2016 NFL Free Agency: Defensive Tackle Overview

In this weeks free agency feature we will take a look at the available defensive tackles in 2016. The group doesn’t have the big standout names or three down players, but is filled with a number of veterans making the turn to 30 who likely can provide some good value if a team finds the right scheme fit this season…

Damon Harrison, Jets

The man known as “Snacks” has endeared himself with his play in New York over the last two seasons. Harrison has been extremely consistent over the last three years and is one of the best run defenders at the position. Harrison has good size and move well for someone well over the 350 pound mark. Continue reading 2016 NFL Free Agency: Defensive Tackle Overview »

2016 NFL Free Agency: Quarterbacks Overview

Over the last two weeks I have given my opinions on the upcoming class of free agent running backs and wide receivers, and this week I turn my attention to the quarterbacks. Since there are not many starting quarterbacks who will be available I have also included thoughts on the bigger name players who will likely be rumored to be moved in the offseason. As usual I will give my opinion on some salary ranges for the players and remember you can always keep up with NFL free agents on our free agent pages.

Sam Bradford, Eagles

Bradford may be the hardest player to value in quite some time. Rarely do former top draft picks at the position hit true free agency (plenty are released and available) but there is a real chance Bradford will make it there. Bradford has been in the NFL for six years and at best you can give him an incomplete as a pro. He had five injury riddled seasons in St Louis and at no time during his healthy periods did he look as if he was a special quarterback. He was traded to the Eagles this year and has continued to battle inconsistency. Continue reading 2016 NFL Free Agency: Quarterbacks Overview »

2016 NFL Free Agency: Wide Receiver Overview

Last week we looked at the upcoming free agent running backs and this week we will continue our run up to the offseason with a look at who is available at wide receiver. Though we don’t have the top line talent available this year at wide rceiver there are certainly some viable second and third targets with upside. We’ll look at the players projected stats for the year and where the biggest name players may slot into the salary ranges at the position in 2016

Alshon Jeffery, Bears

Jeffery missed 4 games this season and is still on pace for over 1,300 yards this year. He has been a dominant receiver in every sense of the word with over 1,400 yards in 2013 and 1,100 yards in 2014. He’s done it with two quarterbacks (Jay Cutler and Josh McCown) and both with and without help from a secondary target in the offense. He is everything you want in a receiver with great size at 6’4”, good hands, and youth.

Jeffery ranks in our domination index (a measure of how much that player accounts for production at the position) around a 225 on a per game basis, which means he essentially counts for over 50% of the Bears offense at receiver. The only player more important to a team’s receiving core is Julio Jones of the Falcons at a 240.  Continue reading 2016 NFL Free Agency: Wide Receiver Overview »

2016 NFL Free Agency: Running Back Overview

Nearly halfway through the 2015 season, we are now at the point where we can start looking forward to free agency in 2016 based on this year’s current performances. This week we will take a brief look at the players who may project to be the top unrestricted free agents this season at the running back position and estimate some potential ranges for a new contract in 2016.

Doug Martin, Buccaneers

Martin has come from nowhere to produce big this season for the Buccaneers. Martin is averaging over 90 yards a game and is on pace for over 1,400 yards this year. Martin’s career arc is relatively unique. He exploded onto the scene as a rookie in 2012, rushing for 1,454 yards and being a threat in the passing game. He was poor in 2013 before an injury ended his season and landed in the doghouse in 2014 while seemingly dealing with more bumps and bruises. To come back to the 1,400 yard level after that is not that normal. Continue reading 2016 NFL Free Agency: Running Back Overview »

A Look at the 2012 Rookie Options

Recently I have been getting some questions on the 2012 rookie option years so I thought it made sense to get a post together on it and update it as the options gets picked up.  For those unfamiliar with the rookie option system, every first round pick in the draft signs a four year contract with a team option for a fifth season. The team option must be exercised between the end of the 2014 regular season and May 3, 2015 at 4PM.  The value of the option depends upon the position of the player and if the player was drafted in the top 10.  Once the option is exercised it is guaranteed for injury. If the player is still on the roster on the first day of the 2016 League Year the option will be fully guaranteed. If the team fails to exercise the option the player will become a free agent in 2016.

