NFL free agency is set to kick off in about two weeks with the start of the new league year, but there's still some uncertainty surrounding the 2021 salary cap as teams prepare for every scenario.
The NFL has not finalized its 2021 salary cap just yet, but the number is expected to be smaller than last year's $198.2 million figure because of the losses suffered due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Lions currently sit about $9 million over this year's salary cap floor of $180 million, according to OverTheCap.com, and Lions general manager Brad Holmes admitted that some tough decisions in terms of player cuts could likely be coming down the pipeline as soon as this week. The Lions do have an additional $12.8 million in carryover space from last season, according to NFL Players Association figures.
"Obviously, there's some uncertainty in terms of what that (cap number) will be," Holmes said this week during a Zoom call with reporters. "From our planning standpoint, we've actually been weighing every single scenario from the most optimistic scenario, what it would be, to the worst-case scenario.
"So, it goes back to the process and the planning stages in terms of how it works. I will say that (Senior Vice President of Football & Business Administration) Mike Disner has been excellent in terms of his expertise in the salary cap and working with (head coach) Dan (Campbell) and myself and working through those areas."
Holmes said Disner has made that process as seamless as possible.
"A lot of credit goes to Mike Disner with the cap situation," Holmes said.
Not only are the Lions determining how the cap might affect the future of some of their own players, but they're also projecting what free agency across the league might look like.
Could we see a number of players choose to take shorter-term deals this free agent cycle in hopes of cashing in more when the cap rises, which it's expected to do once we get past the pandemic and revenues return to higher levels?
"You just kind of weigh all those different scenarios and you're trying to come up with what makes the most sense," Holmes said. "Obviously, we're trying to look for what makes the most sense from a team standpoint or what makes the most sense for the Lions.
"But at the same time, you're trying to predict where that player's at ... and what his agent is really thinking because he gets a lot of guidance from that standpoint. When you really delve into those discussions, you have some surprises.
"It might be the opposite of what we were thinking. It's an ongoing thing that I think at this stage, that some players will look for shorter deals because maybe that will set them up for something a little further down the line. We've had a lot of surprises already to this point, so I would expect even more surprises there."
The legal tampering period where teams and representatives for players can begin contract negotiations begins March 15. It will be interesting to see what kind of deals are brokered, and if we see more smaller length deals than usual.