Bengals Jessie Bates won’t report to camp; Watson’s contract’s indirect impact

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Somewhere between “the salary cap is a myth” and “the salary cap keeps teams from keeping good players” is the truth.

The NFL uses the salary cap primarily as an accounting tool to keep teams in line with each other and encourage parity. Every dollar paid to a player must be accounted against the cap somehow. The creativity comes with the ability to decide when that happens.

The use of bonuses has long been a tool to spread cap hits out. Recently, teams have started using void years in contracts to do the same.

Generally, the salary cap doesn’t keep teams from retaining their top talent but often can cost them some of the middle-of-the-roster guys.

The Cincinnati Bengals, seemingly, have gone cheap with their franchise safety Jessie Bates and, now, he won’t be reporting to training camp:

According to the team’s owner, retaining other players like Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase is the highest priority:

One interesting aspect of the NFL’s financial rules is that all guaranteed money in a contract must be placed into a separate account by ownership immediately. Bates’ contract offer had very little guaranteed money over the franchise tag.

The Cleveland Browns could play a role in Cincinnati’s decision-making. The contract they gave QB Deshaun Watson was fully guaranteed which puts pressure on teams like the Bengals to guarantee a big chunk of Burrow’s contract. Kyler Murray, the latest quarterback to sign, has the second most guaranteed money at over $100 million.

From a salary cap perspective, the Cincinnati Bengals could find a way to keep all of their top players. From a cash-on-hand perspective, it is possible that they cannot upfront the kind of guaranteed money it would require to keep all of their top players. Brown’s use of Patrick Mahomes’ statement at the end of the above video seems to reference that.

Based on NFL rules, Bates can no longer sign a long-term deal this season.