Andrew Cohen


Recent Posts by Andrew

If the 2015 Saints falter, Drew Brees will be playing elsewhere in 2016

In August of 2007, you’d have had a hard time finding someone who thought Brett Favre would be starting for the Jets in 2008. In August of 2011, finding a predictor of the Peyton Manning-Broncos 2012 marriage would have been just as difficult a task. Today, you don’t hear many people placing Drew Brees in a non-Saints uniform in 2016. Yet take a closer look and you’ll find this scenario isn’t so far-fetched.

New Orleans’ cap problems have been an OverTheCap hot topic for a few years running. Jason even explained these issues to Peter King’s MMQB back in March: “they made a number of short-sighted contract decisions with veteran players to allow them to keep adding players to the team while just pushing cap charges into the future.” The Saints’ $155.7m cap dollars on the 2016 books is the second most of any team. Their $13.7m in 2016 dead money is more than twice as much as any other team. When it comes to poor cap situations, they’re in a league of their own (more…)

The impact of GM job security on decision-making in the cap carryover era

The job description of an NFL general manager lends itself to contradiction. On one hand, a GM is responsible for keeping both the present and future of the franchise in mind when making decisions. But GM’s know that if they aren’t successful today then they won’t be around for the future.

This past offseason, six teams—the Eagles, Falcons, Bears, Redskins, Dolphins and Jets—either hired a new GM or rearranged front office roles to effectively put a new GM in place. And this wasn’t an anomaly. Of the 30 GM’s who don’t double as team owners (the Jones’ in Dallas and Mike Brown in Cincinnati), only seven have held their position prior to 2010.

There’s no Expected Contract Value—a tool that places a numerical value on a players future job security based on the analysis of past data—for general managers. Still, it’s safe to say decision makers know when their seat is getting warm, and this can lead to a conflict of interests. (more…)

Jimmy Graham, Saints Cap Trouble, & The Void Year

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Jason brought up a very interesting point in his breakdown of Jimmy Graham’s new contract: the potential role that the Saints’ poor future cap outlook had on Graham’s willingness to accept this deal. Specifically, he mentioned how difficult it’ll be for the Saints to keep Graham’s $11 million cap figure on their 2015 books. And since Graham’s 2015 salary is guaranteed, the Saints might have to explore the option of adding a voidable year to the deal.

While adding a voidable year would provide the Saints with 2015 cap flexibility, it would increase Graham’s chances of earning his respective $9 million and $10 million salaries in 2016 and 2017.

Outlined below are two different scenarios. The first table represents Graham’s current contract, while the second table represents the scenario where the Saints convert $6 million of Graham’s 2015 base salary into a prorated bonus, while also adding a voidable year (2018).

*The last column in each table states how likely I think it is that Graham will be on the roster for that given year (I am seemingly more confident than Jason that Graham will fulfill the contract’s entirety).

Jimmy Graham’s New Contract 

YearBase
Salary
Prorated 
Bonus
Cap 
Number
Dead 
Money
Cap 
Savings
Total Cash Earned*Likelihood Of Graham On Roster
2014$1,000,000$3,000,000$4,000,000$13,000,000100%
2015$8,000,000$3,000,000$11,000,000$21,000,000>95%
2016$9,000,000$3,000,000$12,000,000$6,000,000$6,000,000$30,000,00090%
2017$10,000,000$3,000,000$13,000,000$3,000,000$10,000,000$40,000,00075%

Jimmy Graham’s New Contract w/ Void Year Added

YearBase
Salary
Prorated 
Bonus
Cap 
Number
Dead 
Money
Cap 
Savings
Total Cash Earned*Likelihood Of Graham On Roster
2014$1,00,000$3,000,000$4,000,000$13,000,000100%
2015$2,000,000$4,500,000$6,500,000$21,000,000100%
2016$9,000,000$4,500,000$13,500,000$10,500,000$3,000,000$30,000,000>95%
2017$10,000,000$4,500,000$14,500,000$6,000,000$8,500,000$40,000,00085%
2018void$1,500,000void$0voidvoidvoid

As shown, the addition of a voidable year would more or less guarantee Graham’s spot on the 2016 Saints roster. Additionally, it’d enhance Graham’s chances of being rostered in 2017.

