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Lack of definite salary cap number could alter NFL offseason calendar

Teams are hesitant to apply the franchise tag until the 2021 salary cap is known.

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Sometimes there’s just one detail which can throw off the process of how everything works. Whether it’s manufacturing a product or building a house, one step early on can delay the process for months. For the 2021 NFL season, that detail, which is no small one, is the salary cap each team will be required to operate under beginning on March 17.

While it is the beginning of the 2021 NFL league year when teams are to be salary cap compliant, there are already issues which could get postponed do to no definitive cap for 2021. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, if the NFL does not give its teams a salary cap number today, the deadline for applying the franchise or transition tag to a player is likely to be extended.

Although pushing deadlines does stall the business aspect of the NFL, it is something that has been done in recent years. In fact, just last March as the NFL and Players Association were working out a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the deadline for applying the franchise and transition tags was moved twice as the possibility of a new CBA was still up in the air. Moving the deadline in 2020 from Tuesday, March 10 to Thursday, March 12 before ultimately pushing it off till Monday March 16 after the vote passed by the NFLPA, the deadline came less than a week after it was initially scheduled.

In 2020, the deadline to apply the franchise or transition tag needed to be extended because the rules were likely to change. In the final year of the previous CBA, teams were permitted to use both the franchise and the transition tag where the new deal did not allow them to do so. Because of this, extending the deadline until both sides knew which set of rules they were operating under was a necessity.

For 2021, knowing the rules is just as important as teams need to know if they can afford to use the franchise tag and stay under the 2021 salary cap. While teams have already been notified the lowest salary cap will go for 2021 is $180 million, which is up $5 million from what was agreed-upon prior to the 2020 season, a difference of $2 million or $3 million could make the difference between teams deciding to use the franchise tag or to allow their players to hit free agency.

Unfortunately, reports surfaced several weeks ago that some believe teams may not to be notified of the new salary cap number until hours before free agency begins.

Should the NFL have to push back the deadline for using the franchise or transition tag, it will not majorly hinder business. If the salary cap number is still not known by 4 PM next Monday when the legal tampering period begins for NFL free agents, it will create an extremely interesting situation. Pushing back the start of the league year would cause major issues for both the players and the teams, and not knowing the salary cap number for the beginning a free agency would also negatively impact both groups.

Moving back Tuesday’s franchise/transition tag deadline would ultimately only affect a handful of NFL players. While for those players it is a big deal, the league can push through and continue on conducting business as normal. Should a determined salary cap still not be in play in another week as free agency begins, then there is cause for major concern.

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