How trade impacts the salary cap

Posted by Darren Urban on October 3, 2013 – 4:53 pm

Now that the Levi Brown trade is official, what exactly does it mean for the Cardinals? Other than starting Bradley Sowell at left tackle.

— The Cardinals get a conditional draft pick. Many have asked what it is, or even, what conditional means. Terms were not specified, but a conditional pick means the teams have agreed to two possibilities, a baseline pick the Cards will get regardless, and then a chance for that pick to be higher in the draft if Brown meets a certain criteria — either number of starts or percentage of snaps or something like that. The teams have not said what the possible picks are. I’d be surprised if we were talking anything higher than the fifth round. Maybe lower. For instance, the Steelers could offer a seventh, with it becoming a sixth if Brown starts a certain number of games.

UPDATE: According to the NFL transactions list released by the league, the Cardinals and Steelers swapped “unannounced” draft picks in the deal — meaning in addition to getting Brown, the Cards also sent a pick to the Steelers, while the Steelers sent a pick to the Cards. The details of what went where are unknown. And I’m sure it still has to do with some sort of playing time condition.

— The Cards will take a pretty significant hit of “dead” cap money next season. According to Brian McIntyre (and also reported elsewhere), the Cardinals gave Brown a $3.086 million bonus as they traded him. That represents most of the $3.6 million or so Brown was still due in salary this season, minus the $546,000 or so the Steelers will pay him as a veterans minimum salary. (Brown is due $715,000 a season at vet minimum at his experience; That number is divided by 17 weeks and figured for the 13 weeks left.)

That extra bonus pro-rates over the final four seasons of Brown’s deal. It means some goes on the Cards’ 2013 cap, but most goes on the 2014 salary cap. Brown was already going to cost $4.2 million in dead money (on his original signing bonus being pushed into next season) and the “new” bonus creates another $2.3M — totaling $6.5 million of “dead” Brown cap money in 2014. It lowered the cap hit the Cards are taking from Brown in 2013 by almost $3 million, however, creating more cap space if they want to re-sign anyone during the season.

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26 Responses to “How trade impacts the salary cap”

  1. By Rob on Oct 3, 2013 | Reply

    Good riddance ‘Let ’em by’ Levi!

  2. By John The Draft Guy on Oct 3, 2013 | Reply

    Levi Brown – The gift that keeps on giving

  3. By ored on Oct 3, 2013 | Reply

    we need to see improvement as a team before we think about re-signing this year,stay healthy and build that chemistry,awesome if sowell rocked it and the offense found their mojo.

  4. By CreditCard on Oct 3, 2013 | Reply

    The money, performance, timing of this whole ordeal equates to a total boom doggle. I still come back to the idea that the coaches were guessing about Brown’s talent this summer and his limitations. As a novice fan looking at his leg turn-over rate, I could emphatically say he was never going to be an “elite” tackle or even a marginal lineman. Why it took this long and mid-way through the season to come to this conclusion is mind-boggling.

    The timing of this stinks. Screams of mis-management, and guessing by staff.

  5. By andystandsup on Oct 3, 2013 | Reply

    Patrick Peterson extension can’t be until the new league year so It might behoove the Cards to do an in-season contract for a deserving player or two. Paul Fanaika already received his raise.
    Maybe Andre Roberts? Or one of the many defensive players on one year contracts, like Dansby, Shaugnessy, Bell or Arenas?
    Either way with the 10 million of dead money (Snyder, Fleming, Carter, Swope, etc.) plus the current wages of Fitz, Campbell, Palmer, Dockett and Washington going up over 20 mil next season….
    Going to be an interesting financial off season.

  6. By tbru on Oct 3, 2013 | Reply

    I have said it before, and I will say it again, Thank you Darren for attempting to explain cap numbers. Still doesn’t make any sense to me, but glad somebody has a handle on it.

  7. By Will B on Oct 4, 2013 | Reply

    I guess my question is will Sowell be a better fit? I understand BA has a history with him, all be one year, but how do you trust the blindside to a guy that was cut less than 6 months after he was beat out for the job by a Dredskins practice squader. Salary cap aside, does this move help the Cards now and in the future? Don’t get me wrong Levi was a joke at LT, if you think about it how could Rod Graves give him that second contract? So he doesn’t admit to the first mistake of drafting him, thanks Rod you sucking is still effecting AZ.

  8. By clssylssy on Oct 4, 2013 | Reply

    Would be more impressive if the Cards would actually spend some money on a bonified playmaker that we need to beef up the offense or even a pass rusher!

