As teams are starting to prepare for free agency and the start of the 2021 NFL league year, they will keep a close eye on one of the offseason’s biggest variables: the salary cap. As a result of the Coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the league’s revenue figures last season, the cap is expected to decrease significantly from 2020’s $198.2 million.
Where the spending limit will eventually be set this year remains to be seen and is subject to ongoing negotiations between the league and its players union, but a new report by Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio projects a decrease of more than $15 million: the final cap number is currently projected to land “in the range of $182 million to $183 million.”
Per a league source with knowledge of the situation, it’s possible that the number will be more than $180 million — but the number most likely won’t reach $185 million.
The final number for the salary cap, per the source, could land in the range of $182 million to $183 million.
This new report comes a week after the league informed its 32 franchises that the salary cap floor was increased from previously $175 million — a number the NFL and the NFLPA agreed upon last summer before a regular season with mostly empty stadiums — to $180 million.
That adjustment was reportedly the result of some “aggressive lobbying by teams that would have had a hard time getting their 2021 cap number down to $175 million.” At the moment, according to Over the Cap’s calculations, almost half of the league’s clubs would be over a $175 million salary cap.
While setting the cap higher will help bring that number down a bit, the underlying problems would still persist for multiple teams: they will need to find a way to cut costs, with the New Orleans Saints (+$69.5 million against a $183 million cap), Philadelphia Eagles (+$42.9 million) and Los Angeles Rams (+$34 million) under the most pressure to do so at the moment.
The New England Patriots, meanwhile, are on the other end of the spectrum.
Using Miguel Benzan’s calculations as a basis, the Patriots would be $66.1 million below a league cap of $183 million. Only the Jacksonville Jaguars (-$84.5 million) and the New York Jets (-$70.4 million) — the two worst clubs in football a year ago — are currently projected to have more financial flexibility this offseason. Needless to say that Bill Belichick and company will be among the teams to watch once free agency opens next month.
A lot can still change over the coming days and weeks, as mentioned above, but New England will be in a comfortable financial position after struggling in this area one year ago.