Drew Brees and Matt Ryan have both reportedly agreed to restructure their mega contracts to allow the Saints and Falcons, respectively, to create salary cap relief that will help them navigate through free agency and the NFL Draft with more money.
If you're a Vikings fan you might be asking: Why don't the Vikings do the same with Kirk Cousins?
"In Kirk's case, he's only under contract for two more years so there's really nothing to restructure," says sports agent Blake Baratz, president of Minneapolis-based The Institute For Athletes.
"The only way they could restructure would be if they extended him, adding a year or two or three onto the deal, and then converted whatever some of his paid salary was going to be this year or next year into a signing bonus."
Botton line: Cousins' contract and age make it hard to compare his situation with the Vikings to the Saints and Brees or the Falcons and Ryan.
According to The Times-Picayune, the Saints freed up $10.8 million in cap space by restructuring Brees' deal.
Like Baratz explained, some of Brees' 2019 salary was converted into a signing bonus, which The Times-Picayune says will be paid to him over the length of a new contract that now includes "voidable shell years in 2020 and 2021 to spread out his cap hits."
But it's not like the Saints will breathe easy forever. The restructure will eventually come back to bite them.
The Louisiana-based newspaper says that the Saints will be facing all of Brees' cap charges – $21.3 million – when his current contract voids next year, although they could prorate the charges to future years if he continues playing.
"Eventually you take the cap hit," says Baratz, who counts among his clients is Vikings All-Pro wide receiver Adam Thielen.
The Falcons have a much easier situation with Ryan's contract because he still has four years remaining on his contract after 2019. According to ESPN's Field Yates, the Falcons turned $8.75 million of Ryan's base salary this year into a signing bonus, which will be prorated to $1.75 million a year through 2023.
The Vikings can technically restructure Cousins' contract by turning some of his 2019 base salary – $27.5 million – into signing bonus money. But without extending his deal, which expires after the 2020 season, there's only one place to stuff whatever amount they would hypothetically turn into signing bonus money: right on top of his already-massive 2020 cap hit.
For example, let's just say the Vikings turned $10 million of Cousins' 2019 salary into a signing bonus. It would give the team another $10 million to spend on free agents, but Cousins' 2020 cap hit would be $41 million.
How'd we get to $41 million?
- $29.5 million (2020 base salary)
- $1 million (one-third of his original $3 million signing bonus)
- $500,000 (workout bonus)
- $10 million (restructured 2019 money turned into signing bonus)
"There's really no restructure that you can do," Baratz explains. "There's no scenario that would make any sense for anyone unless they extended him."
"Restructuring is really just a mechanism to borrow from Peter to pay Paul. Eventually it catches up to you. And the Vikings would never do that and that's why they've been in such a cap-friendly place for so long because they've stuck to their principals."