To effectively use the questionable year, the team will draft a 4-year contract instead of 3 years, but the 4th year is really a “dummy” year – its only purpose is to postpone the cap from year 1 to later in the contract. The player`s contract actually ends after the 3rd year. This type of “questionable year” ceiling structure was used in the contract with WR Curtis Samuel. Here`s its contractual structure, via OverTheCap: Because the teams have been doing business for years and expected the salary cap for 2021 to be around $210 million. Instead, it went from $198 million in 2020 to $182.5 million due to lost revenue due to COVID-19, leaving most teams tied to the cap and looking for ways to make room. If Roethlisberger signs a regular extension, his base salary for 2022 and 2023 would be something they would negotiate now, and it would be due every season if he continued to play. The Steelers would have jailed Roethlisberger and he would have a certain salary for which he would play. If the Steelers made the other two years questionable years, there would be no base salary for the other two years. Instead of the Steelers holding the rights to Roethlisberger beyond 2021, he would be a free agent, even though he technically still had two years left on his contract. Aside from Roethlisberger who made a huge pay cut to his salary, which wouldn`t be well seen by the NFL Players` Association, something needs to be done to push Reothlisberger`s salary in the coming years when it comes to counting for the salary cap. Tampa Bay took a similar step last week in its new contract with linebacker Lavonte David.
David will earn $12.5 million this year, but he has a cap of only $3.4 million. And Gronk`s new deal also has questionable years. The tight end signed an $8 million one-year contract this week, but the Bucs have launched four more seasons to lower his cap for 2021 to just $4.8 million, according to Greg Auman of The Athletic. Eventually, it will catch up with the Buccaneers, but by then they won`t care – they`ll have maximized their Super Bowl window by living in the moment. On Thursday, Steelers president Art Rooney II and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger announced plans to revise Roethlisberger`s contract for the 2021 season to minimize his $41.25 million salary cap. While Rooney talked about the two games having to give, Roethlisberger went so far as to say he wasn`t worried about the money he earns for the 2021 season. Some teams began to use the questionable year at the expense of their future health, with the Dallas Raiders and Cowboys being the biggest abusers of the technique. It`s one thing to use the empty years for a younger player like Revis, who could arguably sign a longer-term contract, but it`s another to use it with a player like DeMarcus Ware or Richard Seymour and develop an entire team dedicated to invalid contracts. Ware will be 31 years old at the start of the 2013 season. His contract expires in 2016 at the age of 34. There is probably a high probability that Ware`s career is over at this point. The Cowboys locked themselves in at least $2 million in dead money due to the void.
Any remaining bonus money will be accelerated up to this year`s cap. A five-year contract with a signing bonus of $20 million – $4 million per year – that expires after two years means the remaining $12 million will reach the cap in the third year. Annual salaries are usually not guaranteed in the final years of a contract. Teams have made concerted efforts to move away from using questionable years after the rookie salary scale was introduced in 2011, but the uniqueness of this offseason has necessitated the return of circumvented accounting, a team principal told the Post. Another example is the Buccaneers, who reportedly saved $19 million from the 2021 cap by signing Tom Brady for a four-year extension that ends in a year. The Saints, Steelers and Cowboys are also in the game. Since Ben Roethlisberger spent more than seven years in the league, the minimum wage he can earn for 2021 is $1.075 million. Given that Roethlisberger will earn $19 million in 2021, with $15 million in roster bonuses in March and $4 million and a base salary, the Steelers could convert all that amount into signing bonuses except $1.075 million. In this way, the Steelers could spread nearly $18 million over the remaining years of the new contract. One of the methods recently used to relieve the salary cap has been the (abusive) use of questionable contract years. According to the CBA`s accounting rules, a signing bonus or an amount treated as a signing bonus is prorated over the duration of a contract up to a maximum of 5 years.
When teams are looking for a lower cap, they often turn to players they believe bring talent and restructure their contracts to convert salary into bonuses, thereby reducing the salary cap reached for the year. Tom Brady`s contract with the New England Patriots in 2019 included two questionable years to the end in 2020 and 2021. That saved the Patriots $13.5 million in 2019 compared to Brady`s salary cap. In questionable years, the $20.25 million was distributed at a rate of $6.75 million per season for three years. Since Brady didn`t sign another contract with the Patriots in 2020, the remaining $13.5 million is expected to be counted in 2020. Should the Steelers use invalid years for players to distribute their 2021 salary cap, but not be tied to the player beyond next season? Leave your thoughts in the comments below. By my calculations, the Patriots probably gave Brady a $20.25 million bonus and cut his base salary from $15 million to $2.75 million. They will now be able to calculate that $20.25 million over three seasons ($6.75 million per season) on a pro rata basis, rather than taking the hit throughout the year, and reducing his cap by $5.5 million, even though they have increased his compensation.
By lowering his cap count, it would have been technically even easier for the Patriots to mark him after the year, hence the unlabeled layout in the contract. Suppose a team wants to sign an experienced free agent for a 3-year, $24 million contract. Essentially, Brady is going to get all that $50 million — and he`s going to get it in the next couple of years. But the Bucs plan to consider that money over a five-year period. They`ve divided Brady`s bonuses to $8 million a year, essentially throwing $24 million into the future when the salary cap is much higher. It`s a bit like you can delay paying half of your credit card bill at no cost because you know you`ll receive your recovery check next month. The Bucs are paying Brady $26 million in cash this season, while his cap is only $9 million. For example, let`s say a player will earn $7 million to play football in 2013 and he still has 3 years left on his contract. To make the numbers easier, let`s just assume that its cap fee is also $7 million. To lower the cap fee to a more reasonable level, they will convert $6 million of his salary into a bonus and spread it prorated over the term of the contract. Its new cap is only $3 million, which comes from $1 million in base salary and $2 million in prorated money. Its cap fee will increase by $1 million each year over the next two years.
The main reason why teams make questionable years is to distribute the salary cap without having to negotiate what the base salary would be if the player continued his career. If the Steelers didn`t want to commit to paying Roethlisberger anything for 2022, but wanted to withdraw his current salary as a signing bonus, questionable years are a good option. Well, a questionable one-year contract could be the solution to the team`s dilemma. First, let`s conclude a “normal” contract. Let`s say we sign a $10 million contract in 2021 (congratulations). Since the team is paying you $10 million this year, they have to apply $10 million to their 2021 salary cap. Easy, right? What`s amazing is that it wasn`t one of those fake Adam Schefter Twitter accounts. It was actually the real Adam Schefter, but he reported contracts that were fundamentally wrong – at least on paper. .