Introducing Commitment Index – Part 3

Introducing Commitment Index

Part 3:  Measuring the Mortgage

Part 1: The “Mortgaging the Future” Assertion

Part 2: The Trough Model and the Folly of “Matching Cash With Cap”

In Part 1, I explained that the concept of a team “mortgaging its future” only matters to the degree that the team has mortgaged its future relative to the other teams in the league. As a result, the Mortgaging the Future Assertion should not be used in a vacuum with respect to a given transaction, but rather within the context of the position on the mortgage continuum on which every team in the league sits at that point in time.

In Part 2, I explained that the trough-like nature of the NFL salary cap dictates that the most common way in which teams supposedly mortgage their future – by incurring cap debt upon the proration of signing bonuses – does not actually lead to any mortgaging of the future if the team has enough cap space in the present year to avoid cap debt by earmarking cap space to be rolled forward. However, a team may consciously decide to incur cap debt, and therefore mortgage its future relative to the other teams in the league, for entirely rational reasons. Today, I will identify the degree to which each team has decided to do that relative to all of the other teams in the league.

In order to “measure the mortgage” for each team, I first calculated the total amount of future signing bonus proration that each team is accountable for in all future years (i.e. 2016 and beyond). For all of the reasons I have previously enumerated, I then subtracted from that number the amount of cap space that each team currently has in 2015. The resulting number for each team represents that team’s cap debt.  The following numbers are recorded as of immediately following the draft (excluding any draft pick contracts), but include the transactions related to Whitney Mercilus, James Jones, Kamerion Wimbley, and Ryan Tannehill.

TeamMortgageCap SpaceCap Debt
Jacksonville Jaguars$19,138,150$(39,128,154)$(19,990,004)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers$11,289,128$(25,910,618)$(14,621,490)
Oakland Raiders$15,941,027$(23,623,642)$(7,682,615)
Indianapolis Colts$18,121,876$(10,425,210)$7,696,666
Cincinnati Bengals$29,558,544$(19,278,949)$10,279,595
Chicago Bears$23,424,038$(11,115,272)$12,308,766
Cleveland Browns$40,023,224$(26,309,148)$13,714,076
Minnesota Vikings$25,888,916$(11,726,492)$14,162,424
New York Jets$28,605,898$(10,355,039)$18,250,859
St. Louis Rams$27,167,705$(8,755,206)$18,412,499
San Diego Chargers$35,729,586$(15,700,332)$20,029,254
Tennessee Titans$45,036,701$(24,227,273)$20,809,428
Washington Redskins$30,803,378$(6,505,142)$24,298,236
Seattle Seahawks$35,223,040$(10,854,278)$24,368,762
Denver Broncos$31,980,264$(7,060,118)$24,920,146
Philadelphia Eagles$37,233,597$(9,633,625)$27,599,972
New York Giants$36,614,385$(6,972,313)$29,642,072
Carolina Panthers$44,204,313$(9,124,248)$35,080,065
Detroit Lions$47,853,136$(4,725,692)$43,127,444
Atlanta Falcons$62,748,313$(19,587,565)$43,160,748
San Francisco 49ers$50,374,020$(6,313,247)$44,060,773
Houston Texans$55,601,570$(9,144,849)$46,456,721
Green Bay Packers$63,259,134$(16,528,182)$46,730,952
Kansas City Chiefs$50,705,952$(2,487,991)$48,217,961
New England Patriots$59,273,415$(5,910,487)$53,362,928
Miami Dolphins$65,400,713$(9,272,862)$56,127,851
Arizona Cardinals$71,232,951$(9,112,981)$62,119,970
Pittsburgh Steelers$74,676,667$(9,183,051)$65,493,616
New Orleans Saints$69,967,987$(3,904,372)$66,063,615
Buffalo Bills$74,511,837$(6,924,045)$67,587,792
Dallas Cowboys$81,964,436$(12,290,324)$69,674,112
Baltimore Ravens$82,802,900$(10,443,490)$72,359,410
 

However, cap debt is not the only type of future cap commitment that can mortgage a team’s future. The other type is future fully guaranteed base salary (or roster bonus, used here interchangeably). As was identified in Part 1, commitment of future cap dollars may lead to decreased roster talent if the players receiving the guarantees turn out to be unproductive, as the team will have less flexibility to make changes. As a result, the next step is to add future fully guaranteed base salary to cap debt. The results are as follows:

