The 2021 NFL offseason could be one of the wildest in recent memory. The quarterback carousel is already spinning with a couple of big-name signal-callers joining new teams. Even more roster moves could happen before free agency begins on March 17.
Several teams around the league are projected to be significantly over the salary cap, which will force them to make some drastic decisions. The free-agent market could have more top-tier free agents because of the cuts teams have to make .
The NFL’s salary cap situation
The coronavirus pandemic has impacted the NFL in more ways than one. The league had to postpone games, sometimes playing on Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the regular season. Going into the offseason, teams are unsure of their financial situations.
COVID-19 has impacted the NFL’s profits because limited or no fans were allowed in stadiums, amongst other things. As a result, the salary cap could be considerably lower than its $198.2 million figure in 2020. According to Adam Schefter, the cap will be no lower than $180 million. The 9% decrease from the $198.2 million will impact teams that are projected to be significantly over the salary cap.
The New Orleans Saints face the worst financial situation of any team. They were almost $100 million over the cap in January, but roster moves, including giving Drew Brees a pay cut, lowered that number to around $60 million. The Philadelphia Eagles are second on the list, about $50 million in the hole.
The lowered salary cap has teams scrambling to get under the $180 million threshold. A lot of movement will occur in the coming weeks around the league because of clubs trying to fall under the cap, according to one NFL owner.
Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwell expects a ‘seismic shift’ in talent across the NFL
The Arizona Cardinals were the beneficiaries of the recent player cuts, signing former three-time defensive player of the year J.J. Watt to a two-year deal on March 1. Team owner Michael Bidwell believes there will be several more players on the move before free agency starts.
According to Pro Football Talk, he said this on SiriusXM NFL Radio:
I think there’s going to be a seismic shift in talent across the NFL. You’ve got teams that are projected to be well over the cap. You’ve got teams that are projected to be well under. But there are going to be a bunch of surprises for people here in a few weeks when everybody has to get under the cap, and free agency starts. And, my guess is, like I said, I see a big shift, a seismic shift, in terms of the talent moving aroundPro Football Talk
The Cardinals are $5.4 million under the cap, according to Spotrac. ESPN’s Dianna Russini tweeted on March 3 that a coach texted her saying there is “going to be a massacre next week all around the league” in terms of player cuts.
The NFL is feeling the impacts of the coronavirus financially with their salary cap situation. However, teams could walk into a better scenario if things turn out in their favor.
The best-case scenario for the NFL salary cap
Free agency starts on March 17, and NFL teams are still trying to see how much money they’ll have to spend. The $180 million cap figure is a number teams can use as a floor for the upcoming offseason, but things could get better.
“I’m hearing that that number is likely to grow when all the revenue is accounted for. I’m hearing the number is likely going to be at least $185 million per team, but it could go as high as $193 million per team,” NFL Draft Analyst Tony Pauline told Draft Insiders.
Pauline said that the league has no specific date when teams will know the official figure but revealed that it would happen before free agency starts in mid-March. Teams could find some exceptional talent for a great price because of the cuts teams over the salary cap might make.
The NFL’s salary cap situation is a work in progress with the start of free agency fast approaching. Teams will have to keep an eye on their finances as they plan out their free-agent targets. Some teams could benefit, and some could suffer because of the shrinking salary cap.
Stats and figures courtesy of Spotrac