Under The Cap: Post-Draft Cuts

Under The Cap: Post-Draft Cuts
Under The Cap: Post-Draft Cuts
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by J.I. Halsell

The NFL Draft is the beginning of the careers of hundreds of players, but it also means the end of the road for others. Here is a look at some players who may be cut over the next few weeks.

1. Oakland Raiders Quarterback JaMarcus Russell

With the acquisition of quarterback Jason Campbell, it seems a far-gone conclusion that the 2007 No. 1 overall draft pick will not be a member of the Raiders in 2010. Russell is accounting for $15.3 million against Oakland's team salary. If released, Russell's 2010 dead money number will be $19.9 million because of team salary accounting rules and the bonus acceleration that is part of these rules. But in an uncapped year, this enormous amount -- which is slightly higher than Peyton Manning's team salary number -- is not a hindrance to the Raiders. From a cash perspective, the release of Russell will save the Raiders $6 million in salary, as $3.5 million of Russell's $9.5 million salary remains guaranteed. With the start of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) looming, the Raiders would be wise to release Russell before he suffers a season-ending injury, which would leave the Raiders responsible for the full $9.5-million salary.

2. Seattle Seahawks Wide Receiver Deion Branch

Branch has been a disappointment through his entire tenure in Seattle. The drafting of Notre Dame wide receiver Golden Tate in the second round -- coupled with the continued development of 2009 third-round pick Deon Butler -- leads to the conclusion that Branch's days could be limited in the Pacific Northwest. Branch accounts for $8 million in team salary. By releasing Branch, the Seahawks could save themselves $5.5 million this season. Like Russell, Branch could collect that money if he suffered a season-ending injury during OTAs. The risk isn't worthwhile for a player who may not factor into your plans for 2010.

3. Oakland Raiders Defensive Tackle Tommy Kelly

The release of Kelly, one of the top-10 highest paid defensive tackles in the game, is very unlikely. Nevertheless, Oakland drafting second-round defensive tackle Lamarr Houston may not bode well for Kelly's future. The Raiders have acquired young pass rushers Kamerion Wimbley and Quentin Groves, and these acquisitions may allow Richard Seymour to kick down to defensive tackle more frequently, which could squeeze out Kelly. Kelly currently accounts for $7.4 million in team salary. By terminating him, the Raiders would save $4.5 million in salary but incur a dead money charge against their team salary books of $11.5 million. However, as I mentioned in the case of Russell, 2010 is the year to take on significant dead money.

4. Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Roy Williams

I do not foresee this termination occurring, primarily due to the fact that Williams' $3.5-million salary is fully guaranteed, and Jerry Jones would like to get some sort of return on that investment, even if it's minimal given the presence of first-round wide receiver Dez Bryant. Like Kelly, Williams accounts for $7.4 million against the Cowboys' team salary books. If the team were to terminate Williams, it would still be on the hook for $3.5 million in salary plus a dead money charge of $17.5 million.

5. Cincinnati Bengals Defensive End Robert Geathers

Geathers, a 15-game starter in 2009, is surely going to be pushed by 2010 second-round pick Carlos Dunlap and 2009 third-round pick Michael Johnson. Dunlap and Johnson could very well push Geathers out of the building. By terminating Geathers, who accounts for $5.5 million, the Bengals could save $3.5 million in Geathers' salary. Geathers' fate can easily depend upon the recovery of defensive end Antwan Odom, who was having a breakout season prior to suffering an achilles injury.

6. San Francisco 49ers Safety Michael Lewis

With fellow safety Dashon Goldson solidifying his status in the 49ers secondary in 2009, Lewis will have to battle second-round pick Taylor Mays for the starting safety position opposite of Goldson. The 49ers can save themselves $4.1 million by releasing Lewis. If Lewis cannot beat out Mays for the starting position, then $4.1 million is a lot of money to pay to a third safety. First, Lewis has to hope he even gets the opportunity to compete in training camp.

7. New Orleans Saints Cornerback Randall Gay

The drafting of first-round cornerback Patrick Robinson does not bode well for the future of six-year veteran Gay. The Saints have invested high picks in three young corners -- Robinson, Tracy Porter, and Malcolm Jenkins. The team also made a significant financial investment in cornerback Jabari Greer. At best, Gay is the Saints' fourth or fifth cornerback, and with $3 million due to him in a combination of a $500,000 roster bonus and $2.5-million salary, it would not be surprising to see the Saints let Gay go. And the decision could come soon -- his roster bonus is due May 1.

