I find the minutial facets of the NFL/PA collective bargaining agreement fascinating insofar as how they specifically relate to the salary cap and the implications that can be inferred therefrom. This article is about seemingly minor and abstruse details that have had a meaningful impact on the Browns this cutdown.
Firstly, I apparently erroneously wrote that Michael Dunn would be subject to waivers if cut, given that his only accrued seasons ostensibly were 2020, 2021, and 2022. In order to become a vested veteran and be released into free agency when cut, rather than being beholden to the waiver process, requires a player to accrue four years of service.
In order to "accrue" a season, a player must be on a 53-man roster (active/inactive list) or injured reserve (IR) or physically unable to perform (PUP) list for at least six games that year; players do not accrue service time while on the non-football injury/illness list: "N-F/I" (as it appears in the CBA), aka NFI.
"Credited" seasons are used for determining minimum salary (and other benefits you also probably don't care about). Three games on a club's 53 (active/inactive list) will earn a player a credited season toward a higher minimum salary; being on IR or PUP (or NFI) will not. The foregoing means that a player can potentially earn an accrued season without a credited one by being on IR or PUP.
Michael Dunn's Paragraph 5 salary (a term used in NFL contracts frequently referred to as "base salary") was set to be $1.01M for 2023: the figure for a player with three credited seasons. For him to have accrued a fourth season without receiving a credited one for it, could have occurred if he'd been on IR or PUP during one of the years he spent time with NFL teams (Rams, Jaguars, Dolphins) between 2017 and 2019, where he'd been on 90-man offseason rosters and practice squads only (neither of which count toward accruing service time).
Someone with internal information with the Browns relayed to me that Dunn's time on Jacksonville's PS is how he'd accrued a fourth season. Article 8, Section 1(a) of the 2011 CBA, which was in effect at that time (2018), is as follows:
"[A] player shall receive one Accrued Season for each season during which he was on, or should have been on, full pay status for a total of six or more regular season games, but which, irrespective of the player’s pay status, shall not include games for which the player was on: (i) the Exempt Commissioner Permission List, (ii) the Reserve PUP List as a result of a nonfootball injury, or (iii) a Club’s Practice Squad.
Article 8, Section 1(a) of the current (2020) CBA adds the clause:
"(which shall include any games encompassed in any injury settlement, injury grievance settlement or injury grievance award)"
This is the only difference in the section and shouldn't matter anyway because it shouldn't have been in force yet. Here's all of Section 1(a) from 2020 for thoroughness:
"[A] player shall receive one Accrued Season for each season during which he was on, or should have been on, full pay status for a total of six or more regular season games (which shall include any games encompassed in any injury settlement, injury grievance settlement or injury grievance award), but which, irrespective of the player’s pay status, shall not include games for which the player was on: (i) the Exempt Commissioner Permission List, (ii) the Reserve PUP List as a result of a nonfootball injury, or (iii) a Club’s Practice Squad."
Even if the added clause had been in effect, there's no evidence available anywhere that Dunn was involved in any injury settlement or grievance of any kind, nor is there evidence that he was on IR or PUP between 2017 and 2019. And it specifically states:
"shall not include games for which the player was on ... a Club’s Practice Squad."
Dunn also was a member of the Birmingham Iron of the AAF, and the Seattle Dragons of the XFL. I scoured every resource I could find searching for a way that circumstance could somehow factor into this equation, but again came up empty.
In March of 2022, Dunn was tendered by the Browns as an exclusive rights free agent. An ERFA is someone who has one or two total accrued seasons and has completed his contract with the team. A player with three is a restricted free agent; four makes him unrestricted. If Dunn had a maximum of two accrued seasons after the 2021 league year was over (which must be the case for him to have been tendered as an ERFA for 2022), it shouldn't be possible for him to have somehow accrued two more years of service time between March of 2022 and August of 2023 — a timeframe which encompassed only one NFL season.
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. All the reporting appears to be that Dunn was released (cut without waivers); it's even listed that way on the NFL's official transaction list. This seems to fly in the face of CBA guidelines and be an impossibility given his ERFA status just last year. Hopefully someone can point out to me what I'm missing or misunderstanding. Thanks for any input.