You can go to the Saints 2015 salary cap page to see details of their cap mess. New Orleans has a whopping $152,812,277 on the 2015 books, and there aren’t many guys whose post-2014 releases would clear considerable cap space. They’d save $6 million by cutting Jahri Evans and $4.3 million with the release of Marques Colston—both of whom will be 32 by opening day in 2015. However, Evans and Colston have long been two of the Saints’ best players.

Ultimately, Mickey Loomis will likely have to navigate the Saints’ 2015 salary cap mess via the use of restructures and the addition of voidable years—-a reality that Graham’s agents were surely aware of this when negotiating this deal. Graham’s will be a prime candidate to have a void year added, meaning he’ll increase his chances of earning more money.

Andrew Cohen
@ajcohen03
ajcohen3@gmail.com
 
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Rapid Reaction: Jimmy Graham Deal

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Although I have not yet seen all the particulars of Jimmy Graham’s new contract, Mike Florio of PFF has provided some details on the 4-year/$40 million pact reached between Graham and the Saints earlier this morning.

Estimated Details of Jimmy Graham’s Contract 

YearBase
Salary
Prorated 
Bonus
Cap 
Number
Dead 
Money
Cap 
Savings
2014$1,000,000$3,000,000$4,000,000
2015$8,000,000$3,000,000$11,000,000
2016*$9,000,000$3,000,000$12,000,000$6,000,000$6,000,000
2017*$10,000,000$3,000,000$13,000,000$3,000,000$10,000,000

Per Florio: “The $8 million Graham is due to make next year becomes fully guaranteed on the third day of the 2015 waiver period.  This means that, as a practical matter, the Saints won’t be cutting Graham before the injury guarantee becomes a full and complete guarantee.”

Since New Orleans would have to release a healthy Graham within 3 days of the Super Bowl, the $21 million that Graham will receive over the next two years is fully guaranteed for all intents and purposes.

Graham is then set to make a combined $19 million in 2016 and 2017 (*the respective amounts per year are not yet known. I have assumed a $9 million 2016 base and $10 million 2017 base in the chart above).

Ultimately, Graham has to be pretty happy with the way things turned out. Sapped of all negotiating leverage after the franchise tag grievance ruling by an independent arbitrator, he still became the leagues highest paid tight end in terms of average annual salary. The likelihood of Graham earning all $40 million is very high, and he has a chance to hit the open market again at the age of 31.

The Saints still hold the option of franchising Graham after 2017. However, this is unlikely, as it’d cost ~$15.6 million (120% of his 2017 cap hit).

Andrew Cohen
@ajcohen03
ajcohen3@gmail.com
 
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What Now? Graham Camp All But Out Of Options

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Note: I will be talking about the Graham situation on WWL New Orleans (AM870, FM105.3) at 7:20PM EST tonight. You can listen live here 

The franchise tag—a staple in the NFL CBA since the early 1990s—benefits the owners and handicaps the players.  This is not a revelation nor classified information; both sides are fully aware of what the tag can do.

Yet over the past twenty years, the true force of the tag has never been fully realized. The reason for this is that while the tag locks a player into a one-year deal, that player is at least well compensated for that one year. More often than not, this truth allows the tag to act as a “holder”—where a player is held off the open market—until a long-term deal supersedes the franchise tag.

For the first time, Graham’s situation depicts just how harmful the tag can be. Graham—who has averaged 90 catches/1169 yards/12 TDs since becoming a full-time starter three seasons ago—is a tight end. He’s by no means a traditional tight end; he has more touchdown receptions than anybody since 2011, and has played a major role in transcending the position. But at the end of the day he’s still a tight end. And when it comes to the numbers associated with the franchise tag, that’s all that matters.

