NFL Free Agency begins next week, and teams will have a salary cap of $182.5 million for the 2021 season, which is 8 percent less than the $198.2 million salary cap in 2020. The cap has been raised every year since 2011, but declining revenues due to the coronavirus pandemic have led to reductions for next season.
The drop is expected to continue for a few weeks as teams try to stay under the radar before the new league year begins on Wednesday. Teams will be able to start negotiating with the agents of players who will be free agents on Monday, and teams will be able to contract players starting at 4 p.m. The environment of E.T.
The Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets and Indianapolis Colts want to make the most money, while some clubs are trying to dig another hole with a negative cap.
Based on the roster management model with some tweaks from our NFL Nation reporters, here’s a breakdown of each team’s salary cap space and needs at 8 p.m. and Thursday.
ARI: ATL: BAL: BUF: CAR: CHI: CIN:
CLE: DAL: DEN: DET: GB: HOU: IND:
JAX: KC: LAC: LAR: MIA: MIN: NE:
NO: NYG: NYJ: LV: PHI: PIT: SF:
SEA: TB: TEN: WSH
Total coverage area : $74,403,593
Special orders: $6,753,239
Analysis: The Jaguars have the most budget space, so expect them to spend a lot in Free Agency. That doesn’t necessarily mean they only focus on big names at the right positions (tight end, receiver, defensive line, safety, corner). GM Trent Baalke: We’re looking for value. It’s not always the most expensive player. The good news is that if the Jaguars really want to spend a lot, they won’t have to worry about any major departing homegrown players (receiver DJ Chark, maybe?) for at least a few years. -Michael DiRocco
Dan Orlovsky and Diana Rusini think Sam Darnold can succeed in the NFL.
Total coverage area : $70,302,286
Special orders: $3,589,275
Analysis: While many teams are struggling in a down year, the Jets are doing well. You have the ability to acquire any available player, either through a free agent or a trade. It’s nice to have that flexibility, but general manager Joe Douglas says he doesn’t want to build through free agency. But the Jets need to be cautiously aggressive. They hope to focus on the offensive line and linebackers, and will look to wide receivers and edge rushers if the prices don’t skyrocket. They could create another $4.8 million if they trade QB Sam Darnold, which seems possible. — Rich Cimini.
Total coverage area : $63,660,607
Special orders: $4,396,666
Analysis: The Colts, as has been the case since Chris Ballard became general manager of the team, have one of the largest available seats. The most pressing needs are at left guard, receiver and pass rusher. The first two are even more important with the arrival of quarterback Carson Wentz, acquired from Philadelphia. Ballard prefers to sit back and let the market influence players before trying to contract free agents. So don’t be surprised if the Colts aren’t interested in some players who can make a quick deal. — Mike Wells
Total projected coverage area : $56,316,719
Special orders: $3,387,520
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Analysis: After an offseason in 2020 that saw hard work on the salary cap, the Patriots have weathered that pain this year for a big gain – they’re in the enviable position of having significant salary cap space at a time when most don’t. He is expected to aggressively address a wide range of needs, especially at receiver and tight end. Of course, no position is more important than the quarterback, and they have a big question as well. — Mike Reiss.
Total projected coverage area : $43,913,987
Special orders: $2,749,982
Analysis: The Bengals wanted to be as flexible as possible with a reduced salary cap for 2021, as the league has limited revenue during COWID-19. Cincinnati will have plenty of room to compete for quality free-agent players and meet key needs like offensive guard, wide receiver and country running back. The current space also doesn’t take into account possible cuts to players like defensive tackle Geno Atkins, who represents a $9.5 million savings. — Ben Baby
Total coverage area : $38,833,822
Special orders: $2,565,000
Analysis: Washington enters the Free Agency with plenty of room, but that doesn’t mean they’ll spend generously. They will be aggressive with some expensive players, but just like in 2020, they will be just as happy to make deals. Last season they signed productive players like running back J.D. McKissick and tight end Logan Thomas. Washington will look to the future. Coach Ron Rivera wants to build a consistent team of winners, and knowing that they will have to sign extensions for young players now or in the next few years will be a factor in their cost. — John Keim.
