The NFL salary cap for this coming offseason is going to be different than previous years due to the economic downturn created by COVID-19. This means some teams heading into 2021 free agency are going to be in less-than-stellar situations.
Other teams such as the Jacksonville Jaguars find themselves in a tremendous spot. As we look forward to free agency, here’s an updated NFL salary cap tracker and a look at where each team stands. This is based on a $185 million cap, not the $175 million figured being floated about.
NFL news: 2022 salary cap expected to soar
Updated: Feb. 26, 1:50 PM EST
Note: Cap figures provided by Spotrac.
Jacksonville Jaguars salary cap room: $79.82 million
Update: Jaguars decline option on Tyler Eifert’s contract, save $4.9 million
Jacksonville has been attempting to trade guard Andrew Norwell for some time now. Set to count $15 million against the cap in 2021, the Jaguars can save $9 million by releasing the former Pro Bowler. Expect that to happen. It’s also possible that Jacksonville moves on from fellow offensive linemen Brandon Linder and A.J. Cann. That would save another $14 million or so against the NFL salary cap. Realistically, Jacksonville could be looking at $100 million to spend in Urban Meyer’s first offseason as its head coach.
New York Jets salary cap room: $73.27 million
The rebuilding Jets are on an interesting situation this offseason in that they will attempt to build up a talent-stricken roster under first-year head coach Robert Saleh. A lot of the focus is going to be on the quarterback situation with Sam Darnold. With that said, New York has a clear opportunity to hit free agency running. Without many free agents of their own to re-sign, the expectation here is that general manager Joe Douglas will spend big time on the open market. Outside of Jacksonville, this is one of the teams to watch.
Related: New York Jets NFL Draft preview
New England Patriots salary cap room: $64.92 million
We’re fully expecting somewhat of a changing of the guard in New England this offseason after a disastrous first year post-Tom Brady. It will start at quarterback with the Patriots looking to replace Cam Newton. That could very well force the team to exhaust a lot of its cap room. However, it also makes sense for New England to move off veteran defenders Stephon Gilmore and Dont’a Hightower, both likely via trade. Not only would this net the Patriots draft compensation, it would save another $19-plus million against the NFL salary cap.
Indianapolis Colts salary cap room: $45.98 million
What might look like a great situation in Indianapolis is clouded by what happens at quarterback. The 39-year-old Philip Rivers just recently opted to retire. Acquiring an upgrade via a trade would likely cost more. Meanwhile, important contributors in that of T.Y. Hilton, Xavier Rhodes and Malik Hooker are set to hit free agency. Without much flexibility to create more cap room, this will be the focus for Chris Ballard and Co. during the offseason.
Cincinnati Bengals salary cap room: $45.84 million
To put it bluntly, veterans Geno Atkins, Bobby Hart and Trey Hopkins are unlikely to be back in 2021. Releasing the three would save a combined $21 million against the cap, helping these Bengals be players in the free-agent market. Meanwhile, longtime all-time great wide receiver A.J. Green will not be back with the Bengals in 2021. Without many in-house free agents, will Cincinnati finally be spenders on the open market?
Carolina Panthers salary cap room: $39.98 million
Update: Release Tre Boston, Stephen Weatherly and Michael Palardy; restructure Matt Paradis — saving $15.8 million
Update: Panthers release Kawann Short
Fresh off a disappointing first season under Matt Rhule, Carolina now has to focus on retaining starting tackles Russell Okung and Taylor Moton in free agency. After putting up a career-best performance in 2020, wide receiver Curtis Samuel is hitting the open market at the best possible time. Three core players without much salary cap room. New Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer will certainly have his work cut out for him this March.
Denver Broncos salary cap room: $37.81 million
Update: Broncos release CB A.J. Bouye
Don’t let this $15.28 million figure fool you. New Broncos general manager George Paton has a ton of avenues to pursue when it comes to creating cap room. Denver will likely release or trade former Super Bowl MVP Von Miller, saving an astounding $18 million against the cap. It’s also likely the Broncos move off defensive back Kareem Jackson, running back Melvin Gordon, defensive lineman Jurrell Casey and cornerback A.J. Bouye. That would save another $36 million. Denver is looking at the real possibility of having $70 million, minus the cost it would take to re-sign elite safety Justin Simmons in free agency.
