Last summer, the NFL negotiated its rules changes amid the COVID-19 pandemic, one important condition involved the salary cap for future years. The NFLPA and the league came to an agreement that they would eat much of the reduction in 2020 revenues for the 2021 season, which reduces the salary cap for the next year in a larger increment rather than spreading it out evenly. 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. Thankfully, for the Falcons, we know it will be at least a little higher than that now.
According to Adam Schefter, the NFL informed teams that the salary cap floor this season will be $180 million.
NFL informed teams today the salary cap this season will be a minimum of $180 million.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 18, 2021
There is still not a final number, but giving teams a floor allows for those franchises to go ahead and start signing, extending, restructuring, or cutting players. This is roughly $18 million lower than 2020, so expect more frugality than usual, but kicking the can down the road via restructures will become a league-wide trend.
$5 million extra will go further than you think. If the Falcons restructured their top six contracts for the 2021 season, the team would be around $20 million under the $180 million-floor. This isn’t considering any cap casualties in terms of cuts. By cutting or trading Ricardo Allen and releasing Allen Bailey and Tyeler Davison, that number balloons to well over $30 million. The last move I see happening, releasing James Carpenter with a Post-June 1st designation, gives Atlanta a final number of $38.1 million (projected) to spend in free agency and sign the 2021 draft class.
Fans can expect as much turnover as I just pointed out, but there’s no need to get rid of good players. Terry Fontenot will go through the roster and determine whether each and every player is worth their contract. He might see someone like Ricardo Allen as too valuable for a team that is returning very few snaps at safety. Obviously, there are a plethora of ways to get under the salary cap, but how much Fontenot wants to kick the can down the road is what will determine how much the Falcons can spend in free agency.