Frequently Asked Questions
The newest/updated questions are on top:
Q: In a long deal can you avoid the contract at some point without dead money?
A: Yes, since the longest proration term of a signing bonus is five years. Therefore, when there is no prorated signing bonus money left on the deal a player can be released without the team having a dead money hit. For example for the Patriots, Logan Mankins who signed a 6-year deal in 2011 could have been cut in 2016 without the Patriots suffering a dead-money hit.
Q: What were Aaron Hernandez’s career earnings with the Patriots?
$620,000 in 2010
$670,000 in 2011
$6,740,000 in 2012
$3,000,000 in 2013 (Hernandez received a $3 million installment of his signing bonus in March 2013).
Q:What is your favorite contract clause and/or quirk?
A:Salary escalators. Salary de-escalators.
Q:Is the cap “crap”? Or, is it more accurate to say that prudent financial management will prevent shortfalls whereas spending like a drunken sailor will eventually lead to having to spend time in “cap jail”?
A:The cap is crap line is used by Mike Felger who used to cover the Patriots as a beat writer for the Boston Herald. If he had demonstrated working knowledge of the cap while at the Herald, there would have never been a need for my cap pages. It has been more than a decade since I started my cap pages and I have doubts that he has learned anything about the salary cap since then. It is more accurate to say that prudent financial management and good health will prevent shortfalls.
Q:Why do you spend so much time and effort on the site? (not that I’m complaining – your site is the go-to resource on Pats contracts)
- to help my fellow Patriots fans understand the salary cap better. Let’s just say that when I started my cap pages I thought that the Patriots beat writers could have done a better job of explaining the salary cap to their audience. Even today, there are those in the Boston media who seem more interested in spreading negativity about the best NFL team ever than in disbursing information.
- to raise money for my chosen charity – Hartford Habitat for Humanity
- personal satisfaction
Q:What was the best contract in the Kraft era?
A:Since best was undefined, I am going to say that it was the Matt Light extension done in 2004. I thought that at that time that it was a fair deal for both sides and that there was a good chance that Light would play for the Patriots for the length of the deal.
Q:Besides your excellent FAQ pages, do you recommend any other resources for cap-novices like myself?
Q:http://in2theleague.wordpress.com/category/nfl-cba-series/, The NFLPA’s public salary cap report, http://overthecap.com/ and http://russellstreetreport.com/cap-faqs/. If you can wait for the second edition of the book “Crunching Numbers” by Jason Fitzgerald and Vijay Natarajan to come out, I would. They will be updating it to incorporate the changes made in the 2020 CBA.
Q:Where do you get your information from?
A:From looking at various media reports and researching the NFLplayers.com site. On Twitter I follow @Corryjoel, @MikeReiss, @FieldYates, @Jason_OTC, @TomPelissero, @brian_mcintyre and @adbrandt.
Q:Thinking generally, what are the most important trends that you’ve noticed in terms of the structure of NFL contracts that have emerged after the 2011 CBA?
A:More teams are adopting a pay-as-you-go approach. More active roster bonuses in the past. More salary guarantees.
Q:I’m just this offseason learning about incentives, NLTBE/LBTE, and the various cap implications of each. My understanding is that LTBE incentives count against the current year’s cap, and NLTBE incentives, if achieved, count against next year’s cap. What happens if an LTBE incentive is actually not earned? Is there a credit to roll forward to next year’s cap, or does that cap money disappear? What criteria determine whether or not an incentive is likely to be earned? When calculating NLTBE and LTBE, is it a black and white line based on the immediately preceding year’s stats? Or is there something else that goes into it? Also, is there a limit to the amount of money that one team can spend in any given year on NLTBE clauses?
A:The LTBE/NTLBE delimiter is usually based on last year’s stats. There are some incentives like Trent Brown’s weight bonuses that are always considered LTBE because they are in complete control by the player. There is no limit to the number of incentives that a team could have. For more about incentives please see this blog post.
Q:Does the Patriots’ way of structuring deals make your life (as an capologist) more or less difficult?
Q:The Patriots have been rather easy to cover for me. The Patriots rarely use voidable years in their deals. Can’t recall the Patriots ever creating a new contract structure. So, their deals have been rather easy to figure out their cap numbers as long as the media reports the details correctly. Please note that I do not have direct access to the NFLPA’s numbers.
