With the summer approaching and teams needing cap room to sign rookies or to prepare for the regular season its only natural that more restructures occur. On Friday it was reported that Roman Harper of the Saints and Jonathan Goodwin of the 49’ers both reworked their contracts to provide their teams cap relief and I wanted to offer some thoughts on both deals.
Harper’s restructured contract was passed off as an extension on his current deal which pretty much was met with a collective “what?”. Harper had two years remaining on his contract and will turn 31 towards the end of this season and has not justified the 4 year $25 million dollar contract he signed in 2011. Pro Football Focus rated him as the 2nd worst safety in the NFL last year and my own valuation of the position indicated under no circumstances should he play under his original deal .
Harper was set to carry a cap charge of $7.15 million in 2013 and releasing him would have saved the team $3.65 million in cap room. Had he been designated a June 1 cut the Saints would have saved $5.4 million in cap. Instead the Saints added a year onto his deal, calling it an extension, for the sake of cap savings. The Saints will now save $3.49 million against this years cap but have added an additional $1.94 million in dead money in 2014 if they choose to move on. Harper’s 2014 cap number was reduced by just over $2 million, but iat $5.87 million is still too high for his level of contribution.
The Saints have the worst cap situation in the NFL for next season and have taken a very short term approach this year to their squad in hopes that they can catch lighting in a bottle and return to the playoffs. Along with the Cowboys they have had the most over-reliance on contract restructures and cap deferrals to keep the team intact this season. On the defensive end it has been a head scratching decision because of how poor the defense played next season. The move now puts the Saints $5.185 million under this years salary cap and since they have signed their entire rookie class it will be the money they need for regular season operations.
The 49’ers made no such attempt to wrap up Goodwin’s move as an extension nor did they compromise their future salary cap for what they considered an underperforming player. Goodwin took a pure paycut reducing his salary from $3.7 million to $2.5 million, but the teams cap savings went even further. Goodwin also had LTBE incentives which counted on the salary cap at an amount of $650,000, which were wiped out in this renegotiation. That pushed the 49’ers cap savings to $1.85 million.
Unlike the Saints the 49’ers made this move just to get more rookies signed. San Francisco still had 4 rookies to sign at the time this move was made and by my estimates will cost the team $1,297,378 in net cap room. Prior to the paycut and the signing of Tank Carradine the 49’ers only had $1.3 million in cap room. They now have $2.71 million to spend, which is enough to get their players under contract in the next week.
That said the 49’ers clearly still have work that needs to be done to create cap space to function during the season. Remember that once the year begins the roster expands from 51 to 53 plus all reserve players begin to count on the cap. Just the addition of 2 players plus maintaining a full practice squad will cost a team a minimum of $1.626, so the 49’ers dont have enough cap room to function come September. That means more moves need to be made, the most logical of which would be extending DE Justin Smith who is in the last year of his contract. It could be a tricky renegotiation as Smith is set to make $8 million this year and is 34 years old, but he is coming off 4 straight Pro Bowls and has shown no signs of slowing down. The contracts given to Dwight Freeney and Osi Umenyiora could provide a starting point that gets his cap number down and gives him a little more job security, but he could choose to hedge his bets.
Other candidates could be S Donte Whitner and CB Tarell Brown, both in the final year of their contracts, and possibilities for extensions. The team could also approach RB Frank Gore about a pay reduction given the shrinking market for running backs, but that has been a contentious relationship and he may not be willing to accept reduced salary. Either way I’d expect more contract news about the 49’ers in the coming weeks.
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.