It's a figure all 32 NFL teams have been waiting to hear for a very long time now. As the league worked to negotiate terms with the NFLPA on what the 2021 salary cap would be, the lengthy talks nearly spilled over to the point of forcing a delay with the franchise tag deadline on March 9. The NFL opted against pushing that back, however, and one day later delivered the news to teams that the cap would be set at $182.5 million -- a source confirmed to CBS Sports -- giving everyone a clear financial framework as they ready for the opening of free agency on March 17 (legal tampering), which is also the date in which teams must be in complete cap compliance.
The reduction in the cap number was expected, thanks to the loss in revenue driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, but teams got a bit of good news in February when it was announced the cap floor would be raised from a previously agreed upon $175 million mark to $180 million. There was still a hope it would notch $185 million or higher, but that was not to be.
This season's cap figure is an eight percent decrease from the $198.2 million allowed in 2020, an obvious about-face from the usual year-over-year growth of approximately 10 percent. And with new TV deals in the works that could see the NFL land a multi-billion dollar raise from several networks, along with the future infusion of gambling revenue, the safe bet future seasons won't suffer the same fate -- pandemics and meteor collisions with Earth, notwithstanding.
Additionally, franchise tag numbers on those who received it are now made official.
Teams didn't wait to begin working on their cap space, though, with those in the red already feverishly restructuring and shedding contracts to both get into compliance and to give themselves a shot at playing the field in free agency, e.g., the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles. Other teams freed up space by signing incumbent players to long-term deals, much like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with linebacker Lavonte David and the Dallas Cowboys -- who awarded quarterback Dak Prescott a record-setting contract in both 2020 and 2021, at the very least.
With the final number in tow, the NFL league year can begin without a hitch, and free agents can ready themselves for what will easily be one of the most interesting (and creative) wave of offseason contracts in recent memory.