The NFL has been bracing for a significant cut in the salary cap for the better part of the last year. And while it’s not much of a consolation, perhaps it’s good news that the cap drop might not be as significant as previously believed.
Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio hears the 2021 salary cap could be in the $180 million range next season. That’s a slight up-tick from early stage projections of a $175 million cap. But it’s still a shade lower than more optimistic projections in the range of $195 million. Nevertheless, $180 million > $175 million. That’s just basic math. And yet, a cap drop of more than $23 million per team figures to be awfully messy. Especially for a team like the Chicago Bears.
Want to bring back wide receiver Allen Robinson? Extend defensive lineman Bilal Nichols? Re-work the contracts of Akiem Hicks and/or Kyle Fuller? It’ll all need to be done with a trimmed 2021 salary cap in mind.
Browsing through OverTheCap.com, estimations are the Bears would be $8,697,833 over a projected cap of $183,042,995. In other words, they’ve got work to do in order to (1) get under the cap and (2) create space to make necessary improvements in what appears to be a must-win year for the Ryan Pace-Matt Nagy regime.
To be clear, Chicago’s football team isn’t in the most dire straits. For instance, the Saints are $96,274,550 over the cap at the moment. Moreover, the Vikings ($11,628,937) and Packers ($24,701,726) are division foes who have even bigger climbs to get above water. Overall, OTC has 12 teams currently over its projected cap threshold. In other words, a little more than one-third of the league has some heavy lifting and tough decisions to make before the start of the new league year.
On top of that, we’ll likely see good players squeezed out as cap casualties, then likely forced into accepting minimal deals because of constraints. And while it’s too early to dig down that rabbit hole, PFF’s Brad Spielberger notes this could drum up some creative contract structures:
When the contract voids before the 2022 season, all $4M remaining would accelerate onto the 2022 salary cap, wouldn't remain in those later years
— Brad Spielberger (@PFF_Brad) January 19, 2021
Perhaps a progressive team could see value in loading up on these types of players to fill out a roster. In a way, this could be a boon for contending teams. But it would come at the cost of not paying players what they would usually get in a normal offseason.
Nevertheless, the Bears need to be creative and efficient to do the things they need to get out of dodge. Once they do that, they’ll need to reallocate whatever cap savings they create and put it toward re-shaping the roster. Good luck doing that while navigating this cap environment while on the hot seat.