Derek Cox was signed to the San Diego Chargers last year during Free Agency, to a 4-year, $20 million contract with $10 million guaranteed. At the time, many around here were fairly upbeat about the signing. In fact, Derek Cox received the second-most votes in last year's "Which Chargers Player Signing Has Been Your Favorite" poll. At the time, readers were far much excited for Derek Cox than they were for King Dunlap.
That optimism quickly turned to despair once the season got under way. It's difficult to put it any other way: Derek Cox's first season with the San Diego Chargers has been an unmitigated disaster. So what happened?
It's been pretty well document and analyzed on here that, for a number of reasons, Derek Cox was not playing up to the level that his skills suggest he has. He was playing out of position (thanks Pagano), he lacked confidence, and he lacked the solid fundamentals a cornerback needs to perform well in the NFL.
Well, Cox is due to make $4.25 million in 2014. If he stays with the team, his cap hit is $5.5 million ($4.25m salary + $1.3m signing bonus).
If he's released before the league year begins – March 11th at 1:00pm PDT – then he's not due any salary. However, he was given a $5.2 million signing bonus, of which he's still owed $3.9 million. This would now be considered "dead cap money", and the team already has $7.75 million in dead cap money for 2014 from the Gaither and Meachem contracts. So now that number climbs to $11.65 million of lost cap space.
If he's released after June 1st, then the team can break up his signing bonus cap hit over the next two seasons. So then he would only count $1.3 million against the cap in 2014 and $2.6 million in 2015.
If you take a chance on him and keep him for 2014, but cut him next year, then he would only count $2.6 million against the cap in 2015.
What do you do?
So, the most expensive option is to keep him. But he's going to cost a decent chunk no matter what the team does. Cox received $6m just by joining the team last year, so they've invested quite a bit of money (and cap space) already in Cox. Wouldn't you want that money to go towards a tangible player, one that you know has the potential to be a legit #1 corner in the NFL? Isn't the investment enough for you to take a chance on him for 2014?
In 2013, the Chargers were up against the cap. They've been given a little more breathing room in 2014 with the increase in the salary cap. However, they still have to be wise about how they spend their money. While the dead money is quite a bit, the Chargers would still save $1.6m by cutting Cox ($3.9m vs $5.5m) before March 11. That money could go towards another free agent's contract (albeit not a top-flight free agent).
Or the team can hold on to Cox until June 1st, and at least lessen the blow of the contract this year. But they would be handcuffing themselves in 2015, potentially needing that money to sign a key free agent. But this would give the team a chance to see who they can get in free agency and in the draft this year, in addition to getting a look at Cox in OTAs again.