Ever since he joined the Cowboys, Roy Williams' contract has been the source of much speculation and consternation in Cowboys country. And as rumors resurface for the umpteenth time that the Cowboys might be considering releasing Williams but are balking because of what releasing him would cost them, there doesn't seem to be any consensus as to what exactly Roy Williams is costing the Cowboys.
- ESPN's Calvin Watkins writes that "Williams is scheduled to make $5.1 million next season."
- Gerry Fraley from the DMN opines that "His contract calls for the salary ($9.25 million) of a No. 1 receiver."
- Rob Phillips from dallascowboys.com argues that "the Cowboys are on the hook for $12.9 million if Williams is cut.
So who's right?
In a way, all of them are, at least roughly, as we'll find out after the break.
Per rotoworld.com, Williams signed a six-year, $54 million contract in 2008. The deal contains $26.608 million guaranteed, including a $10 million option bonus in the second year, $2 million of Williams' 2010 base salary. 2010: $3.452 (+ $9.5 million guaranteed option bonus), 2011: $5.109, 2012: $6.802 million, 2013: $8.498 million, 2014: Free Agent
The issue here is that all the numbers being bandied about are a mix of real money and funny money (a/k/a salary cap). So let's take it one step at a time. If Roy Williams is on the roster in 2011, Jerry Jones will have to pay him a $5.1 million base salary in real money. That's the easy part.
But now we come to the tricky part, the signing bonus and how it affects the salary cap. For salary cap purposes, the signing bonus and guaranteed money will be prorated or amortized over the length of the contract. In Roy Williams' case, the $26.608 million guaranteed is prorated over the life of the six-year contract, which amounts to $4.4 million per year. All of the guaranteed money from Williams' six-year contract has now been paid out.
If the Cowboys keep Roy Williams in 2011, add the $4.4 million to his $5.1 million base salary and the resulting $9.5 million is what Williams will count against the salary cap in 2011.
If the Cowboys decide to cut him, the remaining three years of his prorated guaranteed money would accrue in one year. The $4.4 million prorated money spread over 2011, 2012 and 2013 would all come due immediately, and count against the 2011 cap to the tune of $13.2 million.
[Note: Because the guaranteed money is doled out unevenly over the first three years of RW's contract, there might be some special rules to how the money is prorated that I'm not aware of. So the $12.9 million that you keep reading about everywhere sounds about right, but I'll stick with the $13.2 for now.]
But those $13.2 million are not the salary cap cost of releasing Williams. Keeping Williams will count $9.5 million against the cap in 2011 anyway. Consider that a "sunk cost", basically a cost that has already been incurred and cannot be recovered. Releasing him will count $13.2 million against the 2011 cap. The "penalty" of releasing Williams is $3.7 million that would be unavailable to invest in other players.
Also, under the old CBA, if a player was released after June 1, the unamortized part of the guaranteed money/signing bonus did not have to be accelerated into the current league year, but could be amortized over two years. If Roy Williams were to be released under that June 1 CBA provision, the non-accelerated amortization of his guaranteed money would result in a "cap penalty" in 2011 and 2012 of $1.85 million each year. Peanuts.
At the same time, Jerry Jones would save $5.1 million in real money in 2011 by releasing Williams.
So the next time somebody tries to tell you that it's too expensive to release Roy Williams, feel free to literally laugh out load.
If Roy Williams remains on the roster, it will be because the Cowboys don't see anybody capable of immediately challenging Williams for the No. 3 receiver spot - and that's assuming Dez Bryant returns healthy and somehow manages to master the entire playbook.