NFLPA Proposes Salary-Cap Freeze for 2021 Season
Jason B. Hirschhorn
For the better part of a decade, NFL teams could depend on a significant year-to-year jump in the salary cap and budgeted accordingly. However, with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic expected to create an earnings shortfall across the league in 2020, the cap could conceivably shrink for the first time rather than expand. Should that occur, many clubs would find themselves in the unenviable position to slash salaries in order to slip under the threshold next year. That would not only hurt the quality of play, but it would put numerous veterans out of work through no fault of their own.
To avoid that potential issue, the NFLPA has suggested the league freezes the cap for the 2021 season, according to a report from NFL Network's Tom Pelissero. Doing so would require cooperation with the league office if not an outright amendment to the collective-bargaining agreement signed in March. The latter scenario would require a vote of the owners.
In addition to the flat 2021 cap, the players union suggests spreading the revenue loss related to the pandemic between the cap figures from 2020 through 2030. Doing so would keep the owners from allocating more money to player salaries than they originally bargained for while also ensuring that veterans don't face undeserved burden next offseason.
While those proposals do not appear unreasonable considering the financial outlook of the league over the remainder of 2020, some of the union's other suggestions seem destined to gain less traction with ownership. The NFLPA also wants the league to pay all fully guaranteed to players in the event of canceled games. A shortened regular season would create the largest earnings shortfall for the league, something it would almost certainly mitigate by holding back payment to players. That issue will require extensive negotiation between the league office and the union.
Ultimately, the NFL and NFLPA have larger issues to settle before working on a fix for 2021. The two sides differ on when training camp should start and whether the preseason will take place at all. Until they settle those matters, everything else remains secondary.
-- Jason B. Hirschhorn is an award-winning sports journalist and Pro Football Writers of America member. Follow him on Twitter: @by_JBH