Clayton: How lack of attendance in 2020 impacted Seahawks, NFL

Jul 19, 2021, 3:15 PM
Seahawks Lumen Field...
The Seahawks will play in front of fans this season for the first time since 2019. (Getty)

Thanks to the Green Bay Packers, the football world learned a lot about the financial state of NFL teams coming out of the 2020 season.

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Because the team is publicly owned, the Packers publish a financial statement annually. The latest came out last Friday. Overall, the Packers’ income had a $38.8 million loss. The big loss was in local revenue, and for good reason. That number is mostly attendance, and the Packers didn’t have fans at any of their home games. The drop for the Packers was from $203.7 million in 2019 to $61.8 million last year. With no Seahawks fans at Lumen Field last year either, you can anticipate a similar drop for Seattle.

Players receive 48 percent of league revenue. This season it will increase to 48.5 percent because the NFL added a 17th game to the schedule. If you project the numbers from the salary cap and benefits, the NFL went from a $15.8 billion business in 2019 to $11.9 billion in 2020. That’s a $4 billion loss, roughly $125 million a team.

The NFL Players Association indicated the salary cap would have been $166 million per team last year based on the revenue. The union and owners agreed to a ceiling of $182.5 million. The cap was $198.2 million in 2019. To make up the difference, the NFLPA delayed payments on many of its benefits in future years.

With fans expected back in the stands this year, revenue will increase significantly. The addition of the 17th game will also help. So the cap doesn’t get too high, the NFL and NFLPA agreed to a ceiling of $208.5 million for next year.

Don’t expect the cap to go up that much, though. There will be some benefits paid out over the next two years that will pull the cap number down. I can’t guarantee whether the cap will be right around the $198.2 million it was in 2019, and while I’m thinking it’s going to be in the mid-$190 million range, no one knows for sure. It’s still a guessing game.

The Seahawks are at least in good cap shape despite the uncertainty, but they also have plenty of things they need to get done this year, particularly contract extensions for Jamal Adams and Duane Brown.

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