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Latest estimates project 2021 NFL salary cap to be set at $180-$181 million

Related: NFL may not set 2021 salary cap until shortly before free agency

In this photo illustration US dollar bills are seen... Photo Illustration by Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The NFL offseason is generally a time of uncertainty, but an additional layer of intrigue gets added this year: How far will the salary cap fall when all is said and done? Given that the league’s revenue was affected quite a bit by the Coronavirus pandemic over the last year, the drop projects to be massive.

According to the latest estimates shared by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the expectation now is that the cap will be set at around $180-$181 million this year. While that is still a lot of cash for teams to operate with, it would represent a sizable decrease compared to the $198.2 million clubs had available over the course of the 2020 season.

In turn, several organizations would be under tremendous pressure to lower their current payrolls.

A total of 13 teams would currently be above a $180.5 million salary cap, per Over the Cap, including eight of the NFL’s playoff participants from last season: the Buffalo Bills (+$1.8M), Tennessee Titans ($3.1M), Chicago Bears (+$6.2M), Kansas City Chiefs (+$22.8M), Los Angeles Rams (+$26.8M), Green Bay Packers (+$28.2M), Pittsburgh Steelers (+$30,6M) and New Orleans Saints (+$74.6M).

The New England Patriots, on the other hand, will be in a comfortable financial position regardless of where the salary cap ends up being set. According to Miguel Benzan, the team is projected to be $64 million under the cap at its current projection — the most the Patriots would have available entering an offseason since 2017.

Back then, of course, New England made one of the biggest splashes in free agency by signing star cornerback Stephon Gilmore to a five-year, $65 million free agency pact. The team also acquired defensive tackle Lawrence Guy (4/$20M) and extended both linebacker Dont’a Hightower (4/$43.5M) and safety Duron Harmon (4/$17M). Given the current state of the Patriots’ roster, a similar level of activity should be expected this spring.

As for the cap itself, it will likely not be officially finalized for some time. As Chiefs owner Clark Hunt pointed out ahead of Super Bowl 55 last week, the final number may not be set until “hours before the start of the league year” on March 17. Until then, teams will have to work with the available projections.

As the numbers above illustrate, those are favorable from the Patriots’ perspective and should therefore put the team in a good position to rebuild its roster over the coming weeks.