NFL teams are projected to have a tough salary cap situation in 2021. But not every team is in the same spot, and the Dallas Cowboys are among the worst teams in terms of cap space. With league revenues taking a hit due to games being played in empty stadiums, the cap is expected to lower about $20M.
In the revised CBA, players and owners agreed to a minimum 2021 salary cap of $175M. Whatever happens, even if the season is cut short, that'll be the minimum set to protect players as much as possible next year.
That number could go up if revenues are higher than expected, but for now, that'll likely be the projected salary cap teams work with. This puts them in uncomfortable positions for two reasons. 1) Current contracts were negotiated with a normal yearly cap increase in mind and 2) They will have little cap space to work in next year's free agency.
Things aren't the same for every team, though. For one, teams already have cap liabilities for those players under contract for 2021 already. But that's not the only reason. Many believe every team has the same cap than the other 31 teams when that's not true. This is perhaps the most common misconception when it comes to NFL salaries.
In reality, there's an “unadjusted salary cap.” That number is the same for every NFL franchise, but is then adjusted by each team's “carryover.” Simply put, any unused cap in 2020 is carried over to next season.
Jason Fitzgerald from Over The Cap took to twitter to the teams in the worst cap shape using a projected $175M unadjusted cap.
Here are the teams in the worst cap shape in 2021 if there is a $175M cap (includes current cap as carryover)
1. Saints- -$70M
2. Eagles- -$67M
3. Falcons- -$39M
4. Steelers- -$17M
5. Raiders- -$15M
6. Chiefs- -$14M
7. Texans -$4M
8. Bears- $1M
9. Vikings- $2M
10. Cowboys- $2M
Although the Cowboys are not $70M over the cap like the New Orleans Saints, they're not in a good position. They're only $2M under the projected cap but have yet to sign their franchise QB in Dak Prescott. Using a second franchise tag on Dak would cost over $37 million.
So what's in store for the Cowboys and how will they handle this tough situation?
Honestly, it seems like the main group of affected players will be the older veterans that aren't solidified as very good players. I'd expect the league in general to trend toward younger, less expensive guys. A player with eight accrued seasons has a higher minimum salary than a second-year player, and so on.
But mainly, I expect teams to restructure plenty of contracts. This is a common practice for front offices in which they basically sacrifice future cap space for cap space now. The Dallas Cowboys have not been afraid to do so almost on a yearly basis, but in 2021 they might be forced to do it with multiple key players.
Guys that would make the most sense to restructure are DeMarcus Lawrence, Zack Martin, Ezekiel Elliott, Tyron Smith, and Amari Cooper. If they were to restructure these four, they could be saving about $30M in cap space.
Things won't be easy, but there are plenty of options for the Dallas Cowboys to ease their salary cap situation in 2021.