Greg Hardy Suspended 10 Games

The NFL announced that Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy will be suspended for the first 10 games of the NFL season. Hardy was signed this offseason as a free agent, but the Cowboys protected themselves in the event of this suspension, a suspension that Hardy is likely to challenge in the coming weeks. I’ll take a brief look at what this means for the Cowboys salary cap.

Hardy’s contract had four elements to it, three of which were pertinent to his cap charge the year. Of those components his workout bonus of $1,311,600 will not be impacted provided he reports to all offseason activities. He had a $750,000 base salary of which he will now only earn 6 weeks worth of pay, reducing that number to $264,706 for the season. Hardy had $9.25 million in gameday active roster bonuses which now will have a maximum value of $3,468,750.  He also had not likely to be earned incentives which at this point should be impossible to earn. That should mean his maximum cap charge this year will be $5,045,056.

Hardy’s current cap charge of $3,217,850 should not change until September 5 which is the date the suspension officially takes effect. At that time his cap charge will drop to $2,732,556, which will represent the loss of base salary due to the suspension. I believe that number will hold until Hardy’s suspension ends and he plays in two games. After that Hardy’s cap charge can then rise by an additional $578,125 for every game he is active. If I remember correctly Hardy’s roster bonuses are tied to actually being active so its possible Dallas could avoid a few weeks payment if they request a roster exemption for Hardy once his suspension ends.

By the time Hardy returns he will essentially have missed a year and a half of competitive football and it may not be as simple to just fit him into the system for a late run.  I would expect because he missed so much time that Dallas will ask him to play extensively in the preseason even though it will be against far inferior competition. Once the preseason ends he can’t participate in activities to be ready for the season. I would also venture that if the Cowboys season heads in the wrong direction they might release Hardy rather than wasting $3.7 million on a playoff run that doesn’t exist.

This suspension now makes it more realistic for Dallas to trade for Adrian Peterson of the Vikings. Prior to the suspension the Cowboys had to account for the possibility that Hardy would take up $11.311 million in cap space, an additional $8.1 million over his current figure. Now they stand to lose just $1.8 million. The team currently has, by my estimates, $12.25 million in room. That would still leave them with some work to do with the cap to bring on Peterson, but it is a much easier path now than before.

Looking at the Greg Hardy Contract With the Cowboys

Defensive end Greg Hardy signed a contract today with the Dallas Cowboys, officially taking the last monster free agent off the market. It is a very unique contract that is designed to protect the team in the event Hardy remains on the exempt list or suspended while offering both salary cap and actual cash protection.  So let’s look at the way the contract works.

The base value of Hardy’s contract is $11,311,000 with the potential to max out at $13,111,600. Why such an oddball number?  The $13.116 million was Hardy’s salary last year on the franchise tag. Being that he was will last year to sign that contract it was likely an easy to agree to number. The base value is made up of a $750,000 base salary, 1,311,600 workout bonus, and $9.25 million roster bonus that is earned in weekly installments for being on the active 53 man roster.

The roster bonus is the most important part of this contract. Hardy spent all but the first two games of the season on the exempt list, so for salary cap purposes the NFL will only consider 2/16 of Hardy’s roster bonus against the salary cap, a charge of just $1.5 million. This fully protects the Cowboys interests while the NFL decides what to do with Hardy during the season.Because it is tied into being on the 53 man roster any injury, PUP, NFI, exempt, or suspension designation will prevent Hardy from earning the money. Had the money been in the base salary it would be more protected from the injured or PUP lists. That is likely the tradeoff for the Cowboys taking a risk on signing a player who is a PR problem for the NFL right now.

The odd workout bonus is really what should be considered the signing bonus of the contract. This is the same amount that Hardy received from Carolina last season as a salary advance, so again an easy negotiating point. Once Hardy is reinstated he should be able to participate in offseason workouts since any suspensions won’t take place until the games begin in the regular season. Once Hardy’s earns his workout bonus that money can not be attacked in the event of suspension or any other off the field issues that could trigger an automatic forfeiture of bonus money. It is his to keep provided he shows up for the offseason workout prorgam.

All told I am calcuating his cap charge at just $3,217,850 (It will be about $2.6 million if I am incorrect about his exempt date), which fits him easily under the cap…for now. Yes there is a catch to this contract that we need to consider. When we deal with per game roster bonuses that do not count against the salary cap in the offseason, we have to be prepared for taking those charges on in the regular season.

