We will write and talk a lot in the coming days about the deals teams are re-doing in order to reduce cap fees in the 2023 league year, and push cap costs into 2024.
Some teams, like the Saints and GM Mickey Loomis, have mastered the craft of kicking the caddy. And it’s not like an unexpectedly high utility bill. When teams sign contracts, they know how the money will cap, with typically lower fees in the early years, increased cap consequences in later years, and often a bill on the back end that will chew up cap space after a player is gone.
Each year, teams have to reconfigure contracts in order to comply with the cap. Again, it’s never a surprise. It’s part of managing a supposed spending cap, which, in practice, can be engineered through payments spread out over multiple league years.
And while dollars will inevitably reach a cap at some point, the fact that the cap keeps going up and up makes the dollar cap in 2023 comparatively less of an impact in 2024, when the cap will rise again.
For example, a cap fee of $1 million means lower when the cap is $224.8 million (as it will be this year) than when the cap is $208.2 million (as it was last year). It will mean less than that next year.
The only problem is that these hat-trick maneuvers often require players’ cooperation. A lot of contracts give teams the ability to roll over salary (which isn’t spread out over several years) into a signing bonus (which it is). And few players will refuse to take cash in their hands now.
But then there are players like Tom Brady, whose contract expires at a cost of $35.1 million — and whose team will benefit from Brady agreeing to a mock one-year deal that would allow more than $24 million to be struck through 2024.
The Boss family is reportedly planning to take their medication this year, which sounds a lot better than saying, “We wanted to reduce the number, but Brady refused to play with us.”
Really, why would any team choose to take on a full final fee in any current year, unless they’re looking for cover for licenses?
Unlike the early days of the cap, when teams had to play contract games with incentives to carry over cap space from year to year, this all happens automatically. So if the Bucs scrape $24 million in cap space by re-doing the Brady deal and ultimately don’t use it all in 2023, they’ll be able to push the entire excess amount into 2024.
So basically, it’s easy to create a cover space, and it always makes sense to do so. Whenever a team starts saying or leaking that they want to take max medicine now, it’s fair to ask if the team simply doesn’t want to spend the money now.
They won’t admit it, of course. Because if teams aren’t spending a lot of money on players, why do fans go to such lengths to renew season tickets?
Remember that, folks, when you get your bill — especially when it shows an increase from last year. If your local team isn’t doing everything it can to make the most of the dollars available, why do everything you can to pay for your hard-earned money that isn’t used to the fullest?
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