Get ready for the return of big[ger] spending in the NFL when the next offseason rolls around. All 32 teams were mostly hamstrung in 2020, due to the first spike of the COVID-19 pandemic that not only threatened to shut down the regular season, but went on to create two consecutive seasons of downturn in the league’s salary cap due to lost revenue. As vaccinations have now mostly taken hold and fans have begun to flood stadiums once again, profits are again spiking, and it’s reportedly driving a projected 2022 salary cap of nearly $208 million — per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.
That’s great news for all involved, but particularly teams that were in a major salary cap crunch and, as such, had to work a lot of magic to be a player in this year’s free agency spree, if they wound up being much of one at all. The $208 million mark is what the 2021 salary cap was projected to be prior to the pandemic having its way, with the 2020 offseason reduced to $198.2 million in what was also the first year of the new collective bargaining agreement, being further reduced in 2021 to just $182.5 million.
The latter number was initially projected to bottom out at $175 million, if not for a deal struck between the NFL and NFLPA on revenue-sharing and how the loss in profits from fan-less stadiums would be spread over the next several offseasons. There was no shortage of eye-opening deals signed over the last two years, e.g., Dak Prescott, but the quantity of big-money deals was commensurate with the lowered cap.
In other words, teams were much more judicious in how many players they handed over big bags to and, when they did pay the pretty penny, it often required circus tricks that include voidable years on contracts — a new financial rage that took the NFL by storm recently. Additionally, from the stance of players, many decided against long-term contracts and extensions and instead opted for one-year deals to reposition themselves in next year’s free agency, when the cap was expected to rise significantly.
They got their wish, as did the league, and a projected $25.5 million bump in 2022 will make things very interesting when it comes time for the checkbooks to fly open in March.