Exercised

20 players  had their options picked up by their respective teams. The players are Andrew Luck (Colts), Robert Griffin III (Redskins), Matt Kalil (Vikings), Ryan Tannehill (Dolphins), Luke Kuechley (Panthers), Stephon Gilmore (Bills), Dontari Poe (Chiefs), Fletcher Cox (Eagles), Michael Floyd (Cardinals), Michael Brockers (Rams), Quinton Coples (Jets), Dre Kirkpatrick (Bengals), Melvin Ingram (Chargers), Kendall Wright (Titans), Chandler Jones (Patriots), Riley Reiff (Lions), David DeCastro (Steelers), Dont’a Hightower (Patriots), Kevin Zeitler (Bengals) and Harrison Smith (Vikings).

Andrew Luck is considered the best young QB in the NFL so picking up his option was the most likely event of the year.

Washington exercised the option on Robert Griffin despite the injury history. Though they could have franchised him if he had a great season the uncertainty associated with the tag process as well as the potential cost likely led to this. Expect them to cross their fingers that he stays healthy.

I wasn’t sure if the Vikings would use this on Kalil due to the $11 million price tag as I think it makes working out a reasonable long term deal more difficult. Like the RGIII move this is an investment protection.

The Dolphins had tried to sign Tannehill to a contract extension, but with no movement on that front that protected their interest with the 5th year option.

Kuechley is arguably the best linebacker in the NFL and it was a given his option would be exercised. This is a steep price for an inside linebacker but they will likely address that by working out an extension sooner rather than later.

With the recent increase in salary at the corner spot using the option for Stephon Gilmore was a logical decision.If he has a strong year under Rex Ryan his salary potential will skyrocket.

Poe just missed out on the top 10 which is a big loss in pay. He probably won’t be happy next season, but the Chiefs have plenty of time to address that after the 2015 season is over.

Fletcher Cox developed into one of the best 34 DEs in the NFL, so this made sense for Philadelphia. Cox is rumored to be involved in a possible trade package on draft day. The option year does transfer with the player in the event of a trade. If not traded I would expect an extension sometime in the summer.

Michael Floyd is arguably the best receiver in Arizona so they had no reason to decline his option. His chances for an extension might hinge on how he and the others around him play this season.

Brockers was a player I was on the fence about and I think this is more or less an insurance play by the Rams. There is little downside to picking it up so  they protect themselves in the event he plays more and ups his stock for next season. If all things stay constant he likely won’t play next year at this number.

Coples is a hard player to grasp. There are times he looks terrific and times he looks like he doesn’t care.  The pass rusher market was way down for player like Coples last season so it is somewhat surprising that the Jets picked this up. It may mean the new staff wants to see him without a contract dangling in front of him as added motivation.

Kirkpatrick is likely to see more time this season and the Bengals cant chance losing a young player at a position where they are getting older.

Ingram has only started 12 games in his three year career and has been injury prone, so this was a bit of more of a surprise. He has flashed when healthy and considering the Chargers have limited long term depth on the team he may have benefitted from the situation.  He’ll need to be productive to keep the option at its current value.

Wright has shown an ability to be a very good receiver despite the poor QB play. On a team with such poor offensive talent this was a must to do.

Chandler Jones is a dominant player for the Patriots and should be a fixture for the next five seasons.

Reiff has started 31 games over the last two seasons for Detroit and graded out well per Pro Football Focus. Keeping a young player on the line was a must for Detroit.

DeCastro is a Pro Bowl caliber player and a no-brainer for the Steelers to pick up.

Hightower has developed into one of the better interior linebackers in the NFL so this should have been an easy choice.

The only question that the Bengals likely had with Zeitler was the cost based on position as that can possibly make an extension a touch more difficult, but they had to protect themselves by picking this up.

Smith is one of the best safeties in the NFL. It was obvious that the Vikings would pick this up unless a long term contract has been worked out sooner.

Declined

The following players had their options declined: Morris Claiborne (cowboys), Mark Barron (Rams), Bruce Irvin (Seahawks), Shea McClellin (Bears), Nick Perry (Packers), Whitney Mercilus (Texans), and Doug Martin (Buccaneers). Each player will be a free agent in 2016. Here are some brief thoughts on the players:

While there is much to be said about protecting an investment, it made almost no sense to protect Claiborne. Claiborne looks to be at best a 3rd or 4th corner and his injury potential made it too risky to consider a $11M+ option.

The cost for Barron was far too expensive for a third wheel type of player.