Total coverage area : $31,763,935
Special orders: $8,063,333
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Analysis: The Broncos still have to decide on option years for safety Kareem Jackson and linebacker Von Miller, as well as possible salary adjustments or other contracts. If either player is retained, the Broncos would have more than $20 million in extra cap space, but they would have to give up two starting linebackers. The Broncos have room to sign safety Justin Simmons to long-term contracts, contract him in the draft and be aggressive in Free Agency. George Paton, general manager, suggested the idea of interrupting the initial free agent frenzy and entering into targeted contracts a little later. But they have the chance to play both sides. -Jeff Legwold
Total projected coverage area : $30,423,032
Special orders: $4,880,413
Analysis: The Dolphins don’t have as much money to spend as they did last season, but their budget situation is still pretty good with many of their young core players on rookie contracts. This season, the priority between free agency and draft should be on playmakers, with receivers and running backs of particular importance. — Cameron Wolfe
Total coverage area : $29,816,792
Special orders: 2,290,000
Analysis: Carolina has gone from mid-major to major cap space and can be aggressive in Free Agency. They are in a position to make a deal if a quarterback like Deshaun Watson becomes available in a trade. A long-term deal with right tackle Taylor Moton is on the priority list. After that, rebuilding the offensive line, adding a top line through Free Agency (see Hunter Henry), or drafting and improving the middle line is the key to taking a step forward. — David Newton
Total coverage area : $25,677,147
Special orders: $2,360,000
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Analysis: Unlike many other teams in the league, the Chargers seem to be in good shape. And with their franchise quarterback Justin Herbert in the second year of his rookie contract, not much of a jump is expected. The only questions remain with tight end Hunter Henry, who the Chargers kept with the franchise tag in 2020 before rejecting him in 2021, and defensive end Melvin Ingram. The Chargers are in an enviable position with a strong roster and nine draft options. – Shelley Smith
Total coverage area : $25,472,349
Special orders: $2,778,334
Analysis: After Cleveland invested heavily in the offense last season, the defense will now have to fill in some holes. Although the Browns spent over $60 million in guaranteed money on offense last year – a record for the Browns – they still have room to add one or two key players to their defense in free agency. The priority is finding a pass rusher in addition to Myles Garrett, but Cleveland also needs a linebacker and a second man. The Browns will have to spend wisely, however, as there are several possible internal additions, including possibly QB Baker Mayfield. — Jake Trotter
Total projected coverage area : $24,658,006
Special orders: $4,610,331
Analysis: The 49ers don’t really have much wiggle room, especially considering the number of key free agents they’ve put on the market, but it’s not so scary that they have to lose all those players. Much of the available space will be spent on retaining left winger Trent Williams, and if he stays, it’s unlikely the Niners will make any notable acquisitions on the outside. However, if he does leave, the 49ers could be more active than expected with some big names on the market, especially on the offensive and defensive line. — Nick Wagoner
Total coverage area : $20,772,667
Special orders: $7,776,666
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Analysis: New general manager Nick Caserio has taken several cost-cutting measures since taking over, including laying off J.J. Watt, Nick Martin and Duke Johnson and restructuring David Johnson’s contract, leaving about $18 million in cap space for 2021. But even though the Texans have some big holes on their team, don’t expect the squad to make big moves in Free Agency. -Sarah Bar Shop
Total projected coverage area : $20,654,125
Special orders: $8,881,538
Analysis: Firing Carlos Dunlap freed up $14.1 million, but it also created a hole in the Seahawks’ roster. In addition to pass rusher, they have needs at cornerback, running back and offensive tackle where Russell Wilson is looking to improve. But if the Seahawks only have $20 million in cap space and four draft picks – no first or third picks – that means they’ll likely stick with their M.O. rather than take out expensive contracts. General manager John Schneider always likes to save money for the season and also wants to save some of his spending for June, expecting to have more good players in June than usual because of the NFL’s lowered salary cap. — Brady Henderson.
