While NFL Combine week is usually filled with rumors about free agency and the draft it often is the unofficial start of the cut season for teams. While some teams release players very early in the offseason most wait until now to kick that into high gear. Some players will be approached about pay cuts this week and others just allowed to walk. So let’s look at today’s action and the impact on the cap.
Panthers Release Coleman and Johnson
Carolina released two starters from last season- safety Kurt Coleman and defensive end Charles Johnson. Coleman played in 72% of the teams snaps last year but did not have the type of impact he had in prior seasons. Coleman was set to count for $5.15 million on the salary cap, about 40% more than he counted against the cap last year. More importantly his salary was going to grow by almost 74% from $2.3 to $4 million. Coleman had signed a four year contract two years ago and earned about 45% of a contract that was backloaded. His release will give the Panthers a $2.5 million dead money charge while creating about $2.6 million in cap room. Though there were already rumors that he could be back after exploring the market, given the $1.25 million in dead money acceleration it would seem that Carolina would only do that for a small salary.
Johnson had signed a two year contract last year and started 11 games for the team, missing four games because of a suspension, but had no sacks on the season and has only had 5 in the last three years. Johnson was going to be 32 and it made sense to move on. Johnson had a $3.25 million cap charge and no dead money for the year so the team will save the entire amount on the cap. About 44% of his contract will go unearned.
Bears Release Demps and McPhee
Really this should just be the start for a Bears team that has been very active in free agency but has failed to really hit with any of their signings. Pernell McPhee was one of the Bears prized signings three years ago when they signed him to a five year, $38.75 million contract. McPhee hit free agency after notching 7.5 sacks as a backup and the expectation was he could be a big rusher in a full time role, but more often than not those expectations usually fall short. McPhee finished his Bears career with 14 sacks in three seasons, starting just 17 games and missing 12 games due to injuries. McPhee was set to count for $8.075 million on the cap. He will leave the Bears with just $1 million in dead money, creating $7 million in cap space for the team. McPhee will lose 40% of his total contract value with the release.
It’s unfair to say that Quinitin Demps was one of the worst signings of last year since his season was cut short after just three games to a broken arm, but certainly the Bears were hoping for more last year. Demps will be 33 at the start of the season and coming off injury there is really limited value to having him on what should be a young team. Demps was to count for $3.9 million on the cap and his release saves the Bears $3.2 million in cap room. 63% of Demps’ contract will be avoided by the Bears with the cut.
Patriots Cut Harris
This was more a formality as Harris already announced his retirement last week. Harris signed a two year, $5 million contract with the Patriots last year but was barely used, playing in just 17% of the team’s defensive plays. The release allows Harris to leave the team without worrying about any forfeiture of his $1.25 million signing bonus he received last season. At the same time the Patriots don’t set any precedence for not going after a bonus for a retired player which I guess could have some small benefit to the organization. The Patriots gain about $2 million in cap space with the official cut and don’t need to waste the time of putting Harris on the retired list before gaining that space. I would not be surprised if Harris signed a one day contract with the Jets before officially filing his paperwork with the NFL.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.