Computing the Detroit Lions Salary Cap situation is a combination exercise in accounting and detective work. The Lions themselves divulge absolutely nothing about contract terms so I have to rely on the press (many times the home paper of the player), the players' agent, tweets by the player or his friends, Rotoworld, the NFLPA, and any other source I can find (several of which I am purposely not divulging else risk losing the source). Needless to say, the results are approximate!
One missed roster bonus, one wrong signing bonus guess, heck, one wrong mathematical formula in my spreadsheet, and the numbers are all wrong. If I can get within a half million dollars of the real number, I feel I am being accurate. Also note, players come and go and it can take a week or more to get info... but tonight I think I am caught up as far as roster moves through today (the 6th of August).
Now for some facts. 2009 was the last time teams had a salary cap to contend with. With the new CBA (which I still have only seen a portion of) the 2011 salary cap is $120,375,000. Teams can "borrow" from future cap up to $3 million ($1 million per 5 year or older vet player three times) for a total cap available figure of $123,375,000. If you read much about the salary cap, you may read about a Performance Based Pay salary cap add-on (normally for guys on their first contract who outplay it and that was lost last year) of $3.5 million per team. That amount is already included in the $120,375,000 salary cap figure, without it, the salary cap would've been $116,875,000. There are some credits for signing veteran players, presumably to 1 year contracts and presumably for vet minimum wage (as in the old CBA) but since no one I know has seen that part of the new CBA we can only guess about that. One other note about the total cap available figure, there might be, as it is not verified and no one knows how much if it's true, but there might be credits from 2009 being carried forward into 2011 (Vikings, Lions, and other teams used to work the system to get LTBE bonuses, that is salary cap, moved into future years).
So, assuming the Lions took advantage of borrowing the $3 million cap from the future, assuming they had no LTBE bonuses carrying forward, and assuming that is all there is to know about the matter, then the Lions have a 2011 Salary Cap figure of $123,375,000 to work with.
Next fact, the rookies have a rookie pool, it is part of the overall salary cap (not separate) and the contracts for the rookies must remain under the amounts designated. A month ago I estimated the Lions would have a $4 million rookie pool. Turns out, the rookie pool (first year of all the draft pick contracts) for the Lions in 2011 is exactly $4,062,187. Not only that, but the total of all the contracts for all 4 years must be no more then $22,342,030. In the past there was no set amount for the total of all the rookie draft pick contracts. This explains why the draft picks were able to get signed so quickly this year, everyone already knows what can be spent in the first year and in total for the draft picks, all you can argue over is how much is guaranteed.
My numbers for the Lions draft picks equal exactly $4,062,187 for year 1 and $22,342,030 in total for all 4 years of their contracts. However, I may not have the correct roster bonuses for each player. I do have the correct salary for each player for each year of their contract, and I have all the correct numbers for Fairley's contract, and I have some of the correct information for Young, Hogue, and Culbreath, from which I calculated the numbers for LeShoure (after making a few guesses about roster/workout bonuses for Young, Hogue and Culbreath). In other words, those 5 contracts are correct in total even if a bit off individually.
I have the exact salary numbers for all 90 players on the roster. I do not have the exact signing bonus or roster bonuses for those that have such a thing. I have many, but not all. I guessed on a few. For example, Justin Durant has a 2011 salary of $1 million and a 2012 salary of $1,750,000. I therefor guessed he received a signing bonus of $750,000. Chris Houston has a 2011 salary of $1 million and a 2012 salary of $3 million, so I guess he got a $2 million signing bonus.
Obviously, these guesses could be way off, or real close, or right on.
Knowing this then, I have 90 Salary Cap contracts to work with. At this point in time, only the top 51 contracts count against the cap. If my guesses are close and my math correct, the Lions top 51 contracts add up to $121,597,883.
The way I see it then, the Lions are currently, as of today, $1,777,117 below the cap (okay, I'll say it again, or THEREABOUTS).
On opening day of regular season, all 53 players that make the roster will count, as well as everyone on IR, the practice squad, and any injury settlements from those injured/cut. To determine that though, we'd have to know which 37 players will be cut. I suppose that gives me my subject for my next blog post, my estimated roster.
Some other points for those of you who made it this far... the most expensive contract costing the Lions salary cap in 2011 is $20,310,000 belonging to none other then Matthew Stafford.
Remember, this is the roster and workout bonuses to be paid in 2011, the salary, a percentage of signing bonus (called signing bonus allocation) and any other bonuses likely to be earned (LTBE).
At number 51 we have Aaron Brown at a cap hit of $550,095. The other 49 are scattered inbetween.
The highest cap "hit" who is at risk of being cut? $1,500,000 for Tony Ugoh (I was going to say $2,225,000 for Maurice Morris but he probably already got paid his $100,000 roster bonus and his signing bonus allocation of $500,000 hits the cap whether he makes the team or not).
The player who's cap hit is less then Aaron Brown's yet still most likely to make the team? $375,833 for one Aaron Berry CB.
Remember, these are cap hits, not actual money being paid. What's the difference? I think I'll save that for another day.
note: I reserve the right to be totally wrong with my guesses, my calculation, and my numbers posted.