Front offices, players, and fans alike have been bracing for the final word on the 2021 NFL salary cap, which is expected to be significantly lower than it was a year ago. That’s going to create chaos across the league as teams cut more deeply, and it may create a free agency period where salaries are depressed and players are more inclined take one year deals in the hopes of parlaying a good 2021 into a lucrative long-term deal when the cap (hopefully) rises significantly in 2022.
All that chaos is ahead, though, and it’s likely part of the reasons teams have generally been quiet with free agency less than 10 days away. They’re waiting for a final figure, and for whatever reason, that final figure is not forthcoming.
As NFL insider Ian Rapoport noted, that dithering could actually have an impact.
A storyline to follow going forward: If the official salary cap number doesn’t come today and soon, NFL will have to move back the deadline to franchise tag players from Tuesday. It’s a situation several GMs are bracing for and would further stall business for a bit.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 8, 2021
Judging by reports I dug up from last year, teams didn’t learn about the final cap figure in 2020 until close to the start of free agency, but they were waiting to learn the degree of increase. In this instance, they’re waiting to learn how much of a drop from 2020’s $198.2 million cap we’re looking at, with a floor of $180 million having been announced back in February. The league is likely still negotiating items like a 17th game with the union and with their television and streaming partners, which would help to explain the holdup, but it’s got to be annoying for front offices like Atlanta’s who are waiting to make cuts and re-sign their own free agents until they have more clarity.
The union smartly wants to see whether TV deals might lead to a higher cap, too.
Per sources: NFL and NFLPA continue to work to finalize 2021 salary cap number. Union prefers to wait until TV deals are finalized. Due to this uncertainty, there are discussions about pushing back Tuesday’s deadline for teams to use franchise tag.— Dan Graziano (@DanGrazianoESPN) March 8, 2021
The franchise tag deadline being pushed back doesn’t impact the Falcons all that much, but if this gets any closer to the start of free agency without a resolution, Atlanta’s going to be one of many teams that will be sweating the need to make extremely quick decisions and potentially pivot away from the moves they thought they would have to make to something more drastic. New cap guru Chris Olsen has his work cut out for him, either way.