The Detroit Lions continue to be frugal with their additions in free agency, as details begin to emerge from their early signings (or, in some cases, agreements to sign).
On Wednesday morning, hours before the official start of free agency, a few contract details were released of two Detroit Lions additions: tight end Josh Hill and running back Jamaal Williams.
Let’s start with Hill, since his signing is official and all of the details of his deal are already out. The Lions tight end signed a deal initially reported as a one-year, $1.2 million contract. That is an accurate portrayal of the contract, but it will actually cost the Lions less against the cap. Here’s the breakdown, courtesy of NFL insider Aaron Wilson:
Total value: $1.212 million ($987,500 guaranteed)
Base salary: $1.075 million ($850,000 guaranteed)
Signing bonus: $137,500
Cap hit: $987,500
Why is the cap hit lower than his combined salary and signing bonus? Because, as Justin Rogers of The Detroit News pointed out, Hill qualifies for the veteran salary benefit. Here’s the definition of the veteran salary benefit, as offered by NFL.com:
The veteran salary benefit allow teams to offer a “Qualifying Contract” to any player with at least four credited seasons at a reduced salary cap hit. Under this provision, a qualifying contract is a one-year deal worth the minimum base salary applicable to a player with his number of credited seasons, plus $137,500 in additional compensation (i.e., signing bonus, roster bonus, incentive, etc. — amount begins to increase in 2022). These contracts are charged against the salary cap at the rate of a player with two credited seasons that league year.
This is just another commonly-used cap tactic for veteran players. You may recall the Lions are using something very similar with the four-year qualifying contract the Lions are giving Jalen Reeves-Maybin.
This is a great deal for the Lions, and when you combine this move with the release of Jesse James (saved $2.1M in cap), it’s a huge net positive for the Lions. They upgrade the tight end position and have a little leftover cap space.
Now let’s take a look at Jamaal Williams’ two-year deal reportedly worth up to $7 million.
Here’s the breakdown (details via ESPN’s Michael Rothstein)
Total value: Two years, $7 million ($3.25M guaranteed)
Signing bonus: $1.25 million
Base salary: $1 million (guaranteed)
Signing bonus proration: $625,000
Cap hit: $1.625 million
Base salary: $3.75 million ($1 million guaranteed)
Signing bonus proration: $625,000
Cap hit: $4.375 million
Dead money if cut: $1.625 million
If you’re wondering where that 2021 cap hit of just $1.625 million compares to others in the NFL, it would currently be 40th, behind guys like J.D. McKissic ($1.66M) Peyton Barber ($16.4M), and even D’Andre Swift ($1.94M). And while that cap hit nearly triples in 2022—placing him around 13th in cap hit right now—the Lions could cut their ties after one year and incur just $1.625 million in dead cap. However, with D’Andre Swift still on his rookie deal for the next three seasons, this is more than a manageable cap hit for Williams.
While the Lions are spending a little more on the RB2 position than they did last year with Adrian Peterson ($1.05 million), they got younger and more versatile at the position, as Williams is a true do-it-all back.