Money rules everything in the NFL.
The New York Giants stressed that statement this past week by releasing Ahmad Bradshaw, Chris Canty and Michael Boley.
Certainly, more notable salary-cap-related cuts will occur in the coming weeks leading up to the beginning of free agency as teams attempt to become more flexible financially.
Before identifying which salary-cap liabilities could fall victim of being cut, first let’s review how teams are able to seamlessly cut ties with their players.
Unlike the MLB and the NBA, NFL contracts are not guaranteed. Because of this, an NFL team can cut bait and release a player, thus subtracting the player's salary from the $120.6 million cap. What the NFL team must pay the player is their signing bonus.
So if player X receives a four-year contract for $24 million with an $8 million signing bonus, the player would receive his signing bonus at a prorated $2 million each year. To lessen the math, let's assume the contract is valued at $6 million each season. Now, let’s say the team wants to cut this player after the first season. All they would have to do is pay the player his owed signing bonus of $6 million that day, which would count against the cap for that season, and the team would be off the hook for the remaining $18 million.
This happens quite often when a player is entering the final year of his contract, as the team only has to pay one year's signing bonus.
Keep in mind, many NFL contracts are backloaded, meaning the bulk of the salary occurs in the final years of the contract. For example, given player X's above salary, he might make $3 million for the first two seasons and $9 million during the last two, making him a liability during the final two seasons.
Basic arithmetic suggests paying someone $4 million to not pay them $18 million is a savvy business move.
Now that you know how it works, let’s take a look at players who could potentially get released.