Curran: How flat salary cap could affect Pats in free agency


The Patriots are – at the moment – set up really well for the 2021 salary cap belt-tightening that awaits.

But the anticipated financial pain caused by the NFL’s COVID-related revenue drop this year may not be as profound as expected.

It’s for the greater good if teams don’t have to go through painful roster bloodlettings. But for teams with plenty of 2021 cap room like New England, the chance has existed they’d be in position to scoop up good players who were released by highly-leveraged teams. Now? Maybe not.

According to Mike Florio at Pro Football Talk, optimism for full stadiums in 2021 may mean the worst-case scenario cap number of $175M may not come to pass.

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Citing a league source, Florio writes that, “the possibility that stadiums will be full for the 2021 season could prompt the league to not tie the hands of teams by dropping the salary cap by more than $23 million per team, from $198.2 million. Although the 2020 season will indeed result in lower revenue than usual, the potential of a return to something normal or close to it plus the coming TV deals may result in the league keeping the cap in the range of $195 million.”


Historically, the cap has risen by about $10M each year. Teams wrote contracts anticipating that rise. But the drop in overall revenues caused mostly by empty stadiums across the league means the financial pie will shrink, which is something we’ve written about a few times.

The Patriots have about $135M committed for 2021. They have some key free agents on their own team that may cost them – Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler, Jason McCourty, David Andrews, Joe Thuney, James White, John Simon – but they are still relatively flush and there are players like tight end Hunter Henry about to become free agents.

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Bottom line? The Patriots are still in great financial position for 2021. But if the cap doesn’t drop as much as earlier projections, then they may not get the chance for the personnel profiteering we thought they might.