Examining the impact of the salary cap on the Lions' release of Cam Sutton

On Thursday, the Detroit Lions released cornerback Cameron Sutton from his contract with the team, amid serious legal issues including a warrant for his arrest. The move removes one of the starters from the roster but also leaves behind a complicated salary cap situation, one that won't be resolved immediately.

To fully understand the financial impact of the Lions releasing Sutton from the roster, you need to know some basics about how NFL contracts work, and then we'll dive into the details of the Lions' options.

A player's contract has a “base salary”, which has the ability to include guarantees in it. Teams can reward players with additional contractual elements, including a variety of bonuses. Some bonuses carry guarantees – the most common is the “signing bonus” – but most do not. Sometimes, players will “nullify” the years added to their deal (which extend beyond the length of the deal) that are used to distribute a certain number of hits — like a signing bonus.

If we look at Sutton's remaining contract (below), we can see that several key parts of his deal were still guaranteed (Note: The green shaded number indicates that it is guaranteed).

Essentially, of the $29.75 million remaining on Sutton's contract, $19.22 million is guaranteed.

Guarantees are important for teams to show confidence in a player, but there is also a downside to over-guaranteeing. The biggest downside to guarantees is that if teams wish to move on from a player, they incur a penalty of the maximum total amount of all remaining guarantees.

This means that with the Lions releasing Sutton, they are – for now – on the hook for $19.22 million in maximum penalties. Because the cap penalties are all due once the player is released, the Lions will take that amount immediately.

Fortunately for the Lions, there is a league rule in place to help teams administer big penalties, called Appointed June 1. This rule gives teams the opportunity to spread the cap penalty over two seasons to allow for salary cap relief. One unfortunate limitation of this rule is that teams must carry the cap penalty until June 1, which will limit a team's ability to spend money during free agency.

the The Lions benefited from the June 1 appointment When they released Sutton and spread the cap penalty out over the 2024 and 2025 seasons. Here's how the cap penalties were spread out:

Note: There was Report from ESPN's Field Yates Which suggests the Lions will free up $1.5 million this season, but I don't think he was responsible for that $1.5 million recently became guaranteed on March 16This is why my numbers above show no dilution of the cap.

On the surface, it appears that the Lions have been punished significantly as a result of Sutton's actions, but here again, there are personal codes of conduct established by the NFL and NFLPA that could help the Lions obtain compensation.

the The Lions have filed a request with the NFL to void the base salary from Sutton's contract because of his behaviour. The NFL will now begin an investigation into the Lions' claim, and if they deem that Sutton has indeed violated the league's code of conduct, Sutton's guaranteed base salary will be credited to the Lions.

As Sutton appears to have been in violation, once the league rules on the matter, the consequences of Sutton's contract will look like this:

If the league rules quickly, these changes could theoretically be implemented before the start of the 2024 season.

From an NFL salary cap standpoint, that's the extent of what the Lions can do right now. They will be maxed out the next two seasons, likely in the manner described above.

But the Lions are not out of legal options in trying to recoup all or part of their remaining $8.72 million signing bonus — which had already been paid to Sutton when he signed in 2023. Essentially, if Sutton is convicted of his alleged crime, the Black could sue him for breach of contract. However, this process usually takes several years before it is resolved.

TL: Summary Dr

The Lions released Cameron Sutton with the title on June 1, spreading the maximum penalty over two seasons. Right now, the Lions are on the hook for a $12.68 million cap hit in 2024. The Lions have petitioned the NFL to void Sutton's base salary due to a player conduct violation, which would likely reduce the Lions' cap hit penalty to 2.18. A million dollars at some point at some point. 2024. The Lions will pay a $6.54 fine in 2025, regardless of the NFL ruling. Additionally, the Lions could try to recover the $8.72 million already paid to Sutton, but they would need to prosecute him after the legal proceedings in his criminal case conclude.

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