Disclaimer: While I was gathering data and doing research on this topic, I discovered that Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland already covered many of the details, some of which I will cite here.
While I have been studying the Cleveland Browns' salary cap the past week, one player's contract and corresponding cap charges that drew my interest is WR Josh Gordon. At the end of January, we explained how the final year of Gordon's contract would toll into 2016. What we didn't express is that part of Gordon's deal would still count against the cap.
In 2012, Gordon signed a 4-year deal worth $5,341,648, including a $2,324,836 signing bonus. If you recall from our discussions about this in previous years, signing bonuses are paid to the player right away, but the cap charge on them is pro-rated over the life of the contract. The rest of the money (base salaries or other bonuses) are structured on a year-by-year basis. Dividing Gordon's signing bonus by four years, the signing bonus would come out to $581,209 against the cap per year from 2012 to 2015 (again, not including base salaries of other bonuses).
According to Over the Cap, Gordon's cap amount from his signing bonus was $581,209 from 2012-2013, but for the final two years of his deal, it's only $564,115 per year (a reduction of $17,094 per year). The reduction is presumably due to money that Gordon has already had to pay back as a result of previous suspensions. Therefore, prior to his suspension, Gordon's 2015 cap charge was structured as follows:
2015 Base Salary: $1,068,406
2015 Signing Bonus: $564,115
2015 Workout Bonus: $50,000
2015 Total Cap Hit: $1,682,521
I then verified how Gordon's contract would be handled with Jason from Over the Cap:
@DawgsByNature They will carry his prorated charge for the year. His base comes off the cap— Jason_OTC (@Jason_OTC) February 13, 2015
That means that for the 2015 season, whether the Browns keep or cut Gordon, he will still count for $564,115 against the cap. In he is re-instated in 2016, Gordon's base salary of $1.068 million would be his only cap charge (and possibly his workout bonus, if it still exists).
What Grossi wrote about earlier this month is whether the Browns would try to recoup some or all of his signing bonus money. At the time, a Browns spokesman told Grossi, "We will keep that option open." If they decide to exercise it and Gordon does not win any form of an appeal, then he would have to refund the Browns the money, and Cleveland would receive some form of a salary cap adjustment heading into the 2016 league year.
And, while we're waiting on all of this, Gordon could still be filing a grievance soon to determine whether he will be an unrestricted free agent in 2017 or 2018. In the whole grand scheme of things, the amount of Gordon's contract is so insignificant from a cap perspective that it's not worth cutting him for a team that has plenty of cap space.
Team owner Jimmy Haslam recently talked about Gordon and expressed the right amount of disdain to [hopefully] prevent the receiver from seeming like a distraction to the 2015 Browns, while also stressing that there is no hurry to decide on his future with the club at this point in time:
"Josh has failed to accept that responsibility. I hope he can get his life together. He's immensely gifted. But he's obviously going to be away from football for a year, so he's not going to be in the building. So at least for a year, we've moved on from Josh. I wish him well. I hope he can get his act together because he's a very gifted athlete." When asked about cutting Gordon, Haslam said, "That's a decision we'll just need to look at and make at a certain point in time," Haslam said. "He's out for a year, so there's no huge hurry. We'll address that at the proper time."
We'll provide more updates on Gordon's contract situation as they come along.