Crunching the numbers on Ocho

When Liz Mullen of Sports Business Journal first reported that the Patriots had approached veteran Chad Ochocinco about restructuring his contract, there was some minor surprise here.

With the fourth highest base salary of any player on the team, and limited production (15 catches in 2011), Ochocinco seemed like a goner. So why might the team be pursuing a possible restructure?

Here is one line of thinking:

As it currently stands, Ochocinco is on the books for about a $4.5 million salary cap charge in 2012. That figure is a combination of the proration of his $4.5 million signing bonus ($1.5 million in 2011, $1.5 million in 2012 and $1.5 million in 2013) and his $3 million base salary for 2012.

That is likely too rich of a salary-cap charge for the team's thinking based on Ochocinco's lack of production. A player at that level should be producing more.

At the same time, if the Patriots cut ties with Ochocinco, they will have about $3 million in dead money on the cap for doing so (the remaining proration of his signing bonus, which could be spread out over 2012 and 2013, if desired).

So perhaps the compromise, if Ochocinco is willing, is to reduce his cap charge to $3 million for 2012. The way to do that is to have him reduce his base salary from $3 million to $1.5 million for 2012.

If Ochocinco did that, then the Patriots could ask the question: Are we a better team with Ochocinco on the club at a $3 million cap charge, or a better team without him but still with the $3 million cap charge (that could be spread over two years)?

That might be the reason why a restructure is being explored.