It has been previously reports that teams might not learn what the salary cap for the 2021 season will be potential until just hours before the official start of the new league year on March 17. There is good reason for that. The NFL intends to use this time between the end of the Super Bowl and the start of the next season to hammer out extremely lucrative new broadcasting contracts, which could have a substantial impact on the salary cap.
While this is not necessarily news to anybody who has followed along and who pays some modicum of attention to cap-related matters, the fact that the process is underway to get these new contracts lined up—they want to ensure that they wrap up at least one new deal—is significant, particularly for teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers who are in a major hole.
As Jabari Young reports for CNBC, the league is hoping to get the framework in place for new television broadcasting deals over the course of the next few weeks, in advance of the start of the new league year, which is still a little over a month away, as this will have a substantial impact on the salary cap.
The NFL played the 2020 season under a salary cap of slightly over $198 million, the largest in league history, but with the unprecedented impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw leaguewide attendance and in-stadium revenue drop to a trickle and drastic reduced earnings, the NFL and the NFLPA had to compromise on terms just to set a 2021 salary cap floor of $175 million.
The expectation is that the final number, which is annually negotiated upon between the two parties, will come in higher than that, with the $180-185 million range being cited, but the question is how much higher. There have been talks that new deals over a 10-year arrangement could come in at around $100 billion.
While the course of the virus remains a major uncertainty factor, particularly with regard to how it could potentially impact the 2020 season, Young cites sources who expect the salary cap to soar beyond $200 million as soon as the 2022 season.
If you will recall, last year, league owners were determined to take as much of the financial hit from the pandemic in 2021 as possible, which is why the NFLPA had to have the floor capped off at $175 million. One can only hope that that will represent the extent of the slide, and that it will not be a years-long regression.
The new television contracts, and the possibility of a 17th regular season game (which would become a virtual certainty if they wrap up a new broadcasting deal), will only strengthen the odds that the salary cap posts a healthy bounceback a year from now, and that this year’s number will not be as low as feared.