Q:Has the team (anyone) ever reached out to you to either correct information or to complain or, well anything?
A:No. I know that my cap pages are read by Patriots players.
Q:Why do the Patriots favor NLTBE bonuses and has this approach had negative cap consequences?
A:A reached NLTBE incentive can adversely impact a team’s cap in two ways. It will lowers the team’s adjusted cap number the following year while also increasing the player’s cap number for the following year. Let’s use Shaq Mason as an example. Let’s presume that he is selected to the 2021 Pro Bowl on the original ballot. For simplicity’s sake, let’s also pretend that no other Patriot had incentives in their contract. With that Pro Bowl honor, Mason earned his $500,000 Pro Bowl incentive. Let’s assume that the 2022 cap will be $208.2 million. The Patriots’ adjusted cap number would be decreased by the $500,000ng it $138 million. Because he reached the incentive in 2014, the 90% playing time would be considered LTBE for 2015 increasing Vollmer’s cap number from $4.5 million to $6.5 million. That reached NLTBE incentive just lowered the Patriots 2015 cap space by $4 million. For more about incentives please see this blog post.
Q:It seems to me like there is a trend toward contracts including less fully guaranteed or effectively fully guaranteed money, especially in the form of up front signing bonus or very early option bonuses, such that the vast majority of players become realistically cuttable after 2-3 years at the most. But the Mayo, Wilfork, and Mankins contracts stick out to me as different. It would have been hard to cut any of those guys for at least four years of their deals due to big signing or early option bonuses. Were the Patriots behind the curve, making mistakes with those deals? Or do you think those deals reflected a different organizational philosophy that is likely to continue?
A:I do not consider the Patriots to have behind the curve with the Mayo, Wilfork, and Mankins contracts. They were typical of the contracts given out during the 2006 CBA era. Patriots contracts have changed since then.
Q:What got you interested in devoting time & effort in maintaining a cap page, even when virtually no one else was doing so? Is there a specific story or background that got you interested in this stuff?
A:Why did I start my cap pages? Because in 2000/2001 I was always reading in the papers, Patriots Usenet newsgroups, Internet forums different cap numbers for the same player. That did not make sense to me. So I thought that if I created a web page it would help clarify the salary cap for my fellow Patriots fans.
Q:Do you have a background that lends itself to this kind of work, or did you educate yourself for the most part and learn it on the fly? Maybe a mixture of both?
A:I was always good at math. Majored in Economics. While I am an intuitive thinker, I am a very detailed person. For the most part, I taught myself about the salary cap.
Q:Has any team ever contacted you for help on cap calculations/simulations?
A:I have never been asked by a team for help.
Q:Ever had any agents contact you to correct or dispute your information?
A:Since I know that my cap page is read by a good number of Patriot player, I am proud to say that no agent has ever contacted me to correct information.
Q:Can you explain the rollover provision in the CBA and why the Patriots “don’t spend to the cap”?
A:In 2013 the Patriots spent in cash more than the $123 cap limit so I do not understand or accept the notion that the Patriots do not spend to the cap
Q:The Pats have a young roster, Will they be able to keep all their young stars like Solder, Chandler Jones, and McCourty?
A:Simple answer – no. Why? They have a lot of good young talent that will be hitting free agency at the same time. Hightower, Chandler Jones, the entire 2013 draft class and the 2013 UDFAs, will become UFAs in the same offseason (2017). If the cap continues to rise at a large rate, see no reason why those players would agree to commit themselves to the Patriots long-term with uncertainty at the quarterback position.
Q:no offense meant) – your site is an amazing resource, but have you ever considered making it a little more user-friendly and visually appealing?
A:Ian and I do plan to make the site more user-friendly and visually appealing. It has been difficult for us to coordinate our schedules. He and I live in different states. I started the page when I used dial-up so I wanted to make the pages easy to download.
Q:What have you seen in the last several years that has been different in Pats approach to cap management? Do you see a vastly different style in say, when pre-, during, and post-Pioli periods?
A:Yes, I have seen the Patriots take a different approach to their contracts over the years. Since the new CBA in 2011 they have used more 46-game active roster bonuses than they have had in the past. They have also increased their use of incentives.
Q: What have been the salary cap limits?
