Dollars and sense of Cowboys releasing Jay Ratliff
IRVING, Texas -- The Cowboys insist they are "not hurrying" Jay Ratliff back from the injuries that have kept him off the field for the last eight months. But some observers are impatient, wondering whether there are any financial advantages to releasing the former Pro Bowl defensive lineman.
The short answer? No.
The longer answer? As demonstrated in this project worked on in combination with Lars Hengstler of BloggingTheBoys.com, there are advantages that come into play only after this year.
Ratliff entered the 2013 offseason with a $7 million cap hit. The Cowboys restructured his contract and spread some of that money over the 2013-2017 league years.
As a result, Ratliff's cap hit dropped to $4.072 million – room that was needed at the time. But the move caused the cost of releasing him early to increase.
The Cowboys haven’t yet released to us officially the amount of dead money they would incur if they were to release Ratliff now. But we estimate it to be around $6 million. Therefore, obviously, releasing Ratliff this year doesn't any financal sense right now.
But that's different in the following years:
Year Base Salary Prorated Bonus Cap Hit Dead Money Cap savings
2014 5,500,000 2,732,000 8,232,000 6,928,000 1,304,000
2015 7,000,000 2,732,000 9,732,000 4,196,000 5,536,000
2016 7,500,000 732,000 8,232,000 1,464,000 6,768,000
2017 10,000,000 732,000 10,732,000 732,000 10,000,000
In 2014, Ratliff has a $5.5 million base salary and a prorated signing bonus of $2.73 million, for a total cap hit of $8.2 million. If the Cowboys were to release him after the 2013 season, their cap hit would be the remaining unamortized bonus money on his contract ($6.9 million), so the Cowboys could create $1.3 million in cap space by releasing Ratliff after the 2013 season.
That cap relief rockets to $5.5 million in 2015, making it a virtual certainty that the Cowboys will release Ratliff after 2014, unless he agrees to a sizable reduction in his base salary.
But here's the kicker: If after the 2013 season, the Cowboys were to designate Ratliff a post-June 1 cut, only the 2014 part of the unamortized bonus would accelerate immediately. The 2014 dead money would drop to $2.732 million, creating not just $1.3 million, but a hefty $5.5 million cap saving in 2014. Of course, that saving would come with $4.2 million of dead money against the 2015 cap, but maybe the TV revenues start coming in by then.
In summary: Releasing Ratliff in 2013 would relieve some observers of their frustration but makes no financial sense at all. However, releasing him after the season could create either $1.3 or $5.5 million in cap savings, depending on whether he's designated a post-June 1 cut or not.