Position2014 Non-Exclusive Franchise Tag
Quarterback$16.192 million
Defensive end$13.116 million
Wide receiver$12.312 million
Cornerback$11.834 million
Offensive lineman$11.654 million
Linebacker$11.455 million
Defensive tackle$9.654 million
Running back$9.54 million
Safety$8.433 million
Tight end$7.035 million
Kicker/punter$3.556 million

As I mentioned yesterday, placing the tag on a player for a second time equates to a 120% salary increase. Tagging somebody a third time is almost  “not allowed”–the cost is the top five average salaries for the highest paid position.

YearFranchise Tag Price
2014$7.035 million
2015$8.442 million
2016>$20 million

Ultimately, this means New Orleans could lock in Graham for a combined $15.4 million through 2016. Graham could then become a free agent in 2016, but he’d risk suffering a serious injury (possible) or a miraculous loss of skill (unlikely). He’d have only year-to-year security if he chose to go this route, and would near 30 years old at that point.

Graham has reportedly been adamant about his deal exceeding Rob Gronkowski’s in terms of total money ($54 million), average annual salary ($9 million) and guaranteed money ($13.17 million). Truthfully, he has every right to be. Gronkowski, who had just turned 23 when he signed that extension in June 2012, still had two years left on his rookie deal. Furthermore, the salary cap was $13 million less than it is now, and industry experts were expecting it to remain at that level for the foreseeable future (they were of course wrong).

But because of the omnipotent franchise tag, Graham is all but out of options. He can try and force a trade or hold out, but that may ultimately cause more harm than good. While it won’t be the deal he’s looking for, his best option in terms of securing long-term financial stability is to sign a long-term deal now.

I’m by no means throwing the stud tight end a pity-party—he’ll still pocket millions of dollars. But there’s no question that the franchise tag swiped millions more from his pocket.

Andrew Cohen
@ajcohen03
ajcohen3@gmail.com
 
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Everything You Need To Know Regarding The Potential Effects Of The Jimmy Graham Decision

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Any minute now, arbitrator Stephen Burbank will hand down his decision re: Graham v. New Orleans–the highly publicized franchise tag grievance filed by Jimmy Graham and his agents. Burbank’s ruling will have a vast impact on a variety of parties, so here’s an in-depth look at the entire situation and the carryover effect that the decision could create.

The Facts:

  • The Saints placed the $7.053 million non-exclusive tight end franchise tag on Graham back on February 28th.
  • On May 8th, Graham, who lined up out wide or in the slot for 67% of his 2013 snaps, filed a grievance to be compensated $12.312 million—the non-exclusive franchise tag for wide receivers.
  • The grievance hearing took place on June 17-18, and a decision is expected later this week.

Scenario 1: Graham is ruled a tight end

Salary cap implications:

If Burbank determines that Graham is a tight end, nothing changes. His 2014 cap hit will remain at its current $7.053 million, and New Orleans will remain under the 2014 salary cap.

Long-term implications:

Franchise tagging a player two years in a row results in a 120% increase in salary from Year 1 to Year 2.  If New Orleans wins the grievance, they could essentially lock in Graham for a combined $15.5 million over the next two seasons—an absolute bargain for one of the games best weapons. The Saints would gain a tremendous amount of leverage in long-term contract negotiations if Burbank rules in their favor.

Most likely outcome under this scenario:

Graham, who turns 28 in November, is surely aware of the above. As a late third rounder who’s made just over $3 million during his four NFL seasons, he’s greatly incentivized to sign a set-for-life type of contract as soon as possible. While this outcome will leave the Saints with no reason to pay Graham the type of money he wants (reportedly over $10 million annually), there’s no questioning both sides mutual desire to come to terms on a long-term deal. Graham will be disappointed, but these circumstances favor a long-term deal being reached before the July 15 deadline.

