Every year, multiple players receive the opportunity both to help the team and, immediately, to help themselves. It’s called a “simple restructuring,” with a large chunk of salary for the coming season converted to a signing bonus — giving the team cap relief and the player a large check with his name on it.
The player gets the same dollars for the year. He just gets the money faster, which in turn essentially guarantees that the player will be on the team for the coming season.
But there’s a catch. Actually, two of them.
As mentioned by Nick Wright of 610 SportsRadio in Houston during my weekly 8:00 a.m. ET visit with him and John Lopez, restructurings drop a player’s cap number in the current year — but increase the cap number in future years. For Texans receiver Andre Johnson, who restructured his contract in 2011, 2012, and 2013, the end result is a $16 million cap number in 2015, which could prompt the Texans to move on (if Johnson and the Texans find a way to work out their differences in 2014).
The other complication of a simple restructuring comes from the amount of money a player who retires would have to repay. For Johnson and Cowboys quarterback Kyle Orton, taking one for the team in the past has made it harder to walk away in the present, since that chunk of cash converted to a signing bonus gets added to the total bill that the team can tender to the player who decides to call it a career. (Bonus forfeiture also becomes more costly is the player is suspended under the substance-abuse or PED policies.)
So beware, NFL players, of that simple restructuring. Like so many other things that seem to be too good to be true, taking a big chunk of money now could create some unexpected costs down the road.
That doesn’t mean players should refuse to do them. But ut’s important that players understand their options when agreeing to a restructuring. For some players, extra terms or compensation could be justified when accepting a higher cap number in future years and/or narrowing the window for a decision to retire.