Total projected coverage area : $20,503,114
Defense: $ 50,097,762
Special orders: $4,860,000
Analysis: Averaging 30.7 points per game (4th in the NFL), the Titans are one of the best teams in the NFL when it comes to the capital invested in their offense. That number would increase if they contracted free agents Corey Davis and Jonna Smith. Tennessee will focus primarily on building a defense that can’t get to the quarterback (19 sacks) and keeps teams out of the end zone (69.2% of opposing points in the red zone). The Titans won’t have much room to draft free agents, which is why it’s important to find less expensive players in the draft. — Turron Davenport
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Total coverage area : $18,540,136
Special orders: $6,113,333
Analysis: Even with the addition of Dak Prescott, a mega contract, the Cowboys remained under the limit. Prescott has $22.2 million in the budget, but the team restructured the contracts of offensive linemen Zach Martin, Tyrone Smith and La’el Collins to create about $17 million in budget space. While the Cowboys have the ability to contract high-profile free agents, they will likely try to retain some of their own players and make strategic moves to help the defense unless they see a deal that is too good to pass up. And if need be, they can always revise the contracts of receiver Amari Cooper, linebacker DeMarcus Lawrence and running back Ezekiel Elliott to create even more space. But remember that every dollar added this year is subtracted from future limits. — Todd Archer
Total coverage area : $17,762,270
Special orders: $3,478,334
Analysis: The Raiders can chalk up another $14 million after Trent Brown was traded to the Patriots on the 17th. March becomes official, bringing the total to more than $33.7 million. With QB Marcus Mariota with a cap hit of $11.35 million, the Raiders still have room to move. But where to start? Of course, the defense in general and the secondary in particular needs an overhaul, and cornerback Richard Sherman should be a prime target in the second wave of free agents to teach youngsters Trayvon Mullen, Damon Arnett and Jonathan Abram not only the new Gus Bradley Constable scheme, but also how to be a pro. Offensively, the Raiders need a veteran receiver (it would be nice to re-contract Nelson Agholor without breaking the bank) and a reliable, durable offensive lineman after last week’s purge (ditto Denzelle Good). — Paul Gutierrez
Total coverage area : $17,601,896
Special orders: $8,660,000
Analysis: With the space the Ravens have, Baltimore can focus on receivers, offensive line, outside linebacker and defensive line in free agency. Baltimore ranks fifth in the NFL when it comes to offensive line limitations, but that will change if the Ravens contract quarterback Lamar Jackson and tight end Mark Andrews for big money. It will be interesting to see how much the Ravens invest in targets for Jackson in free agency. So far, Baltimore has allocated $7 million for the project. The team has a payroll of $500,000 for its wide receivers, which is the seventh smallest team in the NFL. — Jamison Hensley
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Total coverage area : $15,184,209
Special orders: $2,093,750
Analysis: The Cardinals are in a good position now that J.J. Watt hasn’t blown up their payroll and they’ve released cornerback Robert Alford and his $7.5 million in cap space. They have enough money to contract a key player or two with contracts similar to Watt’s and stock up on necessary role players. They are short on corners, wide receiver and running backs, and they are counting on the draft to do some of the work. — Josh Weinfuss
Total coverage area : $9,123,620
Special orders: $3,519,166
Analysis: Minnesota stayed under the limit by releasing tight end Kyle Rudolph, kicker Dan Bailey and left tackle Riley Reiff and restructuring player Britton Colquitt’s contract – all in one week. The Vikings don’t have much money to spend in free agency, but they could make a big move on the offensive line with a large group of UFA guards, many of whom were released as cap casualties. According to general manager Rick Spielman, the team will have to be creative when negotiating contract extensions and restructurings, either moving money to future years or determining that they need to cut players to free up money to improve other parts of the team. — Courtney Cronin
Total projected coverage area : $5,552,089
Special orders: $6,723,333
Analysis: After going over the salary cap because quarterback Ben Roethlisberger left for the majors for $41.2 million, the Steelers did what they do best and used accounting magic to get under the salary cap before the new league year began. The team and Roethlisberger agreed on a new one-year deal that will end the contract after the 2021 season and reduce the cap hit by $15 million. The departures of Maurkice Pouncey and Vance McDonald, along with the restructuring of several veteran contracts, have brought the Steelers back under the cap, but they don’t have much room to contract a large group of free agents – at least not without laying off several veterans. — Brooke Pryor.
