Just a trio of games remain in the 2020 NFL season, with the conference championship matchups set for Sunday. In the NFC it will be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Green Bay Packers, while in the AFC it will be the Kansas City Chiefs and the Buffalo Bills battling for the right to play in the Super Bowl on February 7.
Once those three games are complete, the offseason will have truly arrived for the league, though for fans of 28 teams, including the Seattle Seahawks, the offseason has already begun. One of the biggest questions facing all teams this offseason will be the level at which the salary cap is set. The cap had been steadily increasing in recent seasons, but with COVID largely preventing fans from filling the stands for much of the year, teams will see the cap come in lower than in seasons past.
The salary cap is set in negotiations between the league and the union each season, with those negotiations centered around the revenues generated in the previous league year and the split of those revenues as agreed to by the parties. For 2021 it’s no secret that the drop in league revenues in 2020 will result in a salary cap far below what many teams had planned for in 2021. That all comes together to create a season that will be challenging for many teams, and which will see several teams be forced to make difficult decisions.
To get a rough understanding of where each of the 32 teams stands, the following chart plots out how much cap space a team has compared to what percentage of the snaps played for that team in 2020 are currently unsigned for next year. To understand how the chart works, the vertical axis represents a team’s effective cap space for 2021, meaning the closer to the top of the chart a team is found, the more cap space it is set to have as the offseason approaches. The horizontal axis represents how many on field snaps the team saw in 2020 from players who are not under contract for next season.
So, as an example, the Seahawks are on roughly the same level vertically as the division rival San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals, meaning all three teams have about the same amount of cap space available heading into the offseason. However, both the Niners and the Cards are significantly further to the right, meaning that even though they are set to have a similar amount of cap space as the Hawks, they have significantly more players they are looking at potentially needing to replace.
A look ahead to 2021. I charted the 'Player Equivalents Lost' based on 2020 snap % versus the 'Effective Cap Space'. Info comes from https://t.co/RR4TlhKpAK— Daniel Rees (@DPRees8) January 18, 2021
Above the line is where you want to be. #Ravens in a pretty good spot going into 2021. pic.twitter.com/K6RBvGj0Vq
For those who prefer their information in table format rather than chart format, the following is the same data in table format.
Another way I showed the info... pic.twitter.com/0FpJiZ8Xej— Daniel Rees (@DPRees8) January 19, 2021
There are a couple of key items to note abut the projection that the Seahawks will have around $7.0M in cap space available in the offseason. First of all, that number is based on the projection of OverTheCap.com for a 2021 salary cap of $176M. That, of course, means that if the cap comes in at $180M, as is possible based on reports from earlier this week, every team would see their cap space increase by $4M. However, on the flip side, those number do not take into consideration the use of restricted free agent tenders to any RFAs, such as Poona Ford, nor are the proven performance escalators for either Tre Flowers or Michael Dickson factored in. Both of those will take a small bite out of the team’s available cap space, which means that it won’t be a surprise to see the Hawks make some sort of moves at some point this offseason to add cap space, whether through a trade, extension or some other roster move.