The league's refusal to allow the Miami Dolphins to release Joey Porter this week caused some confusion, and not just in the Dolphins' front office. The confusion arises from the fact that many people don't realize that this still is the 2009 League Year; the 2010 League Year doesn't begin until March 5. Not only that, the 2009 League Year also is the Final Capped Year, which means that releases at this time of year are treated differently this season from how they normally are treated.
In the Final Capped Year, whenever a player is removed from the roster — even after June 1 — all bonus prorations from future seasons accelerate into that season. In all other seasons but the Final Capped Year, when a player is removed from the roster after June 1, the bonus prorations from future seasons accelerate into the following season. So, in other seasons, when a player is released between the Super Bowl and the start of the next league year, the acceleration hits the coming season's cap. This still is the Final Capped Year, though, so when a player is removed from a team's roster before the start of the 2010 League Year, the acceleration hits the 2009 salary cap. If the acceleration would put the team over the 2009 cap, that roster move is not allowed.
The Dolphins have less than $4.15 million of cap room remaining for the 2009 League Year. Porter's bonus prorations for 2010 and 2011 are $2.4 million each, so the accelerated cap charges for him would be $4.8 million. Thus, releasing Porter was not allowed.
Some reports have said that Porter has a $1 million roster bonus due on a specific date, such as March 1, March 5 or March 10, but those reports are incorrect. His roster bonus is due on the fifth day of the league year, which currently is scheduled to be March 9. If the NFL and NFLPA delay the start of the league year while CBA negotiations are going on, the date of Porter's bonus also gets pushed back. No matter what, the Dolphins will have four days after the start of the 2010 League Year to release Porter without having to pay his roster bonus. If Porter is released after the start of an uncapped 2010 season and before June 2, his 2011 bonus proration will not accelerate into 2010; acceleration into the current season occurs only in the Final Capped Year and the years prior to the Final Capped Year.