BROWNS WON’T AVOID $5 MILLION BY CUTTING ANDERSON
NFL player contracts often include roster bonuses due early in the offseason. The goal is to force the team to make a quick decision as to whether the player is in the plans for the coming year. Since base salaries typically aren’t guaranteed, a team can squat on a player long after the free-agency market has evaporated, and then cut him at a time when it’s too late either to get paid or to get prepared to be successful on a new roster. Every once in a while, the team pays the bonus and then makes the ultimate decision later. The Titans, for example, once paid running back Eddie George a $1 million roster bonus in March 2004, only to release him later in the offseason. This year, Browns quarterback Derek Anderson is due to receive a $5 million roster bonus in March. The widespread thinking is that they’ll try to trade him before the bonus comes due, because the only alternative is to cut him. But a league source tells us that the $5 million roster bonus is fully guaranteed by $5 million in salary and other payments, all of which will hit the cap in 2009 because, in 2010, there is no salary cap. So if the Browns cut him or if they keep him, they’re still on the hook for $5 million. How this affects trade talks remains to be seen. On one hand, there’s even greater urgency for the Browns to do a deal before the roster bonus comes due, since that’s the only way to avoid paying the $5 million. On the other hand, the Browns might take the position that, if they’re on the hook for the $5 million regardless of whether they keep him or cut him, they might as well keep him around for another year. New coach Eric Mangini might have been already laying the foundation for the “screw it, we’ll keep him” approach on Thursday, when he didn’t commit to Brady Quinn as the starter. Regardless, the fact that Anderson’s $5 million roster bonus is fully guaranteed by $5 million in other payments represents a fairly large Cleveland Steamer that Phil Savage has left for the next G.M. (whoever it might be) to clean up.