While NFL players don’t have the luxury of guaranteed money like the NBA, their current system can hurt both players and teams alike. With so many teams firing off massive deals, many assume they get a value return. However, when a team cuts a player, it doesn’t mean they’re off the books altogether. For example, the Carolina Panthers currently have enough dead money to fill a decent roster.
What is ‘Dead Money’?
Dead money may seem complicated. But at its core, it’s a relatively simple concept. NFL teams’ contracts are often best-case scenario deals. When a player signs a $25 million deal over three years, they’ll get most of that money if they can meet a series of preordained criteria. That non-guaranteed money can add up, and players who underperform could land in a precarious situation.
When it comes to the team impact, however, things get more complicated. Everything from a signing bonus to incentives adds up on the total cap hit. However, when a team lets go of players, their cap hit doesn’t entirely go away with them. This is where the term “dead money” comes in. Essentially, dead money is the cap space allocated to a player no longer with the team.
Lots can affect the amount of cap space, from the guaranteed money to the situation that the player was cut away from. This year, the Panthers are getting firsthand experience.
The Panthers’ dead money
The Panthers have a who’s who of stars, former stars, and valuable role players in their dead pool, reports Panthers Wire. Matt Kalil, who signed a five-year deal in 2017, currently accounts for nearly $10 million of it alone. The same can be said about tackle Trai Turner, who is now out with injuries. Eric Reid, who was part of a stunning offseason release, accounts for $5 million in dead money, just in front of linebacker Luke Kuechly.
The fact of the matter is that while Dead money is a part of the NFL, the Panthers have gone above and beyond in paying players who are either out of the league, out with injuries, or playing with other teams throughout the season. Cam Newton still costs the team $2 million despite throwing the ball in New England.
On top of all these, several players of varying talent levels give the team six-figure cap hits while nowhere to be found. The team might have some promising talent on the field, but with $50 million going toward players who have no impact on the team, it’s hard to see them recovering until some of these deals come off the books. The panthers are not alone, however, as several teams are close behind,
Who else is paying greatly?
It might not surprise people that several of the teams with the most dead money are also struggling on the field, as Over the Cap reports. The Jaguars are only about a million dollars behind the Panthers with just under $50 million in dead cash. That’s more than $4 million more than the third-place New York Jets.
After the Jets, however, is a substantial dip. The rams have $36 million in dead money, while the Dolphins have $30 million. Meanwhile, successful teams like the Buccaneers, Packers, Raiders, Chargers, Seahawks, and Steelers are sitting at the bottom of the rankings, with the Buccaneers coming in last at just under $3 million.
While not failproof, one can often see the trajectory of a team based on its dead money. A well-run team usually avoids these problems, where a poorly-run team can exacerbate them. Time will tell if the Panthers end up fixing this, but their prognosis isn’t looking good for the time being.