According to a report from ESPN’s Field Yates, the Detroit Lions have restructured defensive tackle and team captain Michael Brockers' contract in order to create an additional $2 million in salary cap space. This move is almost identical to the restructure the Lions did with Taylor Decker’s contract, except that move cleared $4.5 million.
The biggest catalyst driving these decisions likely stems from the amount of cap space the Lions currently have allocated to injured reserve. At the time of the Decker restructure, the Lions had around $4 million tied up due to players on injured reserve. But since then, the Lions reached injury settlements to help mitigate that amount, but have also placed Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Levi Onwuzurike on injured reserve. As a result, that number is now bumped up to $11.3 million.
Before this move, the Lions had around $4.4 million in total salary cap space. While more space will be gained as players return from IR/PUP/NFI lists, none of those players are eligible to be back on the active roster for at least the next three weeks. Therefore, the Lions must have felt this move was necessary in order to gain some relief over the next month—or more—of the season.
Following Brockers’ restructure, the Lions now have roughly $6.4 million in salary cap space.
If you’re not familiar with how restructures work, $4 million of Brockers’ base salary is converted into a signing bonus. Like all signing bonuses, they are paid out to the player immediately, but the team is allowed to spread the bonus out throughout the remaining years of the player's contract. So with Brockers signed through 2023, the Lions are able to spread $2 million out over this season and next.
So for 2022, Brockers’ base salary has $4 million removed, but his signing bonus has $2 million added, equaling $2 million in cap space saved for the Lions this season. The remaining $2 million signing bonus is applied to Brockers 2023 contract.
The upside for the player is he gets paid now, instead of throughout this season, but his overall payout remains the same. The upside for the team is immediate cap relief.
The downside for the team is that they have now pushed $2 million into next year's salary cap, and they have made it more difficult to move on from Brockers—if they deem necessary—as he now has an increased cap penalty if they cut/trade him before his contract expires in 2023.
With Brockers’ contract now on the 2023 books at nearly $14 million—with almost $4 million guaranteed—it surely has some fans wondering why they choose him for this restructuring.
Simply put, they didn’t have a lot of options.
Back in February, I broke down how the Lions had just seven players' contracts available for restructuring, and that number is even smaller now. Amongst those seven, they have already done what they wanted with Decker’s contract, Trey Flowers is no longer on the roster, and a Frank Ragnow contract restructure would not clear enough money. That left the following players as the options: Brockers, Vaitai, Jared Goff, and Romeo Okwara.
When you take a closer look at those contracts, there weren’t a lot of great options and Brockers had the lowest amount of guaranteed money invested in 2023.