Why would an NFL player under contract accept a cut in pay?

I understand why a star player might take a reduction in pay to ease the team’s salary cap situation, allowing it to get better players to help the team win and get him more endorsements.

2 Answers

Let’s examine the recent 6-year, $120.6 million contract (with $52 million guaranteed) for Baltimore Ravens QB, Joe Flacco.

  • 2013: $29 million signing bonus, $1 million base salary (guaranteed)
  • 2014: $15 million option bonus (guaranteed), $6 million base salary
  • 2015: $7 million option bonus (guaranteed), $4 million base salary
  • 2016: $18.2 million base salary
  • 2017: $20.6 million base salary
  • 2018: $20 million base salary

In 2013, Flacco’s is responsible for $6.8 million (about half of Tom Brady’s 2013 number of $13.8 million) toward the salary cap. By his fourth year (2016), this number jumps to $28.55 million.

Flacco’s agent, Joe Linta, states, “We really viewed this as sort of a three-year deal to make sure the first three years Joe was paid accordingly with the top guys in the league.” This gives Flacco his portion, but this also gives the Ravens flexibility to lower the team’s salary cap, make other transactions, restructure Flacco’s contract, etc. “Depending on the salary cap, that’s what will determine when [Flacco and Linta] get to the fourth year, what [the Ravens are] going to have to do.”

An NFL player under contract would “accept” a cut in pay because their whole contract is not guaranteed. Tom Brady, Ben Roethilisberger, and Michael Vick all have restructured their contracts during the 2013 offseason to provide more cap space for their team, potentially lengthen their stay on their team, and receive guaranteed wages (signing bonus, etc.). In Vick’s case, his restructuring may have kept him on the team…but perhaps for only a year based on his performance.

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