As it stands, NFL teams are expected to see the salary cap drop significantly in 2021 as a result of the entire 2020 regular season being played mostly without fans, which meant without concessions sales, and significantly lower merchandise sales. Outside of network deals, revenue is down in a big, bad way and that revenue is what informs what the salary cap will be each year.
Last year, the NFL salary cap was $198.2 million. Under the collective bargaining agreement between the NFLPA and owners, the 2021 cap, regardless of how deeply revenue dropped, cannot plummet beneath $175M.
What does it mean for the Denver Broncos? 9NEWS' Mike Klis reported on Wednesday that the Broncos rolled $17.788M in unused cap space from last year into 2021. That would grow the Broncos' salary cap to $192.788M.
That number is only $6M or so off from last year's cap, which the Broncos had no trouble flying under. That puts new GM George Paton in a relatively fortuitous spot compared to many NFL teams.
As it stands, the Broncos currently have $185,256,018 in total cap liabilities on the books for 2021, according to Over The Cap. But that is slightly deceptive. Going on the top-51 cutoff, the Broncos have $178.8M in cap liabilities, rendering the team's cap space to around $14M.
Paton could seriously chip away at that figure, depending on how he prioritizes certain highly-paid veterans.
If most teams have to operate under a $175M salary cap but the Broncos can maneuver with $192M, that's a significant advantage. Paton's first three orders of business are to 1.) meet with the coaches, 2.) meet with the scouting department, and 3.) meet with cap czar Rich Hurtado.
From there, Paton should have a well-articulated plan of attack for the 2021 offseason. We still don't know how Paton will handle the Von Miller situation, or if the new GM will push to re-sign Pro Bowl safety Justin Simmons or defensive lineman Shelby Harris.
The vulnerable veterans on the roster include defensive lineman Jurrell Casey and cornerback A.J. Bouye at the top of the list. If Paton needs to get creative, safety Kareem Jackson could also be approached about a contract restructure.
For now, it's a game of hurry up and wait for fans. However, January is already in its fourth week which means those big decisions will come before you know it.
What we can say for sure is that John Elway didn't leave the Broncos in any sort of cap hell and in fact, was smart enough to set the new GM up for success in a calendar season that could be unprecedented for the NFL.