What kind of financial impact will the coronavirus pandemic ultimately have on the 2020 NFL season and beyond? It’s still hard to say for sure and that’s because we’re still not entirely sure if they’ll even be a 2020 season, or if any fans will be allowed to attend any games if it does take place. Regardless, there’s bound to be a huge impact in league revenue and because of that, many have long attempted to speculate that lost 2020 earnings will cause a huge decrease in the 2021 NFL salary cap. The league, however, is still currently attempting to come up with a plan that would allow for, at worst, no reduction in the 2021 salary cap.
According to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN on Saturday, the league hopes to resolve the issue of how to allocate 2021 salary cap shortfalls by the start of training camps. He goes on to report that the NFL and NFLPA must decide how to offset the loss of 2020 revenue due to no fans and effects of the pandemic and that borrowing money from future years is a legitimate option.
If you’ve followed my posts and Twitter comments on this topic this offseason, you probably know that none of what Fowler reported on Saturday is a bit surprising to me. I have long speculated that the NFL and NFLPA will do everything in each’s power to make sure that the 2021 salary cap number at least matches the 2020 number regardless of the huge lost revenue that’s sure to be a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. As I’ve stated previously, burrowing from future cap years is the likeliest route the two sides will agree on. After all, the league still has some huge television deals forthcoming and there’s a lot more to be made via possible legalized gambling revenue agreements.
Should some sort of agreement not be reached on the 2021 cap number and that number ultimately decreases dramatically like many gloomers and doomers have been predicting will happen, it will wind up costing a lot of the middle class salaried players their jobs next offseason. The league would become full of teams with roughly 20 percent of their rosters being elite earners and the remaining 80 percent being minimum salaried players.
Since the pandemic hit several months ago, NFL free agent signings and contract extensions have slowed to less than a trickle. In fact, some teams have still yet to sign any of their draft picks this offseason and the Pittsburgh Steelers are one them. None of the 15 players issued franchise tags this offseason have been signed to extensions yet, either.
The NFL and NFLPA need to hurry up and come to some sort of 2021 cap and beyond agreement. That indeed needs to happen by the start of training camp, or at the very latest, a few weeks prior to the start of the 2020 regular season as all 32 teams need to be able to plan for future years when it comes to possibly signing players to contract extensions later this summer. A good example of this is Steelers defensive lineman Cameron Heyward, who the team undoubtedly wants to sign to a contract extension prior to the start of the 2020 regular season.
There were quite a few memo leaks last week concerning several items the NFL and NFLPA have been negotiating that are related to the pandemic fallout and most are related to new safety protocols, training camp practice schedules and preseason games. Because of that, look for several official announcements from the NFL to happen in the coming week and one of those might even be related to the 2021 salary cap and a plan that ensures that next year’s number won’t be lower than this year’s number.