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Thursday, March 14, 2013
How to squeeze contracts into a tight cap

By Kevin Seifert

So how does a team purported to be tight against the salary cap sign four significant players to market-level contracts during the two days of free agency? I don't have all the numbers yet to document how the Detroit Lions pulled it off, but I have enough to give you a pretty good illustration.

Using simple salary cap rules, the Lions used only $6.13 million in cap space to sign cornerback Chris Houston, running back Reggie Bush and defensive lineman Jason Jones. (I don't have a contract breakdown yet on safety Glover Quin.) Let's look at how the Lions structured each of the first three contracts and how much, if at all, those players' cap numbers will rise in the next few years:
Those are the details of how three players whose deals will pay out $50.5 million over the next five years will count $6.13 million against the 2013 cap. As everyone knows, it's relatively easy to push down first-year cap figures. It's harder to manage those numbers over time, which is why teams with the best salary cap situations absorb as much of the total cap hit in the first year.

In the case of Houston, Bush and Jones, their combined cap hits rise to $13 million in 2014 and $14.2 million in 2015 -- which is why the NFL is almost always a year-to-year proposition.