SAN DIEGO – Executive Vice President of Football Operations – Assistant General Manager Ed McGuire is an expert on the NFL’s salary cap and Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). He handles player contract negotiations for the team among other things.
McGuire answered a few salary cap and CBA-related questions this week.
You’ve had about six months to get familiar with the new CBA. In your mind, what are the most significant changes fans should be aware of?
McGuire: Most of the system didn’t undergo massive changes, but I think the best modification was to the rookie system. We now have rookie contracts that make a lot more sense and that will also enable us to spend more money on our veterans.
The CBA condensed the players’ organized offseason workout programs in terms of organized conditioning and practice, something the NFL Players Association requested. But most fans don’t know the details. What are teams allowed to do as a team between now and training camp?
McGuire: We’ll have three specific phases of activities, some of which only the strength and conditioning coaches can be on the field with the players. The program will begin on April 16 and all of the Organized Team Activities and our veteran Minicamp have to take place in Phase 3 of the program, which will occur over the last few weeks of the program.
The Chargers were one of two teams to decline a CBA provision allowing teams to carry over cap space from the 2011 league year to the next, which begins March 13. Why did the Chargers decline this opportunity?
McGuire: I wish we had Cap space to carry over next year, but unfortunately that’s not the case. In the previous CBA, clubs could write “dummy” incentives into player contracts the last week of the regular season in order to carry over Cap space. Now, it’s much easier to carry over room by submitting a notice to the League prior to the last regular-season game.
In our case, we knew that we would be paying incentives that were earned during the season and had not been counting against the Cap (“Not Likely to Be Earned” incentives) in excess of the amount of Cap Room that we had remaining. So, we won’t have any room at the end of the League Year. And we’ll also have an additional amount deducted from next year’s Cap because our incentive adjustment will be more than the Cap space that we had remaining at the end of the season.
When you determine how much money the Chargers have spent toward the salary cap in a given year, what things count toward that number? Players cut during training camp? Players placed on Reserve-Injured? Signing bonuses?
McGuire: Basically, everything counts against the Cap with a slight exception for veteran players who you pay minimum salary to (though this Minimum Salary Benefit counts as a benefit in the overall Cap). Signing bonuses can be prorated for a maximum of five years with the new CBA. Paragraph 5 (base) salaries, incentives that are deemed Likely to be Earned as well as roster and reporting bonuses count. You can have charges for acceleration of signing bonuses for players who you release (and prorated signing bonuses count for players who are cut in camp). Players placed on Reserve/Injured count against the Cap, as do players on the Practice Squad. And then there’s the year-end reconciliation that captures incentives earned that hadn’t been counted during the season.
In your opinion, what is the most misunderstood aspect of the CBA or maybe the biggest misperception?
McGuire: That you have a fixed amount of money to spend. The Cap still gives clubs flexibility to spend more cash than the Cap, and that’s something that we did by more than $20 million in 2011.