The NFL is expecting massive financial losses in 2020 – and possibly beyond – amid the COVID-19 pandemic. So is every sport, right? But that's not stopping the Los Angeles Dodgers from signing Mookie Betts to a $300+ million contract. The scope of "biblical" losses for billionaire owners is probably exaggerated.
But the NFL isn't Major League Baseball, which does not have a salary cap. And what the NFL does to its salary cap with its own financial losses appears to be a serious sticking point between owners and the NFLPA with training camps scheduled to open in a matter of days.
The NFLPA prefers those losses to be spread over the next 10 years, which feels sensible with the prospect of cash windfalls from new TV contracts this decade. But NFL owners don't appear as keen on that idea, as evidenced by this report from NFL Network's Tom Pelissero:
Negotiations are fluid, but NFL owners continue to push for an agreement to lower the salary cap in 2020 and 2021 - proposals the NFLPA and GMs believe could lead to a rash of veteran cuts and restructures before this season, sources say.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) July 23, 2020
First things first: I don't see how this'll actually happen, given the push-back not only from players but from general managers. A dozen teams have less than $10 million in cap space right now; the Kansas City Chiefs, per Spotrac, have about $1.5 million in cap space, meaning they'd need to clear $8.5 million off their books before the regular season.
But let's say this idea gets pushed through – it's better, after all, than simply accepting what could be a $70 million reduction in the 2021 salary cap, which the NFLPA believes is what could happen if no action is taken to spread these impending losses out.
The Bears currently have a little over $11 million in cap space, per Spotrac, meaning they wouldn't have to make any cuts to get under a rapidly-decreased salary cap. That's the good news. The bad news is it'd leave them very little room for roster flexibility unless they made a difficult cut (like Cordarrelle Patterson, who'd free up $4.75 million in cap space if released).
But a bigger issue may be looming in 2021. If the salary cap stays the same from 2020 to 2021 – about $198 million – the Bears, right now, would be left with about $5 million to spend next offseason. Cuts can be made, of course (releasing Jimmy Graham, Charles Leno and Bobby Massie would result in $6 million or more in cap savings for each player) and contracts can be restructured for short-term relief.
There's always money in the banana stand, etc., etc., but what if Dak Prescott all of a sudden is a free agent? Would the Bears have enough cap space to not only sign him, but have a good enough roster around him – which includes re-signing Allen Robinson -- to maximize his impact?
Either way, it doesn't look like the cap will go up in 2021. The Bears are going to have some tough questions to address, especially if it goes down next year. In the short term, the Bears will be fine. In the long term? Maybe not.
How NFL's financial losses will impact Bears' roster in 2020, beyond originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago