Skip to main content

NFLPA proposes flat salary cap for 2021 NFL season

Matt Johnson
NFL shield logo
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

As the 2020 NFL season approaches, everyone around the league expects a staggering hit to the league’s revenue this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With both sides discussing how to share the pain of the lost revenue, the NFLPA has offered a proposal to potentially save the upcoming season.

NFLPA proposes flat salary cap for 2021 NFL season

Before players report to training camp or the 2020 NFL season can even begin, the league and players’ union must agree on a deal for this reshaped season. Among the issues on the table, determining how the NFL will handle its lost revenue this season and creating a firm plan for COVID-19 testing and safety.

Facing billions of dollars in lost revenue, the NFL recently submitted an economic plan for the 2020 season that would withhold 35% of players’ salaries in escrow. The NFLPA rejected the offer immediately, making it clear players won’t take the field if salaries are held.

Both sides are expected to hold a call on Monday to further negotiate an economic and safety plan. Before that meeting, via NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, the NFLPA sent a counterproposal that would use a flat salary cap for the 2021 NFL season.

In addition to using a flat salary cap next year, the union is requested any fully guaranteed payments are given to players even if the season is canceled. While a canceled season is the NFL’s nightmare scenario, there is increasing fear it could happen.

It’s unlikely that the league’s owners will go along with a majority of the NFLPA’s counteroffer. However, both sides will need to reach an agreement given the financial fallout that awaits them.

How much money will the NFL lose without fans?

While some clubs are still hopeful to have fans in attendance for games this season, other NFL teams are already preparing for the worst. The Green Bay Packers have already indicated that Lambeau Field could be empty this season and the Baltimore Ravens already cut their stadium capacity from 70,000 to 14,000.

NFL owners are tight with their spending this summer because the league knows what’s coming. Even playing half the regular season without fans could cost the NFL more than $2 billion in lost stadium revenue and it could lose $5 billion if the entire season is played without fans.

While the NFL has already come up with one creative way to account for some of the financial hit, an agreement on the salary cap is desperately needed.

What is a flat cap?

The NFL will enter the 2020 season with the salary cap set at $198.2 million. It marks the sixth consecutive year the cap increased by $10-plus million, according to CBS Sports. When the league agreed on a new CBA, that figure was projected to be even higher next season. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the league might benefit from a flat cap in 2021.

Under a flat cap, the 2021 NFL salary cap would be kept at $198.2 million. While this would hurt teams who are already tight against the cap, as broken down by OvertheCap’s Jason Fitzgerald, it would avoid the league shaving $30-plus million off its salary cap next year.

Instead of one drastic cut that devastates a majority of players and clubs, the NFL could use a flat salary cap. The league would spread this season’s revenue hit across the 10-year CBA, weakening the financial blow.

This can be done because the NFL was projected to see its revenue and salary cap skyrocket in 2022. The league is already negotiating new deals with television networks for broadcasting rights to games. Between future contracts with NBC, ESPN, FOX and CBS, the NFL could pull in billions of dollars each year in revenue. Pair that with the NFL’s pacts with Amazon and other potential streaming services, it all leads to more money for the league.

It might take more time for the NFL and NFLPA to agree on an economic plan for the season. In the end, though, a flat salary cap would benefit everyone.