Based on various reports about the future of Dolphins G Richie Incognito I just thought I would throw my opinion out there as to the options for the Dolphins.
The Dolphins suspended Incognito yesterday for conduct detrimental to the team. Per my understanding of the CBA the longest period he can be suspended for is 4 games, which would make it mandatory that he return to the roster following the Dolphins game against the New York Jets on December 1. Incognito will not be paid for this period of suspension which would cost him $941,177 in lost salary and $50,000 in bonus money.
The NFL Players Association can challenge validity of the suspension which I would imagine presents them with a difficult dilemma. In this case the detrimental conduct by Incognito was directly pointed at another member of the NFLPA. Normally the NFLPA would challenge an assertion that the player was harming the team and thus subject to discipline, but in this case it’s a reaction to a complaint made by a union member. This may be even more difficult than challenging the Patriots on behalf of Aaron Hernandez where there was at least an argument to be made to protect the guaranteed contracts of players from wrongful termination.
There are many saying that the Dolphins should just release Incognito, but once the Dolphins do that they will be on the hook for the remainder of his salary which is protected under the Termination Pay provisions of the CBA. There is one manner in which a team can attempt to avoid that pay, but it requires a player to not exhibit a good faith effort to fulfill his responsibilities to play football and that would be a major stretch in this situation.
With that in mind I have the same response to this as I did the Hernandez case and that if the act is that terrible (and by no means am I lumping Incognito anywhere near Hernandez) that we should never reward the person with money if it can be avoided. If Miami chooses to release Incognito now they will have to pay him the $941,177 in salary that he would lose while suspended. If they simply wait 4 weeks Incognito loses that money.
By waiting Miami’s final bill would be $941,177 for the final four weeks of the year rather than $1,882,353. The bonus is money is lost whether he is cut now or later as that money is not protected by Termination Pay. If this is indeed Incognito’s last season in the NFL he should also be eligible for severance pay from the Dolphins. I believe his severance pay will equal $102,500 which he can claim after a year out of the NFL. Unlike Termination Pay, this charge will not impact the salary cap.
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.