We just got done talking about an ‘unprecedented’ NFL season unlike any other, a season that was played during a pandemic, and the many, many ways in which it affected the game, both on and off the field. Those effects will continue to touch the league for years to come—possibly both on and off the field as well.
For the time being, however, the most direct impact will be in financial terms. The league lost billions of dollars from in-stadium spending last year, and that is going to be reflected in the salary cap not just this year, but for at least the next few years, many experts predict.
At the very least, what we know about the cap is that it is very likely to be no greater than what it was last year, the first time the number will be flat or worse in nearly a decade. There is an above average chance it will come in substantially lower than last season’s figure, by more than $10 million, but that is yet to be determined.
Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert wonders if all of his peers around the league have really grappled with just what this will mean for every team in the short term, as the reality sinks in, nearing the start of the new league year.
“It’s my job, and our personnel department’s job, to know when a player gets cut, who that player is, and how could he possibly fit into this”, he told members of the media earlier this week when he was asked about the possibility of the team pursuing J.J. Watt. But that wasn’t the significant point.
“We anticipate a lot of players getting cut in the next few weeks as teams come to the realization of what the cap may be”, he said, “and for each and every player that gets cut, we will put those players into the free agency group that we know have their contracts coming to an end, and we continue to make those adjustments”.
The Steelers very likely will be among those teams who will have to make some cuts in order to conduct their offseason business, which goes far beyond simply becoming cap-compliant. They have more than two dozen players who are scheduled to be free agents of some kind, with more than half of them being unrestricted, and they would like to hold on to at least a few of them—perhaps at the expense of some others who are already on the roster.
At the same time, they could become interested in somebody else who has been made available by other teams following the same process. It wouldn’t be the first time they picked up somebody else’s cuts. Mark Barron and, more notably, Joe Haden are some recent examples.