We’re not surprised by the rumor that the Patriots could cut receiver Chad Ochocinco or defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth before the start of the regular season. Four years ago, a similar rumor was making the rounds at about this same time regarding receiver Randy Moss, another big-name veteran whom the Pats had acquired for a mid-round pick and a restructured contract that paid out, in relative terms, peanuts.
But Ochocinco isn’t making peanuts. Despite multiple reports that Ochocinco’s restructured contract has a non-guaranteed base salary of $1 million for 2011, multiple sources with knowledge of the contract advise PFT that Ochocinco received a signing bonus in the amount of $4.75 million and a workout bonus worth $250,000. (This year, due to the absence of an offseason workout program, workout bonuses were earned simply by reporting for work.) And so if the Patriots decide to cut Ochocinco, they will have sacrificed the draft picks (fifth-rounder in 2012 and sixth-rounder in 2013) that were sent to Cincinnati for his services, along with $5 million.
Though the base salary doesn’t become guaranteed until Week One, cutting Ochocinco before the start of the season would permit him to keep the $5 million and then to sign with a new team, keeping the money he got from the Pats and the money he’d get from his next team. And so, as we reported the day the deal was done, Ochocinco will still make $6 million for 2011, if he’s on the New England roster as of Week One. (If he isn’t, he’ll make $5 million plus whatever his next team would pay.)
In all, Ochocinco’s new three-year deal has a base value of $12.2 million. With incentives tied to receptions and Pro Bowl appearances, he can make another $5.3 million.
None of this means that the Pats won’t cut Ochocinco. But if the goal is to dump him within the next four weeks in order to send a message to the locker room, it would be one hell of an expensive lesson.
As to Haynesworth, the Pats would lose only their fifth-round pick in 2013 by cutting him. Haynesworth received no bonus money, and his base salary of $1.7 million doesn’t become guaranteed if he’s not on the Week One roster.
Of course, this doesn’t mean Haynesworth will be cut. The purpose of the rumor could be to ensure that Haynesworth and/or Ochocinco are fully committed for 2011. If that’s what the purpose of the rumor was four years ago regarding Moss, it definitely worked.
UPDATE: Actually, Ochocinco earned the $250,000 workout bonus from the Bengals. So the Patriots are paying him only (only?) $5.75 million.