NFL and NFL Players Association officials have had discussions about pushing back Tuesday’s 4 p.m. ET deadline for the designation of franchise and transition player tags because of lingering uncertainty over the determination of the salary cap figures for the coming year.
The league announced last month that the minimum for spending in 2021 will be $180 million, however the ceiling for the salary cap has yet to be determined.
The NFL and its broadcast partners remain in negotiations on lucrative new contracts, which will impact cap figures for future years. And according to people with knowledge of the situation, players union brass would prefer to wait to determine the 2021 cap until the broadcast contracts have been finalized.
Bears WR Allen Robinson appears to in line for a hefty new contract in 2021. (Photo: Dale Zanine, USA TODAY Sports)
As a result, Tuesday’s tag deadline could change because of the challenges of trying operate financially without a clear understanding of how much the cap could potentially increase in the coming years.
It’s expected that the 2021 salary cap will drop from last year's figure of $198.2 million because of the revenue lost during the 2020 COVID-19-impacted season, when the league as a whole lost roughly $3 billion because of fan attendance limitations.
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The NFL and NFLPA have already agreed to spread out those financial losses over the next several years so the salary cap doesn't undergo a dramatic one-year correction for next season.
Regardless, it’s expected that a number of teams will have to part with some of their highest-paid players to create cap flexibility or compliance. The free agent market – it is supposed to officially open March 17, which is the start of the league’s fiscal year – could be flooded with a wealth of suddenly unemployed talent, creating a buyers' market, if teams are forced to purge players whose contracts are not actually scheduled to expire next month.
Stars like Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott and Chicago Bears receiver are among those who are candidates to receive the franchise tag, which provides a lucrative one-year salary but keeps a player from reaching the open market.
Only one player, Denver Broncos Pro Bowler Justin Simmons, has been tagged so far in 2021.
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