Sources: NFLPA Expects ‘Significant Growth’ in 2014 Salary Cap, Despite Robert Kraft’s Comments for ‘Smooth Growth’

Sources: NFLPA Expects 'Significant Growth' in 2014 Salary Cap, Despite Robert Kraft's Comments for 'Smooth Growth'Patriots owner Robert Kraft really made some noise Thursday when discussing the NFL's new television deals, which begin in 2014.

Since there has been a widespread belief the richer TV deals will create a spike in the salary cap, Kraft was asked if the Patriots have conducted business with that in mind. Basically, are the Patriots preparing to structure contracts with their players with 2014 in mind?

With the proper maneuvering, teams could set up contracts to grow with the cap in 2014. Or, if teams were overly cautious, they could set new contracts to expire in time for 2014, when there will be more information available.

"I don't really see that happening," Kraft said about a spike in the 2014 salary cap. "I think there's going to be a smooth growth. I don't think what happened in '06 will happen in the future here because if you understand the labor agreement in the long-term part of this, there will be a smooth growth. And anyone who assumes huge jumps, I hope they're in our division."

The salary cap grew more than ever in 2006 when those TV contracts came into play. It grew from $85.5 million in 2005 to $102 million in 2006, and the $16.5 million spike was the largest in the history of the salary cap, which was implemented in 1994. The second-largest increase was $10.9 million from 1997 to 1998.

Here's the thing: With Kraft's involvement in last year's collective bargaining negotiations, everyone around the NFL credits him for his knowledge of the situation. There's a prevalent belief that Kraft understands the ins and outs of the new CBA as well — if not better — as anyone.

But league sources told NESN.com the NFLPA has advised players and agents that the salary cap will see "significant growth" in 2014 "and beyond." So, there's a stark difference between Kraft's quote and the NFLPA's message.

The question was raised of whether or not this could be a negotiating tactic for Kraft, who wants the Patriots to keep their leverage while negotiating contracts with players. If the players expect a "significant growth" in the 2014 salary cap, they'll demand to be paid as such.

But if the gray area remains in place, the organization keeps its leverage intact.

It's also important to note how significant the 2014 offseason could be for the Patriots, too. Tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez will be unrestricted free agents after the 2013 season, so the Patriots could potentially offer them contract extensions beforehand to keep them both from hitting the open market. Or, if they can extend one player's contract, they can save the franchise tag for the other. The difficulty of an early contract extension for a player who hits free agency in 2014 has already been detailed, so leverage is important.

With so much money at stake, there doesn't appear to be a cut-and-dry answer, but it's clear right now that owners and players alike have begun their preparations for the 2014 offseason, which figures to be historic in one way or another.

Have a question for Jeff Howe? Send it to him via Twitter at @jeffphowe or send it here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.

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