Scenario 2: Graham is ruled a wide receiver

Salary cap implications:

If Graham is rewarded the $12.132 million non-exclusive receiver franchise tag, the Saints will have to act quickly. Currently just $1,588,821 under the salary cap, this ruling will force New Orleans to make cuts or restructure current contracts in order to get back under the cap. Otherwise, they could choose to remove the tag.

Long-term implications:

120% of $12.312 million is $14.774 million, and the Saints currently have one of footballs most unfortunate cap situations. All negotiating leverage would shift to Graham if he were deemed a receiver.

Most likely outcome under this scenario:

An aging Brees and a host of offseason moves that scream “win-now” point towards the Saints making the necessary corresponding moves to keep Graham and get under the cap. However, my money is on this outcome leading to the Graham camp tabling negotiations, agreeing to play the 2014 season under the $12.312 million tag, and taking their chances as a free agent again in 2015.

Scenario 3: A hybrid ruling

Salary cap implications:

It’s possible that Burbank decides to rule in the middle—designating Graham a hybrid WR/TE. The halfway point between $7,035,000 and $12,312,000 is $9,673,500. As in scenario 2, this ruling would still push New Orleans over the cap, though not by much.

Long-term implications:

120% of $9,673,500 is $11.6 million—a substantial difference from the $14.774 million number in scenario 2. With the Saints’ poor cap situation, the $3.1 million difference (when compared with Graham winning the grievance) of placing a second franchise tag on Graham will certainly impact make New Orleans’ willingness to negotiate.

Most likely outcome under this scenario:

Drew Brees recently commented that Burbank told him what his ruling would be. Brees also said “there’s a fair way to do this”. Was he insinuating that a middle ground would be fair? It’s certainly possible. Brees badly needs his most dangerous weapon, and could already be talking to management about pushing some of his own salary forward to not only create the necessary cap room in the present, but also propel a long-term deal. However…

Appeal Process :

A wildcard in all of this is that the losing party will inevitably appeal Burbank’s ruling. As noted by ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio, a decision on the appeal may or may not be made before July 15—the deadline for player and team to strike a long-term deal.

Graham’s True Worth & The Future of the TE position

Tight ends salaries have grown at a tremendous rate over the past several years.

Avg. Top 5 Cap Figures of NFL TEsNFL Salary Cap% of Cap Comprised By Top 5 TEs
2005$2.3 mil$85.5 mil2.70%
2006$3 mil$102 mil2.90%
2007$3.4 mil$109 mil3.10%
2008$3.3 mil$116 mil2.90%
2009$4.7 mil$123 mil3.80%
2013$8.3mil$123 mil6.80%
2014 (Graham TE)$7.8mil$133 mil5.90%
2004 (Graham WR)$8.8 mil$133 mil6.60%

In 2005 & 2006, the average cap hit of the leagues top five tight ends accounted for less than 3% of the NFLs salary cap. By 2009, with a $123 million salary cap, that figure had increased to 3.8%. Last season, with the salary cap still at $123 million, it was up to 6.8%.

On the surface, this makes sense. The NFLs shift towards a pass-first league theoretically increases the value of skill-players who can catch the ball. However, production from the top of the tight end position has not grown along with this salary increase.

TE2h

TE1

Shown above is the average production of the top-5 tight ends since 2005, in terms of Yards,TDs and AV (Approximate Value, a ProFootballReference created statistic that attaches a single number to every player season). While touchdown production from the tight end position has increased over this period, yards and AV have remained constant.

Tight end salaries (as a percentage of the salary cap) have likely hit their ceiling, meaning they’re due to plateau in the near future. If Graham loses the grievance and signs an extension before the July 15 deadline, the beginning of a period where tight end salaries decline may begin.

But Graham—a once-in-a-lifetime type talent— is not just any tight end, which is why this ruling holds so much importance. If Graham wins the grievance and hits the open market in 2015—a year where the salary cap is projected to increase—there’s no telling how much money he might get.

