Nearly a decade ago, the NFL crafted a policy aimed at promoting good player behavior by requiring teams to surrender a portion of a suspended player’s lost salary as a fine, if multiple players are suspended in a given year.
In 2013, the then-five-year-old policy likely cost the Seahawks more than $60,000 for a trio of suspensions to offensive lineman Allen Barbre, safety Winston Guy, and cornerback Brandon Browner. The Rams likely faced a similar problem in 2013, due to multiple player suspensions.
As noted by Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, the policy that was first applied to the Cowboys in 2008 will be applied to them again, given the suspensions of Randy Gregory, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Rolando McClain. The policy as currently written requires in the event of three suspensions the payment of 25 percent of the collective forfeited base salary to the league, with a maximum payment of $250,000.
With Gregory due to make $608,406 in 2016, Lawrence on the books this year for $920,604, and McClain owed $1.25 million, the Cowboys easily got to the $250,000 ceiling. (Absent the limit, they would have owed 25 percent of $1.095 million, or $273,750.) If another player is suspended, the Cowboys will be required to cough up a full third of the lost wages for each suspended player.
The Steelers could be facing a similar problem, with the full-season suspension of Martavis Bryant and the looming suspension of running back Le’Veon Bell. The policy requires the forfeiture of 15 percent of the lost salary when two players are suspended. With Bryant due to make $600,000 this year (he’ll lose all of it) and Bell slated to earn $966,900 (he’ll lose $235,294 if the suspension is upheld), 15 percent of the lost salary equates to $125,294.
“It’s obviously so important to us in drafting guys with the right character but sometimes things happen that are unforeseen,” Cowboys COO Stephen Jones said earlier this year. “Right now, I totally get that it may not look like it in terms of the mishaps we’ve had here, but it’s certainly very important to us and something we’ll continue to evaluate and try to be better.”
Ultimately, giving up a chunk of the salary that otherwise won’t be paid won’t deter teams from taking risks on players who may be predisposed to engaging in behavior that could get them suspended or provide an even stronger incentive to keep troubled players out of trouble. To get the attention of teams, they must face the potential loss of draft picks.
Previously, the possibility has been considered in connection with multiple violations of the Personal Conduct Policy. That idea never went anywhere. If the league truly wants to reduce suspensions under all policies, that’s the best (and perhaps only) way to do it.