Related: Top QB options for Broncos in 2021
Los Angeles Chargers salary cap room: $34.04 million
Despite being an estimated $27 million under the NFL salary cap right now, the Chargers are in a decent position heading into free agency. That’s primarily because they can move off the likes of Trai Turner, Casey Hayward and Linval Joseph while saving nearly $29 million in cash. However, there’s a need to re-sign tight end Hunter Henry and center Mike Pouncey in free agency. Neither will come cheap. Even then, having north of $56 million and boasting a quarterback under his rookie deal is not too shabby.
Washington Football Team salary cap room: $31.62 million
The biggest focus this offseason in D.C. will be on quarterback Alex Smith. He’s said to be contemplating retirement after making a miraculous return from injury in 2020. Even if Smith opts to return, Washington could release him while saving $13.6 million against the cap. That number would hit $24.4 million should he retire. Outside of that, WFT has to decide what to do with Pro Bowl guard Brandon Scherff. He earned $15 million under the franchise tag last season and should hit somewhat near that mark on a long-term deal in free agency.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers salary cap room: $28.16 million
Tampa’s cap situation is not great in that it has Shaq Barrett, Lavonte Davis, Rob Gronkowski, Ndamukong Suh and Antonio Brown slated to hit free agency. Re-signing any number of these five would cut into the team’s number under the NFL salary cap. With that said, these Buccaneers can also save $28-plus million against the cap by releasing tackle Donovan Smith, edge rusher Jason Pierre-Paul and likely trading tight end O.J. Howard. There’s room here for the Super Bowl contenders to improve during the offseason.
Miami Dolphins salary cap room: $26.89 million
Coming off a surprising 10-win season, Miami has some decisions to make regarding veteran players currently on the roster. Without many internal free agents to focus on, moving on from a number of in-house players could create substantial room under the NFL salary cap. In fact, the Dolphins can save $23 million by releasing Kyle Van Noy, Emmanuel Ogbah and Bobby McCain. That could be used to bring in a certain Pro Bowl quarterback in a trade. The possibilities are endless in South Beach.
Related: Ideal Deshaun Watson trade scenarios
Baltimore Ravens salary cap room: $27.22 million
Having already released Mark Ingram, the expectation is that Baltimore will cut more veteran players before the start of free agency. If not, things could get dicey. Pro Bowl edge rushers Yannick Ngakoue and Matt Judon are slated to hit the open market. Both will cost north of $17 million annually to retain. Wide receiver Willie Snead is an important part of their offense, and won’t come cheap. This could lead to Baltimore making the difficult decision to release veterans such as Calais Campbell and Nick Boyle. Even then, that wouldn’t be enough for the Ravens to improve in free agency.
Cleveland Browns salary cap room: $21.46 million
There’s very few avenues Cleveland can pursue that will create more cap room heading into free agency. The team could move off Jarvis Landry, saving $11.3 million in cash. It could also trade Odell Beckham Jr. after he suffered a torn ACL last season. Neither seem likely at this point. Fresh off their best season in over a quarter-century, the Browns are likely better off looking to retain Olivier Vernon, Rashard Higgins and Karl Joseph. They have been among the teams impacted the most by the lowered salary cap due to COVID-19.
Related: Cleveland Browns NFL Draft preview
Dallas Cowboys salary cap room: $20.29 million
Salary cap hell. Jerry Jones made his bed. He now needs to…well, you know the rest. Pushing back cap hits for the likes of Zack Martin and Tyron Smith on restructures hurt this team long-term. Signing Ezekiel Elliott to a record-breaking extension did not help matters, either. This current Cowboys salary cap figure doesn’t even take into account a potential Dak Prescott franchise tag, adding some $35 million to the figure. Outside of finding a trade partner for Elliott or further restructures, the Cowboys are going to have a hard time improving in the offseason.
Arizona Cardinals salary cap room: $16.34 million
Yet another team that’s not in a great NFL salary cap situation, the Cardinals could face losing long-tenured players such as Larry Fitzgerald and Patrick Peterson. While Fitz won’t play for another team, retirement is on the table. Meanwhile, Peterson is slated to hit free agency. This doesn’t even take into account the likes of Kenyan Drake, Haason Reddick, Markus Golden, De’Vondre Campbell and Corey Peters hitting the open market. The good news? Releasing Justin Push and Robert Alford would save $14-plus million.
Seattle Seahawks salary cap room: $14.83 million
Seattle has some decisions to make in order to get further under the cap and upgrade pressing needs. Among them, will the team retain former Pro Bowl edge rusher Carlos Dunlap at a $14.1 million cap hit? The Seahawks can save the entirety of that cash by releasing him. It’s an important question in that stud defenders, linebacker K.J. Wright and cornerback Quinton Dunbar, are both slated to hit free agency.
