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Tyrod Taylor’s “restructure” ramifications

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Outlining what a restructure could look like and actually signify.

As the painful saga of the Buffalo Bills failing to recognize Tyrod Taylor as their quarterback for 2017 (even if not necessarily for 2018-2021) continues to drag on, reports have stated that Taylor is unwilling to take a pay cut to stay in Buffalo.

Good for him. His Bills contract is fair, and he’ll make just as much if cut.

After reports of Taylor refusing to take a pay cut, it was then reported that Taylor would be amenable to a restructure to lower his 2017 salary cap hit. As it stands now, Taylor’s 2017 salary cap hit will be about $15.9 million. That number equals his 2017 salary of $12 million, about $800,000 of his original signing bonus still pro-rated into 2017, and $3.1 million of his $15.5 million option bonus that will automatically pro-rate over the five years of contract.

In reality, the Bills’ “restructure” options are pretty limited. The team does not have the 2017 salary cap space to change the option bonus into a roster bonus that would all hit in 2017, although this would be ideal if the team was truly skeptical of Taylor’s long-term future. A 2017 cap hit for Taylor of $28.3 million in untenable.

This means the only real “restructure” option would be to convert a portion of Taylor’s 2017 salary of $12 million into a signing bonus to be pro-rated over the remaining five years of the contract. Why I put restructure in quotes is because the ability to convert salary into signing bonus is standard language in NFL contracts; the Bills would not even require Taylor’s approval to do so. Instead of receiving the converted $11 million over the course of the season, Taylor would receive the money in a lump sum on the “restructure.”

For 2017, if the Bills convert $11 million of salary to bonus, they could drop Taylor’s cap hit from around $15.9 million to around $7.1 million, saving $8.8 million for 2017. (The maximum they could convert is slightly more than $11 million based on Taylor’s minimum required salary, but it won’t change the numerical analysis enough to deal with uneven numbers.) If the Bills were fully confident in Taylor, this move makes a ton of sense. It’s the same move the Bills can and should make with Cordy Glenn.

Yep, I would assume Taylor won't take a penny less but you could convert salary into signing bonuses and drop his 2017 hit but that pushes dead money and is more a sign of faith in Tyrod than questioning his worth.

The downside to this move is obviously dead money in the future if Taylor is cut. Assuming the option is picked up, and he’s not cut in 2017, Taylor’s current dead money going forward is $17.7 million in 2018 (with $9.75 million more if he’s on the roster on the 3rd day of 2018 league year), $10.7 million in 2019, $6.9 million in 2020, and $3.1 million in 2021. In a scenario where the Bills pick up Taylor’s option, but decide to start either Cardale Jones or a rookie yet to be drafted, dead money of $17.7 million (with $3.25 million of that 2018 guaranteed salary that presumably would be offset to an extent by Taylor’s 2018 salary elsewhere) plus Jones’ cap hit of $725,848 is still only $18.5 million. In 2017, that would be the 16th largest cap hit for a QB, and will be lower in 2018. Although not ideal, if Jones/other rookie are the real deal, I think Bills fan would be happy.

If the Bills restructure Taylor’s deal as described above, those dead money numbers increase to $26.5 million, $17.3 million, $11.3 million, and $5.3 million. 2018 dead money of $26.5 million plus Jones/rookie cap hit is considerably worse than $17.7 million, the difference being the $8.8 million the Bills saved and pushed down the road in 2017.

I am Taylor’s biggest fan. I think he has the ability and potential to be a successful long-term starter for the Bills. From a salary cap sense, I still would not support a full “restructure” for 2017. Doing so would add downside risk to a player who clearly does not have the full support of everyone at One Bills Drive. The team’s 2017 cap situation, while relatively tight compared to some teams in the league, is in no way dire enough to dictate the move. A “restructure” for entrenched, still young, players like Cordy Glenn or Marcell Dareus (the team would be paid back if he’s suspended again) would each save the team around the same amount of money as a Taylor restructure. Combined, those two moves would create another $16 or so million for the 2017 cap without any accompanying questions regarding long-term status with the team.

All of the above said, purely as a fan, I love Taylor. He’s made this team more fun to watch on offense than they’ve been in 20 years and any move that makes it more likely he stays in red, white and blue, as a restructure would, I’ll get on board with.