As of Sept. 7, Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com reported that eight of the 32 NFL teams had less than $3 million in available salary cap space.
One of those teams was the Oakland Raiders, who had $2.3 million in cap space remaining entering the season, despite releasing pass-rushing defensive end Kamerion Wimbley, restructuring the contracts of Carson Palmer, Richard Seymour and Michael Huff, and signed franchise safety Tyvon Branch to a multi-year extension in order to remain cap compliant during the offseason.
A remaining player who was a prime candidate for a restructure was veteran defensive tackle Tommy Kelly, who had been scheduled to earn $6 million in non-guaranteed base salary in 2012. On the day before Oakland's season-opening loss to the San Diego Chargers, Kelly agreed to a restructured contract that guaranteed the $6 million he was scheduled to earn while freeing up $3.45 million in space for the Raiders.
In the restructure, Kelly reduced his base salary to the league minimum ($825,000) and the remaining $5.175 million was split between a $2.175 million signing bonus and a $3 million roster bonus, both of which will be prorated over the next three seasons. Kelly's cap numbers in 2013 and 2014 will both increase by $1.75 million, reaching a high $11.099 million next season.
One side note on Kelly's reworked deal is that he is operating without a player agent. Kelly had been represented by the late Gary Wichard, who passed away in March 2011 from complications from diabetes and pancreatic cancer.
Johnathan Joseph Clears Path For Schaub Extension
The Houston Texans had the second-lowest amount of salary cap room remaining on that Sept. 7 list, but were able to sign Matt Schaub to a four-year, $62 million contract (and sign Tim Jamison to a two-year extension) over the weekend after creating space by restructuring the contract of cornerback Johnathan Joseph.
Signed to a five-year, $48.75 million contract after the 2011 lockout, Joseph was scheduled to earn $7.25 million in base salary this season, $5.5 million of which was fully guaranteed. As initially reported by John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, on the eve of the season-opener, the Texans and Joseph agreed to convert $5 million of Joseph's base salary into a signing bonus that will be prorated ($1.25 million per year) over the next four seasons. The restructure lowered Joseph's base salary to $2.25 million ($500,000 was fully guaranteed upon the restructure, but as a vested veteran, the entire amount is now fully guaranteed) and his 2012 cap number decreased from $9.75 million to $6 million, a savings of $3.75 million this season.
The flipside of the restructure is that Joseph's cap numbers in 2013-15 has increased by $1.25 million, with his cap hits going from $10 million to $11.25 million in both 2013 and 2014 and reaching $12.25 million in 2015.