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NFL sets 2020 salary cap at $198.2 million, a bit lower than expected $200M number

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Teams will have a little less financial flexibility than they expected due to the cap, and even less due to some provisions in the new CBA.

Super Bowl LIV - San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

With the new collective bargaining agreement now in place and approved by the players’ union — albeit by a very slim margin — the NFL is headed into the start of the 2020 league year. With the start of free agency on the horizon, teams need to know how much money the can spend, and the NFL has finally released the final salary cap number for the upcoming season.

The league announced on Sunday morning that the cap will be set at $198.2 million. This comes in a bit below the expected number, which was $200 million, meaning that teams have $1.8 million less available to them than most fans and media members had initially accounted for. However, the new cap number is exactly $10 million higher than the value for 2019.

In addition, league minimum salaries are increasing as part of the new CBA, as is the size of rosters, going from 53 to 55. According to Over the Cap, those two factors plus the lower-than-expected cap could leave teams significantly shorter on cap space than they had previously expected. That could hamstring teams with smaller cap space numbers in free agency.

With the revised cap number, most estimates put the Packers at around $26 million in cap space, a value that accounts for the recent release of Jimmy Graham. The cap seems likely to jump by bigger amounts in future years, with new television contracts likely to increase league revenues soon. That could push teams to backload the salary cap hits of free agent contracts even more than they already tend to do, to push the big dollars back into future years.

However, for the 2020 season, the number is locked in. For now, the league still appears headed towards the start of free agency on Wednesday.