The deal is now done. After eight days of free-agency nibbles, the Dallas Cowboys finally took a big bite out of the landscape and signed defensive end Greg Hardy. Hardy of course, is likely the most controversial figure on the 2015 market, and as such there is a lot of consternation over Dallas’ pursuit.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones recognizes this, saying: "A thorough background review of him, involving many elements of our organization, has been ongoing for the last few weeks. Obviously. a great deal of our study was dedicated to the issue of domestic violence, and the recent events that associated Greg with that issue. We know that Greg’s status remains under review by the National Football League. Our organization understands the very serious nature of domestic violence in our society and in our league. We know that Greg has a firm understanding of those issues as well."
There isn’t any controversy over the numbers, though. While the initial cap hit is a modest $3.2 million, Dallas could be paying Hardy over $13 million when all is said and done.
The concern over Hardy’s status with the league -- he’s still waiting to hear if and how long he’d be suspended for -- played a pivotal role in the construction of the one-year deal he agreed to this week. Make no mistake about it, although Dallas waited until the second week of free agency, in most ways this deal is highly representative of ..... Hardy being one of the league’s premiere pass-rushers, as we explain here in a Cowboys/Hardy X's-and-O's look .
There is no guaranteed money, so Dallas can walk away whenever it wants. However, the cap hit Dallas will likely take on if Hardy plays any significant time with the club in 2015 dwarfs what they would have endured with a longer deal structured in a way considered typical for Dallas. It’s laughable to consider a deal that will impact the cap between $7 and $13m in one season as "a second-tier signing'' -- aside from the timing of it. Dallas is paying a premium price, and in exchange for no guaranteed money, was granted, according to CowboysHQ.com sources, a “no franchise or transition tag” agreement.
Unlike their deal with Henry Melton last year, Dallas will not have the right of first refusal with Hardy next offseason. Here’s how the $13.116 million deal breaks down.
Base Salary This is the easy part. Hardy will be paid $750,000 in base salary. It will be paid out equally over the 17 weeks of the regular season.
Workout Bonus The workout bonus of $1,311,116 is paid to Hardy for participating in the 2015 offseason workouts. These begin April 20th, the first date teams with returning coaching staffs can unite as one.
Performance Bonuses Sacks aren’t the name of the game, but they sure are pretty. As such, Hardy will receive bonuses for reaching the following milestones. 8 sacks on the year earns Hardy $500,000. If he achieves 10 sacks, it jumps to $1,000,000. 12 sacks bumps it to $1.4m and 14 or more sacks bumps it to $1,804,440.
Since Hardy only tallied one sack in 2014 before being put on the Commissioner’s Exempt list, all of these performance bonuses are classified as not “likely to be earned” incentives (NLTBE). This means that the incentives will not be included in Hardy’s initial salary cap hit. If achieved, they will be added to the cap at the conclusion of the season. At that point, if Dallas does not have the room under the 2015 cap, the charges will be added to the 2016 cap, without penalty.
53-man Roster Bonuses Here’s where it gets interesting. Dallas will pay Hardy $578,125 for every game that he is on the active roster. If he avoids suspension completely, this amount will grow to $9.25 million for the season.
Because Hardy was on the active roster for two games last season (he only played in one) only two games worth of the roster bonus are considered likely to be earned. The threshold for incentives is based on whatever level was reached in the previous season. Anything above, is considered not likely to be earned.
It gets tricky with per-game bonuses, however. These particular NLTBE bonuses are added to the cap hit as they accrue. So while Dallas does not have to carve out space for these hits now, they will have to carry the necessary room into the season, or be prepared to create room as Hardy’s “games played” count rises.
This can be done in several ways. Currently, Hardy’s deal accounts for roughly $3.2 million of the approximately $5.4 mil of space Dallas had entering the deal. Once Dallas knows the length of any suspension Hardy faces, they will then sketch out how much of the remaining $8.1 mil of roster bonuses they need to prepare for. The club still has several options at the behest. Including a release of or reduction of Brandon Carr, a restructure for Tony Romo, or even possibly a long-term deal with Dez Bryant.