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As MLB finds itself amid a labor dispute preventing the start of the 2020 season, the NFL remains on track to hold its season this fall. However, while there might be an NFL season, the league is already preparing for a significant hit to its revenue that could force the NFL to use a flat cap in 2021.

The NFL and NFL Players’ Association are already preparing for difficult financial discussions as the league anticipates losing billions in revenue this year due to the coronavirus. Now with a potential $5 billion hit to the NFL revenue looming, NFL teams are already considering how it will impact future seasons and the salary cap.

NFL considering flat cap to help 2021 salary cap

Facing the reality of fans being unable to attend games or NFL attendance being greatly reduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the league could lose at least $3 billion even if the 2020 season is played. As aa result, the NFL is considering a flat salary cap for the 2021 season.

In an interview on “The Rich Eisen Show”, Yahoo Sports’ NFL reporter Charles Robinson revealed how teams are already preparing to account for an adjusted salary cap in 2021 and beyond.

“You have some teams that believe what’s going to end up happening is a flat cap in 2021,” Charles Robinson said, via The Rich Eisen Show. “The union and the NFL are going to figure out a way to negotiate out a cap that doesn’t rise, but doesn’t fall…Say it would have dipper $20 million per team next season. They flatten it out and they take that $20 million and they spread it out over the length of the collective bargaining agreement. That way, you’re keeping teams from having this recession in the cap that could wreak havoc on their rosters.”

The NFL will enter the 2020 season with a $198.2 million salary cap, marking the sixth consecutive year the cap increased by $10-plus million, according to CBS Sports. After the NFL and NFLPA agreed to a new 10-year collective-bargaining agreement early this offseason, many estimated the NFL’s 2021 salary cap would soar past $200 million.

However, the coronavirus and the ongoing economic crisis in the United States has changed everything. Consumers across the United States are saving their money and restrictions on mass gatherings could greatly limit the NFL’s attendance numbers next season. Fearing a decline in stadium revenue with football fans spending less money than ever, NFL teams could lose $20-plus million, if not more.

How the NFL’s revenue hit would impact the 2021 salary cap

While it might only be the 2020 NFL season that is impacted by less consumer spending and a decline in attendance, the NFL could lose at least $1 billion in revenue next year. If that were to happen, the league would need to roll back its 2021 salary cap and it would be by tens of millions.

As broken down by OvertheCap’s Jason Fitzgerald, there are already teams tight against the cap this year and facing even worse financial restrictions next season. A dramatic rollback of the cap would be crushing for several prominent clubs, including the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles, Kansas City Chiefs and Las Vegas Raiders. It’s why, as Robinson explained, the NFLPA and team owners are already discussing how to avoid a dramatic cut to the 2021 salary cap.

“It’s pretty clear they’re already talking about how to keep this from rolling back. The union doesn’t want the cap to roll back,” Charles Robinson said, via The Rich Eisen Show. “I think a lot of NFL owners don’t want the cap to necessarily roll back, particularly ones that have cap-heavy rosters and are already pressed up against it”https://sportsnaut.com/2020/05/report-nfl-teams-expected-to-be-cautious-with-long-term-deals-this-summer/

The Chiefs and Cowboys still need to sign Patrick Mahomes and Dak Prescott to record-breaking contract extensions, too. They will be prioritized, but other star players could lose out on mega contracts early on.

Spreading out the lost revenue across the CBA, which extends through 2030, will help soften the blow for NFL teams and players. Some organizations will still be forced to cut players to get under the salary cap and it will hurt the entire league. However, both owners and players view it as a far better alternative than the public feud that is hurting MLB right now.

Matt Johnson
NFL, MLB & college football writer for Sportsnaut. Graduated from San Diego State University with BA in Journalism, 2019. Grew up in Sacramento, now based in Indianapolis. Seen on MSN. Previously: eDraft, The Connection, With the First Pick