For the first time in a decade the NFL salary cap will decrease for the 2021 season, and that could have major ramifications for the Washington Football Team.
After rising about $10 million per year from 2012 to 2020, the global pandemic and lack of fans at games will cost the league next offseason. Estimates from OvertheCap.com show an 11 percent drop coming for the salary cap, going from about $200 million in 2020 to about $178 million in 2021.
Veteran NFL personnel executive Scott Pioli thinks the cap drop will particularly impact high-salaried veteran players and the franchise tag.
In Washington, that specifically could makes Brandon Scherff's future worth watching.
Pioli, writing in an article for NFL.com, believes fewer teams will use the franchise tag this year as cap room becomes a more important commodity. Franchise tags require fully guaranteed contracts averaged among the five highest paid players at that position. Therefore, tags take up a ton of cap space and teams will have less of it.
“One of the possible outcomes of this could be that several top NFL players hit the open free agent market because teams don't have the cap space to tag them or offer a long-term deal,” Pioli writes.
Is it possible Scherff hits free agency? Certainly.
Washington already tagged the multiple Pro Bowl guard this season, guaranteeing him $15 million for 2020, and another tag in 2021 would mean a 20 percent pay raise.
It’s also possible Washington works to get a long-term deal done with Scherff before free agency opens in March.
Washington is slated to have more than $50 million in cap space next season, fifth-most in the league, so a deal for Scherff could get done.
Scherff missed three games this season with a sprained knee, though he's back on the field now and performing at an elite level.
Washington's fifth overall pick in 2015, Scherff has played quite well in his time in Washington despite dealing with injuries each of the last four seasons.
While it's unclear what will happen for Scherff in Washington, his annual price tag seems unlikely to dip below his current $15 million salary if he hits free agency.
The Football Team can afford it, but with the cap squeeze, will they want to?