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Strangest NFL offseason ever? Eight things to watch, including trades, tags, cuts, extensions and a salary-cap decrease

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Which team will take the biggest hit from NFL's lower salary cap? (0:56)

Mina Kimes addresses why New Orleans will have to make some major changes this offseason due to the lowered NFL salary cap. (0:56)

This NFL offseason is going to be strange. Not as strange, hopefully, as last year's NFL offseason or even the season that followed, but strange nonetheless. The impact of the still-extant COVID-19 pandemic will linger into 2021 and affect the way teams and player agents do business.

By this point in a normal year, teams have a pretty good idea what the salary cap will be. Everyone is prepping for the combine, where a week spent in close proximity usually helps teams and agents get a feel for how the free-agent market might shake out. And draft prospects are training for televised workouts in spandex shorts.

This year? Projected salary-cap estimates range from $180 million to $190 million as the NFL and the NFLPA continue to discuss where it should be set and the league negotiates new TV contracts with the networks. There is no combine, because a week in which the entire league is pressed together in crowded bars and convention center hallways just doesn't make sense in 2021. And the draft prospects are going to have to present themselves in entirely new ways.

The fact of the matter, though, is that the NFL managed to have an offseason in 2020, when major chunks of the country were locked down and it was hard to even get a COVID-19 test. It will be able to navigate an offseason in 2021 as well. It's just that it's going to be a little bit odd in certain areas. With free agency just about four weeks away (the new league year begins March 17), we wanted to take a look at a few of those:

Jump to a section:
Why teams are closely watching the cap
Could we see more franchise tags?
Expect a busy trade market
Who could get a contract extension?
Sneaky-good free agents to watch
How the pre-draft process has changed
The lingering COVID-19 impact

Salary-cap planning for this year and beyond