The biggest NFL news item of the week was that the 2021 salary cap could drop as low as $175 million due to projected lost revenue this year. That would be a $23 million decrease from the current cap; a major adjustment and obstacle for teams like the Dallas Cowboys who are currently spending close to the current cap figure.
The agreement between the NFL and the players' union only established that the minimum cap for 2021 will be $175; it won't drop below that number no matter what 2020 revenue looks like. And there's still a good chance that it could be higher depending on how things go this year.
The proposal being discussed by the NFL and NFLPA would spread the impact of any revenue shortfall in 2020 over four years, with a 2021 salary cap of at least $175 million, sources tell me and @MikeGarafolo. No change to the 2020 cap despite owners' proposals.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) July 24, 2020
But after many years of about $10 million increases annually, having the cap drop even a little will shake the way teams have been used to doing business. The usual yearly inflation won't be as easy to manage and big free agent deals could be extremely challenging.
The easy solution is for the Cowboys and Prescott to get a long-term deal signed and then work an immediate restructure into the first year, dropping the cap number significantly for 2021. There should also be about $13.5 million in cap relief coming when Tyrone Crawford and Sean Lee's contracts expire.
But if Dallas and Dak are still unable to agree to that contract extension, using the franchise tag a second time would bump Prescott's cap number up from $31 million to over $37 million next year. That will be a big hurdle to get over in the face of a reduced cap.
Thankfully, the Cowboys don't have any other premium free agents coming up next year. Unless they're about to have big seasons, none of Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, or Xavier Woods stand to command major money after their rookie deals expire.
All of the other major figures on the team are signed through at least next season. That will big a big help to Dallas as it weathers this potential financial storm.
Obviously, the Dak Prescott contract looms over everything. And because they missed the July 15th deadline to reach a long-term deal, the Cowboys can't resolve that issue until after the 2020 season. So that question mark, and all the others it creates, will have to sit unanswered for a while.
Hopefully, the NFL still draws enough revenue this year that we won't see such a huge dip in the 2021 salary cap. If the worse-case scenario comes, Dallas will be held over a barrel in their talks with Prescott and perhaps have to make some very tough decisions throughout the roster.