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How did the NFL work before the Salary Cap

  • dwett
  • Veteran
  • Posts: 627
I tried to google this and didn't get any good intel back. I know that in the 93-94 season it was instituted with a 34 million dollar cap. How did contracts work before that. If at the end of their rookie contract they could not come to terms on a new contract, say Jerry Rice, was Jerry not free to seek employment on another team. Was there simply no cap and teams could spend whatever and only had to worry about their bottom line.

If the latter was the case, I would be curious to see how the Niners spent their money in the late 80s. How did they keep such great players together for that long of a time. Was their a luxury tax to those teams that spent so much money on their roster. Was Debartolo like Steinbrenner and simply didn't care about money just about winning.

I was born in 81, so to be honest I was to young during our glory years to really think to much about it. The only thing I remember is Policy being named executive of the year in 1994 and thinking well add another thing we are great at. Now it came to haunt us years later but at the time it got us another Super Bowl so I was happy.

All I hear about now is how much harder it is in today's NFL to produce a dynasty. It is something that I just assume is correct but have no idea about what the difference is. Does anyone have a link or maybe have their own recollection about how the NFL worked before the Salary Cap era. Now if this turns out to be a dumb question my bad. Personally, I just don't completely understand it and wanted to see if someone could enlighten me.
49ers were the yankees of football thats why they capped it to make it more "fair"
Mr D made it rain.
Originally posted by dwett:
I tried to google this and didn't get any good intel back. I know that in the 93-94 season it was instituted with a 34 million dollar cap. How did contracts work before that. If at the end of their rookie contract they could not come to terms on a new contract, say Jerry Rice, was Jerry not free to seek employment on another team. Was there simply no cap and teams could spend whatever and only had to worry about their bottom line.

If the latter was the case, I would be curious to see how the Niners spent their money in the late 80s. How did they keep such great players together for that long of a time. Was their a luxury tax to those teams that spent so much money on their roster. Was Debartolo like Steinbrenner and simply didn't care about money just about winning.

I was born in 81, so to be honest I was to young during our glory years to really think to much about it. The only thing I remember is Policy being named executive of the year in 1994 and thinking well add another thing we are great at. Now it came to haunt us years later but at the time it got us another Super Bowl so I was happy.

All I hear about now is how much harder it is in today's NFL to produce a dynasty. It is something that I just assume is correct but have no idea about what the difference is. Does anyone have a link or maybe have their own recollection about how the NFL worked before the Salary Cap era. Now if this turns out to be a dumb question my bad. Personally, I just don't completely understand it and wanted to see if someone could enlighten me.

"Owners, on the other hand, sought to maintain the league's profitability by ensuring that player salaries didn't spiral out of control. If salaries grew faster than revenue, the NFL would quickly lose its financial viability. Among the league's most important strategies for controlling player salaries were internal rules that effectively barred free agency by requiring any team that signed another team's out-of-contract player to a free-agent deal to compensate the player's former team with players, draft picks, and/or cash. The requirement for such heavy compensation made teams extremely reluctant to sign other clubs' players to free-agent contracts. By limiting free agency—the ability of a player to sell his services to the highest bidder on the open market once he reached the end of his contract—the NFL prevented outright bidding wars among its teams to obtain top talent and thus, the union claimed, unfairly suppressed player salaries."

Free Agency brought about more change than salary cap

Do Work Son
The DeBartolo Family Business was like the Roman Empire

- Frankie "5 Angels" Pentangeli
  • dwett
  • Veteran
  • Posts: 627
Originally posted by ads_2006:
Originally posted by dwett:
I tried to google this and didn't get any good intel back. I know that in the 93-94 season it was instituted with a 34 million dollar cap. How did contracts work before that. If at the end of their rookie contract they could not come to terms on a new contract, say Jerry Rice, was Jerry not free to seek employment on another team. Was there simply no cap and teams could spend whatever and only had to worry about their bottom line.

If the latter was the case, I would be curious to see how the Niners spent their money in the late 80s. How did they keep such great players together for that long of a time. Was their a luxury tax to those teams that spent so much money on their roster. Was Debartolo like Steinbrenner and simply didn't care about money just about winning.

