Teams have until Tuesday to bring their rosters down to 75 players and a few teams have already made many of their decisions and begun the process of releasing players. Most of the moves that occur are not noteworthy but there are always a few surprising cuts to go along with some bad injury news for certain players. Lets go over the bigger news stories of the day.
The St. Louis Rams announced that quarterback Sam Bradford suffered another ACL injury and would miss the entire 2014 NFL season. Bradford’s college and NFL career has been marred by injury and this would unfortunately look to be the end of the line. I had written about Bradford last year and suggested that the Rams offer a pretty significant paycut based on the fact that he only played 33 games in three years, but unfortunately for the Rams they did not take that approach. Bradford will continue to count for $17.61 million against the salary cap while on injured reserve, unless some contract tweak is done for cap relief. The Rams currently have the tightest cap position in the NFL and will likely need to rework a deal or two before the season. This was to be a big year for Bradford who will have a cap hit $16.58 million in 2015, his final year of his rookie contract. With just $3.595 million in dead money if cut next year it should be impossible for him to survive on the contract this time around, putting him in a position to decide if he wants to take a low cost “prove it” contract or to retire from all the injuries. Bradford will make around $65 million by the end of this season, the final byproduct of the old CBA rookie contract system.
The Buffalo Bills released defensive tackle Alan Branch just eight monts after signing him to a three year contract extension in which he received a $3.1 million signing bonus. Branch will be another in a growing list of strange contract decisions made by the Bills in which they release players after recent decisions to pay the players. Branch did not seem to fit in with the new Bills defense and his recent arrest seemed to make the decision much easier for the Bills. Branch should have earned a $100,000 workout bonus this year and will count for $875,000 against the Bills cap, a savings of $1.8 million. He’ll also have a $1.55 million cap charge in 2015. Overall the Bills will lose $625K in cap room over two years despite the fact that he played in no games under the extension seasons of the contract.
There were a number of veteran cuts including Broncos‘ tackle Winston Justice ($1.0625M cap savings), Bears‘ safety Adrian Wilson ($570K cap savings), Patriots’ defensive tackle Tommy Kelly ($1.205M cap savings), and Patriots’ defensive end Will Smith ($585K cap savings). Sometimes you can’t read too much into veteran releases as 90% of the time such players would not be asked to participate in a fourth preseason game and many of the veteran players who are on the bubble will not be signed until week 2 of the season. The reason for the late signing is to avoid a full base salary guarantee. The CBA guarantees the salary of any veteran player who is on the week 1 roster, but just 25% of his contract if signed after the first game.
Neither Justice nor Kelly can be signed to minimum salary benefit contracts this season. The Patriots had given Kelly a $100,000 signing b0nus when he renegotiated his contract this season and the Broncos gave Justice a $75,000 bonus. Both numbers disqualify both for such treatment. In hindsight the $75,000 bonus for Justice may have been shortsighted.
Other teams who made a number of cuts include the New York Jets, Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Oakland Raiders, and Washington Redskins. This is of course a busy time of year for us at OTC to keep up with all the transactions so bear with us over the next two weeks as we get the cap pages down to 75 and then down to 53 next week.
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.