With the Arizona Cardinals having made a big splash in free agency already in the signing of J.J. Watt the question became how it would affect the cap space the team would have.
It was already low, but certainly signing Watt to a big deal with make it even lower.
Nope, instead the Cardinals did the Steve Keim special and stretched that cost out:
Details on the 2-year deal for new #AZCardinals DE JJ Watt:— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 3, 2021
— $12M signing bonus
— $14.5M base value in Year 1
— $28M base over 2 years, max $31M
— $3M in incentives based on sacks
— 10 sacks in 2021 gets $1M in 2021 and a $1M escalator for 2022
— 10 sacks in 2022 gets $1M more
If I am reading this correctly, JJ Watt's cap hit this year will be only $4.9 million— John Gambadoro (@Gambo987) March 3, 2021
It is a classic NFL strategy to give big money and stretch it out when the player will likely no longer be on the team.
The team did this in 2020 with De’Vondre Campbell’s contract, as he is on the cap for 2021 for $4 million.
These are known as voidable years, as Behind the Steel Curtain explained:
One option available to the Steelers, which many may not know exactly how it works, is including “voidable years” as part of the deal. What this practice allows to happen is to have the signing bonus spread into additional years for salary cap purposes without committing any base salary to the player in those years.
Kicking the can down the road is what we called it here at Revenge of the Birds. Why worry about tomorrow’s problems today?
However, we don’t know yet if that is the case, or they’ll just eat the rest or most of the contract in 2022.
No matter what, they were able to keep the 2021 cap hit low, which is important for what appears to be their all-in approach over the next two seasons.