And it’s that hypothetical—the prospect of a still-in-his prime Graham hitting the open market in 2015, that ultimately has agents drooling. Not just Graham’s agent, Jimmy Sexton–one of the games most powerful negotiators. But the agents of all tight ends, as the deal Graham signs will be used as a benchmark for tight end deals of the future.

A situation that has been in-flux for months will begin to take shape in the coming days. And it all resides in the palms of one man: arbitrator Stephen Burbank.

Andrew Cohen
@ajcohen03
ajcohen3@gmail.com

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Breaking Down the DeSean Jackson Signing and the Future of the Redskins

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DeSean Jackson signed a three-year contract worth $24 million with the Washington Redskins today.

YearBase
Salary
Prorated
Bonus
Roster
Bonus
Workout
Bonus
Other
Bonus
Cap
Number
Dead
Money
Cap
Savings
2014$1,000,000$1,250,000$1,500,000$500,000$0$4,250,000$16,000,000($11,750,000)
2015$3,750,000$1,250,000$3,750,000$500,000$0$9,250,000$11,750,000($2,500,000)
2016$3,750,000$1,250,000$3,750,000$500,000$0$9,250,000$2,500,000$6,750,000
2017$8,000,000$1,250,000$0$0$0$9,250,000$1,250,000$8,000,000

via Jason—Jackson received a $5 million signing bonus and his 2014 and 2015 base salaries and workout bonuses are guaranteed. In addition, Jackson can earn up to $1.5 million in 2014 and $3.75 million in roster bonuses in 2015 and 2016 that are paid out as long as he is on any of the roster lists besides suspended or non-football injury. The 2017 season is a “dummy year” that is strictly in place to reduce the salary cap charges in the contract. That season automatically voids following the Super Bowl that year. Base salaries of the contract are $1,000,000(2014), $3,750,000(2015), and $3,750,000(2016).

Most media reports have Jackson receiving $16 million in guaranteed money. This $16 million figure comes from his $5 million signing bonus, $5.75 million combined in ’14-’15 base salaries and workout bonuses, $1.5 million 2014 roster bonus and $3.75 million 2015 roster bonus. I am not sure if those roster bonuses are officially full guarantees (as Jason has not yet received the paperwork), but for all intents and purposes they are.

What this means for DeSean:

Look at this deal as a two-year contract worth $16 million dollars. Jackson receives his second signing bonus in the past three offseason’s, and is now guaranteed to make $34 million over a span of four-years  ($18 million in 2012 & 2013 with Philadelphia and $16 million in 2014 & 2015 with Washington).

Looking at other wide receivers around the league, there aren’t many who have averaged $8.5 million over a four-year period. The list of guys who have recently accomplished this (or undoubtedly will in the next year or two based on the structure of their contact) includes just six names: Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, Percy Harvin, Brandon Marshall and Roddy White. There are other young guys–such as AJ Green and Julio Jones–who will likely get there (or beyond), but of course you never know.

So for somebody who’s seemingly overly-consumed by the amount of money he makes, DeSean has done pretty well.

What this means for the Redskins:

It means DJax is locked into the Nation’s Capital for both 2014 and 2015, carrying respective cap hits of $4.25 million & $9.25 million. After 2015, the Redskins will have to quickly decide (by the beginning of the 2016 league year) if Jackson is worth a $9.25 million cap hit in a season where he’ll turn 30. If they decide he isn’t they’ll, be forced to eat $2.5 million in dead money.

It also means that Washington’s top three receivers—Jackson, Pierre Garcon and Andre Roberts—will count for $22.7 million against the 2015 cap. While this is quite a large cap number for a team’s receiving core to assume, this shouldn’t have long-term cap implications for the Redskins; all three players can be released with minimal cap damage after 2015.

However, some tough roster decisions may still lie ahead for Washington. The Redskins now have over $117 million in 2015 cap commitments, which of course doesn’t include a salary for Brian Orakpo, who was recently franchised and has not yet been signed to a long-term deal. RG3 should also be in line for a monstrous extension at some point in the near future (he’s eligible after this coming season). This is definitely a situation to pay close attention to in the future…

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