Just a few months ago, there was jubilation around the NFL world when a new Collective Bargaining Agreement was forged. One that planned to take full advantage of new television deals and the rise of legal sports gambling to bring in more revenue. This was expected to deliver a sharp increase in the overall salary cap starting in 2021. Something GM Ryan Pace and the Chicago Bears could’ve taken advantage of with contract extensions and pursuing outside free agents.

Now those plans are in jeopardy. Belief is that unless the league is somehow able to pack out stadiums with fans this season, teams stand to loses millions of dollars. Perhaps as much as $100 million per club. Given the current concerns with COVID-19, the idea of full stadiums in the fall don’t seem likely. This has led to fears of the short and long-term financial impacts.

Albert Breer of the MMQB explained that the salary cap could be a major victim.

“The cap is a percentage of total revenue, and losing $100 million per club (I don’t think the number winds up being near that high, but let’s work with it, since it’s a round number) would mean $48 million coming out of the 2021 cap equation. Let’s say then, otherwise, there’d have been a $10 million jump (due to structure of TV deals, etc.). Now, you’re at minus-$38 million. I don’t believe the league or union would go forward like that—it’d mean a bloodletting that would be good for no one.

So I think they’d borrow from future years to flatten it out. So let’s say you spread that out over 2022-24. You lose a little less than $13 million each year. Eventually, with new TV deals and gambling money, that’ll self-correct. But it creates economic uncertainty that’ll make teams more hesitant to do big long-term deals with their own free agents, and certainly more conservative in pursuing other teams’ guys. Which, again, is good for no one.”

Chicago Bears could be forced into some very difficult roster decisions

So think about that. Instead of the cap taking a sizable jump up as expected in 2021, it might instead go down instead. Something that hasn’t happened in the NFL this side of the millennium. Right now the Bears are projected to have somewhere around $24.9 million in cap space next season according to Spotrac. Imagine if $13 million of that had to be taken away? Suddenly what little flexibility they had is gone.

The timing couldn’t be worse too because the team is projected to have no fewer than 28 unrestricted free agents who could hit the market by next March. This includes some of their key players like Allen Robinson and Cordarrelle Patterson. This could force the team into some tough roster decisions regarding pricier contracts. Kyle Fuller, Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Charles Leno, Jimmy Graham, and Bobby Massie will all be names who could get the ax.

Something to keep in mind as this process plays out.