Report: NFL teams expected to be ‘cautious’ with long-term deals this summer

Dak Prescott throws pass before NFL game
Nov 28, 2019; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) throws a pass before the game against the Buffalo Bills at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented uncertainty to the upcoming NFL season. Amid growing concerns across the league about a potential loss in revenue, NFL teams could reportedly change the way they approach the summer.

Due to restrictions on mass gatherings and social distancing guidelines across the country, there is some concern for how many fans will be able to attend NFL games this year. While the league might avoid its worst-case scenario, a $5 billion revenue hit if stadiums are empty, an economic blow could still be looming for the NFL.

As a result, per Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, NFL front offices are expected to be very cautious regarding long-term deals with star players this summer. The delicate approach could be even more common among teams with multiple years of contract control over their top players.

The NFL runs the risk this season of seeing a drop in its revenue and a subsequent decline in the salary cap from $198.2 million after the upcoming season. If that’s the case, which would either lead to a significant drop in 2021 or spreading out the fallout over multiple seasons, organizations would be wise to wait on extensions.

While this type of approach isn’t expected to happen with Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, several other stars could be hurt by it. For instance, the Dallas Cowboys could hold off on extensions talks with Dak Prescott and use the franchise tag on him again in 2021. If he continues to play at a high level and the NFL’s salary cap climbs past $200 million, then Dallas could sign him to a record-breaking extension.

New York Jets safety Jamal Adams and San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle could also be impacted. Adams is under contract for two seasons, giving New York the flexibility to retain him without even needing the franchise tag. As for the 49ers, they can apply the tag to Kittle next offseason and explore a market-setting contract extension with him after.

Fortunately for teams and players, the NFL will see even more money coming in over the next few years thanks to the expanded playoff, a push to a 17-game schedule and new broadcasting deals with top networks. So, while players might be at some risk of taking a hit early, the grass is much greener once the pandemic ends.