One very minor detail of the NFLâ€™s new CBA â€“ a single sentence, 59 pages deep into the document â€“ could have major ramifications on the outcome of the 2011 season.
For the purpose of the salary cap players who were cut prior to the lockout will not count as dead money against this yearâ€™s cap.
So what is the big deal?
For the players union that means teams will be spending more real dollars, as opposed to cap numbers which are figures for accounting purposes only. But what this does is give an advantage to teams who cut players under contract during that three-week window between the end of the season and the start of the lockout. Players cut going forward will still have those numbers count against their old teamâ€™s salary cap.
This all seems quite arbitrary and inconsistent; itâ€™s completely unprecedented in the NFLâ€™s salary cap era. In addition the message coming out of the NFLâ€™s office when the league opted out of the CBA and went to an uncapped year was that teams should make decisions based on the idea that a new CBA would be worked and that cap rules, regardless of what number the new cap would be, would remain intact. In other words, donâ€™t sign a bunch of players to big signing bonuses and multi year contracts with the idea that youâ€™ll be able to cut them before the end of the contract with no dead cap money ramifications.
Now it appears that was merely a suggestion, with no basis of fact.
However what makes this situation an even bigger deal is the possibility of impropriety. What if only one team knew about this ahead of time? Obviously they could take advantage of that knowledge by cutting several veterans very early in the year, rather than waiting. With no new CBA in place and no free agency on March 1, there was really no need to make the decision at that time.
Is Rex Ryan’s team had plenty of dead money prior to the lockout. (FILE:Icon/SMI)
Now itâ€™s not as if no cuts were made by 31 teams and several made by one team; that is not the case. However, the majority of the cuts were either marginal players with no impact to the salary cap (e.g., Pierre Woods), failed physicals (e.g., Chris Baker), or old housecleaning of players that had essentially retired that were on the reserve/failed to report list (e.g., Randall McDaniel).
One of the very few teams that did make early roster cuts was the New York Jets, cutting six players that reportedly had over $8 million in dead cap money between them – not an insignificant amount at all when you consider it’s not uncommon for anybody making over $1 million per year to be a potential cap casualty.
Now it is time for the tinfoil hat conspiracy theory.
While the lockout was on, there was only one fan base that seemed to be adamant that old dead cap money would not count against the new cap â€“ even though that had never been the case since the salary cap began: the New York Jets. The reasoning behind this was allegedly some inside information on the wording of the new CBA. If this were true then where would a Jet fan most likely get that information; maybe from someone in the Jets organization? And if that were the case, where would the Jets have obtained that same information?
Perhaps from the offices of a former fan and former employee who now holds the title of league commissioner?
Now I realize this idea sounds rather fantastic; like I said before, tinfoil hat conspiracy time. But hasnâ€™t Roger Goodell brought this upon himself? His past allegiances are well documented, yet he sees no need to remove himself from controversial decisions involving his former team. The punishment to Sal Alosi for his actions and Mike Westhoff for his comments last season were laughably weak when you compare how he reacts to players violating the Personal Conduct Policy; if anything I thought coaches were held to a higher standard â€“ wasnâ€™t that part of the rationale in the fine to Bill Belichick? In addition Goodell has shown himself to be wildly inconsistent with his decisions, which brings further scrutiny. The Patriots film and they lose a first round draft pick; the Broncos and Jets do the same thing and there are no repercussions. Player X does something he gets a small fine; Player Y does the same thing he gets suspended.
Removing the tinfoil conspiracy hat, at the very least if the two sides wanted clubs to spend more money in 2011 then there should have been a more equitable way to make that happen than giving amnesty to the handful of teams that had already cut players with big cap numbers. If not an error of commission then itâ€™s an error of omission; Goodell should have realized that setting that arbitrary date of March 11 was not the correct decision. A better way to satisfy both sides would have been to add up the total dead cap money of all players cut from February 17 to March 11, divide by 32, and add that amount to each of the 32 NFL teamâ€™s 2011 cap. Now itâ€™s fair for everybody involved.
And people like me donâ€™t have an excuse to reach for our tinfoil hats.
In all seriousness, do I think the Jets had some secret information about this clause passed on to them by Goodell? Probably not; besides its being impossible to prove people like Goodell and Woody Johnson are far more interested in money than in wins and losses of their favorite team. But I find it ironic that the commissioner of the league, the man whose rallying cry is the integrity of the game, keeps making decisions that cause fans of the NFL to question that very same subject based on decisions that he makes, and how it seemingly favors his former employer and team he grew up rooting for. A person in his position should not be making such gaffes; if he’s not intelligent enough to avoid doing so he should step aside and let somebody else take over for the good of the game.
Here is a team-by-team look at cuts made between February 18 and March 11 of this year. I would have included what the cap savings would be for everyone involved, but I was unable to locate a reliable source for that information.
Atlanta: S Eric Coleman, TE Jason Rader
Buffalo: LB Pierre Woods, LB Mike Balogun, DE Marcus Stroud
Chicago: T Kevin Shaffer, DT Tommie Harris, LB Hunter Hillenmeyer
Cleveland: LB Eric Barton, LB David Bowens, T John St. Clair, DT Shaun Rogers, TE Robert Royal, DE Kenyon Coleman
Denver: TE Daniel Graham, DT Jamal Williams, DT Justin Bannan
Detroit: G Trevor Canfield; CB Eric King, LB Julian Peterson
Green Bay: S Derrick Martin, LB AJ Hawk (re-signed), TE Donald Lee, FB Chuck Webb, G Doug Karczewski
Houston: WR Andre Davis, LB Darnell Bing, LB Isaiah Greenhouse, DT DeMario Pressley, S Eugene Wilson
Indianapolis: S Bob Sanders
Jacksonville: WR Mike Sims-Walker; WR Chris McGaha
Kansas City: none
Miami: RB Deon Anderson, TE Jared Bronson
New England: none
New Orleans: RB Marcus Mailei, RB PJ Hill, TE Jeremy Shockey
New York Giants: none
New York Jets: CB Isaiah Trufant, LB Jason Taylor, DT Kris Jenkins, T Damien Woody, DE Vernon Gholston, TE Ben Hartsock
San Diego: none
San Francisco: none
Seattle: TE Chris Baker, QB Nate Davis, DE Patrick Kerney, WR Sean Morey
St. Louis: RB Mike Karney, S Oshiomogho Atogwe
Tampa Bay: LB Jon Alston, G Randall McDaniel, G Jason Nerys
Washington: RB Clinton Portis, LB Andre Carter, G Derrick Dockery