Grab Bag

Football Outsiders reader Dr. Obvious asks:

"Is [Steelers linebacker Lamarr] Woodley, and any other Pro-Bowl quality player under a rookie contract screwed?"

Twitter follower @JonathanCarter0 asks:

"What are ways that Tennessee could get around the 30% rule and get Chris Johnson that money?"

My fellow capologist Ian Whetstone did a great job breaking down the nuances, specifically the 30 percent rule, prohibiting a lucrative multi-year extension of Woodley in a recent article. Add Titans running back Chris Johnson and Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson to the list of young players who are disgruntled with their respective contracts. If this were a normal league year with a salary cap, then signing these players to multi-year deals reflective of their productivity would not be a problem. As far as how one can get a deal done to reward these players in spite of the 30 percent rule, there are certain complex contracts structures that could potentially work. The complexities of such deals probably diminish the likelihood of one coming to fruition. The simple -- and more likely -- temporary resolution is to sign these players to short-term contracts of one or two years that hold them over until the labor environment changes. For example, if a player and club agree that the player's market value is $6 million per year, then a two-year deal with minimum salaries totaling roughly $1 million and a signing bonus of $11 million could be executed.

Follow J.I. Halsell on Twitter: @SalaryCap101.


43 comments, Last at 06 May 2010, 7:59pm

#1 by FooBarFooFoo (not verified) // Apr 30, 2010 - 12:30pm

Wow, paying a guy like Randall Gay three Mio and still be right (won SB) ... that's cool (I am a Pats fan). I would never pay a guy like that 3 Mio, but I probably won't ever win a SB either ...

Points: 0

#2 by Will Allen (not verified) // Apr 30, 2010 - 12:40pm

If Cowboys fans are fortunate, the Roy Williams trade finally convinced Jerrel The Sober to leave all efforts to improve the roster to his son, thereby allowing Bourbon Jerry to seek full time hours, towards the deadly earnest business of running his mouth while trying to bang cocktail waitresses.

Points: 0

#9 by Temo // Apr 30, 2010 - 2:35pm

It'll never happen, we're not that fortunate. (waiting for my optimistic alter ego, Key19, to show up and dispute this)

Points: 0

#13 by Will Allen (not verified) // Apr 30, 2010 - 3:03pm

I really try to be fair to Jerrel. Lots of guys have gotten lucky drilling for oil, and damned few have parlayed that luck in the manner he has. He deserves credit for this. It is rare, and fascinating, however, to see one person simulteaneously, convincingly, playing the roles of Vito Corleone, and his son Fredo.

How will he ever glower in the growing shadows in his study, behind his desk, while, at the same time, have himself clipped with a .22 to the back of his head, while trying to put a worm on a hook, sitting in a skiff? Or give himself a big smooch on the lips, for that matter? Is Bill Parcells Hyman Roth, or Kay Adams? Not that there is anything wrong with that.....

Points: 0

#24 by Key19 // Apr 30, 2010 - 7:55pm

Jerry is not the most savvy trade negotiator by any stretch, but he is a great asset to our team. I personally think it would be absolutely stupid to cut Roy this year. If he sucks again this season, then by all means, get him out of here. But we've got Miles.... and then Roy and a bunch of unproven young guys. Crayton is likely gone, possibly Hurd too. To lose those two AND Roy would set our team back immensely. I'm as big a Kevin Ogletree fan as anybody, but I'd like to see more from him before I hand him the #3 job. And I'd like to see a few strong performances from Dez before I'm willing to count on him.

Jerry and CO. pulled off one of the best value drafts in the history of the Cowboys this year. He knows what he's doing and he doesn't often get burned more than once. Yeah, he has gotten burned on two mega-trades for WRs, but I would be seriously shocked if he tried another one of those.

The way people talk about Jerry as a personnel guy and Wade as a coach, you'd think this team would be lucky to go 5-11. Yet they've won two of the last three NFC Division titles and have not posted a .500 or worse season together in three years. In fact, there are only I think three teams with a better record than the Cowboys in the last three years. I think they probably know what they're doing.

Happy, Temo? lol

Points: 0

#28 by Will Allen (not verified) // May 01, 2010 - 9:39am

What happened between the playoff win in 1997 and the next one in January 2010? The great asset was merely trying to lull evryone into complacency?

I know you are an optimist, and that'a a good thing. I just can't stand Bourbon Jerry.

