Like Lamar Jackson under pressure from the pass rush, let the scrambling begin.

The NFL’s salary cap will be $182.5 million per team in the upcoming season, a drop of 8% from 2020. The league’s loss of revenues due to the coronavirus pandemic caused the first decrease in the cap since 2011, which followed an uncapped season.

Free agency begins Wednesday, though the “legal tampering” period starts Monday.

The NFL is close to agreement on extensions of its broadcast contracts, but those deals will not affect the 2021 season. At least the current cap is $2.5 million higher than projected last month. Last summer, the players’ union and league agreed to a cap minimum of $175 million, but that number jumped by $5 million in February and was set at $182.5 million on Wednesday.

“My stepson asked me this morning, `Hey, is that extra $2.5 million going to help you?'” Rams GM Les Snead said. “I’m like, `No, I don’t think 2.5 is really going to help us.’ If you look at where we are and look at how much we’re over, 2.5 is probably a little bit of a drop in the bucket.

“Today’s news, the extra $2.5 million, isn’t necessarily going to move the needle with us, but it is very, very helpful now to know that it’s not going to be 188, per se. That would have been a little more breathing room. So to know now, we know what the finish line is. We’ve been running a marathon, and we didn’t know whether we were going to run 25 miles, 24, 26 or 28. At least now we know it’s 26.2.”


It might seem like 182.5 million miles for the Rams: They currently are $41 million beyond the cap.

The Eagles were over by about $35 million and the Saints by $33 million.

On the other side of the ledger, the Jets, Patriots and Jaguars had the most money available, ranging from $65 million to $67 million.

VIKINGS: The Minnesota Vikings made their costliest move yet for salary cap compliance by terminating the contract of left tackle Riley Reiff with one year left on it, weakening an offensive line that was already in need of some upgrades.

Though Reiff plays a critical position and 2020 was by most measures the best of his four seasons with the Vikings, cutting him will trim $11.75 million off the team’s cap charges. They’ll carry $3.2 million in dead money.

SAINTS: The New Orleans Saints have informed receiver Emmanuel Sanders and linebacker Kwon Alexander they’ll be released in moves that will save the club nearly $20 million against the NFL’s salary cap, a person familiar with the situation said.


TEXANS: The Houston Texans have hired Lovie Smith as defensive coordinator, one of many new additions to first-year coach David Culley’s staff.

Smith, who will also hold the title of associate head coach, coached at Illinois from 2016 until he was fired in December. He coached the Bears from 2004-12, the Buccaneers from 2014-15, and has been an assistant with the Rams in a decades-long coaching career that began as a high school assistant in Texas in 1980. Smith led the Bears to the NFC title in 2006 before losing in the Super Bowl to the Colts.

Romeo Crennel, the interim coach last season following Bill O’Brien’s dismissal after an 0-4 start, will remain with the team as the senior adviser for football performance.

The Texans also retained offensive coordinator Tim Kelly and running backs coach Danny Barrett from last year’s staff.

Other new additions to the staff are special teams coordinator Frank Ross, passing game coordinator Pep Hamilton, wide receivers coach Robert Prince, and tight ends coach Andy Bischoff. The Texans also added James Campen to coach the offensive line, Bobby King as the defensive line coach, Miles Smith to coach linebackers, Greg Jackson as safeties coach and cornerbacks coach Dino Vasso.

DRAFT: The Dallas Cowboys have been awarded the maximum four compensatory picks in April’s NFL draft, while the Atlanta Falcons and Green Bay Packers will get three apiece.


The NFL announced there will be 32 such picks this year. Carolina, Chicago, Kansas City, the Los Angeles Rams, Minnesota, New England, New Orleans and Philadelphia get two apiece. Baltimore, the Los Angeles Chargers, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Tampa Bay and Tennessee will have one each.

Compensatory selections are awarded to a team losing more or better compensatory free agents than it acquires in the previous year. Those spots are positioned from the third through sixth rounds of the draft based on the value of the compensatory free agents lost. That value is determined by a formula based on salary, playing time and postseason honors and was developed by the NFL’s management council. Not every free agent lost or signed by a club is covered by the formula.

But this year, the league also is giving four special compensatory selections to four teams – the 49ers (two), Rams, Ravens, and Saints – for promoting equal employment opportunities and an inclusive workforce. That initiative provides that the previous team of a minority employee who has been hired by another club as its head coach or general manager will receive compensation in the third round of each of the next two drafts, or in each of the next three drafts if two minority employees are hired for these positions by another club or clubs.

Those selections are made at the end of the third round. San Francisco’s is for the Jets hiring Robert Saleh as head coach. The Rams is for Lions GM Brad Holmes. Baltimore’s is for David Culley, now the coach in Houston, and New Orleans got one for Terry Fontenot joining Atlanta as general manager.

New England has the highest compensatory spot at 96th overall, in great part for seeing Tom Brady land in Tampa Bay – and winning the Super Bowl. Dallas’ picks will be 99th, 139th, 179th and 227th.

The Cowboys lost Randall Cobb, Maliek Collins, Jeff Heath, Byron Jones, Robert Quinn, Xavier Su’a-Filo and Jason Witten in free agency in 2020. They gained Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Gerald McCoy and Greg Zuerlein.


GIANTS: Facing a salary-cap deficit, the New York Giants released starting guard Kevin Zeitler.

The Giants announced the move a day after franchising defensive lineman Leonard Williams in a move that will cost the team at least $19.3 million.

Zeitler, who turned 31 Monday, started all 31 games in which he played the past two years, including all 16 last season. He had started 85 straight games before missing a start Dec. 15, 2019 with an ankle injury.

Zeitler was scheduled to make $12 million and have a cap hit of $14.2 million in 2021.

New York has an experienced replacement. Will Hernandez lost his job at left guard last season to rookie Shane Lemieux, so one of them can move to the right side.

Zeitler joined the Giants in a trade with the Cleveland Browns, along with a fifth-round draft choice, for linebacker Olivier Vernon and a fourth-round draft selection on March 13, 2019. He previously played five seasons for the Cincinnati Bengals and two for the Browns.


Zeitler was the Giants’ oldest full-time starter last season, a designation that might have belonged to tackle Nate Solder had he not opted out of the season due to COVID-19 concerns.

Solder, who is scheduled to earn $9 million if he decides to play this season, turns 33 next month. He also might be considered a cap move for the Giants, who were approximately $8 million over the cap.

PANTHERS: The Panthers have restructured the contracts of running back Christian McCaffrey and linebacker Shaq Thompson, freeing up more than $11 million in salary-cap space before the start of free agency.

BILLS: The Buffalo Bills released receiver John Brown and defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson in moves made to free up much-needed space under the newly announced salary cap.

Brown had one year remaining on a three-year, $27 million contract he signed in free agency. And Jefferson had one year left on the two-year, $13.5 million contract he signed in joining the Bills last offseason.

The cuts free up more than $14.4 million in space, according to Before the cuts, the Bills were projected to have about $3 million available under the cap.

BENGALS: The Cincinnati Bengals signed backup quarterback Brandon Allen to a one-year contract.

Allen, who was signed by the team as a free agent in August, ended up starting five games last season after Joe Burrow suffered a knee injury.

Comments are not available on this story.