Guard Carl Nicks has apparently decided to walk away from football following two injury riddled years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Nicks had signed a $47.5 million contract with the Buccaneers in 2012 that made him the highest paid guard in the NFL.
The contract was a good example of the problems that can occur with the all cash salary cap model that is employed by Tampa Bay. Because all cash contracts contain no signing bonus it often leads to lower cash flows in the first year of the contract than awarded in more traditional NFL contracts. The players also receive no “dead money” protection in the contract. These factors lead to teams overpaying for talent and guaranteeing large portions of the contract. Nicks received a ridiculous $25 million in fully guaranteed salary upon signing, an unheard of total for a guard. $31 million of the contract was guaranteed for injury.
The Buccaneers quickly gave up any benefits from the all cash model when they made the poor decision to restructure Nicks’ contract in December of 2012. At the time Nicks was injured and had only appeared in 7 games for the team, but the team was lining up their salary cap to make a run at Darrelle Revis in 2013 and Nicks was one of two contracts they reworked to create the needed salary cap space. The Buccaneers paid Nicks $11.785 million of his 2013 salary as a roster bonus in 2012. The bonus was prorated just like a signing bonus, thus giving Nicks the monster contract due to the all cash model plus all the benefits of the traditional contract model. Because the bonus was not classified as a signing bonus the Buccaneers also lost all rights to claim forfeiture in the event of a suspension, retirement, or other situation leading to him not playing football. This decision now leaves the Buccaneers with dead money from Nicks.
Nicks was set to count for $9.357 million against the 2014 salary cap. His cap charge will now reduce to $2.367 million, an immediate $7 million in salary cap savings. The reason the dead money is so low in 2014 is because the release will occur after June 1 which splits cap charges over two seasons. Nicks’ 2015 salary cap charge will now be $4.714 million. Had they never reworkd his deal the dead money would be zero.
The release was not official as of Friday so it remains to be seen if more money was involved with his retirement. Nicks did have $6 million of his salary guaranteed for injury and could have filed a grievance to keep that money had he been released. It was a tricky situation because in the eyes of the Buccaneers his injuries may not have been football related. It is possible that the team could have offered an injury settlement or another concession to cover the injury.
All told, Nicks will have earned $25 million for appearing in 9 games over a two year period.
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.