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What would a Demaryius Thomas trade look like?

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Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

I've seen a lot of "#tradedt" in a number of comments in a number of threads here at MHR.  Some of the comments appear to be serious, while others are meant as a joke.  Either way, there appears to be a good bit of misunderstanding of the terms of DT's contract, and how they would affect the Broncos' salary cap in various scenarios.

For any player under contract with a team for a given year, there are 3 possible scenarios that can occur under the terms of the contract which can lead to 3 different effects on his team's salary cap for that year: the player is kept on the roster, the player is released, or the player is traded.  I've decided to take a look at the effects each of these potential scenarios would have on the Broncos' salary cap for each of the 4 years remaining in DT's contract in the hope of correcting the misunderstanding I've perceived.

This article is not intended to be interpreted as being for or against keeping, releasing, or trading DT. It is merely an analysis of how potential business decisions would affect the Broncos' salary cap. In order to prevent the math from becoming even more confusing (to me at least) than it already is, I'm going to assume that any scenario involving releasing or trading DT in a given year occurs before June 1st of that year.  All numbers (with a little bit of rounding applied) and contract details I will use are from spotrac.com and/or overthecap.com.

2016

If DT remains on the Broncos' roster for 2016, his cap hit will be $15.2M (his $13M guaranteed 2016 base salary + $2.2M in prorated signing bonus).  If DT is released in 2016, his dead money will be $30.3M (his $13M guaranteed 2016 base salary + his 2017 $8.5M guaranteed base salary + $8.8M in remaining prorated signing bonus).  If DT is traded in 2016, his salaries will become the responsibility of his new team and count against their current and future caps, not the Broncos' caps. The dead money will be $8.8M (the remainder of his prorated signing bonus).  The Broncos will clear $6.4M in 2016 cap space (the $13M 2016 salary - the $6.6M of his prorated signing bonus for 2017-2019 that would accelerate onto the 2016 cap).

2017

2017 is an option year.  Sometime between the beginning of the 2017 League year in March of 2017 and the beginning of the 2018 League year in March of 2018, the Broncos must decide whether to exercise their option.  If they do, DT will receive a $4M option bonus which will prorate at $1.333M per year over each of the 3 remaining years of his contract.  For cap calculation purposes, it is initially assumed that the Broncos will exercise the option.  If they don't, DT will become an UFA after the end of the 2017 League year.  If DT remains on the Broncos' roster for 2017, his cap hit will be $12.033M (his 2017 $8.5M guaranteed base salary + $2.2M in prorated signing bonus + $1.333M in prorated option bonus).  If DT is released in 2017, assuming his option is not exercised, his dead money will be $15.1M (his guaranteed 2017 base salary of $8.5M + $6.6M in remaining prorated signing bonus).  If DT is traded in 2017, assuming his option bonus has not already been exercised, his salaries and option bonus will become the responsibility of his new team and count against their current and future caps, not the Broncos' caps.  The dead money will be $6.6M (the remainder of his prorated signing bonus). The Broncos will clear $5.433M in 2017 cap space (the 2017 guaranteed base salary of $8.5M + the $1.333M option bonus that would presumably go with DT to his new team - the $4.4M of his prorated signing bonus for 2018-2019 that would accelerate onto the 2017 cap).

2018

If DT is on the 2018 roster, the option has to have been exercised.  He will also have no new guaranteed money.  His cap hit will be $12.033M (his 2018 base salary of $8.5M + $2.2M in prorated signing bonus + $1.333M in prorated option bonus).  If DT is traded or cut in 2018, his dead money will be $7.067M ($4.4M in remaining prorated signing bonus + $2.667M in remaining prorated option bonus).  The Broncos will clear $4.967M in 2018 cap space (His 2017 base salary of $8.5M - $2.2M of prorated signing bonus for 2019 - $1.333M of prorated option bonus for 2019 (both bonuses would accelerate onto the 2018 cap).

2019

2019 is the final year of DT's current contract.  If DT is on the 2019 roster, his cap hit will be $17.533M (his 2019 base salary of $14M + $2.2M in prorated signing bonus + $1.333M in prorated signing bonus).  If DT is traded or cut in 2019, his dead money would be $3.533M ($2.2M in prorated signing bonus + $1.333M in prorated option bonus). The Broncos will clear $14M in 2019 cap space (the 2019 base salary of $14M).