The cap implications may be too great to land Tom Brady a player like Andre johnson. (USA TODAY Images)

On July 10th it was reported on NFL.Com that Andre Johnson told the Houston Texans that he no longer wants to be on the team. Of course, the New England Patriots was mentioned as a possible landing spot for Andre. In this blog post I intend to examine if it is feasible or possible for the Patriots to acquire Andre Johnson in a trade.

Andre Johnson is signed through the 2016 season. If the Texans were to trade Andre Johnson in 2014, they would take a dead money cap hit of $4,644,583 in 2014 and a $7,139,583 dead money hit in 2015 as they would be responsible for the remaining signing bonus prorations.

Year Base Salary Prorated Bonus Roster Bonus Cap Number Dead Money Cap Savings
2014 $10,000,000 $4,644,583 $1,000,000 $15,644,583 $4,644,583 $11,000,000
2015 $10,500,000 $4,644,583 $1,000,000 $16,144,583 $7,139,583 $8,825,000
2016 $11,000,000 $2,675,000 $1,000,000 $14,675,000 $2,675,000 $12,000,000

According to a tweet by Joel Corry, the 1 million roster bonus is dependent on Andre Johnson participating in ninety percent of the Texans’ offseason workouts, and being a full participant in OTAs, minicamp & training camp. Andre Johnson has not met those requirements. While the CBA mentions some incentives are re-evaluated when a player is traded – “Any team performance-related incentive will be revalued under the “likely to be earned” rules if the contract is assigned to a new Team through trade or waiver” the CBA does not mention how a individual performance-related incentive like the 1 million roster bonus would be treated in a trade. I will take the cautious approach and presume that his new team would be on the hook for the 1 million roster bonus until there was a renegotiation of his deal. Therefore, I am presuming that his new team would be responsible for the $34.5 million in new money left on Johnson’s deal.

Per the CBA, the Patriots would have to be under the cap by $10,580,000 in order to take on Andre Johnson’s 10 million salary and 1 million roster bonus. Remember when Tom Brady converted most of his 2007 salary into a signing bonus so that the Patriots could absorb Randy Moss’ $9.75 million salary. The Patriots are under their adjusted cap number by $6,403,532. Therefore, they would have to create $4,176,468 in cap space in order to make the trade. Why not 11 million? Because of the Top 51 rule. That is, Andre Johnson would displace James White from the Top 51 list. James White has the 51st highest cap number on the Patriots. White has a salary of $420,000. 11 million minus $420,000 equals $10,580,000.

How can the Patriots create $4,176,468 in cap space? A combination of the following.

1.) Release Dan Connolly – net cap savings of $2.505 million
1b.) Extend Dan Connolly through the 2015 season converting $2 million of his $3 million salary into a signing bonus – cap savings of $1 million

2a.) Convert $5.4 million of Mankins’s $6.5 million salary into a signing bonus – cap savings of $3.6 million while pushing out $1.8 million of signing bonus proration to the 2015 and 2016 seasons.
2b) Releasing Mankins eould change Mankins’ numbers to
2014 – $4,000,000 ($6,250,000 gross saving and a $5,830,000 net savings on the cap as a player with a $420,000 salary would replace Mankins in the Top 51 list)
2015 – $4,000,000- (a 7 million savings)
2016 – $0 – (a 7 million savings)
2c.) Converting all but $1 million of his 2014 $6.25m salary and all but 1 million of his 2015 $6.75 salary to a signing bonus while lowering his 2016 salary from $6.75 million to $5 million would change the above numbers to
2014 – $8,916,666 (a $1,583,334 savings) – $1,000,000 salary + 7,666,666 prorated signing bonus +250,000 offseason workout bonus
2015 – $8,916,666 – (a $2,083,334 saving) – $1,000,000 salary + 250K workout bonus + 7,666,666 prorated signing bonus
2016 – $8,961,668 – (a $1,916,668 increase) – 5m salary +250K workout bonus + 3,666,668 prorated signing bonus

