With three weeks now left to go before the start of the 2021 NFL league year, its starting to look more and more like the leagues official salary cap number will come in below $185 million, which certainly wouldn’t be great news for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
According to multiple reports on Thursday, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith told NFL player agents during a videoconference earlier in the day that the union expects the 2021 salary cap to be pretty close to the new $180 million “floor” negotiated by the NFL and the NFLPA several weeks ago, and that the 2022 and 2023 caps might also be affected as well by the pandemic-related revenue losses that resulted in this year’s cap reduction.
Smith also reportedly told agents on Thursday that the final salary cap figure for 2021 likely depends on the outcome of the new TV contracts the NFL is currently negotiating. Even so, Smith said that based on the information the NFLPA now has, he expects the final 2021 salary cap number to be significantly lower than last year’s $198.2 million. Additionally, future year’s cap numbers might be affected because the league and the union have reportedly already agreed to “borrow” from them to help offset this year’s reduction.
So, what does all this mean? Well, for starters, it sounds like the 2021 salary cap number will be, at best, around $183 million and obviously not lower than $180 million. If the number comes in lower than $185 million, that certainly won’t be good news for the Steelers, who are currently roughly $10 million over a $183 million cap number, should that be the figure. The team would obviously be able to get salary cap compliant to a $183 million number as soon as Roethlisberger’s contract is extended in the manner that most of us expect it to be.
While the Steelers won’t have issues getting salary cap compliant, a 2021 number of $183 million or less would really hamper their ability to re-sign any of their higher profile players set to become unrestricted free agents in three weeks barring the team ditching their longstanding contract structure practices for non-quarterbacks. In summation, the Steelers would need to guarantee at least the first two years of any new contracts they give players this offseason so that 2021 cap charges on them could be kept extremely low.
The Steelers currently have 19 players set to become unrestricted free agents in a little less than three weeks from now and that list is headlined by wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, outside linebacker Bud Dupree, tackle Alejandro Villanueva, cornerback Mike Hilton, tackle Zach Banner, guard Matt Feiler and cornerback Cameron Sutton.
The Steelers also have a handful of exclusive rights free agents they’ll be tendering at minimum levels and at least one restricted free agent, wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud, they probably would like to have back in 2021 as well.
By next Wednesday night, there’s a good chance we’ll have the exact salary cap number for the 2021 season. Here’s to hoping that number at least comes in at $183 million and maybe even a few million higher.