Restructuring isn’t free

Posted by Darren Urban on March 20, 2012 – 4:20 pm

The Cardinals are up close to the salary cap. How close, I am not certain — a lot is fluid these days — but it is clear it impacts their ability in the free agent market. For everyone expecting (or for those who had been expecting) a chase of five or six key free agents, it was never going to happen. I’ve been asked a few times my opinion of what the priority right now should be, and I still see a tackle, a pass rusher and then a receiver. Something could (should?) still come in free agency. The draft will be crucial and likely a more important aspect.

Clearing cap space, however, is not always simple. Even when you cut a player, there is “dead” money to take into account, and usually, the players making the most money when it comes to to impacting the cap are the guys you can’t necessarily throw away. You cut a starter or a key reserve, he’s got to be replaced.

When a player restructures his contract, it is not a pay cut. Lowering the cap hit by cutting salary or bonus is just that — taking a pay cut. Restructuring merely means moving the money around legally to ease the current cap hit. Players usually aren’t adverse because in almost every case, to do so means giving the player more of his money now. But it also means that the cap pain is pushed into the future, not eliminated entirely.

For explanation’s sake, let’s look at linebacker Stewart Bradley. This season, his salary cap number is $6.5 million: a $5 million salary, $500,000 workout bonus for the offseason and $1M prorated signing bonus. He has four years remaining on his contract. The Cards could, in theory, turn $4M of his salary into some kind of signing bonus. Bradley would get $4M of his $5M salary now (rather than have it parceled over 17 weeks of the regular season), and the Cards could then pro-rate that $4M over the final four years of the deal — meaning his cap number would drop to $3.5M this season: His $1M salary, his $1M signing bonus pro-rate, his $1M option bonus pro-rate, and the $500,000 workout bonus. But it also means next year’s cap number would grow from $6.5M to $7.5M, assuming nothing else changes and he remains on the team (cutting him would create extra “dead” money too.)

Do that once or twice, OK. Do it too often, and you end up like the 2012 Steelers, who had to cut a bunch of players and restructure a bunch more just to get under the cap (and again, those restructures will come home to roost eventually.) Just something else to keep in mind when wondering when the Cards are going to create more cap room.

P.S. I haven’t yet seen the signing bonus for tackle Levi Brown, but the NFLPA website lists his 2012 salary at only $1 million (it had been scheduled for $8.3M before he was cut). The salary jumps to $4.75M in 2013, $6M in 2014 and then $5M in each of the final two years of the deal. Without the bonus it’s impossible to know the current cap hit, but that salary structure eases a lot of cap issues.

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57 Responses to “Restructuring isn’t free”

  1. By Christo on Mar 20, 2012 | Reply

    So who else has received all of their guaranteed money, like Brown; so that we can cut and move on?

  2. By Brandon on Mar 20, 2012 | Reply

    Because of the cap situation, and the fact that the team is without a 2nd round pick, I think this is a critical situation for the Cardinals, but as telling, we’ll see what how close the team is, and how good the coaching is, because for the most part, the talent on the roster, will be the team in 2012.

  3. By cards62 on Mar 20, 2012 | Reply


    We are Arizona Cardinal fans so we were not expecting 5 or 6 free agent signings unless there were 6 Chansi Stuckey’s out there ha ha .

    I just wanted to see 2 key additions and I think most fans were reasonable in their thinking like me, and you wrote several articles on free agency and your thinking was very close if not identical to mine. A solid linebacker, offensive tackle, and wide receiver are our largest needs so lets get 2 of the 3 in free agency.

    I like what the Patriots did in free agency to help their team and they did not seem to break the bank. Do you have a winner in free agency this year?

    I will now start hoping for a great draft.

    Go Cards and Rod Graves I do not know if you even own a clock.

