NFL sets 2021 salary cap at $182.5 million, nearly a $16 million drop from 2020

The NFL has informed its 32 teams that the salary cap for the coming season will stand at $182.5 million.

The cap plunged from last year’s figure of $198.2 million as the league absorbed the financial blow dealt by the COVID-19 pandemic, which prevented many teams from hosting fans all season and limited other teams to only partial attendance. It is believed that the league lost roughly $3 billion in revenue as a result.

The previous year’s revenue determines the value of the salary cap, but the NFL and NFL Players Association had agreed last fall that the salary cap for 2021 would not fall below $175 million and that they would spread the losses of 2020 over multiple seasons.

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Last month, the league announced that the floor for the 2021 salary cap would be $180 million. Now, after negotiations in recent weeks and days, the league and players union settled on the $182.5 million ceiling.

In a letter sent to his constituents Tuesday night, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith expressed optimism that the league, which makes roughly $16 billion in a typical year, will quickly recover from the financial losses because of looming contract renewals with broadcast partners, expected to be record setting, and due to the expectation that stadiums will return to full capacity this year.

But, for now, teams will feel a crunch because of the cap decrease. A number of squads will have to make roster cuts that they didn’t anticipate and/or pull off a series of contract restructurings to get below the cap threshold by the start of the league year and free agency, which is set for 4 p.m. ET on March 17.


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