Report: NFL salary cap could sky rocket next season despite pandemic?

By Matt Johnson
Dec 29, 2019; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) throws during the second quarter against the Washington Redskins at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

As the NFL starts to allow teams to reopen their facilities in preparation for the summer, the league is gearing up for a full season despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Coming off a record-setting 2020 NFL Draft, the NFL could potentially enjoy even more success this season despite the ongoing global crisis.

At a time when millions of people are desperate for sports, the appetite for football is anticipated to be greater than ever. The NFL drew record viewership because of it for the NFL Draft and with the return of other sports uncertain, many are expecting to see a huge spike in ratings for NFL games this fall.

As a result, Pro Football Network’s Tony Pauline projects that the NFL’s salary cap for the 2021 season could land around $220 million, a mark that could have even reached $230 million if not for the public health crisis across the globe.

The NFL will only see a slight bump in this year’s salary cap from $188.2 million in 2019 to $198.2 million for the 2020 season. Thanks to potentially record-setting ratings, new media contracts and a new collective-bargaining agreement, Pauline projects a dramatic spike next offseason.

A salary cap spike exceeding $20 million would be fantastic news for NFL players. There was recent speculation that record-breaking contract extensions for Patrick Mahomes and Dak Prescott could take a hit due to the economic crisis. In that scenario, it could have led to the Kansas City Chiefs and Dallas Cowboys lowering their offers or waiting another year before signing their star quarterbacks to mega contracts.

If Pauline’s projection plays out, then the leverage in negotiations would go right back to Mahomes and Prescott. As a result, Prescott could start pushing harder on a four-year deal worth $40 million annually, while Mahomes could raise his asking price to $45 million annually.

It’s worth noting that projections in April estimated the NFL could lose billions in revenue if games are played in empty stadiums. So, if the latest estimate is an early indicator of where the league is headed, fans won’t have to just watch football at home this year.