Points: 0

#42 by Key19 // May 05, 2010 - 2:33am

Jerry was a pretty bad GM in the late-90s until the mid 2000s. He was originally HORRIBLE at working the salary cap, giving huge deals to players at the end of their careers just because they were good old boys from the Super Bowl years. That totally set the franchise back 5+ years. He also drafted horribly in this time period. But since about 2003/2004-ish, he's been on fire with everything except trades. He still sucks so bad at those, but maybe he'll finally learn his lesson about those thanks to Roy.

Points: 0

#43 by AlanSP // May 06, 2010 - 7:59pm

He's done well with draft pick trades at least, managing to get both the Bills and Browns to cough up both an early 2nd round pick and a 1st round pick the next year in exchange for a late 1st, taking advantage of the fact that those teams were desperate for their QB of the future. Combined with the more equitable trade with the Eagles in 2007, this allowed him to pull off the neat trick of getting the Browns' 1st round pick in 2008 exchange for moving down from 20 to 26 and giving up a 3rd and a 5th.

Trades involving players, on the other hand, haven't really worked out so well for him.

Points: 0

#3 by Jimmy // Apr 30, 2010 - 12:54pm

Nice insight JI.

Also good to see Ian Whetstone getting some props after years of helping to satiate the needs of cap nerds like me.

Points: 0

#4 by James Joyner (not verified) // Apr 30, 2010 - 1:11pm

I seem to have read somewhere that this is an uncapped year, owing to an ongoing labor dispute. If so, then there's no cap to be "under" and talk of a cap hit for cuts being made this season makes no sense.

Points: 0

#5 by Jimmy // Apr 30, 2010 - 1:36pm

If you had given a player a $20m signing bonus on a five year contract and he had played like crap for the first year of that contract if you cut him you would still have to account for the remaining $16m of bonus money that has been pro-rated. If you waited until after June 1st you could put half of that into the next season but you would still have £8m of dead money on your cap for both years. It is a rare opportunity then to be able to simply dump the dead money into an uncapped year. Teams like Washington have used the lack of cap to wipe their previous slate of dead money clean. Is is the avoindance of dead money in the future that is to be noted.

Teams like Cincy and Tampa are doing the opposite, that is they are cheerfully letting old dead money camoflage the fact that they aren't spending much this year at all.

Points: 0

#7 by Dave51 (not verified) // Apr 30, 2010 - 1:46pm

Well unless this article was edited after your post was made, your mention of the term "cap hit" was the first on the page so I'm not really sure what you're talking about.

Points: 0

#19 by johnny walker (not verified) // Apr 30, 2010 - 5:07pm

Your amazing semantic powers have failed this time I'm afraid. Next time read past (what you imagine to be) the headline.

Points: 0

#6 by Snack Flag (not verified) // Apr 30, 2010 - 1:44pm

Is the 30% rule why the Eagles signed Kolb to that weird contract yesterday?

Points: 0

#12 by Jimmy // Apr 30, 2010 - 2:56pm

I would imagine so. Even if the Eagles had wanted to sign him up long term it would have been very difficult. The linked article by Ian Whetstone gives a good explanation.

Points: 0

#8 by Raiderjoe // Apr 30, 2010 - 2:34pm

Have to tske look at nimbers tonite

Points: 0

#11 by Jimmy // Apr 30, 2010 - 2:54pm

Careful now. The thing about numbers is that the order you put them in makes a lot of difference. ;)

Points: 0

#10 by ChicagoRaider // Apr 30, 2010 - 2:38pm

Well, sure, Kelly is overpaid. But are they really going to get a better DT anywhere? For Jamarcus, the answer is clearly YES. Pro Football Focus has Kelly listed as the 40th best DT. Certainly not worth a lot of money. But if he goes where is the Raider defensive rebuild? Nowhere.

Which is why I was hoping the Raiders would have taken him instead of another track-star receiver. He would be hard to move, and would not need to be paid a lot.

Points: 0

#14 by IanWhetstone // Apr 30, 2010 - 3:21pm

Hey, thanks for the mention!

Points: 0

#15 by Independent George // Apr 30, 2010 - 3:51pm

I know this has been discussed before, but wasn't Roy Williams actually good at some point? Like an actual success story for the Millen years? I remember him showing flashes as a Rookie, and the numbers showed steady improvement over the next two years (including a Pro Bowl in 2006). He was reasonably productive in an injury-shortened year in 2007, before the bottom completely fell out in 2008.

