The slow growth of salary cap in the wake of the new labor deal resulted in plenty of teams having salary-cap issues in recent years. Which resulted in plenty of teams conducting the so-called “simple restructuring” of contracts, pushing cap dollars in the current years into the future.
But simple restructurings of big-dollar contracts can lead to potential complications. Eventually, those contracts expire. And the bloated cap numbers in the final years of those deals make it considerably more expensive to use the franchise tag on that player.
That’s why the Lions ultimately couldn’t use the franchise tag on defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. His salary for 2014 was $12.5 million; his cap number was $22.4 million. Since the franchise tag guarantees the player a 20-percent raise over Suh’s salary in the prior year, the Lions would have had to invest $26.9 million for one more year with Suh.
And that would have become $32.25 million for 2016 under the tag. Which means it simply became too expensive to play the tag game with Suh — unless the Lions would have been content to keep him for only one more year at an exorbitant salary.
Next year, a string of simply restructurings could result in an unmanageable cap number for Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Though he’ll make only (only?) $11.6 million in 2015, his restructurings-fueled cap number of $18.395 million will result in a franchise tag of $22.074 million in 2016.
So while fans tend to exhale when teams find a way to restructure contracts in order to create cap space in the current year, those efforts could result in some eventual puckering and, in the case of Suh, the possible end of his tenure with the team.