The negotiations that allowed the 2020 season to proceed included a commitment that the 2021 salary cap will be no lower than $175 million per team. The upcoming negotiations (and it’s negotiated every year) regarding the 2021 salary cap could result in a number significantly higher than $175 million.
Per a league source, the possibility that stadiums will be full for the 2021 season could prompt the league to not tie the hands of teams by dropping the salary cap by more than $23 million per team, from $198.2 million. Although the 2020 season will indeed result in lower revenue than usual, the potential of a return to something normal or close to it plus the coming TV deals may result in the league keeping the cap in the range of $195 million.
Time will tell what the league chooses to do. Although a projected cap typically is shared with all owners in December, the final decision isn’t made until late February or early March, through negotiations with the NFL Players Association. By then, the league will know more about whether the vaccine is being distributed and working properly, setting the stage for coffers being restored via ticket revenue in 2021.
The losses from 2020 will still be absorbed at some point. However, most teams won’t want to tie their hands next year with a dramatically reduced cap. Pushing losses to future years also helps players by reducing the possibility of the widespread termination of veteran contracts.