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Buccaneers probably cannot release Mike Williams without a big cap hit

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers would have to bite a bullet to cut Mike Williams. That doesn't mean it won't happen, though.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The will-he-or-won't-he-be-cut saga continues with Pewter Report's latest salvo: if cut after June 1 (or designated as a post-June 1 cut), Mike Williams' 2015 salary wouldn't count against the 2014 salary cap, but against the 2015 cap. I have some issues with that statement, primarily that it's just not true. Per the CBA (13.6.b.ii and 13.6.d.iv), the June 1 rule applies only to signing bonuses, not to guaranteed salary.

Moreover, even if the rule did apply to guaranteed salary, this fact would not be overly relevant. Because salary cap space carries over, whether the cap hit takes place in 2014 or 2015 is largely immaterial as the net effect is the same. Especially so because the Bucs could compensate for any excess 2014 cap hits by pushing some of Darrelle Revis' cap hits into the future, which they have the contractual right to do.

None of this means that Mike Williams will or won't be cut, it just means that the reporting on his guaranteed salaries is starting to get incredibly muddled. So, let's just go through the facts as we know them.

  • Mike Williams $1.2 million 2014 and $5.2 million 2015 salaries are fully guaranteed, per Pat Yasinskas and Joel Corry.
  • If cut this year, those salaries would accelerate onto the 2014 salary cap, for a total cap hit of $6.4 million in the 2014 season, regardless of when he's cut. The Bucs have the cap space to absorb that hit if they need to.
  • If cut and signed by another team, the salary earned with a new team would count against the money owed him by the Buccaneers. Of course, his new team would know this and would probably not pay him any more than the league minimum, as happened when the Ravens signed T.J. Houshmandzadeh in 2010. Those offsets could save the Bucs some $1.5 million or so in cap space over 2014 and 2015.
  • It is possible that there are clauses in Mike Williams' contract that would void the guarantees, in cases of off-field misconduct. Those clauses would have to be extremely strict to apply in a case of misdemeanor charges (no convictions) and civil suits, and there would likely be grievances filed and a protracted battle if the Bucs try to go this route. But it's possible.
  • Alternatively, a trade would let the Buccaneers off the hook for his salary, but those guarantees make it harder to find a trade partner.
  • In addition, the Buccaneers currently have no depth at wide receiver, so cutting Williams would hurt the team on the field.
  • The off-field incidents paint a picture of a player who enjoys partying a little too much, and Lovie Smith and Jason Licht both commented negatively on Williams' off-field incidents.
  • Williams will probably have the offseason to prove his dedication to football.

I maintain that it is unlikely that Mike Williams will be cut this year. It's certainly not impossible, but it's difficult to see how it would immediately benefit the Buccaneers. There are three situations in which I can see Williams being cut, though:

  1. If more serious allegations pop up, or if he continues to display off-field issues during the offseason.
  2. If Lovie Smith wants to set an example early in his tenure, showing that even guaranteed salary won't protect you if you don't behave.
  3. If the Bucs find a way void Williams' guarantees due to undisclosed contract terms.

For now, despite all the speculation and reports, Mike Williams is still a Buccaneer and likely to remain one.