The Detroit Lions reportedly re-signed Jalen Reeves-Maybin to a one-year contract on Monday and the details of that offer show that both sides took advantage of a relatively new, but very beneficial, CBA rule established in 2020.
Here’s how the rule works. In order to promote opportunities for veteran players, the NFL and NFLPA agreed upon a veteran salary benefit that will allow a player to be paid more than the league minimum by a team on a one-year offer, yet the team will only have the league minimum, plus appropriate bonuses, applied to their salary cap.
To qualify for this veteran salary benefit, a player must be in their fifth year in the league, have spent the first four years with the same organization, and be on an expiring contract.
The Lions had two players who met these qualifications in this free agency cycle: Reeves-Maybin and Jamal Agnew—who signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
With a league minimum for fourth-year players $990,000, that is the starting point for the base salary of the contract. The Lions have the potential to offer up to $1.25 million more in base salary, but none of the additional money will count against the cap. Next is the signing bonus and the CBA rule stipulates the team can offer $137,500 in a signing bonus, which will count towards the cap. Beyond the signing bonus, how much of the offer is guaranteed is up to the team and player to determine during negotiations.
The Lions offered Reeves-Maybin the $990,000 base, plus the full $1.25 million option, as well as the $137,500 signing bonus, which equates to a one-year $2,377,500 contract. Additionally, to sweeten the pot, the Lions fully guaranteed the offer and Reeves-Maybin accepted.
While the Lions will be paying Reeves-Maybin $2,377,500 in 2021, $1.25 million of it does not count against the cap. Therefore, Lions’ will only have $1,127,500 count towards their salary cap this season.
There is one final wrinkle in this contract that helps Reeves-Maybin: the guarantees all but assure he will be on the 2021 roster. Because the full $2,377,500 is guaranteed, if the Lions were to cut Reeves-Maybin, the entire amount would count against the cap—meaning, it would cost them $1.25 million more to release him as opposed to just keeping him on the roster. Now, if Reeves-Maybin doesn't perform well enough to make the 53-man roster, the Lions may elect to absorb the extra cap hit—it is only half a percent of the overall salary cap—but the extra money does add some incentive to keep him around.
In the end, it’s additional money for Reeves-Maybin and less of a cap hit for the Lions.