Dead money is the worst. It really is.
What is dead money (or a dead cap hit, if you prefer), you ask? Well, when an NFL player signs a contract, their signing bonus is paid up front, in cash. The value, however, is spread out over the life of the contract for salary cap purposes. If a player is released or traded prior to the end of their contract, any remaining bonus money is immediately allocated to the team’s salary cap figure.
Simply put, dead money is the cap hit a team takes for players who aren’t on the team any longer.
When a player signs a contract with a sizable bonus figure, releasing them can actually take up more cap space than simply keeping them on the roster. That’s just one of the reasons that, despite many calls for the contrary last season, Marcell Dareus will remain on the Buffalo Bills for at least two more seasons.
There comes a point, however, where releasing a player is financially viable, even with dead money remaining on the contract. Every team always carries at least a little bit of it, but having too much can really hamstring a team when they’re trying to sign free agents.
So how are the Bills faring in dead money? As of right now, they’re right around the middle of the league, ranking 14th with $7,954,844 in dead money allocated to seven players, according to Over The Cap:
- S Aaron Williams - $2,425,000
- S Corey Graham - $1,600,000
- FB Jerome Felton - $1,300,000
- WR/ST Marcus Easley - $850,000
- K Dan Carpenter - $537,500
- OT Cyrus Kouandjio - $454,331
- CB Nickell Robey-Coleman - $433,334
It’s worth noting that Williams was a post-June 1 cut. That means that the team spread his dead money out over two seasons; the dead money for 2017 represents the bonus that was allocated to him for the upcoming season, while the remaining bonus money he was due (the same amount as this season) will count towards next year’s salary cap.
As a whole, NFL teams are currently allocating $231,855,751 in salary cap space to players who won’t be suiting up for them next season, an average of about $7.25 million per team.
Ten teams are above $10 million, led by the Baltimore Ravens at just a shade under $19 million. On the other side, there are five teams under $1 million, with the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders both hovering around the $110,000 figure.
These numbers will rise over the next few months, as veterans find themselves released throughout training camp and the preseason, right up to the newly-revamped cutdown day that will see every roster drop from around 90 players to 53 over the course of a couple days.
That said, the Bills should remain in pretty good shape. Most of the players with big dead money hits likely aren’t going anywhere, and a quick look at next year’s figures gives off the same impression, with the possible exception of Tyrod Taylor (which is a discussion for another day).
All in all, the Bills should be fine moving forward when it comes to dead money. How new general manager Brandon Beane feels about signing bonuses and guarantees remains to be seen, however. A few ill-timed guarantees could change things, but for now all is well in that regard.