The Detroit Lions got creative with Will Harris’ contract, taking advantage of CBA rules and eliminating the salary cap.
The Detroit Lions re-signed Will Harris on Tuesday and they were able to get a break on their salary cap for him due to a type of veterans salary benefit called a four-year qualifying contract.
Here’s the NFL’s explanation of the Veterans Pay Advantage:
“Formerly known as the minimum salary benefit, the veteran salary benefit allows teams to offer a ‘qualifying contract’ to any player with at least four credited seasons at a reduced salary cap. Under this provision , a qualifying contract is a one-year contract equal to the minimum base salary applicable to a player with his number of credited seasons, plus $152,500 in additional compensation (c. increase in 2024).These contracts are charged against the salary cap at the rate of a player with two seasons credited that year.
Essentially, the veteran salary advantage is designed to give teams the opportunity to sign a player who has been in the league for four years at a reduced rate. It’s good for the team because those players cost less, and it’s good for the players because it encourages teams to sign veterans instead of just looking to cheaper players for rookies.
There are two key numbers to remember here. First, the veteran minimum for a fourth-year player is $1,080,000. Second, veterans can be offered up to $152,500 in bonuses to stay compliant.
Here’s the league’s explanation of the four-year qualifying contract:
“Another type of veteran’s salary benefit, it may be offered to a player with at least four credited seasons whose contract with a team has expired after being on that team for four or more consecutive league years prior to the expiration of his contract. Such a player must have been on the team’s 90 active/inactive roster for said seasons (and in every regular season and postseason game). Teams may sign a maximum of two players eligible for this type of salary advantage.
“A contract eligible under this benefit is a one-year contract with a base salary of up to $1.35 million more (expected to increase in 2024) than said player’s minimum base salary. However, if a team signs two players to a qualifying contract, they can only give a combined additional base salary of $1.35 million between the two agreements. Under these agreements, only the applicable minimum base salary (and not the $1.35 million benefit) is charged against the salary cap.
First, to qualify for this benefit, players must have been on a team’s active roster for four full seasons and enter free agency after their rookie contract expires. The Lions had three players who met those requirements this season: Harris, Amani Oruwariye and Austin Bryant. Bobby Price did not qualify because he spent time during his rookie season on the Lions practice squad, while CJ Moore did not qualify because he was released during the last offseason before returning halfway through.
The key numbers to know here are that teams can bid up to $1.35 million more than the veteran league minimum of $1,080,000 as previously reported.
Additionally, this money can be applied to one player or split between two. The Lions chose to apply it to one player (Will Harris) this offseason.
With those numbers in mind, let’s dive deeper into the parameters of Harris’ new contract.
Will Harris – Veterans Salary Cap Benefit with a four-year qualifying contract
(Details via Overthecap.comgraphics created by Erik Schlitt)
As you can see from the contract above, Harris’ base salary is $2.43 million. This number was arrived at by taking the fourth-year veteran minimum ($1.08 million) and adding it to the increase allowed by the four-year qualifying option ($1.35 million). The pro-rated bonus of $152,500 is also determined by the veterans salary benefit.
Once the parameters of the veteran salary contract have been met, the four-year qualifying reduction takes effect, reducing Harris’ salary cap reached in 2023.
A final note on this type of contract: expect Harris to be on the list
To prevent teams from taking advantage of this benefit, base salary and pro-rated bonus are fully guaranteed, totaling $2,582,500 for Harris.
If the Lions keep Harris on the roster, he’ll cost them a cap of $1.3 million hit in 2023, but if they choose to release him, they’ll face a $2,582,500 dead cap penalty due to guarantees. .
Therefore, it would cost the Lions more ($1,265,000) to remove Harris than to keep him on the roster.