The NFL has informed teams that the 2021 salary cap will be no lower than $180 million, a slight increase from last year’s previous agreement between the league and the NFL Players Association.
The league told teams in a memo Thursday morning that $180 million is not the final 2021 cap figure, just an adjustment of the cap “floor” established last summer in negotiations between the NFL and the NFLPA.
The final 2021 cap figure, the memo says, “will be set following review of the final 2020 revenue figure and other audit and accounting adjustments.” The new league year and free agency are scheduled to begin March 17.
Sources familiar with the negotiations told ESPN that the final number is likely to be between $180 million and $185 million, though almost certainly on the lower end of that range.
Last summer, while negotiating the terms under which the league would proceed during the COVID-19 pandemic, the NFL and the NFLPA agreed to that original salary cap floor of $175 million per team for 2021. This was to guard against revenue losses sending the cap even lower.
One source said Thursday that the revenue numbers on which the cap is annually based would have led to a salary cap of roughly $160 million per team, which would have been a disastrously large drop from the $198.2 million cap under which teams operated in 2020.
With the floor now set at $180 million, the cap will be roughly $20 million higher than it would have been otherwise. That $20 million or so will have to be “borrowed” against future caps, and the manner in which that will happen is a subject of ongoing negotiations between the league and its players union.