I thought there was a fascinating trade announced today between the Texans and the Saints for cornerback Bradley Roby. Roby is currently suspended for the first week of the season but will be good to go for the remainder of the year. The impact on the Saints isn’t really what I find fascinating but how the two sides will work this out from a salary cap perspective which I would think may be a bit tricky.
Per our estimates the Saints currently have about $4 million in salary cap space. Roby will cost, after the suspension is served, $9.266 million. That number is obviously more than the Saints have. Normally this is not an issue as a team simply just converts the salary of another player to a bonus to create cap room, except the Saints don’t have anyone left to do this with.
Of the 62 players on the Saints roster as of this morning, 56 of them have a Paragraph 5 salary of no more than $1.19 million. They have five players with salaries between $1.7 and $2.4 million. If they reworked every one of those deals they would open up in the ballpark of $600,000 per player. Finally there is Marcus Williams at over $10 million but he is a franchise player and I do not believe the league would allow void years on that contract since the deadline for a multiyear contract passed in July. They also have two players they could potentially settle with on an injury and clear around $800,000 in cap space.
Unless I am wrong in my interpretation on how the void contracts work with a franchise player (and it is always possible I could be) the Saints have pretty much run out of ways to create cap room for this season after maxing out so many contract restructures. If they redid every deal and released those two players they could get to maybe $7.8 million, which is not enough to absorb the Roby contract.
An easy solution is to get the Texans to eat most of the contract. How much of the contract would they have to eat? My assumption would be at least $7 million. That would lower his salary cap charge to around $2.5 million on the season. That would leave the Saints with about $1.5 million in working cap space if no other deals were touched and then touching those contracts if the need arises to open up a few hundred thousand at a time.
That is a big bill for the Texans who just spent $7 million on a player they wound up trading for a bag of peanuts to the Jets. If I were the Saints I would argue that the cost should be the same here but Houston has restructured the Shaq Lawson contract long before the trade in what was simply a bad decision. This time they control their fate at least a little bit.
At the very least the Saints would need enough cap room to execute the trade so that they could restructure Roby after the trade. That would likely mean that the bare minimum would be for the Texans to eat around $4.5 million.
What if the Texans simply refuse to pick up any of the contract? I think there might be a way around that using a bit of a contract trick to lower the cap number without the Texans having to pay a dime. The way the NFL works is that if you sign a player to a contract that has a signing bonus attached that bonus is the responsibility of the team that trades him (with the exception of franchise type player trades).
A workaround might be to use a roster bonus that is not earned by Roby until after the trade. So for example lets say the trade is executed next Tuesday. Roby would have a roster bonus that is paid on something like the following Monday. Any roster bonus in a contract after the season is treated the same as a signing bonus for salary cap purposes.
So lets say the Saints are willing to take on the whole contract what they can do is have the Texans restructure the contract to include a roster bonus of $8,427,352 and a base salary of $1.075 million, which would be prorated for 17 weeks at $1,015,278 while adding three void years to the contract. The resulting contract would work as follows:
Unlike with the signing bonus this contract would be treated different in a trade. Because the roster bonus is the responsibility of the Saints rather than the Texans, Houston would not pay a dime and would only take on an additional $1.6855 million in cap charges this year. They would receive a credit on their salary cap in 2022 for the charge because the bonus was not paid by Houston.
The Saints would take on the contract as is, with a cap charge of just $2.7 million, and have enough space under their current salary cap situation to trade for him without the Texans picking up a dime on the contract. I’m not sure if this will happen but I do think it would be a creative way to work the trade if the Texans are hung up on price and the Saints have no alternative ways to create cap space.
I’m not sure what the rules are with trading suspended players (I would think you can’t trade until they are no longer suspended, but that is also just a guess- edit this guess is indeed wrong as they can trade a suspended player) but there is no real reason for either side to hurry with the trade since he can not play this week anyway. It also probably makes the restructure of the contract cleaner since he would have already lost his week of pay.
We should get an idea of how it will play out in the coming days but this could be a pretty unique situation by the time the trade is executed.
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.