  4. By kerouac9 on Mar 20, 2012 | Reply

    So… if I’m reading you right, you’re saying that the Cards should just cut bait on Stewart Bradley? 🙂

  5. By RAM on Mar 20, 2012 | Reply

    imagine if the cards signed manning. WOW

  6. By Tucson Cardinal on Mar 20, 2012 | Reply

    Whiz mentioned at the end of last season that he didn’t expect many changes to occur on the ’12 roster, so its not surprising the Cards haven’t made a large splash in free agency. Quite honestly I don’t think we really needed to; the squad had a good mix of promising youngblood and star vets last season, and it seemed to be headed in the right direction. Also, considering the cap constraint, I don’t expect much more to happen in FA. Hopefully we can sign Doucet, get an OT (maybe that dude Bell or whoever), and that Steelers DB seems like a good potential pick-up. As for the draft, I have faith the Cards will draft the best player available (Juron Criner would be tight to have).

  7. By Soares20 on Mar 20, 2012 | Reply

    Thanks Darren for the explanation gives us fans a lot of insight to the situation and I’m sure will have you dealing with a lot less people complaining about cutting/restructuring our players.

  8. By AndyStandsUp on Mar 20, 2012 | Reply

    But a lot of teams being against the salary cap is self inflicted with bad personnel moves and/or contracts.
    Cap will go up with the new TV contracts being negotiated in the next two years (ESPN is 2013, correct?) and it could easily be inflated by 30 million per season. So hopefully, the Cards are using one year and back loaded contracts wisely.
    As far as Doucet coming back it seems counterintuitive. WR was a position of need and that’s because Early was part of the problem, so we bring him back.
    OT is a mess, partly because of Levi Brown and he’s re-signed.

    Guess this means only one thing ….

    March 21st 2012
    Joey Porter signs 5 year 25 million contract deal with the Arizona Cardinals.

  9. By tucsteve on Mar 20, 2012 | Reply

    and something tells me people will still complain left and right even after this explanation

  10. By CDJ on Mar 20, 2012 | Reply

    im really glad doucet resigned fans are a little too hard on him. Darren i saw a stat, not sure if it is correct, that doucet got more yards than any other teams number 2 wr in the rest of thee league is that true?

  11. By Darren Urban on Mar 20, 2012 | Reply

    CDJ –

    RE: Doucet

    Not sure that’s true.

  12. By NYCardinals212 on Mar 20, 2012 | Reply

    Thanks Darren. I appreciate the education.

  13. By Flood on Mar 20, 2012 | Reply

    Where on the NFLPA website were you able to find contract info? Link? Thanks for trying to calm these free agency fires that fans think NFL teams are the government and can just print money and sign whoever they want. Also, really happy they signed Early. He got a lot of unwarrented heat even though he was finally healthy and had a decent year for a #2/#3 wideout.

  14. By Darren Urban on Mar 20, 2012 | Reply

    Flood –

    RE: link

    Sorry, it’s not available to the public.

  15. By Eric Fontana on Mar 20, 2012 | Reply

    Darren – you did a good breakdown of restructuring Bradley. If I were management, I wouldn’t restructure. I’d say,”Stewart, we like you. But you couldn’t crack the starting lineup, and it’s unlikely you will this year. We gave you a $5M bonus last year and a $2M salary. Your welcome. This year you are up to $5.5M, and frankly we can’t pay a backup/special teamer that kind of money. We’ll offer you to stay – for the same $2M salary you made last year. If you prove something, we’ll consider retaining you next year at your $5.5M salary”. Thus we save $3.5M on the salary, and no extra hit next year.

  16. By Yoshi on Mar 20, 2012 | Reply

    Thank you for the effort on breaking that down Darren, it’s funny at the end of last season all I wanted was for everyone to come back…but once you start getting these free agent names on the board you start to picture it, never acknowledging that it may make little or no sense money wise. Especially for the future. You have always done a great job of keeping the fan base realistic and in a lot of ways more football knowledgeable. (Specifically on the Business side of things) Thanks again

  17. By ben on Mar 20, 2012 | Reply

    any word on william gay he should be a good fit and teacher if the cards could sign him.