2009 $127,997,000 – An adjustment was made to the 2009 salary cap to raise it from $123 million to $127.997 million because spending on players in 2008 fell below 59.5 percent of the NFL’s total revenue
Q:Is there a date where the Pats can still use its available cap space for this year and have it count against this year’s cap?
A: There are a couple of deadlines here.
- the Monday of the 10th week of the season – any salary increase for that season after that date is treated as a signing bonus for salary cap purposes and will be prorated over the new length of the contract. Example – Raise Mankins’ salary by 2 million dollars in Week 6. That salary increase hits only the 2014 cap. Raise Mankins’ 2014 salary in Week 13. That salary increase is prorated over 2 years (the life of the contract.
- the end of the regular season. Any deal done after then will not affect the 2014 cap year.Q: What are the differences between a credited season and an accrued season?
A: A credited season determines the minimum salary of a player with X numbers of credited seasons. An accrued season determines when a player reaches free agency. If a player at the end of his contract has 3 accrued seasons, he will become a RFA. If he has 4 or more accrued seasons to his credit, he will become an UFA. A player need 6 games to get credit for an accrued season; 3 games to get credit for a credited season. Games on IR count in the accrued season calculation but do NOT count in the credited season calculation.
Q:How does the salary cap system work??
A:The In2theLeague’s website does an excellent job of explaining how the salary cap system – IMO, their salary cap explanation pages are A MUST READ for all those who want to expand their knowledge of the NFL salary cap.
Q: How much will it cost to sign the Patriots’ 2014 draft class??
A:https://www.patscap.com/2014draftclass0418.png shows my latest estimate
Q:What is the rookie pool?
A:Adamjt13’s blog provides the best explanation I have ever seen. Quick summary – The rookie pool is, essentially, a cap within a salary cap. It represents the maximum in aggregate salary cap value that a team is permitted to invest in its draft choices and also the undrafted free agents it signs. It is included in, not exclusive of, the team’s overall cap spending limit. Because of the “rule of 51” clubs will not have to carve out the entire difference between their available cap space and rookie pool allocation.
Q: What is the Patriots’ cap picture look like for the future?
A:See for my 2015 Patriots salary cap page. You can see my 2015 Patriots salary cap preview by following this link.
See for my 2016 Patriots salary cap page.
See for my 2017 Patriots salary cap page.
See for my 2018 Patriots salary cap page.
See for my 2019 Patriots salary cap page.
Q:If and when the Patriots will get any cap credit for Aaron Hernandez?
Q:I wrote about Aaron Hernandez’s salary cap implications here.
Q:Do I believe that the Patriots adopted a win-now mentality during the 2014 offseason.
Q:Quick answer – no. See why I think so here.
Q: Can you explain how compensatory picks are determined??
A: Adamjt13 did an excellent job of explaining how compensatory picks are determined on his blog
Q: Can you explain how restructures/extensions work??
A:The Ickster provides the best explanation. You can see his explanation by following this link – Ickster’s restructure explanation
Q:Can you provide some information on practice squads??
A: After noon EST on September 3rd, each club may establish a Practice Squad of no more than eight (10) players who are free agents and who did not dress for more than eight (8) regular season games during their only accrued (i.e., on the 53 man roster for at least 6 games) season. The minimum salary for a Practice Squad player is $6,300 per week (a higher salary can be negotiated), including playoff weeks. In addition, a player under contract to a club as a Practice Squad player is completely free to sign a contract with another NFL club during the season in order to be on the second club’s Active/Inactive (i.e., 53 man) list. If another club signs a Practice Squad player to its 53 man roster it does not have to provide any sort of compensation to the player’s former club but it generally must keep the player on the 53 man roster for at least 3 weeks, thereby mandating that he earns in 2014 the minimum first year salary for said 3 week period ($420,000 prorated weekly). Also note that a team can add and release players from the practice squad as often as it desires and the eight (10) man limit does not have to be maintained. A player may be on the practice squad for two seasons; three weeks on the practice squad count as a season.
Q:What is PUP?
