A lot of fans for a lot of teams got pretty excited when it was revealed that the NFL and NFLPA would be jointly agreeing to raise the 2021 salary cap floor from $175 million to $180 million—not because of the $5 million boost, but because of the possibility that it presented of pushing the cap up even higher.
The 2020 salary cap, for perspective, was more than $198 million, the highest in league history, so the cap floor of $175 represented a step back of more than $23 million, which is huge. $180 million is better, but not enough.
According to Mike Florio, don’t expect much more. In an article posted yesterday evening, the Pro Football Talk head cited ‘a league source’ in saying that the final salary cap number is likely to rise a little bit more—but not much. The source expects the number to come in well under $185 million, in the range of $182-3 million.
It wouldn’t be the first time in recent years that the salary cap number came in a bit lower than had been speculated in the month or two leading up to its being finalized, but obviously these are very different circumstances, with the Covid-19 pandemic being the only reason that it’s not jumping up from where he previously was by $10 million, instead going in the opposite direction for the first time in nearly a decade.
While many have continued to hold out hope that new broadcasting contracts, which reportedly the NFL is hoping to get completed in time for the start of the new league year, would be a big boost to the salary cap, possibly even pushing it to a flat cap, Florio says that will hardly make a difference:
Per the source, the TV deals (if they’re finalized) won’t change much. Neither will full attendance at the 2021 games, because the 2021 cap calculations already will be based on the assumption that stadiums will be at 75-percent capacity for the season. If the number lands in the range of 90 or 95 percent, it won’t push much more money into 2021.
This is nothing short of a bummer for Steelers fans, whose team is substantially over the salary cap and won’t get much more relief. They will have to maximize their resources in terms of restructuring contracts and possibly even letting go of a player or two in order to conduct their business.
Of course, it’s always possible that the source is wrong or that circumstances could change, but from the tone of the article, it sounds as though the current projected number is already a significant compromise from what the situation could be, which is also something that we have heard from ESPN. A more realistic number bearing the full brunt of the financial impact of the pandemic would be around $160 million, which would decimate rosters and the mid-value veteran. This middle-ground number will stave off some of those eliminations.