The 2021 NFL March Massacre
Earlier this week, the Miami Dolphins broke the news that they would be releasing team captain Kyle Van Noy. While they are now going back on that decision in hopes of trying to find a trade partner, I find it unlikely any team would be willing to give up any assets knowing that Van Noy is soon to be available as a free agent. Van Noy signed a 4-year, $51 million contract last offseason and helped to turn around the Miami Dolphins this past season, making the news even more shocking.
While the headline was surprising at first, I think it is just one of many shocking headlines we will be seeing out of the NFL in the coming days. The Dolphins parted ways with Van Noy because of the large contract they signed him prior to the Covid pandemic. The NFL salary cap was projected to be around $210 million this season, but due to the loss in revenue without fans in the stands, the salary cap is hovering around $180 million. This $30 million decrease screwed with every NFL team’s plans, not just the Dolphins. NFL reporter Dianna Russini received intel that the release of Van Noy was just the beginning and have likened the coming week to a “massacre.” Many teams will be following suit and cutting many high-profile star players ahead of the start of free agency on March 17.
While the influx of talent into free agency will make teams with cap space ecstatic, I see some other implications of the league-wide salary dump. Average players who normally would have seen some attention from multiple teams will likely not receive the same demand for their services as normal due to this unexpected availability of better players. Combined with the fact that teams are going to be far stingier with their salary distribution in general, the decreased demand could really leave a lot of players making far less money than they would have in any other season.
It will be interesting to see how both teams and players react to the upcoming free agency period in the NFL. I could see even more aging stars join Tom Brady in Tampa and Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City on cheap deals, given that the money they would be owed from their former teams could compensate for the lost income of taking a cheaper deal. Additionally, today we saw Ben Roethlisberger return to the Pittsburgh Steelers on a restructured deal that saves the Steelers $15 million this season. This could become a reality for many other highly paid veterans who might need to be willing to sacrifice their salaries in order to remain on the team. While many NFL players are certainly not looking forward to the coming week, as a fan, this could definitely get interesting.