Would Cowboys seek repayment of $4.7 million from Jason Witten?

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One of the very real — but largely overlooked — dynamics arising from the question of whether Cowboys tight end Jason Witten will retire relates to the money he already has received from the team.

Witten’s base salary is in the neighborhood of $1 million because he restructured his contract earlier this year by taking $4.7 million of it up front, in the form of a signing bonus. If he retires, Witten will have to pay it all back, with an important caveat.

The labor deal gives the Cowboys the discretion to not collect the money already paid to Witten. It would be similar to last year’s decision to cut quarterback Tony Romo, which allowed him to keep $5 million in unearned bonus money.

There’s a major difference in this case, however. Witten only recently took what amounts to a $4.7 million advance on his 2018 salary, to help the Cowboys manage the cap. The Cowboys would essentially be giving him free money if the team were to choose not to ask for the $4.7 million back.

Witten will earn the bonus at the rate of $1.175 million per year for each of the next four years, unless and until the Cowboys cut him. So if he plays this year, he lowers the potential repayment obligation to a maximum of $3.525 million.

Regardless, whether and to what extent the Cowboys would want the previously paid money back could (or at least should) be a factor in whether Witten walks away from football for an ESPN salary in the range of $4-4.5 million that would get him basically to zero if he has to write a giant check to Jerry Jones.

UPDATE 8:17 p.m. ET: Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that the money hasn’t actually been paid to Witten yet. Regardless, his entitlement to it was triggered when he re-did his deal. Under the CBA, the Cowboys could still choose to let him have (keep) the money, if they want.

21 responses to “Would Cowboys seek repayment of $4.7 million from Jason Witten?

  1. Another way the owners have fully dominated our star players.

    A signing bonus is money paid to sign a contract. For strange salary cap purposes, signing bonuses are prorated over the length of the contract for SALARY CAP calculations.

    So when a player signs, the money should be wired to him. It’s his. No ifs ands or buts.

    Why sign a contract for a signing bonus rather than salary if they keep that hanging over you? These players need to wake up and see their president is hiding them on every contract issue.

  2. Dallas would not give back a cent of this “signing bonus” if Witten played this year and then retired. It’s most of his would-be 2018 salary, converted to signing bonus in order to make it count mostly in future seasons when the team’s cap is more wide open. As long as he plays this year, he would have earned all of it, and the team doubtless would not ask (it was the same situation with Romo, except the team also had a hand in Romo choosing to retire). Witten and Dallas are as closely tied together as a team and player can get, not just in terms of time working together but in terms of level of relationship. There is no way that Witten would try to skip out of town with unearned money, just as the team wouldn’t seek repayment for the bonus if Witten sticks around for a year. This isn’t a complicated financial situation.

  3. Jerry wanted Romo to keep the money, he will also let Jason keep it. Say what you want about Jerry But NO former teammates of the Dallas Cowboys has ever said a bad word about Jerry, Jerry Actually CARES for his players.
    Bizzness is bizzness and parting with players such as Romo Witten Emmitt Dez etc… hurts this man.

  4. calizcowboyz says:
    April 30, 2018 at 7:58 pm
    Jerry wanted Romo to keep the money, he will also let Jason keep it. Say what you want about Jerry But NO former teammates of the Dallas Cowboys has ever said a bad word about Jerry, Jerry Actually CARES for his players.
    Bizzness is bizzness and parting with players such as Romo Witten Emmitt Dez etc… hurts this man.

    //////////////////////

    Orlando Scandrick may disagree with you.

  5. vikinghooper says:

    Another way the owners have fully dominated our star players.

    A signing bonus is money paid to sign a contract. For strange salary cap purposes, signing bonuses are prorated over the length of the contract for SALARY CAP calculations.

    So when a player signs, the money should be wired to him. It’s his. No ifs ands or buts.

    Why sign a contract for a signing bonus rather than salary if they keep that hanging over you? These players need to wake up and see their president is hiding them on every contract issue.

    —————————————————

    This is not how NFL signing bonuses work. The player gets all of the signing bonus money up front. It’s only split up over years on paper for accounting purposes.

  6. Wouldn’t put it past Jerry…are you kidding? He is the
    most involved owner as far as his players are concerned.
    In fact, it is arguably his weakest attribute. There are other
    “ family” organizations who are far more business like to their
    players.

  7. The signing bonus is spread over the length of the remaining years in the contract, unless the player is cut or retires, then it will be accelerated to the cap.

  8. Witten will still make $4 million this year, either by playing for the Cowboys or becoming the MNF analyst for ESPN. Moot point.

  9. This could get interesting although since they haven’t actually paid him the money yet he doesn’t have to pay it back. In my opinion Dallas should make some concession in case he retires since he was good enough to help them with the cap. On the other hand, why should Dallas give him any of it since he wouldn’t have gotten any of it had he not done the deal. Hopefully, if he retires, they can get together and do something for Witten since he’s going to be in their ring of honor (and the HoF). Who knows what that will be but if the Cowboys and Witten are both happy with whatever they do it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.

  10. flyphillyfly34 says:
    April 30, 2018 at 8:27 pm

    Orlando Scandrick may disagree with you.
    ———————————————-
    The guy that asked for release because he didn’t want to compete with the younger guys, so Jerry granted him his release? Jerry could have onto him and buried him on the depth chart.

    Now, if you said that Dez would disagree, you might be onto something.

  11. tromp4ever says:
    April 30, 2018 at 7:56 pm
    It be messed up if they did when they just let Romo keep it
    ————————————–
    They let Romo keep it because it was the wink/nod to prevent him from signing with another team.

  12. He restructured his contract because they needed cap help. It would really look like a bad move to try and get that money back. Make others not want to help out the team that way.

  13. The Cowboys haven’t paid the $4.7 million so there is no obligation to repay. You can delete this post to make you feel better, but you have turned into the thing most of us hate. Your website continuously posts things that are not proofread, you have autoplay links to your videos which most of us hate, and instead of simply reporting you give us a bunch of opinions from you. This is (was)!pro football talk, not pro florio talk. You’ve lost your way. You were different than espn, better. Now without realizing it (I hope) you have become what most of us came here to get away from. It may not matter to you, but I’m done. I’m dine with your website. You may shrug and think “whatever” but keep this in mind… I may not be the last.

  14. Jerry will let him keep it. If it’s reported that Jerry “didn’t”, then Jerry will write him a check on the side. Jerry makes more then that alone in a couple weeks from his other business’ outside the NFL anyways. Jerry LOVES LOVES LOVES his players. You work your a$$ off for Jerrah, Jerrah will take care of yah.

  15. I’m sure Megatron is sympathetic. He’s been PO’d at the Lions since they asked him to return the million in bonus when he retired. Jerry might say he loves Witten like a son, that goes by the wayside when there’s $4.7M involved.

  16. Of course the player gets the money up front. It’s just if they don’t play out the contract, the CBA says the team can recoup a portion. Ask Jake Plummer how that works.

  17. “Orlando Scandrick may disagree with you.”

    Scandrick pocketed $40M over his career in Dallas (I think $9M last season) and all he had to show for it was a ton of missed game, missed assignments, and an ecstacy-related drug suspension as an 8th year veteran.
    Nobody will miss him.

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