  9. By Rugbymuffin on Oct 4, 2013 | Reply


    Thanks for the information. Yikes, that is complicated.


  10. By CORMAC on Oct 4, 2013 | Reply


    So if I am hearing this correctly, the card do not actually save any money? They just have shifted around the date and time of paying it? Or have they saved any money?

    I personally don’t see how this has helped us in anyway. How has this helped the team?

    If Levi was so bad, why not try the new guy first with Levi in your back pocket? Was it purely the chance to move up in a draft spot? He plays the hardest spot on the line, wouldn’t he do good as a backup or right tackle if we are paying him regardless?

    I am confused by this. I know a lot of people hate Levi, but they are mindless fans. Most have not even played real football. I think we had a lot of value left in Levi, and someone at the top made a bad choice unless we are getting an allstar pick. Most 6th and 7th rounders get cut so it seems a waste to me.

    Darren , in your opinion, what is the value we have gained? Perhaps you understand this more than I.

  11. By Darren Urban on Oct 4, 2013 | Reply

    Cormac —

    RE: Benefits

    1) Even with sending a pick to the Steelers they probably at least upgraded that pick even if they don’t get an extra one.
    2) They save a little (About $550,000) in actual cash spent.
    3) They pretty clearly were thinking about cutting Brown, which would have cost them all the cap space this year. This way, they essentially split up the cap hit a little, keeping some room this year to extend a player or two if needed.

  12. By Dynosoar on Oct 4, 2013 | Reply


    do I understand correctly, while we are lowering the salary cap for 2013 we’re at the same time raising it for 2014.

    Do I understand this line correctly, “$3.086 million bonus as they traded him” and the other line “and the “new” bonus creates another $2.3M — totaling $6.5 million of “dead” Brown cap money in 2014” That this means it is costing the Cardinals more money to trade Levi Brown than if they had just kept him?

    Not questioning (even though it is a question), just trying to understand.

    With everything I’ve seen Steve Keim do, I trust this is a good thing for our team and for Levi, I’m just trying to wrap my brain around what this means.

    If I understand correctly,
    1. Levi is being paid his salary for this year in a bonus minus league minimum that Pittsburgh will pay.
    2. We freed up 3 million in 2013 cap space.
    3. We have an additional 2.3 million of dead money in 2014, so in essence we shuffled cap space from 2014 to 2013.
    4. What exactly does “dead money” mean. I hear the phrase often.


  13. By Darren Urban on Oct 4, 2013 | Reply

    Dyno —

    RE: Impact

    See above post, but no, they won’t pay more. They pay a little less, and they split it into two years.

    “Dead” cap money is essentially this: It’s real money already paid on the contract but, because of cap rules, had been pro-rated over the life of the deal with regards to the cap. The team is never getting the actual cash back. That cap space must be accounted for, and when a team goes to get rid of a player, the remaining pro-rated cap money is accelerated into the current cap year, or this and the next cap year. It’s basically a mechanism so teams have to be smart about throwing money around and then cutting a player.

  14. By Patrick Hoog aka Don't Take Losses on Oct 4, 2013 | Reply

    Line of the day , lol: “‘Let ‘em by’ Levi!” attaboy Rob.

  15. By John The Draft Guy on Oct 4, 2013 | Reply

    Here is a good place to go to see cap space and how it works.

    You can see 2014, Fitz counts as 18 million of cap but his dead money if cut would be 13 million. (Of course Fitz should never be cut, it is just an example)

    So dead money counts regardless if the player is on the team and cap hit counts if they are on the team.

    So Colledge has 4.55 mil of dead money in 2014, but counts a 7.275 of cap hit. So if the cards cut him, essentially they are save close to 3 million to spend elsewhere while at the same time, losing 4.55 off the total cap. So instead of losing 7.275, the lose 4.55 thus saving 3 mil.

    Take a look at John Abraham. He has 500k of dead money but a 3 million cap number. Can anyone see the cards keeping him next year?
    Jasper Brinkley is 200k of dead money and 2.2 mil of cap if kept.

    With Minter and Okafer / Moch, there is no way they stay on the team.

    Now the tricky ones. Dockett has 6 mil of dead money but a 8.75 mil hit. Do you ask to redo his contract? Do you cut him and save 2.75 mil? Or do you let him play at a 8.75 million hit? (most know my answer)
    Rashad Johnson and Ryan Williams each have a million difference in dead money vs cap money. Could both of them be released?

    You see, there is a lot that goes into who goes and stays. Not to mention if they have money in 2015 that may count.

