After writing this article, where I tried to figure out how much cap space the Chargers would have after releasing Marcus McNeill, I was told that my estimate was high and that they'd actually have about $20 million in cap space after McNeill was gone. Then, suddenly, the Chargers (and 27 other NFL teams) were awarded $1.6 million in addition cap space. So we're heading into this post with the assumption that San Diego started with $21.6 million in cap space. Fair? You know it.
Hardwick re-signed before the start of free agency, luckily. His three-year contract could pay him as much as $13.5 million, but all we really care about is how much is guaranteed (in this case, it's $6.5 million).
Now, with most contracts, the first year is the most cap-friendly year. The player has gotten their cash in the form of a signing bonus, so they really don't care how large their guaranteed salary is until later when they've blown through that signing bonus money. Still, without getting a yearly breakdown of Hardwick's contract we have no idea what his cap hit for 2012 will be. The only thing we can really do is spread the money out over the length of the contract and assume that we're close.
Using that formula, Nick's annual cap hit is $2.16 million. That's far below the $2.7 million cap hit I predicted and, if our estimate of $21.6 million in cam room is to be believed, is exactly 10% of what the Chargers had to spend this offseason. Not a bad deal for re-signing your most important offensive lineman.
We'll have some more in-depth analysis on Meachem (and how he compares to Vincent Jackson) over the next few days. Today we're just talking about his contract. Luckily, the details of Meachem's deal were just announced.
Robert Meachem's deal w/SD: $7.5M to sign, base $1.5M in '12, $5M in '13 fully guaranteed. Bases of $5M ('13) and $6.5M ('14) #freeagency— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) March 14, 2012
The signing bonus gets spread over the length of the contract, so that's a $1.875 million against the cap each of the next four seasons. Pair that with the $1.5 million guaranteed for 2012, and his hit against the cap this season is a very manageable $3.375 million.
Time to Math
$21.6 million (total cap space) - $2.16 million (Hardwick's estimated 2012 cap hit) - $3.375 million (Meachem's 2012 cap hit) = $16.065 million in remaining salary cap space for 2012.
If you don't feel like Mathing, the above states that the Chargers have more than enough money to throw at Mario Williams if/when he visits San Diego.