Amidst the financial uncertainty created by the Coronavirus pandemic, the NFL and the NFL Players Association have raised the salary cap floor for the 2021 season. After already agreeing last summer not to let the cap decrease below $175 million, the two sides have now opted to revise that number and move it up to $180 million.
However, that does not mean the 2021 salary cap will eventually be set at $180 million as the league reiterated in a memo sent to all 32 clubs:
This is not the final salary cap for the 2021 league year, which will be set following review of final 2020 revenue figures and other audit and accounting adjustments. This agreement simply increases the minimum 2021 salary cap by $5 million per club from $175 million to $180 million. We will promptly advise all clubs as soon as the salary cap is set.
The cap, as pointed out in the memo, is calculated primarily based on the league revenue from the previous season. With a majority of teams unable to host any fans at their stadiums due to local Covid-19 regulations, however, that revenue is projected to plummet — and in turn the salary cap as well: after being set at $198.2 million for the 2020 season, it is projected to drop significantly, even though the floor being raised is an encouraging sign.
Where the cap will eventually end up obviously remains to be seen. While some such as Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwell don’t see the cap be set much higher than $180 million, Denver Broncos kicker and player representative Brandon McManus recently told Troy Renck of Denver7 News that he believes that it will settle at $188 million when all is said and done.
Regardless of where the cap ends up, the New England Patriots will be in a comparatively comfortable position. According to Miguel Benzan and including the recent NFLPA announcement of an official carryover of $19.6 from last season, they are currently projected to be $63.6 million under a $180.5 million cap — third most in the league behind the Jacksonville Jaguars and the New York Jets.
That number is obviously still a flexible one, though. Removing potential cut candidates such as Marcus Cannon would create additional resources for New England, for example. The same goes for any potential contract extensions or restructures orchestrated before the start of the new league year on March 17.
The Patriots will need every dollar they can get their hands on, however. Not only do they have a high-profile list of players set to enter free agency, the team currently is understaffed at some key positions such as quarterback, wide receiver and in the front seven.