I know I end up giving a lot of information in regards to the NFL salary cap, but as the 2021 NFL league year approaches along with impending free agency period, the teams that can do the most business are the ones in the best salary cap situation. Inversely, those teams who are struggling to deal with the 2021 salary cap will be very limited in what they can do come March 15 when the 48-hour window prior to the beginning of the league year opens up for players to negotiate contracts.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at the teams with the best salary cap situation at this time as well as those who still have a lot of work to do in order to become cap compliant by March 17.
For this list, the numbers used are courtesy of spotrac.com as their projections include the most recent retirements such as Maurkice Pouncey. Additionally, Spotrac is using an estimated salary cap of $185 million which is slightly higher than others such as overthecap.com who have this number at $180.5 million. We still don’t know what the 2021 salary cap will be, especially since new TV deals could help lessen the blow, it’s important to realize that all of these figures are relative to what the actual cap ends up.
So here are the top five teams when it comes to the most salary cap as well as the bottom five teams. Because we ultimately care the most about the Pittsburgh Steelers, we will throw them in for reference when it is all said and done. Keep in mind all these figures would fall $10 million is the salary cap floor of $175 million ends up being the figure for 2021.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars ($79,618,517)
What made the head coaching job in Jacksonville so desirable this offseason was the combination of the first overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft as well as plenty of room under the salary cap in order to try to build a team.
2. Indianapolis Colts ($78,497,543)
Quarterbacks Philip Rivers and Jacoby Brissett off the books for 2021, so the Colts have a lot of room to make maneuvers this offseason. They may need it in order to find another quarterback.
3. New York Jets ($75,532,774)
With the second overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft and money to spend, it’s no wonder several Steelers free agents have been rumored to land with the Jets.
4. New England Patriots ($68,667,937)
Navigating through the post-Tom Brady era, the Patriots have cleared significant cap room for 2021 as they only have three players currently on the roster with more than a $10 million cap hit for the season.
5. Cincinnati Bengals ($45,596,188)
Having a quarterback on a rookie deal can help almost any team build a roster around them through free agency. The Bengals have the opportunity to try to keep Joe Burrow from getting killed in the backfield, but will they make the moves?
28. Kansas City Chiefs ($-18,068,877)
Building a roster to go to back-to-back Super Bowls can come at a cost in the free agent era. Kansas City is going to have to make some changes in order to be cap compliant by March.
29. Atlanta Falcons ($-23,216,845)
As if going 4-12 in 2020 wasn’t bad enough, the Falcons are also in trouble when it comes to the salary cap as quarterback Matt Ryan’s over $40 million cap hit carries even more dead money if released.
30. Los Angeles Rams ($-25,230,627)
Who knows when the Los Angeles Rams will ever have another first round draft pick as they continually trade them away. Even with the addition of new quarterback Matthew Stafford, the Rams front office will have to work some magic in order to get cap compliant.
31. Philadelphia Eagles ($-41,510,111)
The Eagles are another team with only four wins in 2020 and a nightmare of a salary cap situation for 2021. The biggest issue comes down to quarterback Carson Wentz as they look to deal their former starter before $15 million of his base salary becomes fully guaranteed on March 20.
32. New Orleans Saints ($-65,576,484)
Even working a deal with Drew Brees to drop his salary to the league minimum so his retirement can wait until after June 1, the Saints are still in a nightmare of a situation. With 13 players with a salary cap hit of over $10 million each, the Saints will have to use a combination of roster cuts and restructures before March 17.
Now that we see where the rest of the NFL sits, the Steelers found themself just outside of the bottom five in the league.
27. Pittsburgh Steelers ($-14,238,547)
Although they will need to be replaced, the retirements a Vance McDonald and Maurkice Pouncey did help the Steeler salary cap situation look not as bleak. If the Steelers can restructure Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt for a little more than $10 million, any change to the Ben Roethlisberger situation, whether he calls it quits or does an extension, should get the Steelers into a manageable position for 2021 before working out other deals and extensions across the roster.