Seriously - can anyone in Detroit explain what happened? His conventional numbers were always pretty good, and he was #10 in DYAR in 2006. Was it all smoke and mirrors those early years in Detroit? Did 2008 just destroy everyone associated with it? Does he just not fit the scheme in Dallas? What does he do well, and where could he succeed?

Points: 0

#16 by Will Allen (not verified) // Apr 30, 2010 - 4:30pm

George, my impression, which doesn't amount to all that much, is that Roy is the sorta' fella who, while no doubt blessed with immense physical talent, can be discouraged from being extremely productive by anything unpleasant, including, but not limited to, not being targeted by his qb early and frequently, or being treated in a rude fashion by opposing defensive backs.

Of course, this not unknown for the highly strung people people who frequently gravitate to this position, but I don't think Roy quite measures up, as talented as he is, to the freakishness of, say, Randy Moss, and thus he always seems to have been a story of untapped potential. If you could do a brain transplant with Hines Ward, then you just might have a Hall of Fame receiver.

Points: 0

#17 by IanWhetstone // Apr 30, 2010 - 4:46pm

You could leave Hines Ward's brain right where it is, and you just might have a Hall of Fame receiver.

Points: 0

#18 by Will Allen (not verified) // Apr 30, 2010 - 4:52pm

I don't necessarily disagree, but a Ward brain and Williams body might be a top 10 receiver all-time.

Points: 0

#22 by IanWhetstone // Apr 30, 2010 - 6:59pm

Yeah, I gotcha, I'm just yanking your chain a little. ;)

Points: 0

#23 by zlionsfan // Apr 30, 2010 - 7:50pm

I think that's pretty accurate. Yes, at first it looked like Williams might be, well, a Calvin Johnson, but it turned out that he didn't have the temperament to succeed in Detroit. (Insert joke here.) It seems now that perhaps the words "in Detroit" might not be necessary. Think of Roy Williams more toward the middle of a spectrum bounded by Megatron and Mike Williams.

Points: 0

#33 by Independent George // May 01, 2010 - 10:12pm

That sounds like a fair description, but the thing that bugs me is that he was trending upwards for 3 years, and arguably held steady for the 4th, before the bottom fell out in 2008. It's not like he never bothered trying; he obviously had to put a lot of work into improving those first few years on bad teams. I just can't believe that player is completely gone; I can see him signing in, say, New England for a bargain-basement salary, flashing his old talent, demanding a ridiculous raise, getting cut, then signing in Oakland where he's moderately productive on bad teams, but never again at the top-level.

Points: 0

#40 by Arson55 // May 03, 2010 - 5:36am

Speaking as a Cowboys fan, though not as optimistic as Key19, I've still got hopes that Roy will turn it around in Dallas (or more accurately, Arlington, but whatever). I vividly remember back when he was good in Detroit. And was excited to see him play for the Cowboys (though, ugh, that horrible trade), and though I've been disappointed so far, he's still got loads more talent than Ogletree or Crayton.

I seriously believe that a receiving corps with Austin, Williams, and Bryant could potentially be one of the greatest groups of receivers of all time. Of course, that is contingent on Williams playing to the potential he showed in Detroit and Bryant becoming the player he's thought to be, but the potential is there.

It won't happen, but it would be damned nice to see.

Points: 0

#20 by Anonymous1 (not verified) // Apr 30, 2010 - 5:53pm

Reading this article has made me wonder: what exactly is an injury settlement? You hear about that every so often where a team reaches an injury settlement with a player, and subsequently the player is dropped from the team.

Is that an admission by the team that they have no interest in the player once he is healthy? Does he get more or less money than he would if he just stayed on IR?

Points: 0

#21 by IanWhetstone // Apr 30, 2010 - 6:58pm

In an injury settlement, as I understand it, both parties come to terms on a number of weeks in the season for which the player is expected to be incapacitated. The team cuts the player a check for that portion of the season, and the player is released, but he is unable to re-sign with a team until the agreed-upon period has lapsed. The amount of the settlement counts against the salary cap (when there is one), and the player no longer counts against any roster limits.

Since an injury settlement is for only a determined portion of the season, the dollar amount is less than what the player would receive if he spent the entire year on IR. The upside for the player is that he can come back and play again that year.

Points: 0

#25 by sanderrp@gmail.com // Apr 30, 2010 - 8:18pm

No mention of Michael Clayton, who is terribly overpaid and who is rumoured to be a casualty very soon, especially now that Benn and Williams have been drafted?

