Now that we know there’s a good chance that Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant will be suspended the entire 2016 season due to him again violating the league’s substance abuse policy, the organization has several routes they can take with their former fourth-round draft pick.
While getting Bryant more help should be paramount, the Steelers could decide to release Bryant immediately without it making a big dent in this year’s salary cap. While that’s an option, I really doubt that’s the route the Steelers will choose.
For starters, should Bryant’s year suspension indeed wind up being upheld after his appeal is heard, his 2016 year-long suspension will cause his contract to toll and that will result in him remaining under control of the Steelers through the 2018 season as the team would likely place him on their Reserve/Suspended list.
So what about Bryant’s 2016 salary and prorated signing bonus? The Steelers should get full credit for both of those as well and according to Joel Corry of CBS Sports, “teams are required under the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) to recoup signing bonuses for PED and substance-abuse suspensions.” In Bryant’s case, the Steelers should get full credit for not only his $600,00 base salary, but his $109,805 prorated bonus salary cap charge as well.
UPDATE: I reached out to Corry on Twitter to ask about Bryant’s proration amount in 2016 and here’s what he told me: “Contract would toll. Only bonus proration would count.” In other words, Bryant would have a cap charge in 2016 of $109,805. Corry went on to tell me that the Arizona Cardinals only had cap charge for Daryl Washington’s bonus proration for the entire seasons he recently missed.
The hope would be that Bryant could get himself clean for good and return to play two seasons before becoming an unrestricted free agent.
The Steelers probably had a good idea Bryant was facing a suspension as evidenced by them re-signing veteran wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey to a three-year contract just prior to the start of the new league year. Additionally, the signing of unrestricted free agent tight end Ladarius Green now looks like an extremely wise move.