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Adam Schefter speculates 2021 salary cap implications of altered NFL season

Things are really weird right now, but they could be getting even weirder in 2021 for the NFL.

New York Giants v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

We are in the middle of a pandemic right now, and it might be easy to focus on the NFL Draft at this moment. At some point though, the NFL is going to have to really look at the 2020 season, and decide how they will be able to go about it.

Obviously, things are changing all the time surrounding the COVID-19 news, in fact, Ohio will be slowly starting to reopen on May 1st. Other states like Florida and Georgia are also starting to reopen. However, there is some speculation that things won’t be back to normal by the time the NFL season starts.

That got ESPN’s Adam Schefter speculating on his weekly podcast how that could impact the NFL beyond delaying or changing how games are held. One thing he think will be impacted the most is the 2021 salary cap.

“We all wait to see when and if there will be football this season — and I think there will be — what form it will take. I think that everybody understands and recognizes that it could be, potentially, a little bit of a shortened season. Hopefully not, maybe not, but it could be. It certainly could be with no fans...

“Now i want people to think about this going forward — because it is something that the NFL and the NFLPA soon is going to have to be thinking about — and that is if there are no fans in the stands this season that would equate essentially to about on average roughly $100 million less in revenue per team for each of the 32 NFL teams in the NFL. If we multiply that $100 million by the 32 we get $3.2 billion in lost revenue, and why is that a big deal? Because the Salary cap is based off the total revenue that comes in...

“So if there is $3.2 billion in less revenue, which is a rough number... but well within the range that is expected and as other people pointed out there are other financial losses as well, we are looking, potentially, at the salary cap dropping in 2021 by $70 to $80 million.”

That obviously has huge ramifications for the entire NFL if that comes to pass. Schefter also notes the NFL and NFLPA could negotiate a higher number not based on revenue, but he notes that if owners are making less that could be an uphill battle.

Lets pretend that the NFL’s salary cap decreases by $75 million next season. According to Over The Cap, the 2020 salary cap is currently at about $209 million (we’ll be using whole numbers for ease here). A $75 million drop puts the 2021 cap at roughly $134 million. What does that mean for the Bengals?

At this moment before the draft or any other moves, Cincinnati is projected to be taking up roughly $127 million in 2021’s cap, leaving them with a hypothetical $7 million in cap space.

That sounds troubling, because it is. You may think “they will be under the cap, so what is the big deal?” Well without going into how that number doesn’t include whatever draft picks they take on Thursday, it also really restricts what they can do with players set to hit free agency. Among those players are A.J. Green, Joe Mixon, Carl Lawson, William Jackson, John Ross and Shawn Williams.

Even if you look at those names and don’t see many you’d like to see the team re-sign, there is still the matter that the team, that just had one of its biggest spending sprees in the franchises history, will be stuck with quite a few contracts that will need to be either reworked or gotten rid of to reflect the drastic change in salary cap.

The Bengals’ won’t be the only team in this boat, and actually they are a fortunate team that is set to shed a veteran quarterback contract. Other teams like the Chiefs, Buccaneers, and Packers that have veteran quarterbacks under contract (or quarterbacks that will need contracts) are going to be at such a disadvantage because a quarterback accounting for a huge number is so far behind a team with a rookie contract quarterback.

This kind of a drop would be unprecedented, and there are huge logistical concerns about doing anything about it. If we do see this drop, there is bound to be an insane amount of work to be done to get under the 2021 cap. You will likely see a far higher number of player being cut or forced to rework deals, and extensions would likely be impossible for either side to agree on.

It may be easy from a ease stand point for the NFL and NFLPA to agree on a higher number, but then the question will be how many teams that don’t have owners with wealth outside of football will claim they are at a disadvantage. It may just be easier for owners to bring on partners, even on a temporary timeline, than to deal with the salary cap crashing like Schefter speculates it to.

It is anyone’s guess as to what will really happen at this point, but things could be getting real messy the next few seasons in the NFL.