Were you annoyed over the 2021 salary cap coming in so low, around $15 million less than it was a year ago at $182.5 million? That amount of shortfall has caused many teams around the league to make some tough decisions between being unable to re-sign certain players to outright releasing others. It can certainly be argued that it cost the Pittsburgh Steelers Vince Williams and Steven Nelson.
But the truth, as the NFLPA’s Demaurice Smith tells it, is that that is the compromise price between what the number would have been under ordinary circumstances and what it should have been to account for the full economic brunt of the pandemic.
Smith spoke to reporters yesterday about the current state of affairs in the NFL, including the expansion of the regular season schedule, the offseason program, and things of that nature. He also addressed the salary cap, which even some of his constituents have been confused by.
Via Mark Maske of The Washington Post, he said that, were it not for the NFLPA’s negotiating with the NFL owners to spread out the cap implications of the pandemic, this year’s salary cap would have been about $166 million, which is an even larger drop to get from where it is to what it could have been than from last year’s number to now.
NFLPA’s De Smith says the 2021 salary cap would have been about $166 million per team if the league and union had not agree to the upward adjustment to $182.5 million per team.
— MarkMaske (@MarkMaske) March 31, 2021
Just imagine the havoc it would have wreaked if the salary cap went from nearly $200 million in 2020, with teams having previously operated under the assumption that it would actually rise by about $10 million, to a drop of more than $30 million.
Such a precipitous shortfall would have decimated rosters like the Steelers’. Even now, in spite of extensive meddling and a couple of retirements on top of their own maneuvers, they are still in need of creating more space.
Had the cap dropped that low, you could probably guarantee that other players such as David DeCastro and Eric Ebron, and possibly even Joe Haden, would have also been let go just to get in compliance with the salary cap. Ben Roethlisberger probably would have been let go rather than being restructured as well.
Of course, this also means that the salary caps of the next couple of seasons will continue to address the shortfall that we are not seeing in this year’s salary cap, which means that the cap number will not rise as precipitously as it seems most are anticipating. It will blow up, eventually, but it will take a couple of years, and should be at around $250 million in five or so seasons from now.