For each week Hardy is active beyond the two week expectation his cap charge will grow by $578,125. If he plays all 16 games that means he will eventually count for the full $11.311 million against the cap in 2015. Obviously Dallas does not have the room to deal with that at the moment.

I would imagine that this puts Brandon Carr on the chopping block for a June 1 cut designation (or simply to be cut in the summer). Releasing Carr after June 1 creates $8 million in cap room, which would offset this potential charge for Hardy. While I would not expect Dallas to do anythin until the Hardy situation with the league is resolved, they should have all the leverage to approach Carr now about a pay cut if he wants to remain in Dallas. Another option is restructuring Tony Romo’s contract during the season as the need arises for more money.

So it is definitely a creative contract that allows the team to bring in a potential devastating pass rusher now and then come up with a way in a few months to deal with the potential cap charges assoicated with the move.

Stock Up: Week 17

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Every Monday during the season we will take a look back at three players who are entering important stages of their contract that may have helped their stock in upcoming negotiations with their play on Sunday. In addition we will also look at one player signed in the offseason to a new contract that exceeded all expectations and provided exceptional value to his team.

Greg Hardy– Just another day at the office for Mr Hardy who continues his incredible hot streak, this time taking advantage of a porous Falcons offensive line to the tune of 4 sacks on Sunday. Hardy was dominant and he had to be if the Panthers wanted to clinch a first round bye. The offense simply did not have it on Sunday but Hardy helped provide the team with the spark it needed to clinch the NFC South. Hardy will be a free agent in 2014.

LaGarrette Blount– Blount carried the Patriots to victory on Sunday with an impressive 189 yards and two td’s on just 24 carries. It was one of the most impressive games you will ever see for a running back and the head coach showed his appreciated as he took him off the field to a standing ovation from the Patriots crowd. Blount was also a new addition for the Patriots this year as they traded for him after he fell out of favor with the Tampa Bay coaching staff in 2012. He reworked his contract to take a paycut in order to get an opportunity in New England as he approached free agency. Now he has a major game to fall back on when looking for a new contract.

Justin Tuck– In a meaningless season for the Giants, Tuck made the most of the situation and put up his best statistical year since 2010 finishing the season with 63 tackles and 11 sacks. He pretty much owned the Redskins this year racking up two sacks on Sunday and four sacks the last time the two teams met. While I personally would be worried about handing over too much money to Tuck, I have to think more than a few teams, if not the Giants, will be asking him to rush the passer on an incentive based deal next season.

 

New Contract Player Of The Week

Anquan Boldin – Boldin began the season in this spot and finished it here as well after his 9 catch 149 yard performance for San Francisco. The 49ers running game fell flat leaving the passing game to pick up the offense and Boldin responded greatly. The Ravens made a mistake in trading Boldin who finished the year with nearly 1200 yards and was a big member of the 49ers team. He’ll be 34 next season but is proving that someone needs to give him a mid range contract next year.

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Stock Up: Week 16

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Every Monday during the season we will take a look back at three players who are entering important stages of their contract that may have helped their stock in upcoming negotiations with their play on Sunday. In addition we will also look at one player signed in the offseason to a new contract that exceeded all expectations and provided exceptional value to his team.

Stock Up

Greg Hardy– Hardy registered 3 sacks against the Saints and had Drew Brees showing the look of fear on more plays than not. Hardy has 11 sacks on the season and with a great crop of young pass rushers all eligible for new contracts its going to be a race to see who gets the most money in the new pass rushing marketplace. The Panthers don’t really have the cap space to franchise him and carry him on that tag for any period of time and he has a teammate already making wild money that he will use as a starting point in negotiations. With the playoffs coming up he has a chance to earn some big money.

Robert Quinn– Another 3 sack game for Quinn, who now has five multi-sack games on the season and three games with three sacks. He has 18 sacks on the season, dominates the competition, and seems to make this list every week. The one thing he does not have going for him that Hardy does is the fact that he is not a free agent next season, while Hardy is. Quinn is extension eligible which gives a bit more leverage to the Rams when working out a contract with him. Still this is going to be a race to crown the highest paid player and one likely playing leapfrog over the other.

Andy Dalton– I’ve given up trying to figure Dalton out. He is all over the map this season but he sure did tear it up against the Vikings. Dalton threw for 4 touchdowns and 366 yards on the day. I don’t know what the Bengals really do here. The team is good enough to win it all, perhaps even this season, which could leave Dalton getting a Joe Flacco like contract. Of course the bad Dalton is going to leave you stuck with a Matt Schaub type contract if you extend early. Big decision is looming for the Bengals here.

