Balancing dead money is a major part of the cap management process. For
the uninitiated, player A receives a bonus to sign. That money is
spread out, up to five years, across the life of the contract. If/when
that player gets cut, the rest of that spread comes back to bite you.
Bill Polian - former Panthers/Bills/Colts GM, who'll talk to anyone who
listens, anymore* - suggests that dead money is "built in". That teams
anticipate that money, and know in advance when they might have to deal
with it. It makes sense to have contingencies in place, but I'd never
really thought about it this way. It makes sense to structure contracts
to where you can live with future dead money,
I'm honestly surprised that guarantees weren't treated differently in
the new CBA - but with players and owners haggling so hard over overall
money, they didn't deal with this at all. I don't have a great solution
- offset deals are still a battleground, so guaranteed salries aren't
the way to go, really, and players would never agree to year - to - year
paid bonuses (it's not guaranteed if you don't get it in advance) or,
even worse, the fallacy ideal of the incentive-only contract (Ricky
Williams killed that one years ago).
And, players aren't going to do large deals without large bonuses. So
with a relatively large but flat cap, you essentially have to balance
the upper and lower classes, and the dependable starter middle class
seems to become
There's also a general fallacy of the most responsible teams - Ravens,
for instance, who just gave a very un-Raven contract to a QB that never
passed for 4000 yards, or Steelers, that have some huge contracts and
might have a ton of money into WR this year - that supposedly lock a
bunch of core players up early (notably, the Eagles have massive amounts
of debt and not much to show for it, from their signings two years ago).
There's nothing that suggests a Patriots rule of fiscal responsibility
(like a huge contract to Jerod Mayo). All of those old ideals are out
the window. Those teams still do a good job, but that world is gone.
Most teams have to spend big for big talent, and big talent means
Which means dead money.
*as an aside on this - I don't mind Polian most times. Not unlike
former Packers cap/contract guy Andrew Brandt, who turned himself into a
somewhat successful ESPN analyst (and launched the useful National
Football Post), Polian's perspective is unique and often useful. But,
Polian seems intent on getting a headline every few days, including
floating that idea about widening football fields, that other execs had
later suggested were handily dismissed and wasn't necessarily Polian's
idea to further.