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What's the Salary Cap hit if the Bengals trade Chad Johnson?

So reader MP45242 wondered what the salary cap would be if the Bengals decided to trade Chad Johnson. First, I needed to know what is hit when a team trades a player. A bit of history. When the Redskins put Laveranues Coles on the trading block:

If Washington trades the wide receiver, whom they signed as a restricted free agent in 2003, forfeiting a first-round draft choice to the New York Jets in that transaction, they face a cap impact in excess of $9 million. Efforts to have Coles bypass a $5 million deferred signing bonus due him on April 1, a move that would have dramatically decreased the cap hit, seem to have fallen apart. Coles had originally agreed to forfeit the $5 million, but only as part of an agreement that he would be released, and able to choose his next team.

So the cap hit would seem to figure on that player's prorated signing bonus.

John Clayton writes:

Often, it's because of that pro-rated signing bonus hit. Unlike releasing a player, there is no way that a team trading a player can delay taking a salary cap hit. Once a player is traded, the remaining pro-ration is moved into that season. The same standard applies if a player released on waivers is acquired in a waiver claim. Through most of the year, this only applied to players who haven't qualified for unrestricted free agency -- those players who haven't been through four NFL seasons. Waiver claims move up the cap hit immediately. The trading deadline begins Feb. 28.

So we accelerate the signing bonus to the year that the player was traded, from my understanding. Johnson signed a six-year deal in 2006 (actually five years with sixth year being an option) giving him $35.5 million. In that piece, it says Chad's contract includes a $5 million signing bonus. Since 2006 and 2007 are finished, we need to take that prorated bonus and apply it for four seasons -- adding $3.3 million against the cap next season.

But what about dead money? I hear that term a lot and don't understand why it's often described in a different breath that simply a cap hit. Well, there's nothing different about it, according to this San Francisco Gate piece.

Dead money refers to a portion of signing bonuses paid in the past to players who no longer are with the team.

Here's how it works:

Signing bonuses are prorated over the length of a contract for salary-cap purposes. If a player leaves the team before his contract expires, the remaining prorated portion of the bonus is counted immediately, in a lump sum, against the cap.

For example, when the 49ers got rid of Jeff Garcia following the 2003 season, they had to account for about $10 million of signing bonus previously paid to him but not yet counted against the cap.

That is known as "dead money."

So if we're specifically speaking about Chad Johnson's prorated signing bonus over the life of his existing contract, then we're looking at the mid-three million range.

Here's my questions. Do we worry about roster, workout, reporting and option bonuses? I tend to think no, simply because that's not considered signing bonuses as per the above references. But if it does, as calculated by in "dead money", that would make the cap hit reach near or over $17 million in 2008. However, to me, that doesn't calculate to that number simply by taking his prorated signing bonus over the contracts life -- which we figured above.

Furthermore, his salary cap value is an additional $3 million per season over his base salary -- which typically means the prorated portion of the contract. Figured into that, then the $17 million cap hit is more realistic. What exactly those amortized bonuses are, I'm not sure.

Geoff Hobson made reference of a hit being between $5-7 million in a early January mail response talking about the negatives of trading Johnson.

What bigger problem could there be for a receiver-oriented offense than missing your most explosive one, plus being unable to help your defense because you blew up the salary cap to the tune of about $5-7 million to take the salary cap hit of a trade?

So, in conclusion, the hit could be in the mid $3 million range. Or between $5-7 million. Or as much as $17 million. In conclusion, we really didn't learn much, did we?