  18. By Chris Lewis on Mar 20, 2012 | Reply

    I don’t know why we re-signed Early Doucet. He’s been in the league 4 yrs. and he hasn’t progressed far enough by now in my opinion. He drops too many balls, and he’s not that fast. I see him as our 3rd receiver at best. Steve Breaston’s departure before last season hurt us more than a lot of people realize. Maybe we can pick up a WR in the draft. GO CARDS!!!

  19. By KurtM on Mar 20, 2012 | Reply

    hey Darren,

    When we draft our guys in April then sign through the rest of off season how does that effect the cap. I know it has to hit it some how.

  20. By Darren Urban on Mar 20, 2012 | Reply

    KurtM –

    RE: cap for rookies

    Yes, they do need some room for the draft picks.

  21. By Stewart Badly on Mar 20, 2012 | Reply

    Is Stewart Bradly’s agent related to somebody in the cardinals front office? how in the world are the cardinals paying a career backup LB all this money?. He alone is making more than LB’s Washington, Acho, Schofield and Paris Lenon COMBINE. What a joke.

  22. By Darren Urban on Mar 20, 2012 | Reply

    Stewart –

    RE: Bradley

    Um, Bradley was a starter in Philly. But don’t let facts get in the way of your rant.

  23. By chad on Mar 20, 2012 | Reply

    What “dead money”are you talking about with Bradley if we where to cut him.
    What have you heard about trading down for more picks?
    It looks like we got who we got and we just have to hope on good drafting. With Kolb I hear what your saying how in the future his contract would catch up with us

  24. By Darren Urban on Mar 20, 2012 | Reply

    Chad –

    RE: dead money

    For instance, if they cut Bradley now, he’d still count $4M in dead money – the leftover pro-rated part of his signing bonus.

    There is no news on trading down.

  25. By wayne on Mar 20, 2012 | Reply


    It looks like Jarrett Bush signed with the Packers, did William Gay have a visit?
    Gay would be a great addition, will he cost to much? It would be great if we add Gay and Demetreus Bell.

  26. By Eazy E on Mar 21, 2012 | Reply

    Not a good deal period! We really didn’t need Stewart anyway, because the previous year, Lenon came in and played really well 1st year!

  27. By chad on Mar 21, 2012 | Reply

    Trade Kolb and are 6th & 7th round picks to the browns!!! For the #22 pick!!!
    Opens up cap space get the OT D. Bell from Buffelo and the CB Gay from the Steelers with that money. That leaves us two first round picks to draft a CB and a WR. We could handle all 4 of our needs this way.
    Could you see anything like this happening with a trade to the browns?

  28. By Darren Urban on Mar 21, 2012 | Reply

    Chad —

    RE: Kolb trade


  29. By cardsalltheway on Mar 21, 2012 | Reply

    The problem ain’t with the WR’s other than Stephen Williams(must improve or be coached up). I’m glad to have Doucet back. The problem is with the scheme, play calling, OL coaching, and handling of QB’s as though they’re “Knuckleheads” or playing with Tiddly Winks. We have big targets in Fitz, Williams, and our TE’s. Roberts and Doucet are a good mix and as good as any Patriot WR’s but for some reason Ken W. doesn’t know how to make it work.

  30. By D on Mar 21, 2012 | Reply

    Wow, alot of haters out there against the Cards right now, not sure if fans know there is something called a Salary Cap in the NFL. If you just started to jump on the banwagon and think this is fantasy football, your totally wrong-what the Card’s front office does it finds a select few free agent players on the market to fill some holes, assign’s them a value and with patience, try to sign them at that reasonable price. It may not be the fan’s favorite thing for them to do, but I would rather have them bring in a player at the right cost than over pay for just a decent player, like most teams have this offseason. As far as Bickley and MJ knowing what Peyton liked or didn’t like, it’s all a guess, they have no inside info on that situation than anyone else does. As we saw with Peyton’s contract, it ALWAYS comes down to the guarantee CASH in the deal….

