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Adam Schefter: NFL salary cap expected to drop to $180-181 million

NFL wallets will be shrinking in 2021

Carolina Panthers v Washington Football Team Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images

COVID-19 affected everyone last year, and it will continue affecting the world for a long time. The world was shut down, but it continues to spin, just at a much slower pace. Governments have put restrictions on public gatherings, which has a huge effect on professional sports that rely on live audiences as a source of income. The NFL managed to go through the entire 2020-21 season without cancelling a game. There were scheduling changes and postponements, but the show went on. Some teams hosted fans this year, while others were shut down for the entire season. TV ratings were up and down this season, but new deals are coming(along with online streaming deals) that will affect future revenue.

The NFL sets their salary cap every year in March, and it has been steadily rising by $10-12 million since 2013. A new CBA was signed in 2012 after a lockout, and TV deals pumped a ton of money into the league’s coffers which allowed the pot to grow for players. That changes this year as the NFL looks to spread out some of the losses from this year and potentially future years, over the next few seasons. Many stories came out talking about the potential drop in the 2021 salary cap, and a lot of them projected it be around $175 million per team. That would be a $23.2 million(11.7%) drop from 2020’s cap number.

Adam Schefter says that the salary cap will likely be $180-181 million for 2021. This is still a reduction, but gives teams a little more breathing room to get their houses in order. It still represents an $18-19 million dollar reduction from last year, and a $28-30 million reduction from what teams likely expected it to be before COVID-19 hit.

The Washington Football Team still has $39.6 million available according to Over the Cap. There are a lot of moves that need to be made this offseason that will have a big effect on how much money they will have going into free agency. Washington is still waiting for Alex Smith to decide whether he wants to continue playing, but they are also actively looking for their next QB. The latest report from NFL.com says they would be open to him returning, but they are obviously looking elsewhere too. If he retires or is released, Washington will gain $14.7 million. Some of those cap savings will likely go to his replacement, unless they go with one of their cheap in-house options(Taylor Heinicke, Kyle Allen) which seems unlikely right now.

Washington also has to figure out what they are going to do with RG Brandon Scherff who played on the franchise tag last season. He made $15 million last year, and would make $18 million if he gets tagged again this year. Both sides have said they want to work out a deal for the last few years, but nothing has been signed. Scherff will likely become the highest paid guard in the NFL when he signs a new deal, but where will that deal get signed?

Overall Washington is in good shape with their cap going into Ron Rivera’s second season as head coach. They will have the 5th-most cap space in the NFL, and will be in position to re-sign their own players, and make moves in free agency. There will be a lot of teams who will need to cut some very good players to make their cap work. This could be a good year to be a buyer in the market, and Washington seems primed to make moves to capitalize on a weak division.

Salary Cap by year:

2021: $180-181 million*

2020: $198.2 million

2019: $188.2 million

2018: $177.2 million

2017: $167 million

2016: $155.27 million

2015: $143.28 million

2014: $133 million

2013: $123 million

2012: $120.6 million