Related: Top 50 NFL free agents of 2021.
San Francisco 49ers salary cap room: $14.26 million
A good chunk of this room will be used for San Francisco to re-sign future Hall of Fame left tackle Trent Williams. In fact, he’s likely looking at $20 million annually on a shorter-term deal. Other impending free agents such as Richard Sherman and Jaquiski Tartt are unlikely to be back with the 49ers next season. The good news for this organization? It will save a good $17 million by releasing Dee Ford and Weston Richburg. The team could also save $24.4 million by releasing Jimmy Garoppolo, though, that would come with paying a higher price for an upgrade at quarterback.
Houston Texans salary cap room: $13.78 million
New Texans general manager Nick Caserio has inherited multiple uncontrolled fires from Bill O’Brien. Chief among them include the Deshaun Watson drama, no picks in the first two rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft and a less-than-stellar cap situation. At least from this perspective, the former Patriots personnel man can create some room. Moving on from Brandin Cooks and David Johnson would save Houston $16.6 million — putting Houston up against the NFL salary cap. Following the stunning release of JJ Watt, Houston still has more work to do. The Texans are starting to chip away even more, creating approximately $5 million in cap flexibility after cutting Duke Johnson.
Buffalo Bills salary cap room: $2.52 million
Their best season since the Jim Kelly era does not change the fact that these Bills will have some difficult decisions to make this offseason. Sitting at under $6 million in cap room, Buffalo will have to think about moving on from veteran edge rushers Mario Addison and Jerry Hughes. That would save the team a combined $13.5 million against the 2021 NFL salary cap. The good news is that this team doesn’t have a ton of priority internal free agents outside of underrated linebacker Matt Milano. Perhaps, they can add an upgrade or two on the market.
Tennessee Titans salary cap room: $1.65 million
More than a dozen teams are currently over the projected $180 million cap. That includes a Titans squad coming off a disappointing early playoff exit, a team with a lot of questions this offseason. In order to even consider upgrading in free agency, Tennessee must think long and hard about releasing former first-round pick Adoree’ Jackson as well as center Ben Jones and potentially even guard Rodger Saffold. These moves would save Tennessee a combined $24 million, perhaps enough to upgrade a pass rush that recorded a mere 19 sacks in 2020.
New York Giants salary cap room: -$1.06 million
Despite their less-than-stellar cap situation, the Giants can save $18.1 million against the cap by releasing guard Kevin Zeitler and wide receiver Golden Tate. This still wouldn’t put New York in position to be big-time players once free agency starts in March. That’s why the team moving on from tight end Evan Engram and potentially even safety Jabrill Peppers in trades could make sense. Despite still being in the playoff hunt heading into Week 17, these Giants have a lot of work to do this offseason.
Detroit Lions salary cap room: -$1.34 million
Now that that Lions have indeed traded Matthew Stafford for Jared Goff and multiple first-round picks, new general manager Brad Holmes must navigate through the pre-free agency portion of the offseason to both cut fat off the Lions’ roster and add enough cap room to sign free agents. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of avenues to pursue here.
Chicago Bears salary cap room: -$1.82 million
There’s an albatross in Chicago. It goes by the name of Nick Foles and boasts a $14.33 million dead cap hit should the Bears release the veteran. With Foles now likely to be back, the attention turns to Chicago’s starting quarterback situation. Retaining Mitchell Trubisky would likely come cheaper than finding an upgrade in a trade. Meanwhile, wide receiver Allen Robinson is slated to become a free agent. He’ll demand north of $15 million annually — making it a near impossibility that the Bears can retain him given their current cap situation.
Related: Top 50 NFL free agents of 2021.
Pittsburgh Steelers salary cap room: -$7.35 million
Now that Ben Roethlisberger is slated to return in 2021, the bulk of Pittsburgh’s cap situation is already settled. That’s not great news for a team that needs to cut $25 million in order to be able to even sign draft picks. Contract structures are also not great for the Steelers to release aging veterans in order to create more room. This doesn’t even take into account the fact that stars Bud Dupree, Alejandro Villanueva and JuJu Smith-Schuster are slated to hit free agency. General manager Kevin Colbert has his work cut out here. Fortunately, the first step towards cap compliance was made with Cam Heyward’s restructured contract, freeing $7 million in cap room.
