Understanding the Salary Cap Penalty in Madden’s Franchise Mode

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Many Madden franchise mode players get confused about how trades and free agent moves increase their salary cap penalty. A player on your roster who was signed with a signing bonus will still be owed that money even if you trade or release him. This article will explain how these roster moves affect your cap and provides a calculator you can use to figure out the cap penalty it will cost your team for moving a player owed a signing bonus.

How Signing Bonuses are handled in Madden

Think of the signing bonus as guaranteed money. This money is typically divided evenly of the course of the contract. A $500,000 signing bonus on a 5 yr contract is $100,000 ($500,000 divided by 5) a year for example. When you release a player, you still owe him what’s left of the signing bonus. The amount owed is the cap penalty which is applied towards your current year cap and the next year’s cap.

This cap penalty applies to releasing a free agent early and also when you trade a player away the bonus portion of the contract is still owed. The team that receiver the player in the trade DOES NOT owe the cap penalty so if that team decide to trade or release the player later in the season there is no cap penalty.

Calculating the Salary Cap Penalty

In Madden 17, the game will tell you what the cap penalty will be before you release him. Simply go to the “Team Salaries” section of the menu and find the column that says PENALTY. This is the salary cap penalty that would be charged if you release or trade the player.

Salary Cap Penalty

Before you release a player, you will receive a warning of the cap penalty you are charged.

Salary Cap Penalty

The calculator below allows you to easily figure out the cap penalty on a player’s contract. Simply input the total length or number of years of the contract, the number of years remaining, and the total signing bonus. The spreadsheet will automatically calculate the current year cap penalty and the cap penalty for next season.

In Josh Sitton’s contract above he has a 3 year contract with 2 years remaining. the signing bonus was $1,500,000. Using the calculator below confirms that the cap penalty is $1,000,000 and will be split evenly between the current year and next year.  In this case the 2017 cap penalty would increase by $500,000 and the 2018 cap penalty would increase by $500,000.

How does the cap penalty affect your team?

So now you know what the cap penalty is and how much it costs, but what does that really mean? In the example above, the salary cap is $166m for 2017 (see the first screenshot). The cap penalty of $1.4m is deducted from the salary cap which would mean the amount of space is reduced to $164.6.

It’s a simple equation to figure out the cap space.

Salary cap – salaries – cap penalty = Cap Space

$166m – $145m – $1.4 = $19.6m cap space

So if you released a big contract player with $5m or even a $10m cap penalty this would reduce your available cap space substantially.

Got Questions?

Post them in the comment section below.


  • comment-avatar
    Steve 5 months

    Great article man, thanks. But one thing I don’t understand is why is the cap saving less than the salary for the year? In the example above Sitton is due 5.46m in 2018 but the saving in the second screenshot says it will free up 4.46m. Why is that less? Is it the penalty being subtracted from the salary?

    • STuDS0N

      Hey Steve,

      Sorry for the late reply I just noticed your comment. You are correct – it is because of the cap penalty being subtracted. Notice in the first screenshot the cap penalty is $1m. If you release or trade Sitton then you reduce your total salary cap pool by the $1m penalty so you really only save the $4.46m. That’s why if the cap penalty is too high you might not actually benefit from trading or releasing the player.

  • comment-avatar
    Josh 2 months

    How do I end salary cap mode for ultimate team ? I just want to go back to normal ultimate team

    • STuDS0N

      This post was more focused on the salary cap for franchise mode. In Ultimate Team, there is a salary cap mode for competitive play. You can save different line-ups for salary cap or normal Ultimate Team play in the line-up section if that’s what you mean.

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