The NFL announced that Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy will be suspended for the first 10 games of the NFL season. Hardy was signed this offseason as a free agent, but the Cowboys protected themselves in the event of this suspension, a suspension that Hardy is likely to challenge in the coming weeks. I’ll take a brief look at what this means for the Cowboys salary cap.
Hardy’s contract had four elements to it, three of which were pertinent to his cap charge the year. Of those components his workout bonus of $1,311,600 will not be impacted provided he reports to all offseason activities. He had a $750,000 base salary of which he will now only earn 6 weeks worth of pay, reducing that number to $264,706 for the season. Hardy had $9.25 million in gameday active roster bonuses which now will have a maximum value of $3,468,750. He also had not likely to be earned incentives which at this point should be impossible to earn. That should mean his maximum cap charge this year will be $5,045,056.
Hardy’s current cap charge of $3,217,850 should not change until September 5 which is the date the suspension officially takes effect. At that time his cap charge will drop to $2,732,556, which will represent the loss of base salary due to the suspension. I believe that number will hold until Hardy’s suspension ends and he plays in two games. After that Hardy’s cap charge can then rise by an additional $578,125 for every game he is active. If I remember correctly Hardy’s roster bonuses are tied to actually being active so its possible Dallas could avoid a few weeks payment if they request a roster exemption for Hardy once his suspension ends.
By the time Hardy returns he will essentially have missed a year and a half of competitive football and it may not be as simple to just fit him into the system for a late run. I would expect because he missed so much time that Dallas will ask him to play extensively in the preseason even though it will be against far inferior competition. Once the preseason ends he can’t participate in activities to be ready for the season. I would also venture that if the Cowboys season heads in the wrong direction they might release Hardy rather than wasting $3.7 million on a playoff run that doesn’t exist.
This suspension now makes it more realistic for Dallas to trade for Adrian Peterson of the Vikings. Prior to the suspension the Cowboys had to account for the possibility that Hardy would take up $11.311 million in cap space, an additional $8.1 million over his current figure. Now they stand to lose just $1.8 million. The team currently has, by my estimates, $12.25 million in room. That would still leave them with some work to do with the cap to bring on Peterson, but it is a much easier path now than before.
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.