NFL salary cap increases $12 million over 2008 figure to $128 million

NEW YORK -- NFL teams will have nearly $12 million more under the salary cap this season, the final year with one in place unless the league and its players' union can reach a new collective bargaining agreement.

Still looking for work

With quality free agents still available and an increase in the salary cap, NFL.com senior columnist Vic Carucci looks

at the five best players left on the open market.

1. Edgerrin James, RB: Asking him to be a primary back is asking too much, but he could make a significant impact for a team that is selective about how it uses him.

2. Derrick Brooks, OLB: His thorough understanding of the Tampa 2 and his ability get himself and his teammates in position to make it function properly make him worth considering.

3. Jon Runyan, OT: He could be a serviceable player, although there is potential that he might be too much of a liability, particularly in pass protection.

4. Marvin Harrison, WR: For a team needing a receiver in a pinch, he could make sense. But he isn't anyone's answer for a consistent playmaking threat.

5. Chris McAlister, CB: He likely will not be considered any sooner than June, when he's expected to receive clearance to fully work out after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery.

The cap was due to increase $7 million to $123 million this season, but additional adjustments stipulated in the current CBA will increase the total amount that teams can spend on player compensation to about $128 million. The $12 million increase is the largest in three years.

The league informed teams Wednesday that a "cash-adjustment mechanism" from final accounting figures in May will give clubs $947,000 of additional salary-cap room, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an e-mail to The Associated Press on Friday.

About $4 million in cap room already had been added earlier this year. The adjustments were triggered after spending on players fell below 59.5 percent of the league's total revenue in 2008.

The adjustments, first reported by FoxSports.com, do not affect the minimum team salary of $107,748,000.

Aiello said the most recent adjustment typically would carry over to next season's salary cap, but that isn't possible after NFL owners decided last year to opt out of the CBA with two years remaining. Unless a new agreement is reached, there will be no salary cap in 2010.

Recently hired NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith said earlier this month that he speaks with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell three or four times per week, although Aiello said Friday that negotiations on a new deal hadn't started.

"Negotiations with the NFLPA on a new CBA have not commenced," Aiello said. "We have two more seasons to go on the current deal."

The process likely will not be easy with the economy in turmoil, but Smith has said he's hopeful of reaching a deal to avoid a work stoppage for the 2011 season.

League owners likely will discuss their strategy for negotiating a new agreement next week at the NFL Spring Meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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