NFL Cutdown Day 2015 Part I: Salary Cap Considerations

Its not often that the first cutdown day in the NFL brings with it much news, but over the last 24 hours there have been a few moves with cap implications and there may be more to come as teams need to reach 75 players by Tuesday at 4PM. I’ll keep this as a running thread for updates on some of the name players that are moving on from their teams over the next day so to discuss the cap implications so check back every now and then for updates.

Phil Taylor, DT, Browns– An out of left field cut as Tayor had his $5.477 million salary guaranteed because the Browns didn’t cut him before the start of the League Year.  Thats just poor planning by the Browns. Much like the Bears with Jennings, expect the Browns to get some relief when Taylor signs elsewhere. How much remains to be seen, but it likely wont come close to matching the salary. The Browns have probably eaten more draft pick money than any team in recent memory.

Here is a bit of an update on Taylor. Apparently he and the Browns reached some type of injury settlement, which is an interesting development. While his $5.477 million guarantee was subject to offsets whatever settement was made will not be. How much will tell us what Taylor believes his worth on the market it because the settlement plus new contract needs to pay him more to justify it. Im not sure if this means Taylor thinks he can play and the Browns dont or vice versa because it would seem Taylor felt the best option is free agency over IR and the full guarantee. Jay Ratliff had a situation somewhat like that in Dallas where Dallas seemed to believe he was milking an injury and eventually released him while Ratliff would eventually sign with the Bears and begin playing a few weeks later.

Trent Richardson, RB, Raiders– Oakland bought into the draft status of Richardson despite the fact that he cant really  play which they quickly learned during training camp. Richardson had received $600,000 guaranteed from Oakland and another $150,000 workount bonus, all of which will count against the cap this year. Rather than throwing more money into a failing investment the Raiders will save another $1,125,000 by cutting him.

Brandon Fields, P, Dolphins– It was evident in the offseason that Miami did not feel Brandon Fields wasnt in thier long term plans when they had him take a paycut of over $1 million, but they did guarantee $500,000 in the restructure. When you factor in a $100,000 workout bonus the team should have just cut him in March. Miami will take on $870,000 in dead money this year and $770,000 in 2016. They create $1.65 million in cap room this year and over $3.5 million in 2016.

Dave Zastudil, P, Cardinals– On a team with tight cap space and a cheaper option at punter it makes little sense to carry a punter at a $1.6 million cap charge. Arizona must have needed to see others work in the preseason because Zastudil did have a hefty workout bonus, but they will still save nearly $1.1 million in cap charges. Zastudil will count for $542,500 against the Cardinals cap this year.

Lorenzo Alexander, LB, Cardinals– Alexander was in the final year of his contract with Arizona and was unlikely to fit into the future for the team. At this point saving $1.4 million in cap is likely more beneficial than having the Alexander on the roster for just this season. $600,000 will remain on the Cardinals books from Alexander.

Chris Clark, G, Broncos– The Broncos traded Chris Clark to the Houston Texans. Clark is in the final year of his contract and carried a salary of $1.4 million which will now transfer to Houston. Denver will keep $225,668 in dead money on the books and save $1.4 million in cap.

Fred Jackson, RB, Bills– This release seemed to catch some off guard, but once the Bills made a large commitment to LeSean McCoy it didnt really make sense to have Jackson also on the team, regardless of his history in Buffalo. The Bills need the cap space for 2016 to avoid going overboard in resturctured contracts in order to be cap compliant, especially once they are forced to use the franchise tag on Marcell Dareus. They will gain $2.5 million in the release.

Josh Scobee, K, Jaguars– The Jaguars were able to trade Scobee to Pittsburgh, who is going through a rash of injuries at the kicker position. This is a bold move for Pittsburgh as they will take on $3.425 million in salary for Scobee and have over $7 million committed to the position, one where you can often find a veteran for the minimum to do an adequete job. It is entirely possible they could try to move Scobee’s salary down or perhaps the Jaguars at some of the cost in return for a better draft pick as the Steelers will now be relatively close to the cap limit once the regular season begins. Scobee is in the final year of his deal so the Jaguars gain $3.425M in cap space to add to their huge carryover for next year.

Donald Thomas, G, Colts– The often injured Thomas was finally healthy enough to be released. Given the Colts releases Gosder Cherilus for not taking a paycut there is no reason to think they would have kept Thomas this year at a salary of $3.5 million. The Colts will take on dead money charges of $250,000 in each of the next two seasons, but will gain $3.5 million in cap room this year and next year. That $7 million should be set aside for Andrew Luck’s extension.

Tim Jennings, CB, Bears– A surprising cut because Jennings’ entire $4.4 million salary is guaranteed for the year and will be paid by Chicago even though he is off the team. Jennings will sign somewhere for the veterans minimum ($970,000) which will reduce the Bears payments to him by that amount. Overall they will take on $5.25 million in dead money this year and $1.5 million next year. The teams saves $0 against the cap in 2015 and cut $4.25 million in 2016 costs.

JD Walton, C, Dolphins– The Dolphins signed Walton this offseason and gave him a $250,000 bonus to sign with the team. Walton had been released by the Giants and didnt seem to impress enough here to land a spot as a backup which was a bit surprising since Mike Pouncey was a bit banged up. The Dolphins clear $750,000 and will keep $275,000 in dead money on the books for the year.

