Last week the Buccaneers traded safety Dashon Goldson to Washington and I speculated that the Buccaneers would likely have to eat close to $4 million to make the trade happen. According to Joel Corry that is exactly what happened, as Tampa Bay paid Goldson $4 million before the trade occured in the form of a $4 million guaranteed roster bonus that is treated like a signing bonus for salary cap purposes.
Dashon Goldson’s $4M 4/2 roster bonus treated as signing bonus under the salary cap since it’s fully GTD. $4M cap charge for Bucs w/trade.
— Joel Corry (@corryjoel) April 6, 2015
The trade of Goldson should mark the end of a disastrous period of spending by the Tampa Bay front office that has left them with over $20 million in dead money, more than half of which is being paid in cash to players no longer on the team. That number is pretty staggering considering the Bucs do not use signing bonus money, but so many of the players signed underperformed so badly and were overpriced to begin with that Tampa had little choice. To their credit they did not sink more money into bad decisions even if it meant paying large sums of money to players like Michael Johnson, Anthony Collins, and Goldson to go away. Not every team in the NFL would act that way.
I do think the team makes a very interesting case study in contract management as they are really the first team to essentially disregard salary cap accounting for a majority of their contracts and simply work on a cash basis. In my opinion the tradeoff on that has always been higher annual value contracts and large guarantees with no offsets being negotiated to make up for the lack of signing bonus and somewhat lower than expected first year roster payment.
While the strategy can create a great deal of cap flexibility it’s success is dependant on getting strong performances from players who the market did not see worth that kind of money. Their dead money this year is nearly identical to that of the Saints who are polar opposites of Tampa Bay in terms of cap management. With both roads essentially leading to the same end result, my guess is there is a very happy medium somewhere in the middle of the two approaches, but I think it would be worth investigating if the money possibly saved by Tampa is any different than what other teams have done using the signing bonus structures.