June 2 means plenty, but it used to mean more
Before 2006, June 2 brought about a fresh wave of NFL free agency. Now, it usually means extra cap space for some teams and greater trade flexibility for all of them.
Previously, teams that released players before June 2 took the full cap acceleration at the moment of the transaction. Now, teams can release up to two players per year with a post-June 1 designation. Although the player’s cap number stays on the books until June 2, it allows the team to part ways with the player and eliminate the risk that he’ll show up for offseason workouts and suffer a serious injury, locking in his full salary for the coming season.
As of June 2, the player released with a post-June 1 designation has his salary disappear from the books, and any remaining bonus proration lands in the next cap year.
For example, if a player signs a four-year contract with a $10 million signing bonus and is released after two seasons before June 1 (and without a post-June 1 designation), the team takes a $5 million cap charge in the current year. With a post-June 1 designation, the player counts $2.5 million against the cap in the current year and $2.5 million against the cap the next year. The player’s current base salary evaporates as of June 2.
Under prior rules, no cap relief attached to trades, at any time. Currently, teams can trade players as of June 2 and push any cap charges applicable to the remaining years of the contract to the next cap year.
That’s why the Falcons waited to trade Julio Jones. Before June 1, they would have taken a dead-money charge of $23.25 million. As of Wednesday, a trade would split that between $7.75 million this year, and $15.5 million next year.
The same flexibility applies to other players who could be traded. An Aaron Rodgers trade would avoid $11.5 million in dead money this year, pushing it to 2022. For Russell Wilson, the cap charge drops from $39 million to $13 million. The Texans would defer to 2022 a $16.2 million cap charge by trading Deshaun Watson after June 1.
So June 2 still has plenty of meaning, especially this year. In past years, it meant a lot more.