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New England Patriots

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If you’re a regular on NFL Twitter, you’ve probably noticed an increase in people mentioning ‘setting the cap’ over the last few weeks. Normally the NFL salary cap, which is based on the league revenue from the previous season, is set in early March. However, due to the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the NFL, this year’s number was delays, as a decrease was expected (the cap number almost always goes up year-to-year).

The wait for the 2021 cap number finally came to end on Wednesday morning, when Ian Rapoport reported the league set the 2021 number at $182.5 million. That’s a steep drop from last year’s $198.2 million spending limit, and the lowest the cap has been since 2018.

With a $182.5 million dollar league cap, the Patriots will open the offseason with $68.5 million in cap space (before factoring in Trent Brown‘s new contract) according to OverTheCap.com. They have the third most cap space in the league, and have $22 million more to spend than the next closest team, the Colts. That should put them in a commanding position when free agency opens on March 17.

Now that all 32 teams know how much they have to spend, expect activity around the league to increase as free agency approaches. Teams will need to make decisions on internal free agency. With a third of the league expected to be over the cap, that could lead to quality players, who wouldn’t normally hit the market, being released (a trend we’ve already seen begin).

While the Patriots monitor that situation, they’ll also have decisions to make on their own internal free agents. Currently, the team has 26 players whose contracts will expire on March 17.

MORE: Key Patriots pending free agents

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Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.