  31. By D on Mar 21, 2012 | Reply

    If AZ can’t get a deal done with W. Gay, who is visiting everyone these days, I think the Cards should bring in Corey Graham-very good special teamer and can play in the slot in the nickel

  32. By Peter in Canada on Mar 21, 2012 | Reply

    Darren –

    The main point that I take from this article is the importance of drafting wisely so that expensive parts can be replaced by relatively inexpensive ones over a period of time. It is the only way to consistently avoid cap problems

  33. By Darren Urban on Mar 21, 2012 | Reply

    Peter In Canada —

    RE: Drafting/cap

    You are a wise man. It’s why, for instance, most teams would rather draft a WR in the first round, for instance, than sign Mike Wallace for megabucks plus that pick.

  34. By Jahstone on Mar 21, 2012 | Reply

    I would give Kolb, S. Bradley, and Todd Heap a full off season to really get familiar and COMFORTABLE out there. Now that said, we are at the same point as previous years…we are two, or three positions away from being very competitive in our division, and a chance for another deep run. 1) we need a solid pass rusher to compliment our young studs. 2) we need a real #2 WR to take the pressure of Fitz and open up the field for Kolb. 3) Either Bell (or Reiff/Martin in the draft) for a Solid OT. When is the last time an Offensive Lineman made the Pro Bowl for the Cards? Do you know Darren???

    Not worried about losing Marshall as long as Toler/Peterson/Rhodes are solid.

    Re-structure…do whatever it takes…if you are serious M. Bidwell then please make it happen. WE DO THIS TOGETHER!!!

  35. By Darren Urban on Mar 21, 2012 | Reply

    Jahstone —

    RE: OL Pro Bowler

    T Lomas Brown, 1996.

  36. By Chopper-12 on Mar 21, 2012 | Reply

    Darren –

    Thanks for the knowledge and but I’m still scratching my head a bit… I’m sure I’ll have to use my white board for it all to make I think the craziest part was the $500,000 off season work out bonus :-O …. really? I’m really? (SNL)

  37. By Darren Urban on Mar 21, 2012 | Reply

    Chopper —

    RE: Workout bonus

    If you are going to pay the guy anyway, might as well do it in the form of a bonus to make sure they show up for the voluntary stuff.

  38. By Sirlonius on Mar 21, 2012 | Reply

    How are the Eagles able to manage the cap they have with all those name players and we can’t? Just seems like we don’t know how to structure contracts and always end up with Fitz, Rolle, Levi situations.

    Eagels gave VIck that big contract:
    Desean Jackson
    Asante Samuel
    Now Ryan’s
    Jason Peters/Herremans
    Trent Cole
    Namde A
    and more..

  39. By D on Mar 21, 2012 | Reply

    Kurt Warner was one of the QB’s that had a bounty out on him by the Saints

  40. By cards62 on Mar 21, 2012 | Reply


    Did you see where Philly traded with Houston for DeMeco Ryans?
    Gave up a 4th round pick and swapped 3rd round picks for a pro bowl linebacker.

    I believe Demeco is a 2 time probowler. Did our Cardinals have any interest in trading for Ryans?

    Thank you and go Cards.

  41. By Darren Urban on Mar 21, 2012 | Reply

    cards62 —

    RE: Ryans

    No idea. Doubt it. Word was the reason the Texans were willing to dump him was because he doesn’t fit in a 3-4 — which Texans now run, as do Cards — and does in a 4-3 like Eagles.

  42. By NYcardinals212 on Mar 21, 2012 | Reply

    Darren and CDJ,

    In regards to Doucet measuring up against the rest of the NFC West:

    1. Fitzgerald 80 1411 ARZ
    2. Crabtree 72 874 SFC
    3. Davis (TE) 67 792 SFC
    4. Baldwin 51 788 SEA
    5. Doucet 54 689 ARZ
    6. Lloyd 51 683 STL
    7. Roberts 51 586 ARZ
    8. Rice 32 484 SEA
    9. Obomanu 37 436 SEA
    10. Gibson 36 431 STL
    –. Alexander 26 431 STL
    12. Tate 35 382 SEA
    13. Kendricks (TE) 28 352 STL
    14. Williams 20 241 SFC
    15. Ginn 19 220 SFC

  43. By NYcardinals212 on Mar 21, 2012 | Reply


    Both Doucet and Roberts trailed only the other team’s #1’s (and an unknown TE named Davis). Doucet was even better than St Louis’ #1.

