The NFL is dealing with a lot of uncertainty this offseason. The COVID-19 pandemic took a toll on the league’s revenue, causing the 2021 NFL salary cap to drop for the first time in years. With teams uncertain how much they can spend this season, the looming franchise tag deadline is now in jeopardy.
Currently, clubs have until Tuesday, March 9 at 4 pm EST to apply the franchise or transition tag to one of their impending free agents. It’s one of the biggest days on the league calendar, especially for some of the game’s biggest stars who are on the brink of hitting the open market.
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While the minimum salary cap for the 2021 season is $180 million, teams still don’t know the exact figure for the upcoming year. As a result, at a time when so many teams are exceedingly over the cap, there is uncertainty about what the exact figures for each tag will be and whether or not franchises can afford them.
Now, the deadline might be postponed.
NFL rumors: League considering pushing back its franchise tag deadline
According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, many general managers are bracing for the NFL to push back Tuesday’s deadline for teams to apply the franchise or transition tag.
The lack of a specific cap figure for the 2021 season, with the new league year drawing closer, is the driving force behind the uncertainty. New television contracts are likely the final step before the NFL and NFL Players Association agree on a set salary cap, but that won’t come until contracts for the broadcasting rights to games are finalized.
It’s believed that the league is close to finalizing 10-year contracts with its television partners. The new deals will generate $100-plus billion in revenue, money that could stabilize the cap this year and send it soaring in 2022. But negotiations with ESPN have complicated matters and the future rights to Thursday Night Football broadcasts are still uncertain.
A decision is expected on Monday. If the salary cap isn’t announced, the league will have no choice but to extend its deadline for the franchise tag.
At this point, Denver Broncos star Justin Simmons is the only player who has been tagged. Dallas Cowboys star Dak Prescott and Carolina Panthers offensive tackle Taylor Moton will also receive the exclusive franchise tag. Detroit Lions receiver Kenny Golladay and Chicago Bears wideout Allen Robinson are also strong candidates, but might later be traded by their respective teams.
The 2021 league year begins on March 17 and further delays to the calendar are the last thing teams want. However, moving the tag deadline back is unavoidable if there isn’t a set salary cap to base decisions on.
For the aforementioned clubs, they’ve likely already made their decisions privately regarding the franchise tag. But for teams like the Green Bay Packers (Aaron Jones), New York Giants (Leonard Williams) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Chris Godwin or Shaquil Barrett), more information and time could lead to a decision.