Salary cap Q&A

Andrew Brandt, the Green Bay Packers' vice president of player finance, answered questions about the salary cap by members of the media prior to the start of the 2001 season last August. Here's how Brandt responded to some of the questions:<p>

On when a team goes after bonus money that is usually guaranteed to a player:

"We have morals clauses in all our contracts. They allow for forfeiture of the bonus. It is important to note that forfeiture of the bonus that what is required is missing time due to whatever morals problem there is. Whether it's drugs, gambling, alcohol, crime. A player has to miss time due to suspension or him being unable to participate due to those problems. There are morals clauses that allow forfeiture of the bonus. It is prorated usually to what time period the player is missing."

On what is one of the biggest misconceptions in negotiating:

"Having been on the other side, I was told a lot, ‘We just can't do this.' Now I'm the one saying, ‘We can't do this.' Now I know why. The simplist answer to that is what I said, ‘Every action has a reaction.' I'd love to help ya, but I can't.

"Sometimes you try to guild the agent and player into the fact that if we do this we'll have to cut this guy or reduce this guy.

"Agents are very affable when it comes to helping you with your cap. They all have ways. Basically is comes down to, ‘Just give him a big bonus and small salary. Spread it out seven years.' That's not what you want to from our prospective and in 90% of the cases. You don't want to give a player a big bonus and spread it out over seven years just to take a smaller cap hit."

On what kind of shape the Packers are in for the salary cap in 2002 and '03:

"I was starting to sweat (during training camp of 2000). Because I saw our future. A tough situation. We were a lot over the cap. We had to sign Darren and Ryan. We had to renegotiate Brett and do some other things. Luckily it all worked out.

"I don't think we're going to be in a situation like that this year where I don't get to sleep for three months. I think it will be a little more realistic. We've got our big one signed in Ahman Green. In 2002 we were in the middle of the pack whereas last year we were at the bottom of the pack at this time."

On if the Packers will have to take a dip and go through some non-winning seasons because of the big contracts that were given out after the 2000 season:

"I hope we don't have to do that. I don't think we will. We've got a special player here in (Brett) Favre. This is not a rebuilding situation as long as he's here. We have to always be cognizant of that. We have to surround him as best we can and not take a dip.

"There are people around the league that say you have to, you have to go through that dip that the Cowboys and 49ers have been through in the past couple years. I hope we don't. I'm not arrogant enough to say it won't happen. Hopefully we don't have to do that, and hopefully 8-8 is the bottom of our dip. That's what we hope." On Mike Sherman handling duties as GM and coach:

"He's a bright guy. He really is. He understands this stuff. He asks the right questions. He knows were we have to go. He understands that there are limits. In some ways he's very similar to Ron. His meetings are very short and to the point and not a lot of extraneous stuff. ... He was very instrumental in the reductions we played out (last) winter. It's a good situation right now. He understands it. He knows it. He's lived with it in the NFL."

On if Packers will have a problem with cap if Brett Favre is injured:

"There's no way to avoid a potential problem that could be large in the next couple of years. We all hope as fans and as cap managers that we don't face that. That this guy plays three, four, five years. If he does not, for whatever reason, we have a problem. A problem competitively and a problem capwise. But you take the risk with players that you feel comfortable taking the risk with. You take a big risk with Brett Favre, but the guy never misses a game. ... We're comfortable with his contract."

On what percentage of cap revenue paid out to marquee players:

"I think from team to team it's pretty standard around the league, but about half the cap is tied up in your top 10 (players). Some teams are at 40 percent, some teams are at 60 percent. We're looking around the league at top 10 cap numbers taking up about half of your cap.

"I know the union fights to say there is a middle class. On this team we do have a representative middle class, but the fact is you need to pay your stars, your difference-makers. Sometimes my job is trying to pay your bottom 40 as little as possible so you can pay your top 10, because you've got to keep your star players."

On ramifications of signing a player to an extension during the season as opposed to off-season:

"We have two deadlines. We have a mid-October deadline where we can add salary to a player's contract. We can address their paragraph 5 through the 10th week of the season. After that and before that we're certainly allowed to renegotiate the bonus. That bonus becomes prorated this year as well as succeeding years. When we did Nate Wayne's contract the day before the end of the (2000) season, we got the proration for 2000 along with future years. So when you see renegotiations at the end of the season, teams are using the existing year for proration. The key, of course, is you have to have cap room. That's a constant struggle, to keep afloat some cap room. If not, you're forced to do it after the season.

"The key for me is to when to go to a player. Sometimes it gets to a point where it's too late. If a player is X days or months from free agency it may be too late. I remember as an agent, I always sort of figured out that if a team didn't come to me by X date, I'll just wait for free agency. But there's always the risk of injury. That's what we're playing on. There are risks involved in every negotiation. It's identifying the risks from both sides."

On how a new or renovated stadium will help raise revenue for salary cap purposes and paying players:

"There's two kind of dollars that we're talking about. There's actual dollars and there's cap dollars. The cap dollars are not going to change. The cap dollars are going to be whatever the league allows us to spend. The actual dollars are going to change. You're looking at an organization that in 1999 had the highest actual spending in the league, and in 2000 had the second to lowest actual spending in the league.

"It's a cyclical function. The cap writes itself. In '99 we signed (Antonio) Freeman, (Santana) Dotson, (George) Koonce, (Bernardo) Harris, Tyrone Williams. The list goes on and on. In 2000, we signed Russell Maryland, John Thierry and our No. 1 pick. Those were the only bonus levels. In 2001, we were somewhere in the middle.

"It's a cyclical nature in actual dollars. What we talk about with the stadium is actual dollars, not cap dollars. Are we going to have the resources to compete. Cap dollars will always be there. It's the same. But are we going to have the actual dollars to compete bonus-wise? Because that's what every player focuses on. Bob Harlan and John Jones have been great. They have not denied me a player. We've been able to come in under budget on some of these player's contracts. It's not been an issue. I can't speculate if the (stadium) referendum didn't pass if it would have been an issue or not, but we don't have to deal with that."

On if he ever discovers anything with the cap:

"We're always self-scouting. That's the key to personnel and cap – we need to self-scout. Are we doing the right thing? Again, I've hired Melanie (Marohl) to help me. She's going to be focusing on other teams. What is everyone else doing? Are there things we're missing? Are we spending too much on linemen, on d-backs? On quarterbacks? Are we getting our bang for our buck.

"Our goal has been to marry personnel and cap (departments). I think it's so interrelated. As we go forward, it will be more and more interralated. I can look at team's decisions on players and I know their cap people and their personnel people are not on the same page. For example, they cut a player that's been there a year that they gave a big bonus to. They're trading players that they had different opinions on last year."

On how difficult it is to make a trade now in NFL:

"You want Ron Wolf's answer? It's certainly was frustrating for him because of acceleration. You trade a player, you accelerate. That is a cap hit that is sometimes unattainable. We traded Fred Vinson for Ahman Green. Great football move, maybe one of the greatest moves of all time. (But) a tough cap move. We had a second round pick that was one year into a four-year deal. Tough. Took a big hit on that. Aaron Brooks (traded to the New Orleans Saints) – one year into a four-year deal. Tough hit. But great football moves. Let's be clear: the goal is Super Bowl. They don't give out awards for having the most cap room.

"Players that are traded are usually in the last year of their contract because the team takes on just the prorated bonus for that year."

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