  44. By cheesebeef on Mar 21, 2012 | Reply


    Wasn’t Bradley demoted from the starting lineup with the Eagles in 2010 because he never returned to form after missing all of the 2009 season? Aren’t those ALL the facts of who he was when we signed him to that big contract?


  45. By Darren Urban on Mar 21, 2012 | Reply

    Cheese —

    RE: Bradley starting

    Bradley 2009: 16 games, 16 starts
    2010: 12 games (injured twice, I believe), 12 starts

  46. By WildCard on Mar 21, 2012 | Reply


  47. By Schinkel on Mar 21, 2012 | Reply


    Think you could let the front office know Tackle Anthony Collins is still out there in free agency? He would be worth having come down for a visit. A bit of a checkered past but is young and has done a great job with the game time he had in Cinny. He will be affordable and has a great upside. PFF ranks him well.

  48. By jonnyb on Mar 21, 2012 | Reply

    darren how high do u think the possibility the cards draft a receiver in the first round i like doucet but i dont think he is a #2

  49. By Darren Urban on Mar 21, 2012 | Reply

    jonnyb —

    RE: WR

    I think it is in the mix, certainly.

  50. By cheesebeef on Mar 21, 2012 | Reply


    REALLY? Come on man… this isn’t even stuff I have to look up. It was most of big concern when we signed him last year. He missed ALL of the 2009 season with injury. Not sure where in the world you’re getting he had 16 games and 16 starts. Here’s the facts (AGAIN):

    He didn’t play a down in 2009 and then was so sub-par.injury prone in 2010 that he got demoted and lost significant time with the Eagles… a team DESPERATE for linebacking help.

    Why we gave so much coin to a guy who was constantly injured and had never gotten back to where he was in 2008 is beyond me.

    Or are those facts wrong (even though every website lists him as having missed all of 2009)?


  51. By Darren Urban on Mar 21, 2012 | Reply

    Cheese —

    RE: Bradley

    My mistake. I should have remembered he missed 2009. Normally, the stat pages still keep a placeholder for each year instead of skipping as a list altogether.

  52. By Scott H on Mar 21, 2012 | Reply

    Darren –

    A very informative blog and as always, I thank you for your efforts to educate the ignorant – like myself! But I must say, I find it interesting that you hold up the Steelers as an example of a team that you wouldn’t want to be right now, with all the dumping and re-structuring they needed to do just to get under the cap. OK. But haven’t those same Steelers played in 2 of the past 4 Super Bowls??? And won one of them ( although I’m pretty sure we ALL remember that one )??? Well, that says to me that the Steelers must be doing something right along the way. Doesn’t it? Just me, but I’d have to say I’d be willing to endure the “right now” for the Steelers in exchange for being a legit SB contender / participant / winner as often as they are. Heck, it was only a few years before the SB against the Cardinals that they beat the Seahawks in ANOTHER SB.

    Would I take an occasional off-season like this one in exchange for that? Yes. Damn right, I would. You mention about things coming home to roost…but in the case of the Steelers, it doesn’t happen without remarkable results.

  53. By Noel Dantoni on Mar 24, 2012 | Reply

    Great point Scott, But If i can answer your regarding question, Is it the point is to be competitive each each year (unlike here and there). I believe Steelers right now believe they are in great shape and do believe they already have the talent to duplicate the 2011 season, if you ask me. Its a competitive league out there and everyone has is certain to play in the Superbowl every year. Back to my question is would you think the Cardinals would trade their first pick for lets say two 2nd Rounders?

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