I was born in 81, so to be honest I was to young during our glory years to really think to much about it. The only thing I remember is Policy being named executive of the year in 1994 and thinking well add another thing we are great at. Now it came to haunt us years later but at the time it got us another Super Bowl so I was happy.

All I hear about now is how much harder it is in today's NFL to produce a dynasty. It is something that I just assume is correct but have no idea about what the difference is. Does anyone have a link or maybe have their own recollection about how the NFL worked before the Salary Cap era. Now if this turns out to be a dumb question my bad. Personally, I just don't completely understand it and wanted to see if someone could enlighten me.

"Owners, on the other hand, sought to maintain the league's profitability by ensuring that player salaries didn't spiral out of control. If salaries grew faster than revenue, the NFL would quickly lose its financial viability. Among the league's most important strategies for controlling player salaries were internal rules that effectively barred free agency by requiring any team that signed another team's out-of-contract player to a free-agent deal to compensate the player's former team with players, draft picks, and/or cash. The requirement for such heavy compensation made teams extremely reluctant to sign other clubs' players to free-agent contracts. By limiting free agency—the ability of a player to sell his services to the highest bidder on the open market once he reached the end of his contract—the NFL prevented outright bidding wars among its teams to obtain top talent and thus, the union claimed, unfairly suppressed player salaries."

Free Agency brought about more change than salary cap

Do Work Son
So basically the Niners didn't spend more than any other teams, but due to great drafts were able to maintain their personal because NFL labor requirements punished other team for taking talent from other teams. This all changed of course due to the new CBA in 1993 which removed these restrictions. I think this also occurred with coaches. I believe the Raiders got some draft picks when Gruden left for the Bucs.

I googled "Free Agency brought about more change than the salary cap" and found the link you are talking about. Guess you have to word things the right way.

http://www.shmoop.com/nfl-history/labor.html

Thanks for the information, I appreciate it.
[ Edited by dwett on Mar 9, 2012 at 6:24 PM ]
no problem man

I always remember people saying free agency did more for the game

niners sure had some good drafts

but having bill walsh didnt hurt either
Think MLB of today to get an idea of what the NFL was like. The 49ers were at the top of the food chain, with Eddie D. willing to spend whatever was needed to get a championship team, just like the Yankees. Think of it...three bonafide NFL starting QB's on one team; two of them Hall of Famers (Montana, Young, Bono).

Debartalo spent so much on his team (both on the field and off) that there were wide reports that most of the 49er players were against the strike in 1987. In fact, Joe Montana actually crossed the picket lines to play with replacement players during that year. It was also reported that Debartalo was paying his players under the table during the strike, and this led to a fine from the NFL. It was also reported that players on the 49ers paid part of Debartalo's fine. All of this led to discontent (and dislike) of Debartalo among other owners, and although not totally the reason that the salary cap was instituted, part of the reason was to "reign in" in the 49ers, who were simply outspending every other NFL franchise.

I miss the no cap days, but for the health of the league, it was necessary to make a change.
  • dwett
  • Veteran
  • Posts: 627
Originally posted by ads_2006:
no problem man

I always remember people saying free agency did more for the game

niners sure had some good drafts

but having bill walsh didnt hurt either
Oh for sure. Also think about how the debates would be different today using the old system. It wouldn't be how does this player effect our cap or future, but if he does leave what will we gain in return. Also if FA was instituted in the 80's what would it have cost us to keep Rice and Montana. I just find it interesting how things have changed. Being the off season the mind has a tendency to wonder off and speculate.
  • dwett
  • Veteran
  • Posts: 627
Originally posted by dcsham:
Think MLB of today to get an idea of what the NFL was like. The 49ers were at the top of the food chain, with Eddie D. willing to spend whatever was needed to get a championship team, just like the Yankees. Think of it...three bonafide NFL starting QB's on one team; two of them Hall of Famers (Montana, Young, Bono).

Debartalo spent so much on his team (both on the field and off) that there were wide reports that most of the 49er players were against the strike in 1987. In fact, Joe Montana actually crossed the picket lines to play with replacement players during that year. It was also reported that Debartalo was paying his players under the table during the strike, and this led to a fine from the NFL. It was also reported that players on the 49ers paid part of Debartalo's fine. All of this led to discontent (and dislike) of Debartalo among other owners, and although not totally the reason that the salary cap was instituted, part of the reason was to "reign in" in the 49ers, who were simply outspending every other NFL franchise.

