News: USAToday: Jason Witten contract may not be as cap-friendly as some claim

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  1. NewsBot

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    When some of the details of Jason Witten’s new contract with the Cowboys were released during the first week of March, many rushed to proclaim the deal wasn’t nearly as detrimental as first reported. Cowboys Wire warned that although parts had been cleared up, there was still some gray area to exactly how much space would be taken up by his return.

    At the time, our concern for the unreported amount was that there was an upfront signing bonus in addition to play-time incentives, giving Witten money in March that would be guaranteed. It was not that, fortunately, as Dallas can move on from Witten with no cap penalty should things just not work out this summer. However, there is still a glitch in the celebration of only having $2 million of base salary on the books. There could still be another $2 million-plus of space eaten up, up front, by the roster and game-day bonuses.


    Jason Witten's deal with the Cowboys:
    Base salary: $2M
    For each game he is on the 53-man roster: $78,125
    For each game he is on the 46-man game day roster: $62,500
    Incentives: $750,000 tied to receptions and Dallas making the playoffs
    Maximum value: $5M

    — Field Yates (@FieldYates) March 8, 2019


    Readers of this site are no doubt already familiar with likely-to-be-earned and not-likely-to-be-earned incentives. The former count against the cap up front and the latter do not. The difference is measured by whether or not a player achieved whatever benchmarks the incentives are based on in the previous calendar year.

    It was assumed by most Dallas writers that Witten’s incentives would all be not-likely-to-be-earned because he accumulated 0 games on the 2018 roster.

    However a deep dive into the 2010 collective bargaining agreement reveals the league prepared for such a case when a player did not hit the field in the previous season.

    Article 13, Section 6, Subsection C clearly states that there is gray area to be determined between the league and the NFLPA whether to count Witten’s incentives as LTBE or NLTBE.

    In the case of a Veteran who did not play during the prior season, in the event that the NFL and the NFLPA cannot agree as to whether such performance bonus is “likely to be earned,” such disputes shall be referred to the Impartial Arbitrator.​

    It would stand to reason that a player, coming out of retirement to rejoin a team, who hadn’t missed a start since 2004, would be a firm bet to meet both 53 and 46-man roster bonuses.

    Game-day bonuses are tricky for an outsider observer like myself to quantify because they are not explicitly called such within the CBA. The assumption is they are counted as incentives. There is a section that specifies “Any bonus to be paid to a player solely for fulfilling his obligations to play” that is called a completion bonus, but those are considered signing bonuses, therefore if this was how they were classified, they would count.

    Witten has $2.25 million in game day bonuses, in addition to $750,000 in actual incentives. The game-day bonuses very likely count against the cap up front, in addition to his base salary. The $750,000 in incentives could as well.

    So even though the Cowboys are only paying Witten $2 million in base salary, there’s a strong likelihood his cap hit may be at $4.25 million already, as he played all 16 games in his last full season, 2017. If his last season played is the impetus for gauging his LTBE status, this could mean they have to be figured up front.

    Cap website Over The Cap seems to agree the weekly bonuses will be included up front, counting them in their Cowboys’ cap calculation.


    It certainly appears the Cowboys committed to paying a Witten a certain amount per game ($117,647) no matter what, with another $140,625 for every game he’s active but protected the organization

    Cowboys Wire will continue to monitor and search for final clarification.

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