The Contractual Ramifications Of Trading For Joe Flacco

Joe Flacco is poised to become a Bronco. What does that mean for both sides, as well as Case Keenum and the rest of the players on the team? In this post, I’ll set out some of the facts that will arise from this trade, in an effort to help us form better opinions, be they positive or negative on the merits.

Flacco’s incoming contract

Year Base Salary Prorated Bonus Cap Number
2019 $18,500,000 $0 $18,500,000
2020 $20,250,000 $0 $20,250,000
2021 $24,250,000 $0 $24,250,000

This contract, as is usually the case, is very simple. Flacco has no more guaranteed money left in his base salaries. All prorated bonus cap charges, meanwhile stay in Baltimore, hence the zeroes in that column for Denver. As it stands now, the Broncos could cut Flacco under the grand majority of situations with no further cap or cash cost.

Note that when judged against current quarterback pay by APY, Flacco’s 2019 and 2020 years are smack in the middle, at 17th and 16th. Further note that it is very close to Keenum’s APY.

While Ian Rapoport suggested that “[h]e’ll have to rework his deal for Denver“, other reporters, such as Nicki Jhabvala and Mike Klis, suggest that may not be the case. Whether or not they actually do, the contract gives them great latitude to restructure if they so choose. Here’s what a maximum restructure of the 2019 base salary of $17.4 million into a signing bonus would turn it into:

Year Base Salary Prorated Bonus Cap Number Dead Money
Cap Savings
2019 $1,100,000 $5,800,000 $6,900,000 $17,400,000 ($10,500,000)
2020 $20,250,000 $5,800,000 $26,050,000 $11,600,000 $14,450,000
2021 $24,250,000 $5,800,000 $30,050,000 $5,800,000 $24,250,000

Obviously, if the Broncos do this they are putting themselves on the hook for almost all of Flacco’s 2019 current salary by guaranteeing it into a signing bonus. But trading for Flacco is a strong sign that the Broncos are already committing themselves to paying that. Restructuring is by no means necessary, but it is an option that is absolutely on the table for the Broncos should they feel they need to do so to improve the roster now.

What does this trade do to the Broncos’ cap space?

Prior to the trade, the Broncos have $37.3 million in effective cap space, and $98 million in 2020. (I am deliberately ignoring 2021 due to that season being beyond the current CBA, and who knows what will happen then.) Those numbers are on the higher end of the league (13th and 8th). After the trade, the Broncos’ cap space, assuming no other moves for now, will fall to $18.8 million (23rd) and $78 million (18th).

But more moves will be made, of course–and there’s one that’s front and center:

What happens to Case Keenum?

Once the Broncos trade for Flacco, between he and Keenum, who is owed an $18 million salary ($7 million of it guaranteed) and has $3 million in prorated signing bonus money on the cap for a total of $21 million, the Broncos would have a total of $39 million in cap space and $36.5 million in cash devoted to the position. That obviously will not be sustainable, so something will have to be done to Keenum’s contract.

One way is to cut Keenum. This would immediately put $10 million in dead money on the Broncos’ 2019 cap, but they would gain $11 million in space. Note that a June 1 designation is not possible due to Keenum only having one year left on his deal. However, the Broncos can recoup some of the $7 million in salary guarantee via offsets if Keenum signs with another team in 2019. The veteran minimum for Keenum would be for $805,000, so at worst, the net dead money charge from Keenum would fall to $9.195 million if he does sign elsewhere.

The other way is if the Broncos are able to trade Keenum. This would relieve them of the $7 million guarantee, and only leave $3 million in dead money. The question, however, is whether the Broncos will be able to find a trade partner after effectively declaring their belief that Flacco will be an upgrade over Keenum.

Assuming for now that Keenum is cut, the Broncos’ 2019 cap space after that and the Flacco trade would be about $29.8 million, which is still in the middle leaguewide.

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If you have any other factual questions about what would happen upon a Flacco trade to Denver, feel free to ask them in the comments. I’ll hold off on my own opinion on the trade until tomorrow, at the earliest.