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.
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.