The Raiders are down another former first round draft selection as they have decided to part ways with their 2020 1st rounder Damon Arnette after a video surfaced of him making threats while holding a gun. Apparently the issues with Arnette run pretty deep and after Henry Ruggs killed someone while driving impaired last week the Raiders made the proper move to just cut ties before something else happens here far worse than a video surfacing. I had a few questions about the salary cap ramifications so let’s touch on those here.
Arnette, who is currently on IR, had $4.269 million in guaranteed salary for 2022 and 2023 remaining on his contract. In a normal release this would all accelerate onto the salary cap the minute he was cut. We currently estimate the Raiders to have around $3.2 million in cap room meaning they would not have the cap space necessary to process the cut if Arnette’s salary was still guaranteed.
However, Arnette’s actions will potentially be enough to trigger clauses in the contract that void the guarantees. While I have not seen this particular contract it is common for teams to have language that have clauses that allow a guarantee to void simply based on conduct that reflects poorly on an organization. Any suspension for conduct detrimental by the team or league is another common reason to void a guarantee. Violations of the NFL Personal Conduct Policy is another common reason and that typically includes threats of violence against others. I would imagine that at least one of those would trigger the voiding of the guarantee in the contract.
Arnette’s situation may be a little more complicated because he is currently on injured reserve. Typically salary is protected on IR and I do not believe that the Raiders can avoid that simply because of a voided guarantee. Their best avenue to avoid it would be a team suspension for conduct and then wait until he is healthy to cut him. With that in mind Arnette’s salary cap number following his release should be $3,049,669, which is the same as his cap number now. If the Raiders do not have to pay his salary this year then the cap number will be $2,439,702, a gain of about $610,000 in cap room. Next year his cap hit will be $3.659 million which is basically the same as what his cap number would have been if he were still on the roster.
Arnette can always appeal any attempt to avoid payment of his salary by the Raiders. If that occurs the Raiders would face a placeholder salary cap charge of $1.708 million ($1.952 million if they do not pay this years salary) until a grievance was decided. They should have enough salary cap space to deal with that if it occurs. I do not believe that Arnette trigged a forfeiture of his bonus money that he was paid as a rookie and even if it was, well good luck getting it back. Arnette will be placed on waivers when released. If a team for some reason claimed him all of those guarantee obligations would vanish from the Raiders and move on to his new team.
Arnette is just the latest in a long line of questionable draft selections by the Raiders during the Jon Gruden/Mike Mayock era. The team jumped the gun in drafting Clelin Ferrell in 2019 and he currently plays about 20% of the time on defense despite being a top 5 pick. Their other 2019 first rounders have been ok. Josh Jacobs is a decent running back while safety Jonathan Abram has developed into a quality safety. 2020 was a disaster with Ruggs and Arnette already gone from the team. This year’s top pick, Alex Leatherwood, who was also considered a reach, has struggled.
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.