We often talk about kicking the can in the NFL which generally means teams using some type of bonus to spread out salary cap charges over the life of the contract, but more often than not we just focus on teams restructuring contracts. Today I wanted to look at the teams who deferred the most cap charges to the future via bonuses this year. That includes a regular signing bonus at the start of a contract as the use of the SB accomplishes the same task- pushing money into the future to achieve the best possible roster this year. The only bonuses that we will not include are bonuses for draft picks and undrafted players as those are more or less dictated by the NFL.
Here is the list of teams and how much money they pushed into the future this year.
The average deferred cap charge in the NFL was $41.2M on 8.6 players. The median was $43.9M on 8 players.
At the top of the list we have three teams who clearly have a great deal invested in this season. Dallas deferred nearly $78 million in cap charges to future years to put their team together this year. Most of this was from a gigantic contract signed by Dak Prescott, but it would seem clear that Dallas is all in on this season. The Cowboys are projected over the cap next year so they will need to use a similar strategy next year.
The Saints cap problems this year were legendary and they used bonuses for 15 players with years remaining on their contract. They deferred over $73 million to maintain their roster this year and to try to compete for a Super Bowl in the post Brees era. Like Dallas the Saints are well over next years cap so expect more of the same next year too.
Finally we have the Buccaneers who went void year and signing bonus crazy in an effort to keep the 2020 Super Bowl team relatively intact for 2021. Thy moved over $72.5 million to the future. The Bucs do have some cap space next season but will have free agents to deal with if they have similar success this year.
After those three we get a big drop off to the Eagles at $59.2 million. The Eagles were way over the cap this year and used a bonus on 16 players, tops in the NFL. The Eagles are right up against the cap next year as well and seem to be using a rebuild on the fly kind of approach.
On the bottom of the list are the Jets who basically used no bonuses at all this year in contract signings. They will only defer $2.75 million in future cap charges. The Jets will have a ton of cap room next year and a ton of flexibility if they move off this strategy and more than enough room even if they use the same strategy. The Jets eyes are probably more on 2022 than 2021.
The Dolphins followed the Jets path this year with just a tough over $7 million in deferred cap hits. Like the Jets they have a ton of cap room next year and while they have more invested in this year, they probably are looking at 2022 as a major year if their QB works out this season.
The Raiders were third at $11.7 million and closely followed by the Colts at $12 million though the Colts could have another extension or two on the horizon. Both teams have a lot of cap room in 2022 but I think you could make an argument that they both could have tried to do a little more this year.
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.