The list of signs that some say point to a deal between Malcolm Butler and the Saints got a little longer Thursday morning, as ESPN’s Field Yates reported that the Saints have reworked the roster bonus of left tackle Terron Armstead to create $4 million in cap space.
Source: Saints OT Terron Armstead had a $5M roster bonus converted to a signing bonus, creating $4M in cap space in 2017 for the team.— Field Yates (@FieldYates) March 23, 2017
In creating the additional space, the Saints tack $1 million per year onto Armstead’s cap hits through the end of his contract in 2021. To salary cap expert, author, and overthecap.com founder Jason Fitzgerald, the move is a curious one:
Im actually not sure why the #Saints needed to do that. I think they were ok with the cap room, especially with Byrd dropping off later— Jason_OTC (@Jason_OTC) March 23, 2017
Naturally, this move coupled with Malcolm Butler’s vauge instagram post on Wednesday has some Patriots fans jumping to conclusions.
However, the process of converting roster bonuses to prorated signing bonuses is a common practice around the NFL. In fact, Thursday morning’s news regarding Armstead’s bonus was on the radar of John Hendrix, the Managing Editor for Canal Street Chronicles, who over a month ago outlined the move in a piece detailing ways the Saints could create cap space.
Although not always warranted, the Saints’ cap management has been criticized for “kicking the can down the road”. Thursday’s move won’t change that popular sentiment, but it should be viewed as wise because, if nothing else, it provides them with some much needed breathing room.
New Orleans was hovering around $9 million in cap space before the move, which doesn’t leave much for room for error with an inbound rookie pool that includes four picks in the first three rounds. Also to be taken into account are the various other upcoming expenditures such as a practice squad, a reserve the replace players placed on IR, a reserve for per-game roster bonuses that aren’t already considered likely-to-be-earned, and the inclusion of the lowest two salaries on the 53-man roster once the Rule of 51 expires.
What can’t be overlooked is how the steady annual rise in the NFL salary cap is creating a widening gap between the value of a dollar spent in 2017 cash against that same dollar’s value be accounted for in future years. Armstead’s cap charges will now increase by $1 million per season, but as NFL salary cap continues to skyrocket, that number becomes less impactful as the seasons pass.
With all of these factors involved, what do the Saints have to gain by absorbing the full $5 million in 2017?
One thing is certain about the move. They wouldn’t be able to make a play for Malcolm Butler without it.
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