In case you haven’t noticed by now, football, and particularly the NFL, is a big business. Regardless of the numerous false predictions of an inevitable decline, the money continues to flow through the league at record numbers, and the forecast remains strong through at least the next decade through the life of their most recent broadcasting contracts.
Not all teams earn equally through it all, however. While no owners’ coffers are hurting, there is some discrepancy between the most financially prosperous teams and the least, with the Dallas Cowboys being a category unto themselves.
In fact, Bookies.com recently predicted that they will become the first franchise to produce $1 billion in revenue during the 2021 season. Nobody else is even close, with the New England Patriots standing second at a projected revenue of nearly $680 million.
Of course, you’re reading this because you’re a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers, most likely, so where are they? Right in the middle of the pack. This year, they’re projected to bring in $484.66 million, which is the 17th-largest revenue in the league. These projections are based on Forbes-published earnings data by the teams over the past eight years.
But as mentioned at the top, business is good, and it’s only going to get better as the new money kicks in from the numerous new deals the league has signed, and as teams begin signing new partnerships with gambling companies. Bookies.com seeks to predict what teams will be worth in 2025.
The Cowboys, as one would expect, remain in a stratosphere of their own. In five years, they’re estimated to pull in $1.32 billion, with the Patriots surpassing the $800 million mark by then. The Steelers, even, will be pushing $600 million, with an average annual growth of more than $25 million.
And so, why should the fans care? The salary cap, of course. While it’s not an exact science and must ultimately be determined through mutual agreement between the NFL and NFLPA, the salary cap is based off of the total revenue stream of the league. And if the average team is bringing in around $600 million by 2025, then that suggests the salary cap could be as high as around $300 million by then.
The more money the games make, the more money teams have in salary cap space to spend on players—but also, the more money the players make, both in terms of top-end salaries and in the minimum salary as well.
But rising salaries are always favorable to the opposite direction. We saw what hurt many teams were put in this year with the drop in the salary cap, tied to losses from the COVID-19 pandemic. These numbers are all based on business getting back to the usual. That’s where we seem to be headed, but it’s also what the league is counting on.