TeamCap DebtGuaranteesCommitments
Tampa Bay Buccaneers$(14,621,490)$10,165,342$(4,456,148)
Oakland Raiders$(7,682,615)$12,443,728$4,761,113
Cincinnati Bengals$10,279,595$1,910,764$12,190,359
Indianapolis Colts$7,696,666$5,500,000$13,196,666
Jacksonville Jaguars$(19,990,004)$34,080,402$14,090,398
Seattle Seahawks$24,368,762$0$24,368,762
Minnesota Vikings$14,162,424$10,428,952$24,591,376
Tennessee Titans$20,809,428$5,125,230$25,934,658
Denver Broncos$24,920,146$1,052,048$25,972,194
Cleveland Browns$13,714,076$13,391,385$27,105,461
Chicago Bears$12,308,766$17,541,590$29,850,356
Washington Redskins$24,298,236$8,000,000$32,298,236
St. Louis Rams$18,412,499$14,639,060$33,051,559
San Diego Chargers$20,029,254$16,347,067$36,376,321
New York Giants$29,642,072$7,012,352$36,654,424
Carolina Panthers$35,080,065$2,831,454$37,911,519
San Francisco 49ers$44,060,773$2,628,061$46,688,834
Atlanta Falcons$43,160,748$4,873,977$48,034,725
Green Bay Packers$46,730,952$1,956,580$48,687,532
Detroit Lions$43,127,444$6,564,510$49,691,954
Philadelphia Eagles$27,599,972$27,629,010$55,228,982
New England Patriots$53,362,928$5,583,959$58,946,887
Houston Texans$46,456,721$19,419,872$65,876,593
New York Jets$18,250,859$49,237,195$67,488,054
Pittsburgh Steelers$65,493,616$4,592,845$70,086,461
Dallas Cowboys$69,674,112$3,358,135$73,032,247
Arizona Cardinals$62,119,970$12,795,836$74,915,806
New Orleans Saints$66,063,615$9,522,313$75,585,928
Kansas City Chiefs$48,217,961$27,686,700$75,904,661
Baltimore Ravens$72,359,410$9,837,275$82,196,685
Buffalo Bills$67,587,792$18,487,451$86,075,243
Miami Dolphins$56,127,851$45,565,545$101,693,396
 

In order to arrive at Commitment Index, I then found the average Commitments across the 32 teams, and then divided each team’s individual Commitments by this average. The resulting output displays each team’s degree of future cap commitment as a percentage of the average of all teams. Displaying the outcome as an index is appropriate because it emphasizes that the important consideration is where each team stands in terms of future cap commitment relative to all of the other teams in the league. The results are as follows:

TeamCommitment Index
Tampa Bay BuccaneersNo Commitment
Oakland Raiders10%
Cincinnati Bengals27%
Jacksonville Jaguars28%
Indianapolis Colts29%
Denver Broncos52%
Seattle Seahawks54%
Minnesota Vikings54%
Tennessee Titans57%
Cleveland Browns60%
Chicago Bears66%
Washington Redskins71%
St. Louis Rams73%
San Diego Chargers81%
New York Giants81%
Carolina Panthers84%
San Francisco 49ers103%
Green Bay Packers107%
Atlanta Falcons111%
Detroit Lions115%
Philadelphia Eagles119%
New England Patriots125%
Houston Texans145%
New York Jets149%
Pittsburgh Steelers154%
Dallas Cowboys160%
Arizona Cardinals165%
New Orleans Saints167%
Kansas City Chiefs167%
Baltimore Ravens181%
Buffalo Bills190%
Miami Dolphins224%
 

In other words, the Miami Dolphins have committed more than twice as much of their future cap space as the average team, and the Cincinnati Bengals have only committed approximately one quarter as much of their future cap space as the average team.

It is important to keep in mind what information Commitment Index conveys and what information Commitment Index does not convey. Commitment Index does not declare which teams are in the “best” or “worst” cap situation. Commitment Index does not account for the number or quality of future draft picks that each team currently possesses. Commitment Index does not attempt to quantify the amount of talent, or the average age, of the specific players that each team has signed under contract for future years.

Commitment Index does, however, identify how much flexibility each team has with respect to its salary cap. We cannot predict how well each team will draft in the future. We cannot predict how lucky or unlucky each team will be with respect to injuries in the future. We cannot predict how quickly the players on each team will decline in production in the future, or whether the players will even remain on their current teams as they reach free agency. And we may not even be able to accurately quantify how much talent each team currently possesses. But, we can assume that a team with more flexibility will be better equipped to deal with unfavorable outcomes in the aforementioned categories than a team with less flexibility.

