Brian McIntyre of Shutdown Corner has reported that the Carolina Panthers have restructured the contract of RB DeAngelo Williams, saving themselves $3.2 million in cap space in 2013.Mac has all the particulars in his deal, but the cliff notes version is that the Panthers will give Williams a $4 million dollar bonus this year and have reduced his overall cash takehome from $18 million to $10 million over the next 3 seasons.
It’s a move that I cant really understand. While this will bring Williams’s salary back in the line with the market in terms of cash value, his cap charges remain around the top 10 in the NFL for the next 3 seasons due to the large bonuses he was paid when the Panther signed him to that ill-advised contract in 2011. Williams only played in around 43% of the Panthers offensive snaps last season and seemed to be the doghouse of the team. While our statistical analysis of the position indicated that Williams may be hurt by lack of talent and opportunity as much as anything, it is hard to imagine him becoming a larger part of the offense without wholesale changes on the team.
In general the Panthers have been one of the worst managed salary cap franchises in the NFL since 2011. That isn’t the fault of the current regime but moves like this seem to make it worse. Taking a page from the book of the Cowboys the Panthers added two void seasons onto Williams’ contract for the sake of reducing cap charges in 2013, but increasing dead money throughout the life of the deal. They used a similar mechanism with LT Jordan Gross.
Under his prior contract Williams could have been cut after the 2013 season with $6.4 million in dead money on the books. He would have cost the Panthers $14.6 million in cap charges between this years salary and next years dead money had they played the contract out. The dead money under his new deal in 2014 is $9.6 million, so if they decide to cut ties with him next season it will be considered a net neutral cap move provided that they dont spend the $3.2 in savings they received from him this year. Alternatively the Panthers could have designated him a June 1 cut this year and saved the team $5 million in cash and cap dollars over the next two seasons.
Williams will be 31 next season so a release should still be considered a strong possibility, which is why I dislike moves like this. If they need the cap relied there has to be a better player that a team can do this with to at least give the team some longer term benefit. If they release Williams next year they receive no benefit and get nothing but bad press for a $9.6 million dead hit on a player that the staff does not seem to want to utilize. Dead money figures that high can also cloud judgement about a players position on the roster and at this point the Panthers have essentially pre-paid almost all of his contract.Williams is due a $1 million dollar option bonus according to McIntyre in 2015. There is almost no chance of that happening so if Williams makes it that far he will count $5.6 million in dead money against the cap in 2014.