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Salary cap could be in the range of $180 million

Mike Florio and Chris Simms look at the changes coming to the 2021 NFL Scouting Combine and how it could affect the pre-draft process.

Every December, the NFL gives the 32 teams an idea regarding the expected salary cap for the coming league year. This year, that didn’t happen.

It didn’t happen because the pandemic has caused revenue to crater, by dramatically reducing attendance at games. The NFL and NFL Players Association agreed in July that the cap for 2021 will go no lower than $175 million.

That would be a $23.2 million drop, per team, in comparison to 2020.

There has been talk that the cap won’t drop that low, and that it possibly could remain in the range of $195 million. The final number, however, will result from a negotiation between the NFL and the NFL Players Association. The players surely will want the cap to be as high as it can be. Multiple teams will want that, too, in order to avoid having to create the space necessary to comply with a $175 million spending limit.

Plenty of owners, in contrast, don’t want to delay the full brunt of the impact of the 2020 losses. They view it as an interest-free loan to players. And that mentality would push the final number closer to $175 million.

A league source with knowledge of the situation suggests that the salary cap could be in the range of $180 million.

At that amount, things could get very ugly for plenty of teams and players. As the source characterized it, the commencement of the 2021 league year on March 17 will destroy the middle class of veteran free agents. Plenty of players will be cut or not re-signed.

By way of example, a player like Ndamukong Suh, who was paid $7 million in 2020, will likely get something closer to $3 million in 2021. Many teams will be able to offer veterans only $1 million per year.

The problem is that contracts always are negotiated with the understanding that the cap will keep going up by five to 10 percent. If it drops by roughly 15 percent this year, multiple teams will have major issues because they haven’t built their rosters with the possibility of a shrunken cap in mind.