Salary Cap Confidential: Introduction

Dan Meylor

It’s fair to say that dynasty owners see the dynasty game as an upgrade on a yearly fantasy football league. Some think it’s better because it’s more challenging while others prefer the year-round appeal. Sadly, however, many dynasty owners believe making the jump from yearly to dynasty is equal to reaching the pinnacle of enjoyment for a fantasy football player.

That wasn’t the case for me, so it’s high time I try to change it for somebody else.

As a young fantasy footballer, I took what I consider to be the normal path to dynasty. I played in yearly leagues with my friends, graduated to a keeper league and later took the plunge into a full dynasty. I was thrilled with what I found. The opportunity to challenge myself with a long-term rebuild and the chance to keep my favorite players for their entire career was exciting. But as time passed, I realized that something was missing from my dynasty experience.

Perhaps I was different than the vast majority of dynasty owners but my ultimate goal as a fantasy player was to find an experience that was as similar to that of an NFL general manager as possible. As it turns out, that experience existed in the form of salary cap leagues.

For about 20 years, I’ve been infatuated with the salary cap format. There was even a time in the late ’90s and early 2000s when I believed I was inventing the game. Although that didn’t turn out to be the case, it didn’t stop me from spending two decades collecting and creating ideas about league rules, settings and strategies.

Salary Cap Confidential is a series meant to spill those ideas, and this is the opening chapter. An introduction, if you will. So let’s begin with the very basics.

A league becomes a salary cap league when three rules are put in place. One requiring a franchise to pay a salary (usually using fake currency) to each player on their roster, another requiring all players to have a contract, in years, in order to be on a roster and a third that puts a restraint on the total amount of salary a franchise can pay their entire roster of players.

Already, dynasty owners should see a massive difference between cap leagues and traditional dynasties.

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In a traditional dynasty, there are only two factors owners consider when rostering a player. Price to acquire (in draft capital or traded assets) and potential return in fantasy production. In a cap league, however, there are four factors. In addition to the two from a traditional dynasty, there’s also the salary cap space required to roster the player and the length of time a franchise can expect the player’s production due to the length of the contract.

Those two additional factors make every cap league incredibly unique and are the primary reason salary cap is better than dynasty, in my opinion. When comparing two traditional dynasty leagues, there aren’t many factors that change the value of a player between the two leagues. Sure, scoring settings or lineup requirements will create differences but that’s true when comparing any two leagues no matter if they’re daily, yearly or dynasty leagues. When salaries and contracts are introduced, however, that changes the entire dynamic of a player’s value.

For instance, it’s fair to say that every dynasty owner would call DeAndre Hopkins a far more valuable asset than Robert Woods. It’s a slam dunk. But if Hopkins was the highest paid wide receiver in a league and Robert Woods was given a league minimum free agent contract a couple of seasons ago when he signed in Los Angeles, suddenly there’s a case to be made that Woods is more valuable than Hopkins and quite possibly the most valuable asset in the league. The potential for such a change in value simply doesn’t exist in a traditional dynasty league.

If you appreciate the challenge that the Hopkins/Woods comparison highlights, then you see the beauty of salary cap and belong in a league if you’re not already.

Furthermore, there are countless other features that salary cap presents that add to its challenge and fun. Again, most of these features aim towards creating an experience closely resembling the decisions an NFL GM is presented with when running a team. Some leagues incorporate guaranteed (or partially guaranteed) contracts which creates the potential for dead money and can set back franchises for years.

There are also leagues that allow owners to tag a player as their franchise or transition player, or as a restricted free agent, which gives them the opportunity to retain players. Re-signing players can be expensive, but a tool worth using if done correctly. And with leagues using hard, firm or soft cap, there are different weekly (and sometimes even daily) decisions that salary cap owners need to make wisely to ensure a bright future for their franchise.

Salary cap leagues take the best from many fantasy football formats including daily redraft, keeper and dynasty leagues, and can even expand into taking the best rules or ideas from our favorite professional leagues including the NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball.

But we’ll get to all that as we progress.

As I mentioned, Salary Cap Confidential is a series intended to share rule ideas, salary cap management strategies, contract tips and free agent bidding advice. And this installment was meant mostly to wet your whistle – and attempt to gently nudge those that haven’t given salary cap a shot towards doing so.

Come along with me as we take a deep dive into salary cap leagues this off-season. We’ll continue next week with, Salary Cap Confidential: Startup Auction Prep.


dan meylor