BRH is probably the better person to cover this stuff, as he is more familiar with the ins and outs of the nfl rules. But these are the things to keep in mind when you are making cuts or signing free agents (Note: Most of you probably already know all this stuff. If you do, feel free to ignore this. And if I have anything wrong or if my info is out of date, please let ME know, because I’ve been using these assumptions to do my own amateur GM work…..):
1.) The salary cap number is NOT what you save if you cut the player. The cap number is the total amount of money from the player’s contract allocated to this year’s cap. That includes this year’s salary, roster bonuses, AND a prorated portion of signing bonuses, etc. You CANNOT recoup signing bonuses by cutting a player.
2.) In fact, if you cut a player with multiple years left on their contract, the signing bonus allocation is ACCELLERATED to the current year. This can actually make it more expensive to CUT a player than to keep them. If, for instance, a player signed a 4 year deal with 10M in salary and $5M in signing bonus, the AVERAGE yearly salary would be $15M/4 = $3.75M –> 2.5M in salary and 1.25M in bonus every year. However, if you cut the player in year 2, the remaining 3 years of their bonus would all count towards this year’s cap – in this case that would be 3*1.25 = $3.75M. So the player has a CAP number of $3.75M, but the savings you get from cutting them is $0.
3.) Better yet, you have to remember that a cut player must be replaced. The cheapest that this can be done is with a min salary player (~$300k). As a result, the net SAVINGS from cutting a player really has to be reduced by this amount. In the above example, if we cut our $15M man in year 2 of his contract we end up breaking exactly even EXCEPT that we have to replace him on the roster – the net effect of cutting and replacing him is AT A MINIMUM -$300k.
Lets look at a couple of real examples:
Michael Bush signed a 4 year, $14M contract. It had a $4M signing bonus, it guaranteed 900k of his year one and 1.1M of his year 2 salary. The remaining three years on the contract have salaries of 1.5M (plus a $1M roster bonus in 2013), 2.8M in 2014, and 3.55M in 2015. All told, his cap numbers should look like this:
2013: Salary (1.5M) + roster bonus ($1M) +prorated signing bonus ($1M) = $3.5M
- If cut: Guarenteed salary (900k) + accelerated signing bonus ($3M) + replacement (300k)= $4.2M
- Net= -700k
2014: Salary ($2.8M) + prorated signing bonus ($1M) = $3.8M
-If cut: accelerated signing bonus ($2M) + replacement (300k)
- Net = +1M
2015: Salary ($3.55M) + prorated signing bonus ($1M) = $4.55M
-If cut: accelerated signing bonus ($1M) + replacement (300k) = $1.3M
So for Mike Bush, it makes no sense to cut him even if he is unproductive until next offseason. Doing so would actually hurt your cap status. But starting next season, he had better earn his keep.
Another one I’ve seen a fair amount about is Matt Spaeth. Lets look at his contract:
In 2011 Spaeth signed a 3 year, 5.97M contract, $1M of which was a signing bonus. His salary this year is 1.025M, he has a 100k roster bonus. So, his cap number looks like this:
2013: Salary (1.025M) + roster bonus (100k) + prorated signing bonus (333k) = 1.455M
- If cut: Signing bonus (333k) + replacement (300k) = 633k
- Net= +822k
So cutting Spaeth helps our cap situation, but by less than $1M
If you are looking for contract details, (surprisingly) rotoworld.com has pretty good info on most players.