There’s no escaping the impact that COVID-19 has wreaked on everyone’s lives, and the NFL is not immune to it.
ESPN’s Josina Anderson reported on Monday that the league could suffer a $3 billion loss of revenue without fans in the stands during the 2020 season.
I'm told during the call the NFLPA mentioned there could be a $3 billion dollar loss of revenue potentially without fans in the stands due to CoVid19 this season and thereby could impact the salary cap in 2021. https://t.co/AmGG3nO5sm— IG: JosinaAnderson (@JosinaAnderson) June 15, 2020
That’s a big number. For most, it’s so large that it’s hard to truly measure what impact that could have. DNVR’s Andrew Mason is not most people.
So if you lop $3 billion off last year's revenue total, take 48 percent of that and divide it by 32 teams, the 2021 salary cap would be just over $157.4 million, which is nearly a $40.8 million drop from this year's per-team cap of $198.2 million.— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) June 15, 2020
While that kind of cap hit wouldn’t hurt the Broncos as much as teams like the Eagles, Steelers, or Falcons, it’d still push them over the cap before free agency and the rookie pool is considered. While it’s completely possible the NFL would find a way to ease the transition, it’s no guarantee.
One would hope so, but there are some teams -- particularly lower-revenue small-to-mid-market clubs -- who might be inclined to say, "Too bad; so sad."— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) June 15, 2020
Which got me wondering to what John Elway and the Broncos would do if this turned into what amounts to a nightmare scenario for at least half the league. So I decided to check out how the Broncos could create cap space in 2021. Keep in mind that some of these are more realistic than others, it’s simply a thought experiment that’s worth having with so many unknowns ahead. All numbers come from Over the Cap.
Let Justin Simmons walk
Adam Schefter was kind enough to remind me that the Broncos haven’t extended Justin Simmons yet. As I wrote in GIF Horse, chances are his next contract resets the market for safety contracts. At that price, the Broncos could consider him replaceable in Fangio’s scheme. They could simply let him play out 2020 on the franchise tender and watch him walk in 2021 free agency.
After a lost 2020 the pressure is on the former Bear to live up to his new renegotiated contract. If Elway and the Broncos let him go, it’d free up $7,382,353 at the cost of $1,333,334.
If it seems crazy to let a All Pro defensive tackle walk, consider the Tennessee Titans did so to pay a running back. Dumping Casey would free up $12,281,000 next year and cost nothing against the cap.
Like Casey, Bouyé is playing on a contract Elway acquired in a trade. This means moving him again would add no dead money to the cap. It’d free up $13,500,000.
The former Patriot was acquired in a trade and so cutting or trading him at any point over the remainder of his rookie contract carries no dead cap hit. If the Broncos did so in 2021 it’d free up a little over a million dollars in cap room.
DaeSean Hamilton, Royce Freeman, Josey Jewell, Isaac Yiadom
All four of these members of the 2018 NFL draft class are entering critical year threes with rookie contracts that aren’t anywhere near prohibitive to move on from in 2021. Each would free up a shade under a million dollars, and Freeman’s dead cap hit would be the worst at $250,000.
The decision to draft Albert Okwuegbunam after the move to sign Vannett to a $5.7 million contract could lead to a short stay for the veteran. With a cap crunch looming trimming a blocking tight end off the roster as Albert O finds his stride in year two could make sense since it also frees up $2,700,000 and only costs $875,000 against the cap.
Like Vannett, Driskel was the kind of ho-hum depth move fans tend to forget about between free agency and training camp. The former Bengal and Lion signed for two years and $5 million. If the Broncos find Brett Rypien or a 2021 draftee worth cutting ties with the veteran for, it’d free up $2,500,00 at the cost of $750,000.
When the Broncos initially signed Gordon to a two-year, $16 million contract, it was inconceivable that they’d eat $2 million to let him go a year later. This year has been wild.
Perhaps Michael Ojemudia or Tre Marshall play well enough to move on from the 33-year old Jackson. Doing so would free up $10 million and cost $2,882,353 against the 2021 cap.
To some it’s been unfathomable that John Elway would even consider this; to others it’s only made too much sense for five years now. When I wrote about Von contracting COVID-19 in February, it reminded me that the 10th-year pass rusher is now north of 30 and reaching an age where many speed rushers begin to hit a decline. The Broncos could deem another sub-10 sack year as evidence it’s time to find a trade partner for the future Hall of Famer. Doing so would cost just $4,125,000 against next year’s cap and open up $18 million.
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Projecting a rookie wide receiver who will be working with a second-year pro at quarterback (Drew Lock) on a team that has invested heavily at the running back position presents some challenges. Jeudy’s Alabama resume showed alignment versatility. Computer vision route-running tracking shows his route-running and precision to be high. PFF shows Jeudy gained the fifth-most receiving yards on deep targets in the SEC last season (320). It seems that Jeudy’s ability to line up and be used anywhere is what will help him earn in fantasy, as the Broncos’ top receiver, Courtland Sutton, accounted for the highest percentage of the team’s air yards in 2019 (42.9%, per NGS). Jeudy’s ranking is currently No. 48 in my model.
There’s some momentum growing for something that once seemed impossible. Amidst all the turmoil generated in the wake of George Floyd’s killing by police, the NFL is opening a door to the possibility of Colin Kaepernick’s return.
Coming off an unexpected breakout season, Darren Waller believes his Las Vegas Raiders can make a similar leap from obscurity to earned notoriety in 2020.
Report: ESPN will use Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit for MNF if college football season is delayed or canceled - ProFootballTalk
This suggests that ESPN knows something that the rest of us don’t. By all indications, college football plans to proceed as scheduled, at a minimum with the biggest schools in the biggest conferences getting their games in. But with eight Alabama players testing positive in recent weeks and Houston shutting down voluntary workouts after six players tested positive, there’s a chance that the effort to play college football will collapse like a proverbial house of cards.