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How the 30% rule is going to impact the Buffalo Bills

New contracts for young guys are going to be tricky.

The NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with the NFL Players Association expires after the 2020 season. There are parameters in place for contracts that are signed while the CBA is in place that extend beyond the expiration of the CBA that teams will have to maneuver, and it will definitely affect the Buffalo Bills as they try to re-sign their younger players.

When the CBA expires, so does the league’s salary cap. So theoretically teams could spend wild sums of money on players. In the interests of fairness, the league has implemented a rule in the “Final League Year” where a player’s salary can’t increase by more than 30% from the Final League Year to the first year without the CBA or between any two years after that.

Let’s use a clear money example. If a player is making $1 million in base salary in 2020, they can only make $1.3 million in base salary in 2021, $1.69 million in 2022, and $2.197 million in 2023. So for a young player looking for a big payday, that presents a very real problem.

Former first-round pick Tre’Davious White is scheduled to make $1.84 million in 2020. That means his salary can be no larger than $2.39 million in 2021 if he signs a contract extension and $3.1 million in 2022.

Teams can work around this by paying players rather large roster bonuses in the spring or even re-work deals so they make a huge bonus for making the initial 53-man roster.

The other way to work around it is to give large salaries in 2020, forgoing the short-term benefits of having a player under contract in exchange for a larger salary. A typical way to structure an extension for White would be to guarantee his 2020 salary without changing the salary while also giving him a hefty signing bonus to spread out over the life of the deal. Instead, Buffalo would need to tear up his old contract in order to give him more in base salary in 2020. It would reduce the ability to spread out the cap hit over multiple seasons.

Of course it goes beyond White on the Bills’ roster. Matt Milano and Dion Dawkins will also have a hard time with contract extensions. A Jordan Poyer extension won’t be so difficult with his $4 million salary this year.

This could all be moot if the NFL and NFLPA agree on a new CBA soon, but there is no indication that anything is imminent.