A: My answer is based on a Ron Del Duca’s Agent Column on ProfootballTalk.Com and an Michael Felger article regarding Rosevelt Colvin. A player who fails his club’s pre-season physical at the start of training camp may be placed on the club’s Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. A player on PUP is eligible to receive his salary, but is ineligible for games and practices; he is, however, allowed to attend team meetings. For a three (3) week period beginning with the day after the club’s 6th regular season game and ending on the day after the 9th regular season game, a player on PUP may practice with his club and/or be restored to the club’s 53 man roster (provided it is done before the day after the 9th regular season game). Note that there are two different types of PUP. Players that land on reserve-PUP are ineligible to play or practice for the first six weeks of the regular season. Players on active-PUP can be taken off the list at any point during training camp. Once a player is taken off active-PUP and returns to practice, he cannot be placed on reserve-PUP later. Please note that a player on PUP will count against the cap. I think but do not know for sure that players on active-PUP count against the 80-man roster limit and players on reserve-PUP do not.
Q: How does the waiver system work??
A: The following explanation was found in the 2005 NFL Record & Fact Book. As far as I can tell, it is still appropriate. “The waiver system is a procedure by which player contracts or NFL rights to players are made available by a club to other clubs in the league. During the procedure, the 30 other clubs either file claims to obtain the players or waive the opportunity to do so – thus the term “waiver.” Claiming clubs are assigned players on a priority based on the inverse of won-and-lost standing. The claiming period is three business days from the beginning of the League Year through April 30, 10 days from May 1 through the last business day before July 4, and 24 hours after July 4 through the conclusion of the regular season. If a player passes through waivers unclaimed, he becomes a free agent. All waivers are no recall and no withdrawal. Under the CBA, from the beginning of the waiver system each year through the trading deadline, any veteran who has acquired four years of pension credit is not subject to the waiver system if the club desires to release him. After the trading deadline, such players are subject to the waiver system.”
Q:What are the roster limits dates that all NFL teams must make cuts by?
A:Rosters must be cut to 75 by 4PM EST on August 26th and to 53 by 6PM EST on August 30th. Players who are on the active PUP List must be moved from the list by the Patriots by either moving him to either the reserve PUP, moving him to the 53-man roster, waiving him, releasing him or by trading him. On noon August 31st the Patriots can place players on the 8-man practice squad.
Q: How much do players get paid during training camp?
A: Rookies make $925 a week. Veterans make $1,700 a week.
Q: When is the trading deadline??
A: 4PM EDT, October 18th.
The following questions were asked on an Internet message board and Adamjt13 answered them. Adamjt13 deserves all of the credit for his answers.
Q: A player signs a 3-year deal for base salaries of $1 mil. Year 1, $1.5 mil. in Year 2, and $2 mil. in Year 3. The base salaries for all three years are guaranteed. There is no signing bonus. Does the guaranteeing of the base salaries affect the salary cap distribution of the player’s salaries?
Not unless the salaries are also paid in advance. Any guarantees paid in advance are prorated. If they’re simply guaranteed, then they count as any other base salaries would.
Q:This question is extremely trivial. A player is signed to a three-year contract and receives a signing bonus of $1,000,000. Is the signing bonus pro-ration $333,333 for all three years? Then there’d be $1 unaccounted for. Is that correct or would there be a $333,334 pro-ration thrown in there?
A:The third-year proration would be $333,334.
Q:A player signs a 5-year deal with a $5 mil. signing bonus. The deal will void after three years if the player has hit certain incentives and if he’s still on the roster on the last day of the Year 3 league year. So three seasons pass and the player has hit those incentives. After the deal voids, the remaining $2 million in pro-rated signing bonus will count against the team’s Year 4 cap. How will the cap hit of this $2 million be distributed if the team signs the player to a multi-year deal before the start of the Year 3 League Year? How will it be distributed if the team signs the player to a multi-year deal after Feb. 28?
A:If the contract is extended before it voids, the prorated amounts do not accelerate. His original proration of $1 million per year for the next two years remains in effect. Any new signing bonus prorations from the extension are added to it.
Q:A player is in the last year of his contract. The team signs him to a three-year extension. When is the deadline that the team can sign him to this extension and have the signing bonus pro-rated over four years rather than three?
A:Anytime before the last game of the season, as long as his salary for that season doesn’t increase. If it’s after the Monday of the 10th week of the season, any salary increase for that season is treated as a signing bonus for salary cap purposes and is prorated over the new length of the contract (he gets the money that season, though).
