The NFL, for some reason, decided to play hardball when it came to the salary cap once everyone began to understand the economic repercussions that the Covid-19 pandemic would have on their season, from a variety of avenues, but chiefly from the loss of in-stadium revenue. The NFLPA had to fight hard during negotiations just to keep the 2020 cap number where it was and not see the 2021 hit plummet.
Ultimately, they agreed to set a cap floor of $175 million for next season, which is already a substantial reduction from what the 2020 figure is, close to $200 million. While there was always the theoretical possibility that the number would come in higher than that, there is reportedly recently optimism that it will come in substantially higher.
According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, there is a growing sense that the salary cap may remain fairly flat, which would be a step in the right direction, rather than seeing a dramatic reduction, and part of this is being driven by optimism about the state of next season.
“Per a league source, the possibility that stadiums will be full for the 2021 season could prompt the league to not tie the hands of teams by dropping the salary cap by more than $23 million per team, from $198.2 million”, he writes. “Although the 2020 season will indeed result in lower revenue than usual, the potential of a return to something normal or close to it plus the coming TV deals may result in the league keeping the cap in the range of $195 million”.
The salary cap figure is a number that is negotiated between the NFL and the NFLPA on an annual basis. While it is largely guided by revenue data, it is still ultimately the product of two sides coming together to agree to a consensus on what the number will be.
Florio writes that projected cap figures begin to surface as early as December, even though a final decision is not made typically until late February at the earliest, or even early into March, not long before the new league year is set to begin.
With a number of Covid-19 vaccines on the way, the league will be monitoring its distribution, and essentially, how it sets up to allow attendance at major events such as football games. Dr. Anthony Fauci somewhat recently did express optimism that we would see full stadiums in the NFL in 2021.
Let’s hope this is true, and that the salary cap does indeed come in at this much higher number than the cap floor, because quite frankly, the Pittsburgh Steelers stand to benefit from this as much as anybody. Their current list of pending free agents includes Bud Dupree, James Conner, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Alejandro Villanueva, Matt Feiler, Zach Banner, Avery Williamson, Mike Hilton, Cameron Sutton, and Tyson Alualu.