3.) Extend Gostkowski’s contract by 4 years while giving him a $5 million signing bonus and lowering his salary from $2.9 million to $900,000 – cap savings – $1,000,000
4.) Extend McCourty’s contract by 4 years while giving him a $10 million signing bonus while lowering his 2014 salary from $3.92 million to $1 million – cap savings – $1,000,000
5.) Release Tavon Wilson – net cap savings of $278,444 while having a dead money hit of $376,891 in 2014 and $376,891 in 2015.
6.) Release Jake Bequette – net cap savings of $80,000 while having a dead money hit of $134,950 in 2014 and $134,950 in 2015.
7.) Trade Danny Amendola – net cap savings of $2,880,000 while having a dead money hit of $1.2 million in 2014 and $3.6 million in 2015. Ben Volin tweeted that trading Amendola would cost the Patriots $2.25 million in cap space. Ben is wrong. Amendola’s 2014 cap hit of $4,575,000 consists of a 3 million salary, $1.2 million signing bonus proration, and $375,000 in 46-man per game roster bonuses. If traded, the Patriots would be responsible for the $1.2 million.

Unlike in 2007 it will not be easy for the Patriots to convert salaries into signing bonuses since most of the 11 players with the highest salaries on the team are either older (Mankins and Brady) or coming off injury (Gronkowski, Amendola, Mayo, Vollmer) or both (Wilfork).

Also, unlike 2007 it will not be easy to offer Andre Johnson a NTLBE incentive-laden contract that does not immediately count against the cap. Randy Moss’ poor season in 2006 (42 catches, 553 yds, 3TDs) made it easy for Pats to create an NLTBE incentive-laden contract in 2007. Randy Moss’ 2007 incentives consisted of a
350K bonus for 45 receptions
another 350K for 55 receptions
another 350K for 65 receptions
another 350K for 75 receptions
another 350K for 85 receptions
and a 250K Pro Bowl bonus

Here’s one possible restructure of an Andre Johnson deal

Year Base Salary 2014 Prorated Bonus Roster Bonus Cap Number Dead Money Cap Savings
2014 $1,000,000 $3,000,000 $1,000,000 $5,000,000 $3,000,000 $2,000,000
2015 $10,500,000 $3,000,000 $1,000,000 $14,500,000 $6,000,000 $8,500,000
2016 $11,000,000 $3,000,000 $1,000,000 $15,000,000 $3,000,000 $12,000,000

The problem with this proposed deal is not in 2014 but is with 2015 and 2016. As of July 10, 2014 the Patriots’ 2015 cap commitments already total $146,013,351 and the Patriots’ 2016 cap commitments total $105,570,347. The Patriots have 52 players signed thru 2016.

  • 14 players (Brady, Mayo, Mankins, Gronkowski, Amendola, Wilfork, Arrington, Ninkovich, Edelman, Browner,Vollmer, Lafell, Easley, Collins) have average cap value of over 1M for the 2014/2015/2016 seasons
  • 12 (Brady, Mayo, Mankins, Gronkowski, Amendola, Wilfork, Arrington, Ninkovich, Edelman, Browner,Vollmer, Lafell) have an average cap value of over 3 million
  • 9 (Brady, Mayo, Mankins, Gronkowski, Amendola, Wilfork, Arrington, Vollmer, Browner) have an average cap value of over 4 Million
  • 6 (Brady, Mayo, Mankins, Gronkowski, Amendola, Wilfork) have an average cap value of over 5 million
  • 5 (Brady, Mayo, Mankins, Gronkowski, Wilfork) have an average cap value of over 6 million
  • 3 (Brady, Mayo, Mankins) have an average cap value of over 9M
  • Brady has an average cap value of $13.933,333

Andre Johnson is due in new money an average of $11.5 million in 2014/2015/2016.

The Patriots have 19 players who will become free agents after this year, 22 after 2015. Some of the upcoming free agents (Ridley, Vereen, McCourty, Revis, Gostkowski, Solder) are key contributors. Plus, the Patriots have to decide by May 3, 2015 if they want to pick up the 2016 options (at a cost of 7 to 9 million each) for Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower.

Summary, only if you believe in Felger’s simplistic “cap is crap” nonsense should anyone believe that acquiring Andre Johnson as long as he expects to receive $34.5 million in new money over a 3-year period will not affect the Patriots’ ability to retain all of their young talent.

To sum up, while it is possible for the Patriots to trade up for Andre Johnson, I just do not see the Patriots doing it because of how it will affect both the 2014 and 2015 cap.