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DJ Chark will count just $4 million against Detroit Lions cap in 2022

Due to some nifty bookkeeping, the Lions will actually be paying more for Chark when he’s not on the team than when he is.

NFL: SEP 13 Colts at Jaguars

The Detroit Lions agreed to terms with wide receiver DJ Chark on Tuesday. When it was first reported, the deal was described as a one-year, $10 million deal, with all of that money guaranteed. Since it’s a one-year deal and all that money is guaranteed, it was presumed he would count $10 million against the cap.

However, further details have come out about the contract, and Chark’s cap hit will actually be just over $4 million in 2022. Why? Because the deal is technically a three-year contract, but with two automatically voided years. Chark will not see those two extra years on the team (unless they re-work a deal next year). The purpose of the extra years is to spread out the cap hit of Chark’s $8.965 million signing bonus.

Let’s use some examples to illustrate the point.

If Chark’s contract was a normal one-year, $10 million guaranteed contract, it would look like this.

Base salary: $1.035M
Signing bonus: $8.95M
Cap hit: $10 million

With the two extra years, it looks like this:


Base salary: $1.035M
Signing bonus: $2.988 million ($8.95 million divided by 3)
Cap hit: $4.02M


Base salary: N/A (VOIDED YEAR)
Signing bonus: $2.988 million
Cap hit: $5.98M


Base salary: N/A (VOIDED YEAR)
Signing bonus: $2.988 million

So when the contract automatically voids at the beginning of the 2023 season, the two remaining signing bonus prorations accelerate to that year, resulting in a collective cap hit of nearly $6 million. Yes, that means Chark will actually cost the team more when he’s off the team in 2023 ($6 million) than when he’s on the team in 2022 ($4 million). It’s still a $10 million cap hit, just spread over two years.

Why would the Lions do this?

Well, for one, it’s always a little better to kick salary cap into the future. With the salary cap expected to rise—as it almost always does—next year, that extra $6 million in cap space will be a smaller percentage of the overall cap than it is this year.

It also gives the Lions more spending money in 2022, suggesting they are far from done making moves this free agency.

Extrapolating a little further, it could also mean that the Lions intend to draft a wide receiver in the near future. It will be a lot more tolerable to take on that extra $6 million cap hit next year if Chark is being replaced by an young receiver on an inexpensive rookie deal.

In essence, the Lions found a nifty way to get Chark his money right away without it damaging the Lions’ chances to find more talent in free agency this year. You never want to rely on kicking too much cap space down the road, but given that Detroit’s future cap space is relatively clean due to a lot of one-year deals recently, this helps more than it hurts the Lions.

Of course, the entire dynamics of this deal could change if the Lions decide to re-sign Chark after 2022, but they will still have to deal with that extra $6 million in one way or another.