Refresher on the “vested veteran” guarantee
Every year at this time, we begin to eyeball NFL rosters for veteran players who could be cut due to the reality that, if they are on any team as of Week One, their full base salaries become, as a practical matter, guaranteed.
The rule comes from Article XXIII of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which provides each player having four or more seasons in the league with a one-time right to “termination pay.”
If a so-called “vested veteran” is on a team at the start of the season and thereafter is released, he has the right to collect the balance of his base salary for the season -- even if he later signs with another team.
Each player may do this only once in his career.
For vested veterans signed after the season starts, the available termination pay drops dramatically. Each player is entitled to the balance of the first 25 percent of his base salary or one week’s pay based on the minimum salary for players with 10 or more years of service, whichever is greater.
The CBA also permits a team to disqualify a vested veteran from receiving termination pay, if the team sent a written warning to the player regarding his failure to exhibit a level of good-faith effort that can be reasonably expected from an NFL player -- and if the player thereafter failed to exhibit such effort. We’re not aware of anyone ever relying on this defense; as a practical matter, a vested veteran who isn’t getting the job done gets cut before the season starts.
Then again, some players are regarded as too important to the team to cut, even if they are lollygagging. In this regard, the Bucs may want to think about sending a written warning to defensive end Stylez White, whom they apparently believe isn’t working hard enough in practice. If he continues this trend and ultimately doesn’t play well enough in games, the Bucs could cut him and then try to block his entitlement to termination pay.