One of the more misunderstood rules of the NFL offseason is the application of and salary cap treatment of the post June 1 designation for a player who is being released. Hopefully this post can work as a primer of sorts for the offseason to help better discuss the options in front of a team.
When a player is cut from a team around the start of free agency the calculation is pretty straightforward. All future prorated money and salary guarantees accelerate onto the salary cap and become what is referred to as “dead money” for a team. In some cases the number can be very large, so large that it is prohibitive to release the player due to salary cap purposes.
To help fight back against basically having black hole roster spots created by the cap the NFL created a distinction in how a release is treated if made after June 1st in any given year. Starting on June 2nd any player who is released will have any future prorations land in the following season (the guarantees would still accelerate) rather than the current season. This can have a dramatic impact on the cap charge.
For example lets say a player has four years remaining on his contract and $5 million in prorated charges in each of those seasons. If he was cut prior to June 1 that would lead to $20 million in dead money this year. If cut after June 1 the player would instead have just $5 million in dead money in 2023 and now $15 million in 2024. While still the same number over two seasons the team has an out rather than being stuck due to the salary cap.
Still this requires a team to carry a player until June on the roster. During that time the player may earn an option bonus, roster bonus, workout bonus, etc…increasing his dead money and making the June 1 worthless. This is what lead to the NFL’s creation of the Post June 1 designation. What a team is allowed to do is declare a player a post June 1 cut and get the benefit of the June 1st salary cap treatment while also avoiding any offseason payments or guarantees from kicking in.
That being said there is a catch to this rule and this is often overlooked. The team has to carry a player at his full salary cap charge until June 1st even though he has been released from his contract. So the dead money split does not occur in March. It does not help the team create cap room for free agents. It simply gives the team more cap room to use during the rookie signing period and to function when cap accounting expands from 51 players in the offseason to the full roster during the season.
Because of this treatment we usually look for specific traits in a player contract or team situation in order to use a June 1 designation. The main trait is that the players salary cap number and dead money have to be pretty similar for there to be any real benefit. For example Andrus Peat of the Saints has a salary cap charge of $18.371 million in 2023 if he is on the roster. It would be $16.984 million if the Saints cut him which basically creates no cap room. That is an ideal contract structure for a June 1 designation. The Saints don’t really lose anything during free agency by carrying the full cap number and then on June 2nd his cap would drop to $6.5 million with $10.5 million deferred to 2024, giving the Saints plenty of space to sign rookies and function during the season. The Saints salary cap situation is so bad that having that added space for the season may also be needed to function.
A less beneficial use of the June 1 would be on a player like Adam Thielen of the Vikings. He has a salary cap number of $19.97 million. If he was cut in the offseason it would leave the Vikings with $13.55 million creating $6.4 million in cap room they can use toward becoming salary cap compliant and/or in free agency during the year. If designated a post June 1 cut, the team would carry $19.97 million all through free agency and then have it split to $6.55 million in 2023 and $7.0 million in 2024. While you never say never to such a move, for a team that probably wants to be active in free agency it might be better to realize the savings in March rather than in the summer.
The post June 1 designation can only be used on two players in a given year. Because of that the most ideal candidates would be those who have guarantees that vest or roster bonuses that are paid in the first week of March. While teams rarely use both designations if you did have a decision to make that would be a main priority for who you use it on. If a player does not have any guarantees that vest the team could simply carry the player on the roster until June 2nd and then cut him. That is the nasty side of the NFL rules but those dates give teams leverage and it is a big reason why more players should look for roster bonuses due in March to prevent that.
The post June 1 does not help a team become salary cap compliant in any possible way. We already discussed that the cap savings don’t occur until June 2nd, but you also have to keep the player on the roster through the first day of free agency. He can be released once the new league year begins but before that date he has to be on the 90 man roster. To be eligible he can not have his contract altered once the prior regular season ends. That is to prevent a team from artificially lowering the carry cost of the contract from March through June 1.
The final thing is that there is no such thing as a post June 1 trade designation. The Packers can not trade Aaron Rodgers in March and declare it a post June 1 trade to break up the salary cap charges across the 2023 and 2024 league years. If Green Bay needed to split the cost (Rodgers costs more on the cap to trade than keep) they would have to find a team willing to delay processing any trade for Rodgers until June 2nd. If they trade him before that date there is no other option but to take all of the dead money in 2023.
So to summarize- You can only use the post June 1 on two players per roster, not on an infinite number of players. The salary cap benefit of the June 1 is not realized during free agency and is used to create cap room for summer and in season needs. There is no post June 1 trade designation available to any team.