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Chiefs get good news: NFL has raised 2021 salary cap minimum

On Thursday, the league made a small increase to the lowest amount the 2021 cap can be — but more good news appears to be on the horizon.

NFL: Combine Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

In a move that will make things a little less anxious in the executive offices of the Kansas City Chiefs, the NFL has told its teams that the 2021 salary cap will be no less than $180 million. ESPN’s Adam Schefter had it first.

Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated’s MMQB chimed in with the memo itself.

In talks late last summer, the league and the NFL Players Association had agreed that the cap would be no less than $175 million, so this is just a $5 million increase to that minimum amount — and as Breer noted, this is not what the final cap number will be.

So why is this news important to the Chiefs — and the 10 other teams that are currently above the salary cap?

The biggest takeaway from this news is that despite the coronavirus pandemic, 2020 league revenues didn’t reach worst-case projections; the league is already comfortable with raising the cap’s minimum amount. Even if this $5 million increase amounts to only a drop in the bucket — which it does — this is really good news.

As Breer noted in another tweet, more is likely to be coming.

This follows reporting from NBC Sports’ Peter King in his “Football Morning in America” column on Monday morning.

The NFL is close—“within a month,” one source told me at the Super Bowl—to inking new 10-year contracts with its network partners that could result in an aggregate increase of 70 to 100 percent in rights fees from the last contract.

It’s important to remember that the salary cap is mostly driven by revenue from these television contracts. While many stadiums were empty in 2020 — and many others were filled to only a small fraction of their capacity — the NFL managed to get through the season without cancelling any games, which kept them from losing broadcast revenue. And as King noted, if they can get the deals done before the league year begins on March 17, it will help the NFL set the salary cap at a more workable level.

Getting the deals done now could provide the league with the influx of cash it needs to not have the salary cap crush teams in March.

Still... there’s no reason to expect that in 2021, the salary cap will suddenly return to normal — that is, 5-10% higher than last season’s 198.2 million; while the league avoided an absolute revenue disaster in 2020, revenues did go down. But with this news, there is now hope that it could come in somewhere closer to what it was a year ago.

As I explained on Wednesday, the Chiefs are currently $18.1 million over Spotrac’s projected salary cap of $185 million — just $5 million more than the new minimum. During Super Bowl Week, Chiefs general manager Brett Veach said that he and his staff have run through scenarios where the cap would be as low as $175 million — but that “anything over $185 million and we’re in pretty good shape.”

So at least for the moment, Veach and his team can throw out those $175 million scenarios — and we can hope that the Chiefs will not have to make a lot of drastic salary cap moves in 2021.