Panthers to Release RB DeAngelo Williams

The Carolina Panthers will soon release running back DeAngelo Williams which will mark the end of the worst contracts that that organization has signed.

Williams was a 28 year old running back coming off a season ending injury in 2010 when the Panthers opted to sign him to a five year, $43 million contract. Those numbers don’t really even do the contract justice as they agreed to use a $16 million signing bonus which helped lead to a massive potential payout of $30 million in the first three years of the deal.

Williams peaked as a player in 2008 when he rushed for over 1,500 yards and ran for 18 touchdowns. The following year he saw action in just 13 games and his numbers started to decline. He never reached 1,000 yards again and was a non-factor in the 6 games he played in 2014.

Because of salary cap problems the team was forced to rework Williams’ contract for salary cap relief in 2013 and include voidable contract years to aid in creating $3.2 million in cap room.  Williams also took a pay cut in 2014 to reflect the declining skills.

The Panthers will now have to decide whether to release Williams now or wait until the new league year begins and then designate him a June 1 cut. The Panthers are just beginning to climb out of a two year salary cap hole and it may be easier for them to use the June 1 cut and defer dead money to the 2016 league year. Williams has a $1 million option bonus this year that my or may not be included on the cap depending on the release date. Here is how I believe the situations play out.

If cut now the Panthers will take a $5.6 million dead money charge that consists of $3.2 million from his original signing bonus and $2.4 million in bonus money from his renegotiated deal. I believe as long as he is cut before the official start of the 2015 League Year (March 10) they will not have to account for the option bonus on the salary cap. This represents a savings of $733,333 against the salary cap, which is in essence a push. If I am incorrect and the option counts the team will lose cap space by releasing him as his dead money number will jump to $6.6 million with the team receiving a $1 million credit in 2016 for the non paid option.

If the team uses the June 1 designation on Williams they will carry Williams at $6.33 million against the cap until June 2. On June 2 the only charge remaining for the year will be $4.333 million, which is the $3.2 million from his orginal signing bonus, $800,000 from his renegotiated bonus, and $333,333 from his option bonus. If they opt for this route they will carry $1.6 million in dead charges in 2016, all from his 2013 renegotiation, and receive a $333,333 credit against the salary cap for the option bonus allocation in 2015 that was never paid.

This method of release would give the Panthers an additional $2 million in cap room, which should be enough to account for their rookies. I think that makes this the better option for the team given their salary cap situation.

Looking Back at the Panthers Restructuring of Contracts


I had a request from Rachael to glance over what the Panthers did to maneuver themselves out of cap trouble and get to $12.8 million under the salary cap and what ramifications those moves will have in the future. Primarily the concern here was the restructuring of a number of deals to be cap compliant. So, based on the information I have, which I hope is accurate, here is an overview of what they did and some thoughts on the moves.

Ryan Kalil– the Panthers opened up $3.6 million in cap by converting $4 million of his base salary into a signing bonus and adding a voidable year onto his contact for proration purposes. The move adds $550,000 to Kalil’s top of the market cap charges in each season and will leave the Panthers with an additional $1.8 million in dead money that will hit the cap either when his contract voids in 2017 or whatever year he is cut. The cost to cut him in 2015, the year in which he turns 30, increases by $2.9 million dollars.

Haruki Nakumura– Was set to earn $1.3 million in salary. His restructured deal  reduced his base to $715,000 and included a $65,000 signing bonus and $35,000 workout bonus. In return for the paycut the Panthers agreed to void Nakumura’s contract following the 2013 season. This saved the team $517,500 in 2013 cap space and will only add $32,500 to next years cap. Barring an extension, Nakumura will count for $365,834 in dead money in 2014. The team should be able to find a low cost veteran safety to replace him next season making this a positive cap move.

Greg Olsen–  The restructuring of Olsen’s deal opened up $2.4 million in cap space. To do so the Panthers converted $3 million of base salary into an option bonus and added two voidable seasons for proration purposes. By using the void seasons the Panthers locked themselves into $1.2 million of dead money unless he is extended before 2016. Olsen’s cap will increase by $600,000 in 2014 and 2015.

Jordan Gross– This was a big, and perhaps questionable, move. Gross was set to count for $11.7 million in cap with a base salary of $8.7 million. Gross accepted a paycut from $8.7 to $5.5 million which would have been a reasonable $3.2 million in savings in 2013. However, Carolina freed up a whopping $6.8 million of cap room by adding four voidable years onto the tail end of Gross’ contract to mitigate the effects of a $4.5 million dollar signing bonus.  Had Carolina not made the move Gross’ dead money in 2014 would have only been $2 million. Instead they will take a $5.6 million dollar charge for a player not on the roster. When you factor in the cost of tackle, even in a depressed market, the Panthers stand to have significant cap charges associated with the position next season.

