While there are still three weeks remaining in the 2019 NFL regular season, teams are already starting to learn what the early projections are for the league’s 2020 salary cap number.
According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the NFL informed clubs on Tuesday that current projections for the 2020 salary cap are in the range of $196.8 million to $201.2 million. As Rapoport reports, such a projection would mark roughly a 40 percent increase from five years ago in the 2015 season when the league’s salary cap number was $143.3 million.
This year the NFL salary cap number was $188.2 million and for months now the early cap projections for 2020 have been $200 million. I used an estimation of $200 million for 2020 in my recent look ahead at the Pittsburgh Steelers 2020 salary cap situation at the end of October. In short, expect the final 2020 salary cap number to come in pretty close to that.
While a few things have changed since my end-of-October post such as wide receiver Donte Moncrief being let go, his release prior to the start of the 2020 new league year was expected just the same. Minor future roster changes aside, the overall premise of my 2020 Steelers salary cap outlook from late October still stands and that includes the team not likely having a lot of room to work with during the offseason.
The biggest unknown right now when it comes to the upcoming offseason and the 2020 Steelers is whether or not the team will ultimately be able to keep outside linebacker Bud Dupree in the fold. As I have mentioned and written several times since the 2019 regular season started, the Steelers being able to retain Dupree during the offseason, should they indeed choose to do so, will likely include them first placing the franchise tag on the former first-round draft pick.
The Steelers placing an estimated $16.266 million franchise tag on Dupree prior to the 2020 tag deadline might seem like a no-brainer move to most at this point. However, the Steelers would need to clear quite a bit of salary cap space prior to going that route as they’re already projected to be right up against a $200 million estimated salary cap number as it is.
With the uncertainty related to a future CBA and the corresponding contract structure limitations related to a potential uncapped 2021 year, it will make it extremely hard for the Steelers to afford an initial $16.266 million tag charge for Dupree. Remember the Steelers will still likely want to get a few other extensions done during the offseason and maybe sign an extremely cheap outside free agent or two in March as well.
The Steelers opened Tuesday with $3,141,271 in available 2019 salary cap space and whatever is ultimately left over when the season ends will be rolled over into 2020. That noted, I had already projected for such a rollover to take place in my late October post.
We won’t learn what the official salary cap number for 2020 will be until sometime in late February or early March. By them we’ll know if the Steelers have either re-signed Dupree or placed the franchise tag on him. We should also know by early March which players currently under contract for 2020 have been cut for cap saving purposes. Players such as inside linebacker Mark Barron and outside linebacker Anthony Chickillo lead that list of potential offseason cuts, as I highlighted in late October.
Players such as defensive tackle Cameron Heyward might also have a contract extension in place by the beginning of March as well and a restructure or two might have taken pace by then.
Stay tuned to the site as I’ll be providing a another full look ahead at the Steelers 2020 salary cap situation as soon as the 2019 regular season is over with. You won’t want to miss that.