Minnesota Vikings salary cap room: -$10.06 million
Currently about $13 million under the NFL salary cap, these Vikings also have to think about re-signing stud safety Anthony Harris and starting linebacker Eric Wilson. That will likely cost the team north of $16 million annually, though, the deals could be backloaded. Even then, a team that struggled to live up to expectations in 2020 must find a way to upgrade. Releasing veterans Harrison Smith, Riley Reiff and Kyle Rudolph would help in this regard. Minnesota would save a combined $26-plus million if the three were designated post-June 1 cuts. Expect that to happen in short order.
NFL salary cap per team: Worst situations heading into 2021
Atlanta Falcons salary cap room: -$12.27 million
New Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot also has his work cut out for him with this bottom-feeding team currently $27 million over the cap and lacking the talent to compete. It now seems clear quarterback Matt Ryan will return, costing $40.9 million against the cap. This also means wide receiver Julio Jones is likely to come back after both were subjected to trade rumors.
So, how can Fontenot create cap room in order to help Atlanta become even minor players in free agency? Moving on from veterans Grady Jarrett, Dante Fowler Jr. and James Carpenter, in some form, would save roughly $23 million. Even then, restructuring the contracts of Ryan and Jones would make the most sense. Moves of that ilk would save an estimated $24 million.
Green Bay Packers salary cap room: -$9.79 million
The biggest talk surrounding these Packers once free agency starts will be the status of star running back Aaron Jones. Recent reports suggest the team will let him walk. Based on Jones’ recent production, he’s looking at about $12 million annually. With Green Bay still over the cap, paying that type of cash to a running back makes little sense. The Packers also have starters in that of offensive linemen Lane Taylor and Corey Linsley as well as impressive tight end Robert Tonyan set to become free agents. Green Bay will need to make big changes to its current roster and restructures are already underway. By changing David Bakhtiari’s contract, the Packers created $8.3 million in cap space. A contract extension for Davante Adams and a restructure for Aaron Rodgers, pushing guaranteed money into 2022, would create even more financial flexibility.
Las Vegas Raiders salary cap room: -$14.46 million
At this point, it’s hard to imagine Jon Gruden and the Raiders bringing back right tackle Trent Brown, starting guard Gabe Jackson, backup quarterback Marcus Mariota and defensive back Lamarcus Joyner. If all four were designated post-June 1 cuts, Las Vegas would save a resounding $56.5 million against the cap. Las Vegas is already preparing to reshuffle the roster, per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, with Tyrell Williams set to be released in March for $11.6 million in cap savings. Coming off an eight-win season, these Raiders will be active in free agency. It’s all about cutting the proverbial fat of the roster. That could include a contract restructure for Derek Carr, saving an estimated $9.3 million in cash.
Kansas City Chiefs salary cap room: -$21.40 million
The good news first for Kansas City. It does not have any big-ticket internal free agents to re-sign once March comes calling. While the Chiefs will look to retain safety Daniel Sorensen, guard Andrew Wylie and center Austin Reiter, none of them should be too expensive. The bad news? These Chiefs don’t have avenues to pursue when it comes to creating cap room by releasing veterans. The expectation here is that contract restructures could be in the cards for the likes of Eric Fisher, Frank Clark, Travis Kelce, Tyrann Mathieu and Tyreek Hill. That could reasonably free up $30 million in cap room.
Los Angeles Rams salary cap room: -$34.51 million
Ouch. General manager Les Snead created cap hell in Southern California by going into win-now mode following the Rams’ Super Bowl campaign back in 2018. By doing so, he has this team in a horrible salary cap situation. That includes the dead cap hit this team took on by trading embattled quarterback Jared Goff’s disastrous contract. Even after acquiring Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles has a lot of work to do ahead of free agency.
Philadelphia Eagles salary cap room: -$46.95 million
These Eagles are a prime example of NFL salary cap numbers being fluid. Sure their current figure seems to be eye-opening. That’s until we realize Philadelphia will likely continue tearing down its roster. The trade that sent Carson Wentz to Indianapolis was pulled off too soon for the Eagles to save cap space later down the line, but they’re probably glad to be rid of the headache. General manager Howie Roseman has his work cut out for him following a disastrous four-win 2020 campaign even after dealing Wentz and parting ways with wide receiver DeSean Jackson.
New Orleans Saints salary cap room: -$70.02 million
Drew Brees is the biggest factor when looking at the Saints’ bleak cap situation. Should the future Hall of Fame retire, New Orleans would save $36.2 million with Taysom Hill set to take over. A potential trade of embattled wide receiver Michael Thomas could also play a factor here. Even then, New Orleans has a lot of work to do in order to even be able to sign its draft picks. It stands to reason that numerous contract restructures will have to be the name of the game in the Bayou.