Q:A player signs a 3-year deal with a $3 million signing bonus. He has four or more credited seasons. In the middle of Year 2, after the trading deadline, the player is waived by the team. He is immediately claimed on waivers by another team. How is the pro-rated $1 mil. amount for Year 3 then distributed? Does it count on the Year 2 cap or the Year 3 cap?
A:The June 2 rule doesn’t apply for players who are claimed on waivers. It counts on Year 2.
Q:A player signs a 3-year deal with a $3 million. signing bonus and $1 million in base salary each year. After two years, the player is suspended for a season for violating the NFL substance abuse policy. After that season, he returns to the team to finish the final year of his contract. What are the player’s cap hits for Year 3 (year player is suspended) and Year 4? Is it $1 mil. for each year (Year 3 – signing bonus pro-ration but no base salary, Year 4 – base salary but no signing bonus pro-ration)?
A:When a player is suspended, his prorated signing bonuses still count, but his base salary does not. It’s $1 million for Year 3 and $1 million for the added Year 4.
Q:A team finishes Year 1 with $3 mil. remaining in cap space. All the LTBE incentives in Year 1 were achieved. There were also $3 million in NLTBE incentives that were achieved in Year 1. Will the leftover $3 million in Year 1 cap space account for this $3 million in NTLBE incentives or are the $3 mil. in incentives automatically applied to the Year 2 cap?
A:All NLTBE incentives are applied to that season. Any overruns are applied to the following year’s cap. (So, if there had been $4 million in NLTBE’s, then the $3 million left over would be used up, and the other $1 million would count against the Year 2 cap.)
Q:A player with four or more credited seasons is on Team A’s opening day roster. He is scheduled to earn $680,000 in base salary ($40,000/week). This base salary is guaranteed since he was on the opening day roster. He is waived by the team after Week 10. He has earned $400,000 of the $680,000 in base salary. Team A’s cap hit will be $680,000 if he isn’t signed by another team the rest of the season, but what if Team B claims the player on waivers and keeps him for the rest of the year? What is the cap hit for each team then? What if the player clears waivers and then is signed by Team B for the rest of the year at the same salary? What if the player clears waivers and then is signed by Team B for the rest of the year at a lower salary?
A:If the player is claimed on waivers, Team A is freed from the players base salary. If he’s not claimed, they could be obligated to pay the rest of his salary as Termination Pay. That doesn’t change even if he’s later signed by another team. Team A is still charged for the full salary. The thing is, the player must request Termination Pay, and he can do it only once during his career. So if he has done it before or decides not to, Team A might not be on the hook for the rest of his salary.
Q:A player with four or more credited seasons is on a team’s opening day roster and is cut during the season in Year 1. He doesn’t sign with another team and collects his entire scheduled base salary as termination pay. What happens if the same thing happens in Year 2? I don’t think he can collect his entire scheduled base salary as termination pay again, can he? Does the team in Year 2 only receive a cap hit for the weeks on which the player was on the roster or do they take a hit for his entire scheduled base salary?
A:You’re correct. He can get Termination Pay only once. So if the team in Year 2 cuts him, they get charged only what they paid him.
Q:What is the amount usually paid by a team for each individual injury settlement at end of preseason?
A:Injury settlements typically pay players for as long as they would have been out with the injury. For example, if a player has a sprained ankle that would have kept him out for two games, he’ll usually accept two weeks’ salary as an injry settlement. But he doesn’t have to accept an injury settlement at all. Then the team can decide either to release him outright and see if he files a grievance (in which case half of his salary would count against the cap) or to put him on injured reserve.
Q:What effect does spending the entire season on the non-football injury list have on a player’s contract and salary cap number for that season? Is his situation similar to that of a suspended player?
A:I wrote an answer, then realized that it was almost as long and not quite as succinct as the part of the CBA that applies. So here that is —
“Section 3. Non-Football Injury: A player who is placed on a Non-Football Injury or Illness list (“N-F/I”) will not be entitled to any compensation under his contract while on such list but, except as provided below, his contract will continue to run while in such status. A player on N-F/I who is in the final year of his contract (including an option year) will have his contract tolled. However, if the player is physically able to perform his football services on or before the sixth regular season game, the club must pay the player his negotiated salary (pro rata) for the balance of the season in order to toll such player’s contract. If such player is taken off N-F/I during the period when such action is allowed by League rules, his contract will not be tolled.”