  16. By CORMAC on Oct 4, 2013 | Reply

    Thanks for explaining that Darren,

    I still think he would have been a GREAT backup since we are paying him regardless. BUT I understand the teams new mentality of trying to get rid of players BEFORE they decline too much.

    I have never been a fan of shuffling your “bills” around. It all catches up with you in the end. Hunker down, pay what you owe, and deal with it right then so you are not hurt later down the road.

    That being said, since we now have the extra cash, they should lock down Andre Roberts with that extra money.

  17. By Mike on Oct 4, 2013 | Reply

    I see some are wondering why the timing of this trade took place 4 weeks into the season. I think the staff new that Levi was on a 4 game “trail”. They wanted to see how he would perform and if he improved after his tricept tear to the point were they wanted to keep him then the staff would make room elswhere to bring D-Wash back onto the team. But the fact is Levi is no better than any other Free Agent Tackle on the market right now, so cutting him made the perfect solution for bringing back D-Wash. The move to the LB to IR freed space to bring the new OL in. Works for me. Now lets get this offense playing the way they can!

  18. By Dynosoar on Oct 4, 2013 | Reply



    Cormac, thanks for letting me know I’m not the only one puzzled by contract/cap numbers and workings.

    Steve Keim,

    thanks for understanding all this and getting it to work. (Sometimes wonder if players or staff read these blogs.) Well, whether ya’ll read or not, this is my team and each week I wish ya’ll the best and can’t wait to see Cardinals red on the field.

  19. By John The Draft Guy on Oct 4, 2013 | Reply


    “I have never been a fan of shuffling your “bills” around. It all catches up with you in the end. Hunker down, pay what you owe, and deal with it right then so you are not hurt later down the road.”

    You obviously do not work for the Federal Government. 🙂

  20. By erik on Oct 4, 2013 | Reply

    I’m probably still not understanding this fully, but can a team potentially have the option to pay that dead money in the present instead of the next year?

  21. By Darren Urban on Oct 4, 2013 | Reply

    Erik —

    RE: Dead money

    In this case, no.

  22. By Robert Mulligan on Oct 4, 2013 | Reply

    Thanks for the information, DU.

  23. By ored on Oct 4, 2013 | Reply

    not only the feds,but every credit card holder,it’s the sign of the times.

    never say never,if abraham suddenly reverted to last few years form and sack numbers,i could see him sticking around for awhile.

    unless sowell really impresses may be time to be a spender in free agency for somebody proven,i can see them not wanting to give up draft picks in a trade,but FA is different,we most likely have the rt.side and guard positions covered,so that just leaves LT and backup at center.i think this year we look for our future at QB in the draft,then stay with the script,i think it’s working,but just like turning around a battle ship,takes a little time.if we can just stay injury free,spend the time necessary to come together,and keim uses his crystal ball in the talent evaluation department,year two should go very well and year three we will have risen from the ashes,just like the red bird of legend(the fire was red,right?).

    i think back to something BA said,that the team just does’nt know how good they are,well as usual the defense seems to ne taking the lead first and starting to flex their stuff,once the offense puts it together,we’ll make big improvements,just gotta turn that ship around.

  24. By clssylssy on Oct 4, 2013 | Reply

    a little off topic but…
    I see where Yeremiah Bell and Darnell Dockett both drew $15,000 fines for tackles last week against the Bucs while Dashon Goldson, although penalized for a helmet hit on Juron Brown skated free. Goldson has been unrepentant with a history of such hits and is currently on thin ice, a breath away from suspension. II have to wonder if BA or the Cards plan to appeal these fines against our players. The call on Dockett looked like a high tackle that at one time would have been considered good (certainly no worse than Goldson’s helmet hit on a defenseless receiver) As I understand it, after a franchise reaches a certain number in cumulative fines by individual players, the organization gets penalized for what the league considers basically is running a rogue and dangerous program?

  25. By ddoggphx on Oct 4, 2013 | Reply

    Darren, can you address this?

    At the press conference 5:50 mark, somone asks about the money going to next year and keim goes “eererhggssuuuuwhuuu…well all of it…i mean we can get into that..i’ll let you earn your money and check your resources but….everything will apply to ’13, for us, so bottom line is any money we can salvage by moving him to Pittsburgh it certainly helps and any draft pick compensation is an added bonus.”

    That statement doesn’t jibe with the 2014 dead money expanding talk. confusing.

  26. By Darren Urban on Oct 4, 2013 | Reply

    ddogg —

    RE: Cap

    Please refer to the blog post on that subject. I’m pretty sure Keim misspoke.

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