Friday afternoon, things got a little bit crazy when Anthony Davis released a statement announcing his "retirement". I use quotation marks because he said he planned on coming back in "a year or so". He wants to get his brain and body right. We'll see if he does in fact return, but in the meantime, there are financial issues to consider.
I wrote a quick discussion of salary cap implications shortly after the news broke, and I wanted to follow up with some more specifics. Davis signed a contract extension back in 2013 that included a signing bonus and an option bonus. The total dead money upon his retirement was set at $6,366,670, split up as $3,366,670 for 2015 and $3,000,000 for 2016. The money included $4,666,670 in signing bonus proration and $1,700,000 in option bonus proration.
Pro Football Talk reported on Friday that Davis is set to pay back the $4,666,670 in "unearned" signing bonus proration. He was paid that money back in 2013, but it is prorated out for cap purposes. Teams are allowed to pursue that money when a player retires during his contract. Chris Borland had a similar issue, and he too is reportedly paying that money back to the 49ers.
The 49ers will not be able to pursue the $1.7 million because of technicalities surrounding option bonuses. Article, Section 9(b) of the collective bargaining agreement addresses forfeitable salary. Davis was paid the option bonus in a previous year (I can't remember which year). Had he received that option bonus this league year, he would have had to pay it back. Since he received it in a previous league year, he does not have to pay it back.
(b) Forfeitable Salary Allocations. For the purposes of this Section, the term "Forfeitable Salary Allocations" means: (i) for signing bonus, the Salary Cap allocation for the player's signing bonus for that League Year; and (ii) for roster, option and reporting bonuses that are earned in the same League Year as the Forfeitable Breach, the allocation of such bonus for that League Year, out of the total amount of such bonus as allocated over that League Year and any remaining League Years in the player's contract, notwithstanding the Salary Cap treatment of such bonuses. For example, without limita- tion, if a player has a $1 million roster bonus that is earned in the same year the player committed a Forfeitable Breach, then, regardless of when that roster bonus is to be paid, that bonus is attributable to the same year as the Forfeitable Breach; if the player has that year and one additional year remaining on his contract, then $500,000 of the roster bo- nus will be allocated to each of those years for purposes of any potential forfeiture calculation. If the Forfeitable Breach occurs in the second League Year in this example (i.e., the League Year after the roster bonus in this example is earned), there shall be no forfeiture of any portion of such roster bonus.
What this all means is the 49ers will get $4,666,670 in cap space credited back. The question of course is when exactly this will happen. More than likely, the 49ers would not get that credit until next year (2016). I don't know this for certain, but I believe this to be the case. I'll keep an eye on the NFLPA public salary cap report to see if that number changes this offseason to reflect the Davis re-payment.
One thing I do wonder is what this means if Davis does in fact return. I believe he will remain under contract to the 49ers, even if he returns his signing bonus money. I don't think I would be surprised if Davis returns, but if he is concerned about head trauma, it does not make a lot of sense to return to the game. Maybe he ends up back, but I'm not holding my breath for it.