Irvin not having his option picked up surprised me. I thought he was solid and there would be no reason to pss on it. This decision was likely made due to the decline in payments being made to linebackers this offseason and knowing they can save money long term by not picking it up. Its the same path I thought the Jets would have gone with Coples, but was surprised Seattle went there with Irvin.

McClellin has been essentially useless for Chicago and there is no need to pick up an additional year.

Perry has only started 15 games for Green Bay and they have looked for other options due to his disappointing play. They won’t sink $7.7 million in him on a one year contract.

I thought Mercilus’ option might have been picked up as Clowney injury protection, but again the cost was likely too high, especially in light of the declining market for mid grade rushers at the position.

Martin has fallen off the face of the earth and there is no reason to pay him more than he would earn as a free agent even if he had a terrific season.

Ineligible

Trent Richardson was traded by the Browns and later released by the Colts, which officially terminated his rookie contract. He is currently signed with the Raiders.

Justin Blackmon has spent most of his career suspended. He should have to honor his missed seasons if he is ever reinstated. Even if he did not have to honor them he would be a restricted free agent making the option far too expensive.

Brandon Weeden was released by Cleveland. He signed a low cost contract with the Cowboys.

AJ Jenkins was traded to Kansas City and later released. He is currently out of the NFL.

David Wilson retired from the NFL due to injuries.

The 2012 Rookie Option Tracker

PickPlayerPosTeamCostExercised
1Andrew LuckQBColts$16,155,000YES
2Robert Griffin IIIQBRedskins$16,155,000YES
3Trent RichardsonRBNA$0NA
4Matt KalilTVikings$11,096,000YES
5Justin BlackmonWRJaguars$0NA
6Morris ClaiborneCBCowboys$11,082,000NO
7Mark BarronSRams$8,263,000NO
8Ryan TannehillQBDolphins$16,155,000YES
9Luke KuechlyLBPanthers$11,058,000YES
10Stephon GilmoreCBBills$11,082,000YES
11Dontari PoeDTChiefs$6,146,000YES
12Fletcher CoxDEEagles$7,799,000YES
13Michael FloydWRCardinals$7,320,000YES
14Michael BrockersDTRams$6,146,000YES
15Bruce IrvinLBSeahawks$7,751,000NO
16Quinton CoplesLBJets$7,751,000YES
17Dre KirkpatrickCBBengals$7,507,000YES
18Melvin IngramLBChargers$7,751,000YES
19Shea McClellinLBBears$7,751,000NO
20Kendall WrightWRTitans$7,320,000YES
21Chandler JonesDEPatriots$7,799,000YES
22Brandon WeedenQBNA$0NA
23Riley ReiffTLions$8,070,000YES
24David DeCastroGSteelers$8,070,000YES
25Dont’a HightowerLBPatriots$7,751,000YES
26Whitney MercilusLBTexans$7,751,000NO
27Kevin ZeitlerGBengals$8,070,000YES
28Nick PerryLBPackers$7,751,000NO
29Harrison SmithSVikings$5,278,000YES
30AJ JenkinsWRNA$0NA
31Doug MartinRBBuccaneers$5,621,000NO
32David WilsonRBNA$0NA

Revis Comes Back to the Jets

In a scene right out of professional wretling, Darrelle Revis and the Jets have mended fences after a two year split and Revis is “coming home” to wash out the taste of the last two years. According to Manish Mehta its a big deal with $48 million in the first three years and $70 million as the total contract value.

It’s a bit of an odd contract in that the last two years are actually designed to push the value of the contract down from an annual value perspetive, which is often not the case, at least not to this extent. It gives the Jets a sense of a “compromise” on the deal while also being some type of bagaining chip in future negotiations with younger players who would be productive at the back end.  Revis can also claim he took less than his worth to come back to the team he loved. At heart this is a 3 year deal for $16 million, the number Revis always craves. In many ways the deal is the contract that Revis wanted, at east on the front end, in 2010 when the relationship between the team and player began to go bad.

Speaking as a Jets fan I think this was a move the team had to make. This isn’t a football move. This is about recapturing a fanbase that was disgusted with the Jets the last two years, primarily in 2014. It is well known that Revis made an attempt to come back last season to the Jets but the Jets wouldnt really even take the call. When things got so bad at the end of the year owner Woody Johnson basically came out and said if he knew Revis would have played for $12 million last season he would have made the move for him. That is going to open the Jets up to tampering charges since Revis was under contract at the time, but coming off the darkest run since 95-96 he had little option.

