What does dead money mean in NFL free agency?

Learning can be fun.

UK Household Incomes Continue To Be Squeezed
UK Household Incomes Continue To Be Squeezed / Matt Cardy/GettyImages
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When it comes to sorting out NFL financials, the term "dead money" is like that financial ghost that refuses to leave the party after a player makes a swift exit. It's the leftover amount of a player's salary cap impact that hangs around on a team's financial sheet after a player gets the boot or is traded before their contract finishes out.

Here's the lowdown: When a team signs a player to a multi-year deal, they spread out the total contract value over the contract's duration for salary cap accounting. But if a player is shown the door too soon, the remaining prorated signing bonus and guaranteed money suddenly crash the franchise's books for the current or upcoming league year.

Last season, the Kansas City Chiefs had a shade under $12.3 million in dead cap money on the books. That's not a good thing, but they had to pay a considerable price—well over half of that total—to rid themselves of the albatross known as Frank Clark's contract.

Dead money can throw a wrench in a team's financial game plan, making it trickier to snag new talent or work some salary cap magic. Teams do their best to dodge this financial hangover by crafting contracts with finesse and making roster moves that won't break the bank. But let's face it, dead money is that unexpected bill you just can't dodge—especially when a team waves goodbye to a player still holding a bundle of guaranteed cash.

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