot of coaches that would do this,’” McDonald said of his talk with Shanahan. “He just wanted to fill me in.”

Nearly four weeks later, it is as if nothing ever happened.

“The only trade discussions we had was when another team asked us about Vance on draft day,” Shanahan said this week. “And after a team asked us about Vance then we asked other teams if they’d be interested in that same thing.”

McDonald said he completely understood why the 49ers would check with other teams around the league to see what they could acquire in a trade.

“Basically, it’s just like any other team in the NFL would do,” McDonald said. “If you’re a 2-14 team, obviously, there are a lot of things you can improve on, a lot of spots that need to be filled. There are a lot of things you need to improve upon in the offseason. So if teams are going to call and inquire about you, then obviously the next step is to … call around to every other team.

“So that’s exactly what happened to me. It isn’t like they don’t want me here. There was never a lack of communication on any level.”

Even before he knew his immediate future with the 49ers, McDonald said he tried to maintain the proper state of mind.

“I had the mindset this isn’t going to change anything,” McDonald said. “I’m going to end up where I end up and I’m just going to continue doing what I’m doing, which is do everything to be a better football player.”

McDonald enters the fifth year of his NFL career after signing a new deal in December that amounts to a three-year, $19.7 million extension. Three days later, the 49ers placed McDonald on injured reserve with a shoulder injury.

McDonald was on pace for his best season as a pass-catcher. In 11 games, he had 24 receptions for 391 yards and four touchdowns.

Now, he is competition for a spot in the 49ers’ offense, along with fifth-round draft pick George Kittle, undrafted rookie Cole Hikutini, and veterans Logan Paulsen, Garrett Celek and Blake Bell.

McDonald said he likes what Shanahan has brought to the 49ers, including added responsibilities of the tight end position.

“Last year, all we talked about was how fast our pace was,” McDonald said. “With Kyle, it’s insanely quick. He’s a very detailed guy. It’s interesting to hear him present information. You try to apply it and play with the same mindset that he has. It’s a task that we all enjoy doing.

“We (tight ends) are the end of the line. There’s communication with us and the wide receivers and running backs. We’re also in command with receiving corps. There are a lot of things on our plate. Hopefully, this doesn’t get back to the wide receivers, but we’re supposed to be smarter than them. It’s a fun job to have. We don’t try to rub it in too much.”

Chip Kelly returns to college football -- as analyst

Chip Kelly returns to college football -- as analyst

Chip Kelly is back in college football.

The former Oregon coach, who served as 49ers head coach last season, signed a multiyear deal as an ESPN analyst, the network announced Friday morning. He will work predominantly on pre-games, halftimes and in studio wraps each Saturday on ESPN2.

“Over the last 30 years, I have experienced football from one perspective – as a coach,” Kelly said in a statement. “Working in television will allow me to see the game from a different angle; simultaneously, I‘ll provide viewers an insight to the mindset of a coach and team while offering alternative views of various situations.

“Once I decided to make the move to TV, my familiarity with ESPN, combined with their high-quality production and vital role in college football, it was easily the best network suited for me.”

Kelly, 53, was fired on the evening of the 49ers’ season finale. The 49ers went 2-14 under Kelly and set the franchise record with 13 consecutive losses. Their only victories came against the Los Angeles Rams. Kelly also auditioned with FOX for the analyst job vacated when John Lynch became 49ers general manager, sources told NBC Sports Bay Area.

Kelly served as Oregon’s head coach from 2009 to ’12. His teams compiled a record of 46-7. Under Kelly, the Ducks advanced to the 2011 national championship game, losing to Auburn 22-19.

Kelly won the AP College Football Coach of the Year. He twice won the Pac-10 coach of the year. He left Oregon to become head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013. After his first two NFL teams went 10-6, Kelly was fired in 2015 with one game remaining in the season. The Eagles were 6-9 at the time of Kelly's firing.

“Chip is one of the most innovative football minds of our generation,” ESPN senior coordinating producer Lee Fitting said. “As a coach, he saw the game from a unique perspective, never afraid to take an unconventional approach. We want him to bring that mentality to our college football coverage each week, offering fans a varying viewpoint outside of the conventional thought process.”