What we are talking about here deals strictly with the acceleration of prorated bonus money onto the current years salary cap. The NFL essentially breaks up its salary cap accounting for bonuses into two periods with June 1 being the trigger date. When a player is removed from a players roster prior to June 1st all his remaining unamortized bonus money immediately accelerates onto the salary cap. To illustrate this we see how the Kansas City Chiefs gave Steve Breaston a $5 million dollar signing bonus in 2011, which was accounted as $1 million in yearly expenses over the course of his 5 year contract. When he was released just the other day he had only completed 2 years of his 5 year contract meaning the Chiefs salary cap had only accounted for $2 million of the $5 million paid in 2011. The balance of $3 million dollars immediately accelerates onto the Chiefs 2013 salary cap.
After June 1 the NFL changes the way the acceleration works. After June 1st only the current years expense remains on the books after the player is released. The balance accelerates onto the following years salary cap. So in Breastons case had the Chiefs waited until June 1st to release him his salary cap charge in 2013 would have been $1 million and in 2014 he still would be on the books at $2 million dollars.
Anyway we go we're on the hook for Williams' 9.6 million in remaining signing bonus money, which is not money he will be paid in the future but money that Hurney went in his DeLorean and drove into the future to borrow when he re-signed DeAngelo.
This rule is really another way in which the league holds tremendous power over the players. In some cases the acceleration of bonus money could throw a teams salary cap into chaos, if higher than the players current cap charge as an active player. Since teams need to remain under the cap at all times once the League Year begins the potential of the acceleration onto the current years cap would prevent a players release and allow them to continue earning their salary for the year. Instead they are thrust into a pool of summertime free agents when most teams are strapped for cap space and have made many of the decisions about their roster.
I think where many people get confused, though, is when they hear that “player x” could be designated a June 1 cut and immediately jump to conclusions that it means a spending spree in March. The league allows each team to designate up to two players per year as a June 1 cut for cap purposes prior to June 1. It’s the one concession that was given to the players as it allows a player to be cut in March and have time to explore free agency but have his cap hit spread out over two seasons, thus creating more cap space in the current year. The issue though is the mechanism by which this works.
When you designate someone as a June 1 cut the player and his current contract remain on the books until June 1. Going back to the Breaston example has he been designated a June 1 cut his cap charge today would not be $1 million with $2 million on the books in 2014. His cap charge would be $5 million dollars, the same cap charge as if they never cut him at all. When June 1st hits his cap then moves down to $1 million and the other $2 million accelerate into the 2014 season. By that point in time free agency is finished and the extra cap room does not do the team much good. They would have been in a far better cap position during the important time of free agency by releasing Breaston outright as the Chiefs did.
spotrac has this charted here
a more local example of this which best illustrates this point is how they worked Wharton's release last year. He was designated as a June 1st cut.
In our current case, just dealing with signing bonus money, even if we designate Williams as a June 1st cut, his cap hit is still at least 9.6 million (vs. the status quo 8.2 for 2013) until the rollover happens, at which point it gets split up between 2013 and 2014. Even better news is that there's no commitment in 2015, and even though we can delay Cam's contract extension even further than that, it certainly helps to have that flexibility to be able to utilize on contracts you would otherwise have to borrow future monies to pull off. Based on this article and the contract numbers for Williams on spotrac, cutting him this year and designating him as a June 1st cut possibly opens up 5 million of the 8.2 million currently on the books as soon as that day hits. however, at any point prior to that his cap hit will actually be 9.6 million.
The remaining 6.4 million signing bonus money is then allocated to 2014, where Williams would be due to make even more money. His cap hit then is 6.4 million for 2014 instead of the 9.2 million he would've made had he still been on the roster. If you can find a mid-round draft pick that can duplicate a paltry 700 yard season, that still leaves you with $2 million in change to play around with that big void we have called Free Safety for instance. In other words, for about 7 million, you've already replaced Williams' production and can then spend more money on other positions that need help. But wait! What if I told you we already had someone who at one point had proven he could do that very thing? A really favorable proportion of rookie mid-round and later RBs from 2012 ran for more than 300 yards. And if that sounds too anecdotal for you then let's go back to the 2011 season, where DeMarco Murray, Stevan Ridley, Roy Helu, Kendall Hunter, Delone Carter, and Evan Royster all eclipsed that mark. And they were all rookies drafted round 3 or later that year.
In our case, this basically means that this is an ongoing decision, not a finalized one. Depending on what happens in the next three months, it may set us up to make Williams expendable. Barring any kind of contract activity specifically dealing with DeAngelo, I think the probability of him being cut off goes up after June 1st, unless the Panthers find a way to really create some cap room, at which point it could happen even sooner. It's a no brainer that he'd be designated as a June 1st cut if he was cut.
Williams at this point in his career is a 750 yardish back with a 1,500 yard rusher's name. And all this crap about how it's the Oline's fault or the system's fault is giving me the dry heaves. If Williams was the calibre of player he's getting paid to be, he could've easily worked out at least 4 digits from behind the LOS with what he had out there. If Williams' success is that dependent on his teammates, he really isn't this cornerstone many people are making him out to be.
The question is not why would you let all that dead money go, but instead what you can do with those savings in the long run. Alfred Morris, a rookie 6th round pick who made about $421,000 in 2012 between salary and signing bonus ranked top 5 in rushing and ran with more consistency than DeAngelo has shown in at least 4 years. Productive backs are a dime a dozen in this league, and with Cam Newton going into his third year as a full-time starter (a banner year for productivity among several QBs in this league), it makes the urgency to have 2 expensive backs on the books much less prevalent than it artificially was inflated to at the time he was drafted with all the hysteria going on here over how successful he could be.