Expansion Might Help Offset Pain of Expected Salary Cap Decline

Ed Kracz

The last time the NFL expanded was in 2002 when it added the Houston Texans to bring the league to its current structure of 32 teams.

There were two major expansions prior: In 1976, the league added the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks. In 1995, the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars were born.

There has been a lot of talk about the NFL salary cap going down over the next couple of years due to the impact of the coronavirus and fans being unable to attend.

One of the solutions being kicked around to try to lessen the pain is to spread it out. Instead, of piling the financial burden into one year on the cap, it could potentially be spread out over a period of time, maybe three years, depending on just how big the number is.

There is a way to possibly avoid a cap decline over a period of years or have a quick rebound after the decline.

That would be to add two teams.

It cost Robert McNair $700 million to bring the Texans to life 18 years ago. The price tag for a franchise 18 years later figures to be closer to one billion.

SI.com's MMQB team had some fun with this topic last year, and here's a link to that story:


Call it the final legacy of commissioner Roger Goodell. Goodell can’t do this forever and, at 61, one wonders how much longer he will.

Why not find a way to bring expansion to two cities, bringing the league to 34 teams and adding billions to his employers’ pockets on his way out the door?

Goodell has talked many times for many years about possibly expanding outside of the United States. This could be his chance.

Three cities outside the U.S. that could be considered:

Mexico City. The NFL played a Monday night game here in 2019 and was supposed to play on in 2018, but poor field conditions canceled it, and another one scheduled this fall, got canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic. A 2021 game is also scheduled to be here.

A stadium is already in place – Estadio Azteca – that seats about 87,000 and it is not far from the U.S., making travel easy, and there are millions of Mexicans who Goodell believes adore the NFL.

Toronto. Not sure how the NFL would feel about trampling on the toes of the CFL – or vice versa – but Toronto is the third-largest city in the U.S. or Canada. As large as it is, however, the stadium situation would have to be resolved. The Rogers Centre holds just about 52,000, which is below the required 65,000 seating capacity the NFL mandates.

London. The NFL has been playing games here as part of its International Series since 2007. There are no stadium issues or market issues, but travel is a drawback as is the five-hour time difference. To add London would likely mean a current NFL team – perhaps the Jaguars, who have played across the Atlantic Ocean more than any other – would likely have to go as well.

Expansion isn’t an overnight deal. It takes time, but, as Bob Dylan once crooned, “The Times They Are a-Changin.”

So where could another two teams be birthed inside the U.S?

St. Louis, San Diego, and Oakland are vacant, but they have had their shot with an NFL team and fumbled – for the moment, anyway.

Three possible U.S. cities:

San Antonio. There would be some pushback likely from the Texans and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, but a price tag for the franchise of, let’s say one billion, could soothe some of that potential fury. The TV market is larger than Kansas City, Las Vegas, Cincinnati, and, when it is factored in with Austin, which about 80 miles from San Antonio, the market becomes closer to that of Denver and Seattle.

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg told the city’s ABC affiliate, KSAT, in 2018:

“San Antonio to this date has not been an NFL city before but I think those days are coming to a close. You will see an NFL team in San Antonio in the next 10 years.”

The city would need to expand and renovate the Alamodome, among other things, to make it happen.

Portland. The largest city in Oregon has the 22nd largest TV market, more than 11 current NFL teams. Two big issues are a stadium and is the Pacific Northwest capable of supporting two teams, with the Seahawks about 175 miles to the north.

Bismarck. Hey, North Dakota State is making the jump to Division One football, so there are some rabid fans in that area. The area is beginning to grow some NFL fruit, too, with Eagles Carson Wentz from North Dakota and Dallas Goedert from South Dakota to name two.

It might be off the beaten track, but the capital of North Dakota could be ideally situated to rack up fans from states that don't have an NFL team, such as Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, and maybe Nebraska. It would be similar to the Panthers encompassing both North and South Carolina.  

SI.com EagleMaven contributor John McMullen helped with this story.