Considering the uncertainty that clouds the 2020 season, many have wondered what sort of impact that could have in the immediate future. Even on the more optimistic end of the spectrum, assuming that all games are played when scheduled to be played, there is a good chance that those games could be played in front of empty or partially filled stadiums.
It’s very unlikely, in other words, that teams will avoid seeing some sort of financial loss—or more accurately, somewhat less robust-than-normal gains—and that has led some to speculate that this will be reflected in the 2021 salary cap, which could go down from where it is currently for the 2020 season.
Mike Florio for Pro Football Talk doesn’t believe that will be a problem, quite simply because all parties involved will be motivated to avoid seeing the salary cap go in reverse, as it did in 2011. It actually took years for the cap to get back to where it was in 2009 before the uncapped year during the CBA negotiations.
“Plenty of teams won’t want it to go down, because they won’t want to cut key players in order to get under the lowered spending limit”, Florio wrote. “And the union clearly will want the cap to be as high as possible, in order to prevent a rash of players from being released and then ultimately signing new contracts, possibly for much less than they were due to make”.
The salary cap is actually expected to go up, a lot, over the course of the next several seasons. That should be the direct result of multiple new network deals yet to be worked out for broadcasting rights of NFL games for the future, which are anticipated to be a substantial windfall.
While ratings have gone down for the most part across the board over the course of the past five years or so as Americans are turning more and more away from television and cable programming, the NFL has been about as consistent and stable an investment as it gets, routinely accounting for nearly all of the most-watched programs at the end of every year.
Florio writes that preserving the stability of the salary cap will come down to how creative the negotiation process proves to be. Each year, the final number for the cap is determined jointly between the NFL and the NFLPA.
He suggests that they could “essentially borrow against future salary caps” to smooth out the 2021 season and recoup potential 2020 losses, knowing that the cap beyond that would be expected to rise heavily.
A steady and predictable salary cap is more valuable than one with peaks and valleys. There is plenty of money at stake, so that also leaves me confident that we shouldn’t see a sudden dip in the cap next year either, even if it may be flat.