Because the Jets spent no money the last two seasons and built up a giant salary cap surplus the move really has no negative repercussions financially. They have so much space that adding one player at $16M per year in cap dollars isn’t a major problem, especially with no viable QB on the roster that will be due an extension. By the time they find a QB Revis will either be off the team or making $11 million per year, a much more manageable number.

Revis played his hand perfectly last year, which was something I talked about when he signed with New England. The cornerback market was depressed and Revis came off a lame season in Tampa Bay that saw limited interest. He wisely took what he expected to be a one year contract (though he almost outsmarted himself by continuing to aim for the $16 million metric) to allow Patrick Peterson and Richard Sherman reset the cornerback market. The minute you saw Byron Maxwell and Kareem Jackson getting huge money you knew Revis was going to score big if he got to free agency.

We’ll see where things go for the Jets, but their new front office is off to the kind of start that will keep them popular with fans and media of the team. Thats important to surviving the town and making it look like you are making every effort to get better fast. The team has made moves that are reminiscent of the Mike Tannenbaum run in 2008 and 2009 that completely remade the image of the team from the Herman Edwards/Chad Pennington group to the Rex Ryan/Revis group that nearly made the Super Bowl.  Nobody can predict the future but it’s at least a start in changing the culture of the team.

Rookie Option Updates

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We learned last night that the first set of rookie options from the 2011 draft class were starting to be picked up, so I thought it might be useful for us to have a running list of the players who are having their contracts extended by one season. The rookie option year is a new rule in the CBA that allows teams to extend the term of a first round draft choice by one season by exercising an option between the end of the players third season and May 3 of the following League Year.

The cost of the option year is dependent upon where a player was drafted and what position he plays. If the player was drafted in the top 10 picks of the draft his one year contract will equal the transition tender for the NFL in 2013. If the player is selected outside of the top 10 then his one year contract is calculated the same way that the transition tag is calculated except the 3rd through 25th highest salaries are used rather than the top 10 highest. All offensive linemen and all linebackers are each grouped as one position and are not specialized (i.e a tackle is paid same as a center or a inside linebacker is paid same as a 34 outside linebacker).

Once the option is exercised the salary is guaranteed for injury only. So if a player is injured in 2014 and unable to pass his physical the following season his entire option salary is protected. However the player can be released at any time up to the start of the 2015 League Year without penalty if he is healthy enough to play football. If the player is on the roster on the first day of the 2015 League Year (first day of free agency) the salary becomes fully guaranteed for all terminations.

There is nothing that prohibits a team from negotiating another contract with the player following the option pickup. In most cases teams will pick the option up to protect their negotiating rights with the player, which is an indication of how little teams really think of injury guarantees. If the option was fully guaranteed there would be a much different approach taken by teams. If teams do not exercise the option they can still use the Franchise or Transition tag the following season, but in most cases that will be more expensive.

What could be interesting is if teams internally calculate out the Transition tag number in 2015 using the 2010 through 2014 cap figures currently available to see if there is a potential decline in the value next year. Being that the salary cap is now rising that would be near impossible, but if a team like the Cardinals estimated that the cost for a cornerback in 2015 could be $9.5 million they may opt to just use the Transition tag in 2015 on Patrick Peterson rather than locking him up at slightly over $10 million now. This would not be applicable to players selected outside the top 10 and would also eliminate a team from using the tag on another veteran player on the team.

My own opinion on the tag is that, while there is no downside to using it, if you have a player you like but not at the option value it is better to try to work out a reasonable extension without having that factored into the equation. Once you lock a player in at say $6 or $7 million it becomes much harder to work out a long term contract valued at $4 or $5. We have seen that often enough with the Franchise tag impeding progress on a long term deal and that can be a detriment to both sides.

Contrary to popular opinion most of the players who will have the option picked up will earn more in their 5th year and have a higher 5th year cap charge than the rookies that were drafted in the old CBA system. So they will have some leverage to negotiate favorable terms if they are a good player. This is not the case for the top 6 or 7 picks who will earn less and have less leverage than their 2010 counterparts. So the option is not a block to a player friendly extension in almost all cases.

The following chart gives a breakdown of the tag values we do know and the players who are eligible for the option. As more options are picked up I’ll update the table.

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finaloptions

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