DeAngelo Williams– Williams did not take a paycut in 2013, but did take one for future years, reducing his 2014 and 2015 base salaries from $5.75 and $6.75 million to $1.85 million a season. They also added a $1 million dollar option to the 2015 season for Williams. To give cap relief this season the Panthers again turned to the void clauses, tacking on two additional void seasons for the purposes of prorating a $4 million dollar signing bonus in lieu of $4 million in base salary in 2013. The void year provision saved the Panthers $3.2 million in cap room this year. His 2014 cap figure dropped by $3.2 million as well, but with dead money charges rising from $6.4 to $9.6 million the Panthers essentially guaranteed Williams a spot on the 2014 team, despite the fact that he fell out of favor with the club in 2012.  He will be cut in 2015 due to the option bonus which will leave them with $5.6 million in dead money.

If we play the old contract out he likely would have counted $8.2 million against the cap this year and then would have been cut in 2014 at a dead charge of $6.4 million, making the total bill for Williams $14.6 million in cap over two years. Under the new structure he will count for $11 million in cap charges over the next two seasons and then $5.6 million in dead money in 2015. That is a total of $16.6 million.  Considering he could have been designated a June 1 cut in 2014 to split the $6.4 million across two seasons I can’t really understand the reasoning behind this move unless they expect a major resurgence from a 30 year old running back.

Jon BeasonWe covered Beason’s restructure earlier today in which he saved the team a little over $3.3 million. Unlike the other contracts no bonus money was put into this contract. This was a pure paycut.

Final Conclusions

All told the Panthers freed up $19.83 million in cap space  in 2013 via the restructure/renegotiation mechanism. The cost of those moves will be felt in the future as the team has now locked into $9.032 million in dead money that did not exist before the season. The dead money impacts future decisions for players like Kalil and Williams and may tie the Panthers into players for a longer time than they would like. The average dead money per team in the NFL this year is around $9 million so the Panthers essentially locked in a whole seasons worth of dead money via the void clause use.

The challenge in proceeding with this type of contractual system is not the short term gains but the long term implications. Despite all the chopping of salary the Panthers cap next year remains right near the limits for the NFL putting them right back to square one and needing to get back in and restructure more deals. The last thing a team wants is to have players going into their 30’s and have a dead money situation where their spots are essentially protected. The NFL is a young players league and the voidable years and high prorated money charges for veterans can provide for a tough cap situation.

The Panthers have a terrific young star playing Quarterback that is going to earn anywhere from $17 to $20 million a year starting in 2015. They have to get everything in order and convince him that they are going to be able to upgrade the talent around him by that time. That may be difficult if this restructuring path becomes the norm for the franchise.

Brian McIntyre: DeAngelo Williams Restructures Deal


Brian McIntyre of Shutdown Corner has reported that the Carolina Panthers have restructured the contract of RB DeAngelo Williams, saving themselves $3.2 million in cap space in 2013.Mac has all the particulars in his deal, but the cliff notes version is that the Panthers will give Williams a $4 million dollar bonus this year and have reduced his overall cash takehome from $18 million to $10 million over the next 3 seasons.

It’s a move that I cant really understand. While this will bring Williams’s salary back in the line with the market in terms of cash value, his cap charges remain around the top 10 in the NFL for the next 3 seasons due to the large bonuses he was paid when the Panther signed him to that ill-advised contract in 2011. Williams only played in around 43% of the Panthers offensive snaps last season and seemed to be the doghouse of the team. While our statistical analysis of the position indicated that Williams may be hurt by lack of talent and opportunity as much as anything, it is hard to imagine him becoming a larger part of the offense without wholesale changes on the team.

In general the Panthers have been one of the worst managed salary cap franchises in the NFL since 2011. That isn’t the fault of the current regime but moves like this seem to make it worse. Taking a page from the book of the Cowboys the Panthers added two void seasons onto Williams’ contract for the sake of reducing cap charges in 2013, but increasing dead money throughout the life of the deal. They used a similar mechanism with LT Jordan Gross.

Under his prior contract Williams could have been cut after the 2013 season with $6.4 million in dead money on the books. He would have cost the Panthers $14.6 million in cap charges between this years salary and next years dead money had they played the contract out. The dead money under his new deal in 2014 is $9.6 million, so if they decide to cut ties with him next season it will be considered a net neutral cap move provided that they dont spend the $3.2 in savings they received from him this year. Alternatively the Panthers could have designated him a June 1 cut this year and saved the team $5 million in cash and cap dollars over the next two seasons.

Williams will be 31 next season so a release should still be considered a strong possibility, which is why I dislike moves like this. If they need the cap relied there has to be a better player that a team can do this with to at least give the team some longer term benefit. If they release Williams next year they receive no benefit and get nothing but bad press for a $9.6 million dead hit on a player that the staff does not seem to want to utilize. Dead money figures that high can also cloud judgement about a players position on the roster and at this point the Panthers have essentially pre-paid almost all of his contract.Williams is due a $1 million dollar option bonus according to McIntyre in 2015. There is almost no chance of that happening so if Williams makes it that far he will count $5.6 million in dead money against the cap in 2014.

View DeAngleo Williams Salary Cap Page