On Tuesday, the Minnesota Vikings made Kyle Rudolph‘s release official. Among the nostalgia and teary-eyed farewells, the impact of cutting him on the Vikings can be quantified. They save about $5 million in cap space after accounting for dead cap penalties. But what if there was a way to increase those savings? The June 1st cut rule is complicated, but, in short: It’s probably not worth it.
The June 1st cut is a rarely used tool in the NFL, but one available to all teams. After June 1st, any dead cap penalties will be split between the current year and the next. The Vikings pay 2021’s portion of the signing bonus in 2021 and the rest in 2022. With Rudolph, that would mean an extra $2.9 million or so in savings this year that would be paid off in 2022. They can release him today but “designate” him as a June 1st cut, allowing him to sign with other teams while adjusting the Vikings’ own accounting.
So why not do this? The June 1st rule can be very confusing.
In short, here’s the total cap charge for Rudolph in three different situations: One where he is kept, one where he is cut, and one where he is cut with a June 1st designation.
So the Vikings had the option to save a little more this year in exchange for some of what would be saved next year. You can think of it as a deferral of $2.9 million in penalties to next year. Depending on how concerned you are about the $48 million in cap space the Vikings have right now, you may not be as interested. But if you were, there are other problems.
Teams have access to two “June 1st” designations per year for cuts made in March. They could cut Rudolph, slap the June 1st designation on the move, and let Rudolph negotiate freely with other teams. Let’s say the Vikings did use the June 1st designation on him. What would that have looked like? Instead of saving $5 million, they’d save about $8 million in 2021. That extra money would surely come in handy in March… if the Vikings had access to it.
When you designate a player as a June 1st cut, that player stays on your books until June 1st. In reality, they can leave and negotiate without violating any tampering rules. Only the salary cap accounting defers to June 1st. That means the Vikings would go through the March 17th deadline to get under the cap without that $8 million in savings. They’d have to wait and watch free agents sign elsewhere while they wait for their Kyle Rudolph savings to become available. By June, most of the players they’d be interested in will have already signed elsewhere.
That leaves a particular window for when this move is advantageous. Between now and June, the move hurts your flexibility. Between June and next march, they’d have access to $2.9 million they didn’t have before. But in the entirety of 2022, they’d have to deal with that $2.9 million for a player who hadn’t played for them since 2020. So if the Vikings have something extremely important to do between Just 1st and Week 1 that would cost $3 million and not place any burden on 2022, this can enable that…whatever it is.
The most common use of the June 1st rule is to help with rookie signings. Rookies can participate in offseason activities without a finalized contract, so long as they’re ready to go by the start of formal training camp. So if some extra money comes available in June, that’s a perfect time to help get the rookies under the cap (provided you’re okay with borrowing from the next year, when there will also be rookies to sign). But those rookie deals have to fit into the next year as well, making the whole thing a wash. And there are even more hurdles.
Since the released player’s contract stays on the books through June, that means any contract triggers in that time will activate. Take Anthony Barr‘s contract, for example. On March 20th, $7.1 million of his base salary will guarantee. If the Vikings wanted to release Barr with a June 1st designation, they’d have to accept that contract trigger. So they’d take a $9.7 million dead cap hit in 2021 and defer a $5.2 million dead cap hit to 2022. They’d save only a little under $6 million as opposed to the $7.8 million saved in a straight cut. And most of those savings are coming back to haunt them.
It’s difficult to find situations where the March cut with a June 1st designation is a good idea. If a team wants to cut someone after free agency and the draft, they may as well keep that player on the roster through those months. It leaves the option to keep the player on the table, informing draft and free agency decisions and even affecting negotiating leverage. If they decide to follow through with the cut, they can do so. However, it deeply disadvantages the player who starts their free-agent experience after everyone’s rosters are mostly constructed.
The June 1st cut designation is wildly complicated. The Vikings rarely use it, and with good reason. It only makes sense in extremely narrow circumstances, and even in those circumstances, it might not be the best option. If you still don’t quite have it nailed down, that’s okay. You can safely ignore it as a cap-saving option.