We interrupt this vacation to bring you the latest in the Cedric Benson situation.
Well, maybe not the latest. We’re simpy going to try to tie a bow on this one and be done with it as efficiently as we can.
While it’s been suggested at least in some places that Benson will count $3.5 million vs. the Bears’ salary cap this season, that’s not accurate. Benson will not be owed his base salary of $820,000, and the only thing left on his contract to figure is the $4 million signing bonus he received in 2005 and the $7.1 million option bonus the contract included.
Using those figures he will count $2.575 million against the cap this year and again in 2009. It actually represents a savings for this year and that’s hardly a burdensome figure in terms of dead money for ’09. This is all provided Benson, who was placed on waivers, is not claimed. If he’s claimed, there will be acceleration and the Bears will be looking at a different scenario. It’s doubtful anyone will claim the troubled former fourth overall pick.
The question remaining is if the club will pursue Benson for a portion of the money he’s been paid. Benson has pocketed $13.7 million for three seasons, short of the $16 million guaranteed in the deal (more on that later) and less than half of the maximum value of $29.96 million.
The deal included the $4 million signing bonus, $7.1 million option bonus, a conditional 2005 roster bonus of $1.44 million and the annual base salaries. The three bonuses all had language tied to them that provides the Bears with an opportunity to recoup a pro-rated portion if he is found to be in default of his contract. According to the deal, Benson could have $5.726 million in jeopardy. This is where it gets gray, as in charcoal. While the contract stipulates that conduct detrimental to the team or a violation of the league’s personal conduct policy can put him in default, it’s not that easy.
A U.S. district judge ruled in February that the Atlanta Falcons could seek reimbursement from jailed quarterback Michael Vick for only a pro-rated portion of his signing bonus, that going after additional monies (such as roster bonuses or option bonuses) would violate the collective bargaining agreement. With that as precedent, the Bears could seek only $1.6 million from Benson, the pro-rated portion of his signing bonus.
To be in default, Benson would likely have to be convicted on one or both of his arrests in Texas or suspended by the league. It could be the club just wants to wash its hands of Benson and move forward, get a clean break. It could be the club has not made a determination. Maybe general manager Jerry Angelo will shed some light on this in the future. Stay tuned.
As far as the guaranteed money totaling $16 million ... Benson never realized that figure because he was that bad on the field. The contract included multiple opportunities for him to trigger two $1.73 million bonuses ($3.46 million total). He finished with 674 yards rushing last season when he broke his left leg/ankle, leaving him 27 yards shy of triggering one of the bonuses. They were simple requirements and a variety of ways he could have earned the money by now. It just didn’t happen. So count it as a savings. So much for some guarantees.
Benson’s departure parallels that of Tank Johnson. He was given an ultimatum of sorts last June and within 36 hours or so of the offseason program wrapping up at Halas Hall, Johnson found himself facing charges (he was eventually exonerated) of drunk driving in Gilbert, Ariz.
It’s not how the team handled defensive lineman Bryan Robinson. He picked up two DUI’s in four-month span in 2002. Robinson also broke each wrist (one required surgery) in what he said was a fall down some steps in his home. A member of the Bears coaching staff at the time later said Robinson told the club he was actually injured in an ATV accident. Whatever. The point is, Robinson had multiple booze arrests like Benson and he lived to play another down under the same administration that told Benson he was done on Monday. Robinson started 77 of 79 games for the Bears during one stretch. Perhaps the difference is Benson never made himself indispensable on the field.
That, after all, is what this was all about, right?