Now that the Super Bowl is over, the offseason has begun. In fact, this week has already seen several veteran players released as teams start beginning to shape their rosters for 2011. Just last night, the Cleveland Browns released 6 veteran players, including former Pro Bowl defensive tackle, Shaun Rogers. While veterans are often released in advance of the start of a new league year, this February could see a high number of players released and, perhaps, an unusually high number of very highly paid ones.
The Ravens’ Willis McGahee may find his name on that list.
Last year we touched on this topic here in “Why is McGahee Still a Raven?” As explained then, pursuant to the league’s CBA, the league year doesn’t end with a team’s last game of the season, or even with the Super Bowl, but continues until the first Thursday of March.
As such, while teams often release players in February in order to create Salary Cap space for the coming season, any player released in February is being released in the “prior” league year and any Salary Cap implications are treated accordingly.
As illustrated by Miami’s attempt to release LB Joey Porter last February (which was part of the 2009 league year), a team must have enough excess Salary Cap space at that time in order to accommodate any dead money (from bonus acceleration) caused by the player’s release. In the case of Porter, the Dolphins were forced to rescind his release because they did not have enough 2009 Salary Cap space to accommodate the Salary Cap hit caused by the release.
Now, fast forward to this February – which is still part of the 2010 league year. Any player released this month will have any bonus acceleration count against the 2010 Cap. But, unlike the 2009 league year, 2010 is an uncapped year. As such, any player released now would have all his unaccounted-for bonus pro-rations accelerate against the 2010 Cap. Since no Cap exists, the team would be able to avoid all Salary Cap implications of the player’s release.
This brings us to McGahee, who has 3 years remaining on the 7-year contract he signed in 2007. Under the terms of McGahee’s contract, he received $15M in bonus money, paid out in three installments.
Entering 2011, there is still $6.25M of that bonus money that has yet to be counted against the Salary Cap. Under normal circumstances (i.e., the usual Salary Cap rules that have existed under past CBAs), the Ravens, if they released McGahee now, would still have to account for all of that $6.25M in 2011. Or, they could release McGahee after June 1, 2011 and have $2.5M of that apply as dead money in 2011 and $3.75M count against the 2012 Cap.
However, because the 2010 league year is uncapped, and because there is technically no 2011 league year under the present CBA, releasing McGahee now would allow the team to take all the dead money from his release in the 2010 league year, with no lingering implications for 2011 and beyond.
As theorized last year, it is always possible that the new CBA, whenever it is finally agreed upon, could address this situation and create a retroactive application of the old rules, but a league source has told Ravens24x7.com that any retroactive application of new CBA rules is “quite unlikely” and that teams can release players up until March 3rd with “no Cap consequences”.
This loophole, caused by 2010 being an Uncapped Year and the fact that there presently is no 2011 league year, allowed the Ravens to retain McGahee last year – when they otherwise would have had to release or trade him for Salary Cap reasons – but has now made it likely that, barring a renegotiation of his contract in order to reduce his $6M base salary, the team will release McGahee sometime in the coming weeks.