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NFL sets new salary cap floor at $180 million for 2021

Teams can now plan for a slightly less bad worst-case scenario.

Oakland Raiders v Green Bay Packers Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

When the NFL negotiated its rules changes amid the COVID-19 pandemic last summer, one important stipulation involved the salary cap for future years. At that time, the league and the NFLPA agreed that the two sides would absorb much of the reduction in 2020 league revenues for the 2021 season, reducing the salary cap for the upcoming year in a larger drop instead of spreading the decrease out more evenly over the next several years.

The upshot of that is that the cap is lower in 2021 than it was in 2020. However, at the time of the agreement, the two sides settled on a compromise that the cap would not drop below $175 million, with any additional reductions being accounted for in 2022 and beyond.

As of Thursday morning, however, the NFL has raised the bar a bit. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the league informed teams today that the lowest the cap will be for 2021 is $180 million, making the worst-case scenario $5 million higher than it was previously.

This is not entirely surprising, as recent estimates have put the cap at $180 to $181 million, which would be right in line with this new floor. But either way, this ensures that teams will indeed have another $5 million to work with than they had to plan for yesterday, which could well keep a handful of veteran players across the league employed with their current teams rather than becoming cap casualties.

For the Packers, a team that is projected to be over the cap to start the new league year, this little bit of added flexibility certainly helps. Green Bay currently projects to be about $20.5 million over the cap if it stays at $180 million, a number that is already significantly lower than it was a week ago thanks to David Bakhtiari’s recent contract adjustment.

Still, the NFL may end up setting the final cap number higher than this, which would give teams still more financial flexibility for the upcoming season. But at least teams can now adjust their plans a bit to account for at least $5 million more in cap space than they had to assume previously.