The numbers on Carl Nicks' injury settlement are finally in: he took a $3 million payoff to disappear and not play football, or attempt to play football, this year, according to ESPN. That's a hefty cut for Nicks, who would have earned $7 million by just sticking around through training camp and trying to make the best of a bad situation, $6 million of which was guaranteed against injury.
This means the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will have paid Nicks a whopping $28 million over three years to play nine games. He did play very, very well in those nine games -- but paying even the best guard in the NFL over $3 million per game is a bit much.
It's difficult to blame anyone for this situation, however. Nicks was a stud when the Bucs signed him, and no one could have predicted he'd tear his plantar plate, which will bother him for the rest of his life. And certainly no one saw that persistent MRSA infection coming, either. It's just a very unfortunate situation for all parties involved, though it does highlight one fact: spending a lot of money on any one player is bound to be risky, because injuries happen.
Buccaneers salary cap situation
With Nicks' injury settlement the Buccaneers should be at $13.7 million in salary cap space, per the NFLPA's salary cap database.* That's a hefty sum, but they can't spend all of it: they'll need a few million to operate during the season, to pay practice squad players and sign replacements for injured or otherwise released players, and to pay earned incentives and escalators, like Connor Barth's $1.15 million in per-game roster bonuses. More realistically, the Bucs can probably spend around $8 million fairly comfortably this year.
Not that they're likely to do that: there's not really anyone or anything they can spend this money on right now, and any money they don't spend will carry over and be added to next year's cap space. An extension for Gerald McCoy is probably coming, but unlikely to raise his 2014 cap hit of $15.6 million. It's more likely the new (sizable) cap hits on the defensive tackle's inevitable contract extension will come in future years.
* The NFLPA's database listed the Bucs' salary cap space as $16.71 million as of this writing, but that did not include Nicks' $3 million injury settlement.