Total coverage area : $5,295,320
Special orders: $1,941,056
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Analysis: The Bills spent a lot of money last year, but the drastic reduction in the salary cap affects what they can do in the offseason. They’ve already made room by restructuring Mitch Morse’s contract, but GM Brandon Beane will have to keep shuffling money around to allow the Bills to stay in the AFC title race. Offensive linemen John Feliciano and Daryl Williams are realistic backups. — Marcel Louis-Jacques
Total projected coverage area : $4,411,782
Special orders: $780,000
Analysis: Detroit is in rebuilding mode and with more room in the budget, the Lions won’t have much room for free agents. Lions coach Dan Campbell said he might also rely on mid-level free agents to build the roster, and general manager Brad Holmes wants to rely on recruiting. If the Lions want to restructure Jared Goff’s contract when he officially joins the roster early this year, the roster spot could change. That margin excludes the one-year contract Tyrell Williams agreed to earlier this week and the release of Justin Coleman on Thursday. — Michael Rothstein
Total coverage area : $4,368,370
Special orders: $8,817,250
Analysis: This year, like everyone else, the Giants can’t keep their cap space. They need to give defenseman Leonard Williams a long-term contract to be truly flexible this season. We also need to find a solution for offensive lineman Nate Solder ($16.5 million against the cap). Then they will be able to make some gestures. Still, they won’t spend their time spending money in Free Agency. They’re probably going to make a big move. Coach Joe Judge recently said that you build your team by drafting, a philosophy that general manager Dave Gettleman shares. — Jordan Ranan
Total coverage area: minus $2,001,679
Special orders: $5,717,500
Analysis: The Chiefs cut their payroll by more than $18 million by firing tackles Mitchell Schwartz and Eric Fisher. You have some work to do to reach the salary cap. It’s hard to believe they could be strong contenders for free agents if they qualify. On the other hand, they overcame a difficult salary situation last season that left them with only $177 to play with at one point, and re-contracted quarterback Patrick Mahomes, defensive tackle Chris Jones and tight end Travis Kelce. — Adam Thacher.
Total projected cap area: minus $7,756,263.
Special orders: $3,650,000
Analysis: The point is to keep as much of the Super Bowl team as possible, but it will take some work. The signing of Chris Godwin will cost the Bucs $15.8 million, while the signing of Lavonte David will count as a two-year extension (two years, $25 million, $20 million guaranteed) for $3.5 million on the cap in 2021 (the contract includes three years that were waived, allowing the Bucs to spread his coverage over five years). That puts the Bucks at $7.756 million over the limit. But they were working on extending quarterback Tom Brady for another year, which would reduce his $28.375 million cap hit due in 2021. They could follow that model and sign Donovan Smith ($14.25 million), center Ryan Jensen ($10 million) and outside linebacker Jason Pierre Paul ($12.8 million) for the next few years, as they all have another year left on their contracts, which would allow them to offer outside linebacker Shaq Barrett a competitive contract. But they still have to remember tight end Rob Gronkowski, kicker Ryan Succop, fullback Ndamukong Suh, wide receiver Antonio Brown and Leonard Fournette. — Jenna Lane.
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Total coverage area: minus $9,214,429.
