Report: NFL Salary Cap Could Drop By $70M Due to COVID-19

A drastic cut like that would leave only four teams under the cap next season

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks at a press conference on January 29, 2020.
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In a new piece on NBC Sports Boston, Patriots beat writer Tom E. Curran delves into the potential financial fallout of NFL teams playing a season without collecting revenue from sources like stadium tickets, concessions, parking and local advertisers.

The 2020 salary cap is $198.2M, up from $188.2M in 2019. That sort of growth is common and was expected to continue heading into 2021, as the cap has risen by at least $10M every year since 2012.

Obviously, due to coronavirus, that is no longer the case, and Jason Fitzgerald, the founder of OverTheCap, projects the cap could fall by almost $70 million due to lost local revenue and bottom out somewhere around $130M in a worst-case scenario.

Should that happen, only four of the NFL’s 32 teams (Colts, Chargers, Jaguars and Patriots) would be under the cap heading into the 2021 season. Teams are already preparing to get by with less cash next season as rookie contracts for this year are being doled out at a snail’s pace.

“I think a big part of that is that a good portion of the signing bonus those guys get — which is a large portion of their contracts — gets paid within two weeks of signing so I think teams are looking to hoard cash right now just to prepare for the unknown,” Fitzgerald told Curran. “If they can push things with a rookie until August, they’re probably gonna do that.”

In order to prevent chaos next offseason that could potentially lead to big-name players being released and a widening of the salary gap between NFL stars and the rank and file, the league could try to spread out the revenue loss over a couple of years.

“I do think there is motivation and incentive for both sides not to allow a precipitous drop on the cap if the revenues fall as much as they might with empty stadiums,” said Pete Kendall, a 12-year NFL veteran who was a key part of the NFLPA during his playing days. “Both sides will try to do whatever they can to make any drop palatable and digestible. I don’t think it’s a good look for the league, quite frankly, to be talking about a salary cap that’s almost $200M to talk about a cap that falls below $150M.”

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