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The NFL informed teams on Wednesday that the 2021 salary cap will be set at $182.5 million, a slight bump from the projected $180 million and a steep fall from last year’s $198.2 million. Revenue losses due to the coronavirus pandemic led to a down year in spending, which is bad news for the New Orleans Saints.
Still, the Saints can use all the help they can get, and $182.5 million is better than $180 million, if just barely. Unspent cap space rolled over from last year raises New Orleans’ spending limit to about $185.5 million, though $9.9 million or so in dead money left behind from terminated contracts is weighing them down a bit.
Expect a flurry of moves in the days ahead. The Saints will have to work around the clock to reach cap compliance before the start of the new league year on March 17, but the real deadline is the legal tampering period that opens on March 15. They’ll be active in free agency between retaining their own players and searching for upgrades, and it’s easier to sell an offer to someone when you can point to your available cap space and show you can pay them.
So how much cap space do the Saints have right now? They created $9.4 million in savings by restructuring contracts with Andrus Peat and Malcolm Jenkins, which followed a one-year extension with running back Dwayne Washington (at a veteran’s minimum, bumping a less-valuable contract below the top-51 threshold and costing only about $70,000 against the cap), as well as the issuance of the franchise tag to Marcus Williams (valued at a little over $10.6 million).
That’s all said to illustrate that is a very fluid situation, and the Saints salary cap estimate can change quickly. For now, though, I have them with roughly $238 million in cap commitments — against the $185.5 million they have to spend, resulting in $52.5 million still to chip away at. And the clock is ticking.