Packers GM Brian Gutekunst: Lowering NFL Salary Cap in 2021 Is 'Problematic'

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistOctober 16, 2020

Green Bay Packers General Manager Brian Gutekunst introduces head coach Matt LaFleur at a news conference Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Morry Gash/Associated Press

Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst commented recently on the possibility of the NFL salary cap decreasing next season.

In an interview with Kevin Clark of The Ringer, the third-year GM discussed the issues he and other NFL front offices could face as a result of a lower cap:

"It's problematic. Every team is dealing with it. For me, it's certainly made it a lot tougher. We've always tried to have some flexibility, and maintaining that flexibility is much more difficult going into next year's cap and really with the unpredictability of what 2022 will look like. It's tough. It comes down to choices, and it will be an interesting spring because a lot of teams will have to make a lot of choices they don't really want to. But it's very much an equal playing field. We're all going to have to deal with it. There's going to be some unpleasantness. There's no doubt about that."

Since the NFL salary cap is based on the previous year's revenue, it seems like a near certainty that the cap will fall in 2021 as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced teams to allow either no fans or a limited number of fans into stadiums this season.

Per Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk, the cap is projected to fall by as much as $20 million in 2021. That would be a leaguewide issue, but it could be especially difficult for a Packers team with some significant upcoming free agents.

Running back Aaron Jones, offensive tackle David Bakhtiari, center Corey Linsley and cornerback Kevin King are among the Packers players eligible to become free agents after the 2020 season.

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Jones figures to be in line to land one of the biggest running back contracts in the NFL. He rushed for a league-leading 16 touchdowns last season and has rushed for 374 yards and scored six total touchdowns this season.

Bakhtiari is a two-time Pro Bowler, Linsley has started every game at center for the Packers since midway through the 2016 season, and King has come into his own as a starting corner, registering five interceptions last season.

Green Bay would have had a difficult time re-signing all four players under normal circumstances, but if the cap goes down, those free agents are even more likely to switch teams.

The Packers already have a sense of urgency to win a Super Bowl since quarterback Aaron Rodgers is nearing 37 years of age, but the possibility of losing key players in free agency kicks it up a notch.

Green Bay reached the NFC Championship Game last season and is off to a 4-0 start this year.

The salary-cap situation could prevent similar success beyond 2020, so Gutekunst could be aggressive ahead of the trade deadline in an effort to bring another championship to Green Bay before the core is forced to undergo changes.