 

New Contract Player Of The Week

Julian Edelman– Edelman could really go in either category since his contract was just a one year deal, but imagine where the Patriots offense would be without him?  In a season of injuries and turnover at the position, Edelman has been the lone steady force out there. On Sunday he racked up another 7 receptions for 77 yards and he is going to surpass 1,000 yards on the season. Not too bad for a player with incentives for just low level of catches since nobody expected much from him. I’m not sure if the Patriot “system” has watered down the value of their players following flops of players like Deion Branch, Randy Moss, and David Givens over the past decade once they left the Patriots, but Edelman is one of the best values at his position this year and will likely earn a low level number 2 type deal next season.

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Stock Up: Week 3

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Every Monday during the season we will take a look back at three players who are entering important stages of their contract that may have helped their stock in upcoming negotiations with their play on Sunday. In addition we will also look at one player signed in the offseason to a new contract that exceeded all expectations and provided exceptional value to his team.

Stock Up

Greg Hardy– With One year remaining on his rookie contract Hardy is ready to break the bank. I had rated Hardy as the 2nd best overall 43DE in the NFL in 2012, behind only Cameron Wake of the Miami Dolphins. Hardy absolutely overwhelmed the Giants on Sunday racking up 3 sacks and setting the tone for the defense all day. Provided the Panthers can afford him, and they had recently restructured a contract to perhaps get a deal done, Hardy has a great starting point for negotiations on his own team. The Panthers had given Charles Johnson a 6 year $76 million dollar contract with $32 million in full guarantees back in 2011. Distancing himself from Johnson gives him a tremendous base contract to work with. Games like his Sunday performance only stand to give him more leverage for getting a contract extension done sooner rather than later. With the future of Julius Pepper and, to a lesser extent, Mario Williams in doubt I think it’s important to get a deal done soon so the Panthers can sign Hardy and at least say to themselves he is not the highest paid in the NFL, even though he will be when those players are no longer active on their current contracts.

Santonio Holmes– Most people have written Holmes, a talented but often disgruntled receiver, off following a poor showing in 2011 followed by a foot injury in 2012 and questions about his determination to play in 2013. Due to his contract structure Holmes was forced to take a $3.5 million dollar paycut to remain on the Jets. Next year he is due to earn $9.5 million from the Jets and with just $2.5 million in dead money in his contract that makes this a contract year for Holmes. Holmes had a number of big catches, including the game winner, and averaged over 30 yards per reception. The Jets have a young QB finding his way in the NFL and if Holmes develops the chemistry with Geno Smith that he lacked with Mark Sanchez he becomes a hard player to just release. Even if he is released Holmes needed to use this season to prove that he can still be a high level player and command a $7+ million a year type contract, a number most would have said was crazy before the season. A few more games close to the one he had on Sunday and he’ll be able to stand on top of the WR2 market.

Doug Free– It is not often that we give credit to the guys on the line, especially ones like Free, who has had a rough time of it in Dallas, but Free yesterday really played a terrific game in Dallas. The Rams are a decent team with a number of pieces on defense that can pressure the QB and get into the backfield and stuff runs or knock down the QB. Watching the highlights from the game I was surprised at how good Free looked in sealing the right side for the run game and seemingly never letting anyone near his QB, including some big blocks on two TD passes.  I waited until Pro Football Focus posted their evaluation since they watch every snap compared to my highlight reel watching and Free graded extremely high under their criteria. Free took a pay cut this year and has $3.5 million in salary coming his way in 2014 if he is on the roster in early March. Most never would have thought Free would see that money but games like this will see him keep that roster spot at that salary next season.

New Contract Player Of The Week

Ahmad Bradshaw– All offseason Bradshaw was like a forgotten player. He was cut by the Giants for salary cap purposes and then remained unemployed until June when the Colts took a flier on Bradshaw for just $2 million dollars. Bradshaw has always been productive when he is close to 100%, but health is always a concern and that may have scared some teams away. When injury to starting RB Vick Ballard opened up more touches the Colts instead turned to the trade table rather than trusting Bradshaw with more work. In return Bradshaw played like a man possessed running for 95 yards on just 19 carries against a defense that was considered elite while his new teammate could only muster 35 yards against the same defense. Bradshaw proved to be terrific value for the Colts on Sunday.

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