Every March, the NFL sets its salary cap. The cap has steadily risen by $10-12 million every year since 2013. That’s thanks in large part to the new CBA, which was signed after the 2012 lockout season. That’s when we saw new TV deals, which put more money into the league’s pockets.
Things will be different in 2021, and that’s because of what happened in 2020. First off, the NFL TV rights are up for renewal in 2022. So there will certainly be a jump in the salary cap next offseason— especially if there are new streaming deals as well. That plays a small factor into this offseason.
COVID-19 affected everyone during 2020, from their personal lives to how the NFL’s season went. Before the 2020 season started, many were expected the salary cap for 2021 to drop to $175 million per team. That’s a projected $23.2 million drop from the 2020 cap number.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the NFL’s salary cap would be roughly $180-181 million on Sunday morning. That’s down about $18-19 million from 2020, or about 10%. Pre-COVID, that’s a $28-30 million reduction.
Every NFL team is allowed two Post-June 1 cap cuts. Dee Ford makes the most sense for one of those spots as the 49ers could save $15.2 million in cap savings while only having $4.7 million in dead money. If the team were to release Ford prior to June 1, they’d have $14.3 million in dead money with only $5.7 million in cap savings.
The other option that seems to be the most logical post-June 1 cut is Weston Richburg. San Francisco loses $2 million if Richburg is released pre-June 1. A post-June-1 release for Richburg saves the Niners roughly $4.4 million.
The 49ers create $14.9 million with post-June-1 releases by moving on from these two high-priced players. Add in a Fred Warner extension, with a few other small moves, and it’s plausible to believe the 49ers could get to $20 million if they need to make space.