Special orders: $7,733,726
Analysis: The Packers have until Wednesday to raise the $9 million they need to be competitive, but they’ll need even more room if they want to do anything in free agency, whether it’s re-contract one of their own free agents (see Jones, Aaron) or make a bid for someone on the open market. They have some easy cuts (Preston Smith being the most obvious) and restructurings or contract extensions (Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams, Za’Darius Smith among them) that should put them in a good position this season, but they should also keep in mind that they will have more tackle problems in the coming years. — Rob Demovsky
Total coverage area: minus $17,453,918.
Special orders: $1
Analysis: Look for the Bears to restructure contracts as the club approaches the estimated $182.5 million salary cap. The club has already created an opening by deciding not to bring back veteran cornerback Buster Skrine and right tackle Bobby Massie. Chicago needs financial flexibility at quarterback, wide receiver and special teams. The Bears just contracted Cairo Santos, but they need to do more. — Jeff Dickerson
Total projected cap area: minus $22,055,452.
Special orders: $3,199,435
Analysis: The Falcons are one of four teams with more than $20 million above the salary cap and have until the 17th round of the draft. March time to reach the ceiling. They have already fired several players (including Ricardo Allen and Allen Bailey), but more cuts and restructuring are to be expected. Quarterback Matt Ryan and receiver Julio Jones have the top two picks in 2021 and are candidates for restructured contracts, especially as new GM Terry Fontenot and head coach Arthur Smith try to maximize the team’s chances of winning in the coming years as these players reach the end of their careers. Other players to keep an eye on are defensive end Dante Fowler Jr, defensive tackle Grady Jarrett and offensive tackle Jake Matthews. -Michael DiRocco
Total roof area: minus $28,381,902.
Special orders: $5,079,833
Analysis: Work continues to bring the Eagles in line for coverage. They’ve already released receiver DeSean Jackson and restructured several veteran contracts, including cornerback Darius Slay and center Jason Kelce. Other moves are expected to include trading tight end Zach Ertz and the departure of wideout Alshon Jeffery. The situation of the ceiling is less of a concern inside the company than outside. With enough transfer money available, the club could add players this season if they meet their needs. But they took a cap hit of over $30 million by selling Carson Wentz, and they’re tight on cash right now, which limits aggressiveness in free agency. — Tim McManus.
Total roof area: minus $31,260,736.
Special orders: $7,837,000
Analysis: Quarterback Jared Goff’s next contract will be $22.2 million, giving the Rams $34,078,757 in dead money in 2021. General manager Les Snead said he was pleased with the Rams’ salary situation and called it an unprecedented year. However, the Rams are well above the limit and may have to make some tough decisions to get below the limit. We’ve had to knock on the door of many of our key people, our key supporters, and ask them to make sacrifices in some cases and adjust their contracts in some cases to help us stay under the cap, Snead said. The Rams want to go under the cap by restructuring contracts, but that could mean laying off veterans. — Lindsay Tyree
Total roof area: minus $38,321,856.
Special orders: $4,915,500
Analysis: The lowering of the NFL’s salary cap has hit the Saints harder than any other team in the league. They entered the offseason with nearly $100 million before firing veterans like receiver Emmanuel Sanders, cornerback Janoris Jenkins, punter Thomas Morstead and tight end Josh Hill. Fullback Kwon Alexander is expected to be next. The Saints are not in rebuilding mode, however, even though Drew Brees is expected to retire and the team has more than $22 million in dead money. They used the franchise tag on safety Marcus Williams, although it’s not a very comfortable move. And it looks like they will try to extend top talents like CB Marshon Lattimore and OT Ryan Ramczyk, even though they could cost around $20 million a year. — Mike Triplett
frequently asked questions
How many seats does each NFL team have?
Is the salary cap the same for all NFL teams?
The cap limits the amount each NFL franchise can spend on player salaries per year. It should be noted that the limit only applies to players, not coaches, trainers or other personnel. The salary cap was set at $133 million per team for 2014, $143.28 million for 2015 and $155.27 million for 2016.
Which NFL team has the most salary cap space?
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