I miss the no cap days, but for the health of the league, it was necessary to make a change.

Well based on the information ads_2006 provided, it wasn't the fact he Niners were willing to spend more, but the fact that their were high compensation if another team took a player from our team. There is FA in Baseball but if a team spends to much there is a luxury tax. Based on what I have seen this was not the case for the NFL in the 80s.

Now I'm sure you are right about how the players felt about Debartolo and how he treated them. However, if they had the right to go to the highest bidder without that team giving up cash or draft picks, who knows how each player or other teams may have reacted.
[ Edited by dwett on Mar 9, 2012 at 6:58 PM ]
Originally posted by dcsham:
Think MLB of today to get an idea of what the NFL was like. The 49ers were at the top of the food chain, with Eddie D. willing to spend whatever was needed to get a championship team, just like the Yankees. Think of it...three bonafide NFL starting QB's on one team; two of them Hall of Famers (Montana, Young, Bono).

Debartalo spent so much on his team (both on the field and off) that there were wide reports that most of the 49er players were against the strike in 1987. In fact, Joe Montana actually crossed the picket lines to play with replacement players during that year. It was also reported that Debartalo was paying his players under the table during the strike, and this led to a fine from the NFL. It was also reported that players on the 49ers paid part of Debartalo's fine. All of this led to discontent (and dislike) of Debartalo among other owners, and although not totally the reason that the salary cap was instituted, part of the reason was to "reign in" in the 49ers, who were simply outspending every other NFL franchise.

I miss the no cap days, but for the health of the league, it was necessary to make a change.

Yeah the team didn't pay any more contract wise, it was all the perks that came with being a Niner. 1st class when ever possible. Eddie went all out on the behind the scenes things. He treated the team like beloved family and players gladly took reduced contracts to play in SF because of it, even into the 1st few years of free agency.
Originally posted by WINiner:
Originally posted by dcsham:
Think MLB of today to get an idea of what the NFL was like. The 49ers were at the top of the food chain, with Eddie D. willing to spend whatever was needed to get a championship team, just like the Yankees. Think of it...three bonafide NFL starting QB's on one team; two of them Hall of Famers (Montana, Young, Bono).

Debartalo spent so much on his team (both on the field and off) that there were wide reports that most of the 49er players were against the strike in 1987. In fact, Joe Montana actually crossed the picket lines to play with replacement players during that year. It was also reported that Debartalo was paying his players under the table during the strike, and this led to a fine from the NFL. It was also reported that players on the 49ers paid part of Debartalo's fine. All of this led to discontent (and dislike) of Debartalo among other owners, and although not totally the reason that the salary cap was instituted, part of the reason was to "reign in" in the 49ers, who were simply outspending every other NFL franchise.

I miss the no cap days, but for the health of the league, it was necessary to make a change.

Yeah the team didn't pay any more contract wise, it was all the perks that came with being a Niner. 1st class when ever possible. Eddie went all out on the behind the scenes things. He treated the team like beloved family and players gladly took reduced contracts to play in SF because of it, even into the 1st few years of free agency.

^^ best way to put it.. he bought the team there own personal jet which was a big deal back then... would buy them roluexxe watches..
  • TX9R
  • Veteran
  • Posts: 8,172
Sure Eddie could outspend everyone, but it was fair because there was no free agency. He spent on his own players, not everyone else's like the Yankees. Personally all sports were much better for the fans when there was no FA. You could grow up with the same players, if your team was well built it stayed that way. Rookies never played right away, it was far different. FA made it much more of a business.
Originally posted by TX9R:
Sure Eddie could outspend everyone, but it was fair because there was no free agency. He spent on his own players, not everyone else's like the Yankees. Personally all sports were much better for the fans when there was no FA. You could grow up with the same players, if your team was well built it stayed that way. Rookies never played right away, it was far different. FA made it much more of a business.

ive always hated FA, and wished you were stuck with the players you drafted.. feel like it makes it that much better when your team wins.. its not like you bought your team but it was grown into a winner
Not unlike it works now. When it comes down to it each team still has their own budget that really is the cap for them