DeVier Posey, WR, Jets– The Jets traded for Posey on draft day, though I got the feeling he was just a throw in as part of moving down since they gained additional picks in the trade. The team saves $768,000 by moving on.

  • buk

    I replied here last week in response to Jason’s Dareus article that the obvious solution was for Bills to release Fred Jackson and Cassell prior to start of this year and Harvin next year. Tyrod Taylor was named starter today and given the strong play of Manuel in preseason and his guaranteed money it makes no sense to pay Cassel the 4mil + this year to be the third QB.
    Cutting Jackson is sign that the Bills are a serious organization because keeping Jackson at 2.6 mil after investing in McCoy would have been a foolish move.
    My guess is they will look to find a trade partner for Cassel (hoping another team QB gets hurt) but will likely just release him before start of season. Bills ill probably be in a stronger position to sign Dareus before start of this season as it’s becoming clearer the Bills are willing to make the roster cuts to fit his franchise tag number in their cap next year. If Dareus does not sign a new deal I think he stands to make only 20 to 22mil combined on option this year and non exclusive tag next year. The rumored 90mil(15 mil per year) deal seems like a strong offer as Dareus make much more money for 2015 and 2016 and secure himself against injury playing next 2 years on the option and the tag.
    Mo Wilkerson for Jets is in the exact same position as I believe there should be equal incentive for both team and player to work out a lucrative deal now but not Suh type money. Neither Jets or Bills are paying Stafford type money to their starting QBs, both teams can afford to fit both Wilkerson and Dareus under the franchise tag if need be.

    • Jared Kopp

      I agree with your thinking on cassel, if they are confident in taylor and manuel then why not scoop the 4.75 mil in cap savings? All the better if a trade is arranged to net some draft pick value.

      Dareus is an all pro talent akin to gerald mccoy, so his value is immense. As a young guy, he’s done some young guy stuff. His suspension for substance abuse proving that. Fortunately, the league’s discipline on Marijuana has gone to a fine system 3 times before suspension in case dareus has another issue. Another young guy move is scoffing at a 6 yr 90 mil offer right before the season begins (well not for him) and other guys are getting cut. Perhaps it’s a negotiating technique to get a higher offer.

      Given his talent, injury history, and temperament, and expected cap growth, what is your view on contract structure esp. Guaranteed money?

  • Jared Kopp

    We’ll never know the inside conversations, but why not ask Fred jackson to take a pay cut? Perhaps they did and he passed based on pride/principle.

    Another question is if they were set on keeping 4 rbs why draft Karlos williams?

    Finally, trading a good, cheaper ilb like kiko Alonso for a good, pricier rb like shady mccoy and then larding on a hefty raise on top of it mean that gm doug Whaley may have gotten himself into a cap jam of his own making, and in turn fred jackson paid the price. I understand the move, but disagree with the other moves that led up to it.

    • buk

      Jury is out on Rex and GM Whaley but I like how aggressive they have been as long as they are willing to make the tough decisions. If Tyrod Taylor who signed an incentive laden 2yr deal pays off then they deserve a lot of credit. You’d like Cassel to be expendable because he’s not your future.
      You take a flyer on Karlos Williams to try to develop a low cost RB to back up Shady and replace the oldest RB in the league Jackson making 2.5mil. Williams and Dixon also play special teams. The point is they can resign Gilmore,Dareus and Nigel Bradham next year fairly easily by parting with Harvin,Jackson and Jackson. Dareus is only 25, you’ve got to make signing young talent like Dareus and Gilmore a priority.
      As for QB, they are searching for one like so many other teams.

    • Watching Rex for years with the Jets I think he often goes into a situation with his favorites and those who are not (see Rhodes, Kerry) are quickly deemed expendable. My feeling is from day 1 Rex didnt see positives in Jackson. Often coaches and GMs are heavily skewed in opinion when they see players close up. Here were Jacksons stats(att/Yds/TD-rec/recyds/rectd) against Rex from 2009 onward:

      15/52/0- 0/0/0
      13/31/0- 3/24/0
      3/21/0- 0/0/0
      13/35/0- 1/13/0
      18/82/0- 3/38/0
      6/15/0- 0/0/0
      7/72/0- 4/37/0
      12/34/0- 2/5/0
      10/32/1- 3/13/0

      Rexs experience is a guy you dont plan for and someone that wont average 4 YPC and much less in meaningful game time Thats not what Rex is looking for in a runner especially an older veteran backup who is going to be well liked by the media and fans and asked about why he doesnt play more.

      • buk

        Rex won his first two years with Jets with strong defense and special teams. To this day the Jets still don’t have a more than competent kickoff and punt returner. Decker having to field punts because of Kerley’s injury shows e Jets have a ton of older high priced vets who can’t play special teams.
        Tannenbaum and Rex lost all their depth for special teams and role players by year 3 by trading draft picks and not managing the cap. You’d think Rex realizes that cuts like Jackson have to happen to manage your roster and cap going forward.
        Anyhow the story in Buffalo was Tyrod. Rex wanted to trade for him when he was with the Jets and he went out and got him as coach for Buffalo so it’s his guy. His legacy will depend on whether he can finally develop a winning NFL starting QB.