(You have to be a salary cap geek to love this story…)
J’Marcus Webb had played his way into a nice pay raise over the past couple seasons. In the span of the last two weeks, he put himself at risk of giving it all back.
But his Bears teammates can help him out. To understand how that possibly could be requires a little look into how the salary cap and incentives/”conditions” work in the NFL.
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Webb agreed to renegotiate the fourth year of his rookie contract, according to the NFL transaction wire and reported first by the Chicago Tribune. But he could theoretically reinstate his “lost” income in a way that will still leave the Bears some cap help.
Here’s how this could have been set up, possibly tying Webb’s pay to the overall fortunes of the team rather than simply his play:
Incentives can be based on team victories or teams reaching the playoffs, winning the Super Bowl or Webb making the Pro Bowl. Some of those “conditions” are not out of the realm of possibility. They just aren’t in the contracts of tackles all that often.
The background: Webb’s rookie contract, signed in 2010, provided for his fourth-year pay to escalate to the low-level tender offer for restricted free agents if he achieved certain marks in 2011 or 2012, which he did. That triggered the escalation to the RFA tender of $1.323 million.
But Webb’s sagging performance through training camp and the first preseason game moved the Bears to replace him in the starting lineup with Jordan Mills and to renegotiate Webb’s contract for purposes of rescinding the escalator.
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The move was probably not a simple straight pay cut, however. It is difficult to see Webb agreeing to that, preferring instead to be released and become a free agent.
Webb could not be offered incentives based on playing time. Because he was a full-time starter in 2012, any “incentive” would be considered likely to be earned. Those incentives count against salary caps, which would not help the cap-snug Bears.
For an incentive to fit “not likely to be earned” it has to be above the player’s level the previous season. Webb played too much in 2012 for that to be.
But Bears financial guru Cliff Stein has been creative in the past.