Points: 0

#27 by Raiderjoe // May 01, 2010 - 9:28am

Wimbley, Groves, Seymour all good recent aquisitions so if tram decide to get rid of t kelly that would be ojay. Not going to affect playoff run. Can win with or without jelly.Best T Kelly mkmenr was when pants fell down to ankles in fame at denver in 2009

Points: 0

#29 by AlanSP // May 01, 2010 - 12:16pm

The "cleaning up dead money" idea is also probably a large part of why the Eagles ditched Reggie Brown and Shawn Andrews this year. This really gives teams a rare opportunity to undo a lot of their previous mistakes without the normal repercussions.

You'd expect the same reasoning to lead to more trades than we usually see. Arguably it already has, with Cromartie, Holmes, Marshall, Quinn, Campbell, Carriker, Morrison, Boldin, Ginn, etc. (note: I'm leaving out McNabb, Sheldon Brown, and Chris Gocong because I know the potential cap hit wouldn't have been big for those 3 anyway. I don't know offhand how much dead money was avoided in the other deals and whether that was a factor that allowed the trades to happen).

I don't know how the number of trades this year actually compares to previous years, but it seems like there are more than usual. What's interesting are the early-pick mega-contracts like Russell's. It might make sense to move players like, say, Glenn Dorsey, who has a big contract, but isn't a good fit for his team's current defensive scheme. Teams also have decisions to make about guys like Vernon Gholston and Jamaal Anderson who have been disappointments so far, but are still early in their careers. If they wait to hope they turn it around, they risk having a bad contract on the books once there's a new labor agreement.

Points: 0

#30 by Raiderjoe // May 01, 2010 - 1:54pm

to AlanSP,

holems, marshall and cromartie trades maybe happen no matterw hat system in place. Piitt got rid of Holmes bebbacause bad guy off field and font office needed to teach lesson to rest of team. cromartie fell out of favor with sd chargers and denver tried to trade msrahsll in past and finally get it doen now after guy showed was bum and coudlnt get along with coach

but yes seems that are more tardes than usual this year

Points: 0

#31 by Theo // May 01, 2010 - 5:53pm

"Russell's 2010 dead money number will be $19.9 million ... which is slightly higher than Peyton Manning's team salary number."

That shows a lot about how unreal the salaries are for high draft picks. If there is a new CBA I really hope they will do something about this, and Goodell has already made a remark about how high the rookie pay is.

Points: 0

#32 by Independent George // May 01, 2010 - 10:03pm

I've never understood why the NFLPA itself didn't push for this. Every team already has to spend a certain amount of money; it can either go to a veteran, or it can go to a rookie. They can even pretend to make a huge concession by offering it in exchange for, say, eliminating RFA or franchise designations.

Points: 0

#35 by Thomas_beardown // May 02, 2010 - 6:52am

I don't think the owners would go for that. If they really didn't want to pay these huge salaries, they wouldn't. There is no rule that top picks have to make this much. The owners really like RFA and franchise tags, so I don't see why they would give them up for something that isn't a big deal to them.

Points: 0

#41 by Danish Denver-Fan // May 04, 2010 - 1:57am

Maybe it's not that bad for the veterans. I'd think that the veterans during negotiations point to the 1st round rookie on the same position. "If JaMarcus is making X, then certainly Schaub is worth 2X".

Points: 0

#34 by Thomas_beardown // May 02, 2010 - 6:51am

Cap number != actual salary paid.

The only reason that dead money number is so high is because all the unamortized bonus is accelerated. If the Colt's cut Manning tomorrow, the dead money number would be a lot higher than 20 million me thinks.

Points: 0

#36 by Spielman // May 02, 2010 - 6:38pm

Well, no. Because Manning's contract is up after this year, the dead money would only be the portion of the signing bonus that was already applied to this season. So in this particular case, the dead money number wouldn't be all that high.

Points: 0

#37 by IanWhetstone // May 02, 2010 - 6:57pm

It would be a little bit more than just the portion applied to this year already, because Manning has voidable years in 2011-2012 with bonus prorations applied. But, your basic point remains.

Points: 0

#39 by Thomas_beardown // May 03, 2010 - 12:08am

Ok bad example, but any other franchise QB would probably have a ridiculous cap number if they got cut.

Points: 0

#38 by Theo // May 02, 2010 - 7:23pm

even if it was 10 million less it would still be ridiculous for a player as bad as Russell.

Points: 0

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