The First Cut is the Deepest

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October 24, 2005
The First Cut is the Deepest

by Keith Weiland

When a team opens the season with six losses in as many tries, it is easy for the mind to wander to what may lay ahead for such a franchise outside of an early pick in the next college draft. Upheaval in the coaching staff seems likely, and some mass layoffs in the front office seem more and more possible as well. As fans of the Texans, pondering these things keeps us sane in an otherwise insane season.

So if team owner Bob McNair makes like Donald Trump in January telling everyone he’s fired, that begs the question of what the Texans’ new regime will find laying around Reliant Park when they arrive to pick up the pieces. More importantly, if the new guys want to come in and clean house with what is still leftover from the original tenants, just how much will they be footing the bill on the 2006 salary cap?

After Sunday’s expected loss to the Colts, I set about to figure how much it would cost or save the team to cut key players in the offseason. The fun then ensues when it comes time to pick and choose who stays and who gets a New Balance logo tattooed in their butt courtesy of my right foot. To play along with me, you’re gonna need to know a few ground rules when it comes to the cap.

1) For a player cut before his contract expires, any unamortized bonus money will accelerate to the 2006 cap. For example, that means if a player only completed two years of a five year contract that included a simple $5 million signing bonus, then $3 million of that bonus would hit the 2006 cap.

2) The biggest exception to the first rule applies to players cut after June 1st. In those cases, a team is allowed to take just one year’s bonus this season and defer the remainder to next season. Using our same example from above, our player would have $1 million in dead money in 2006 and $2 million in dead money in 2007.

3) The 2006 cap savings below is calculated by taking the player’s anticipated cap value for next season (not including the standard workout bonus) and subtracting the dead money created by the unamortized bonuses.

4) The figures used below are unofficial and taken from our 2006 cap page. There is a high likelihood of error since much of the bonus information comes from media reports and secondhand sources. So proceed with caution, but know that the cap page is the most complete unofficial Texans cap page for 2006 available.

Player Name Dead Money Cap Savings Steve McKinney $700,000 $4,000,000 Zach Wiegert $1,400,000 $2,800,000 Mark Bruener $133,333 $875,000 Philllip Buchanon $0 $800,000 Todd Washington $166,667 $670,000 Jason Simmons $200,000 $570,000 Seth Payne $3,375,000 $550,000 Fred Weary $143,200 $545,000 Lewis Sanders $200,000 $545,000 Marcus Coleman $2,500,000 $535,000 Tony Hollings $233,250 $460,000 Bennie Joppru $408,750 $460,000 Tony Banks $800,000 $450,000 Junior Ioane $200,000 $445,000 Demarcus Faggins   $1,125,000 $200,000   Player Name Dead Money Cap Hit Morlon Greenwood $5,600,000 $1,640,000 Gary Walker $7,333,333 $1,500,000 Todd Wade $6,666,667 $1,500,000 Kailee Wong $4,660,000 $1,495,000 Robaire Smith $5,566,667 $775,000 Jason Babin $1,466,667 $140,997

There are a few players on the roster now that are not listed above because they are either inconsequential to the cap or extremely unlikely to be cut next season. The rest are due to be free agents after the season (and therefore have no cap effect in 2006 if unsigned), including unrestricted free agents Jabar Gaffney, Victor Riley, Jonathan Wells, Milford Brown, and Corey Bradford as well as restricted free agents Seth Wand, Dave Ragone, Antwan Peek, and Shantee Orr among others.

There are also two unique situations worth noting:

1) As discussed in my last article, David Carr is a potential free agent if one of his two buyback options is not exercised by the end of the season.

2) Chester Pitts’ situation is unusual because of the contract extension he signed last month. While it was a hefty deal worth nearly $20 million, the Texans deferred $6.6 million as an option bonus and another $700,000 as a roster bonus to next season.

The first names our eyes should be drawn to are those playing along the team’s offensive line. Should a new regime want a total overhaul of the unit, it appears one might be possible.

Cutting McKinney, Wiegert, Washington, and Weary would result in $2.4 million of dead money but a cap savings of over $8 million. Cutting Pitts before his option and roster bonuses were due would also save the team another $3.105 million on the cap (and over $8 million in McNair’s petty cash).

Saying goodbye to Wade, who was given a $10 million bonus when he signed with the Texans two years ago, would mean that the new regime would eat a significant cap hit, something that should not be taken lightly. But if Wade isn’t worth writing in ink as a starter (he is in a dogfight with Riley to keep his job now), that hit doesn’t look quite as bad when it is netted against the cap savings of the other potential cuts on the offensive line.

The other name to watch would be Walker’s. Since being given an $11 million bonus in 2004, Walker has missed several games due to injury, amassing just 21 tackles and a half sack in a season and a half. While cutting him in the offseason would not produce a cap savings on paper, it would keep McNair from scratching an additional $4 million – Walker’s 2006 base salary – from his checkbook.

Yes, it is pretty disappointing – if not disgusting – to even be discussing this sort of thing just six games into the season. But removing the emotion of this lost season (and era) for a moment, if the Texans were to essentially start over in 2006, the salary cap wouldn’t be in as desperate of a situation as most rebuilding teams find themselves in when a new regime assumes power.

Keith Weiland would have given you all of his heart, but there’s some team which has torn it all apart.

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