They say that you are not to look ahead, that you have to take it one game at a time in the NFL, because if you’re caught looking past the task at hand, you’re going to get beaten, and whatever you were looking ahead to isn’t even going to matter anymore.
This applies both from a team and a player perspective, annually, but nobody can ever truly take everything one game at a time. There is at least in the background always a sense of the broader picture. Take Bud Dupree of the Pittsburgh Steelers, for example, who last year acknowledged that there was probably a little more added motivation knowing that he was playing for a contract.
He didn’t get that new deal, but he did earn a franchise tag that saw him bump his pay up handsomely (and he’s still holding out hope of squeezing out a couple million more by being classified as an end instead of a linebacker).
Life has a way of throwing a monkey wrench into things, though. Dupree is now headed to facing unrestricted free agency in the first time in his career at a time that the salary cap is anticipated to roll back to where it was a few years ago, thanks to the projected economic fallout of the pandemic, which continues to hover over the season like an ominous stormcloud.
The Steelers and his party did negotiate terms of a contract up until the July 15 deadline, but there was no resolution. Now facing the prospect of an open market in which teams have substantially less to spend than they might have anticipated having several months ago, it’s unclear what the market will look like.
Dupree was asked about this on Monday, and acknowledged that it is something that has entered his mind. “That’s a big thing to think about”, he said. “But at the end of the day, I think everything will handle itself. Everybody’s looking for the best”.
And with that being said, we have seen plenty of contract extensions being reached since knowing that the salary cap could potentially be as low as $175 million next year, including the largest contract in NFL history, and the two largest defensive contracts in NFL history. Joe Mixon and Taylor Decker both signed healthy extensions yesterday.
The reality is that there are teams every year who have a huge amount of cap space because they just don’t spend it. The Indianapolis Colts only have about $113 million against next year’s cap, for example, so they can have about $60 million in cap space or more.
The long and short of it is, there will still be bidders for the services of the high-dollar free agents, as there always are. Dupree may be one of them. We’re more likely to see more surprise cuts as teams look to tweak their rosters, rather than a substantial falling-off or price-drop in free agent signings. Everybody likes the new toy more than the old one.