A team with a very high Commitment Index is not necessarily in a bad situation; as long as it chose to commit to the right players and gets some lucky breaks along the way. A team with a very low Commitment Index is not necessarily in a good situation; it might be a sign that the team has no players worth committing to. But if injuries and age and unlucky bounces and draft randomness persistently work to erode competitive advantages and cause all teams to regress to the mean, then a team would be well served by maintaining more flexibility than its competitors to deal with such challenges.

Bryce Johnston is the creator of Commitment Index and the co-creator of Expected Contract Value.  Bryce earned his Juris Doctor, magna cum laude, from Georgetown University Law Center in May 2014, and currently works as a corporate associate in the New York City office of an AmLaw 50 law firm. Before becoming a contributor to overthecap.com, Bryce operated eaglescap.com for 10 NFL offseasons, appearing multiple times on 610 WIP Sports Radio in Philadelphia as an NFL salary cap expert. Bryce can be contacted via e-mail at bryce.l.johnston@gmail.com or via Twitter @NFLCapAnalytics.

  • Tyler Ferree

    I think it would be interesting to see the results of recalculating the commitment table without Tampa, Oakland, and Miami since they are all so far seperated that i would consider them outlier data points. Tampa and Oakland is due to their refusal to use Signing bonuses while Miami is going out of its way to push charges into the future to keep their current cap managable.

    • I just ran the numbers. Given the data used on the charts above excluding Tampa Bay, Oakland and Miami really doesn’t change much.

      Tampa Bay Buccaneers
      -9.6% (No Commitment)

      Oakland
      Raiders
      10.2%

      Cincinnati
      Bengals
      26.1%

      Indianapolis
      Colts
      28.3%

      Jacksonville
      Jaguars
      30.2%

      Seattle
      Seahawks
      52.3%

      Minnesota
      Vikings
      52.7%

      Tennessee
      Titans
      55.6%

      Denver
      Broncos
      55.7%

      Cleveland
      Browns
      58.1%

      Chicago
      Bears
      64.0%

      Washington
      Redskins
      69.3%

      St. Louis
      Rams
      70.9%

      San Diego
      Chargers
      78.0%

      New York
      Giants
      78.6%

      Carolina
      Panthers
      81.3%

      San
      Francisco 49ers
      100.1%

      Atlanta
      Falcons
      103.0%

      Green Bay
      Packers
      104.4%

      Detroit
      Lions
      106.6%

      Philadelphia
      Eagles
      118.5%

      New
      England Patriots
      126.4%

      Houston
      Texans
      141.3%

      New York
      Jets
      144.8%

      Pittsburgh
      Steelers
      150.3%

      Dallas
      Cowboys
      156.6%

      Arizona
      Cardinals
      160.7%

      New
      Orleans Saints
      162.1%

      Kansas
      City Chiefs
      162.8%

      Baltimore
      Ravens
      176.3%

      Buffalo
      Bills
      184.6%

      Miami
      Dolphins
      218.1%

      This is assuming the correct method of calculation was to take the average minus the outliers and then find the percent of that new average for each team. I also provided a decimal point.

      The drop in Miami’s percent also indicates that the teams on the bottom were having more of an effect than Miami did at the top. Which is hidden in the main chart by having Tampa Bay listed as No commitment rather than -10% (-9.8% by my calculation).

  • theowl

    It is interesting to me where the teams without a quarterback in a second contract are on this table. Not just the Dolphins (Tannehill’s new contract not included) are an extreme, but the Bills as well. Most of the teams with low percentages on the index table have inexpensive quarterbacks, except of course the Bengals and the Broncos with little commitment to Peyton Manning. The Bears are quite flexible despite the Cutler’s contract. We could call this the Yoga Index.

  • PerfectTrader777

    I believe the concept of flexibility is very important. The more flexibility you have in anything, the more room there is for skill to play a part.

    In regards to the salary cap, if all teams had low flexibility (for example, fewer options to prorate, earmark, etc) then the difference between a good GM and a bad GM would be small. If you have a bad GM with a lot of cap flexibility, the results likely will still be poor. The more skill you possess, the more flexibility matters.

    In regards to roster management, the more balanced your roster is in terms of skill at each position, the better you will likely do in the draft. If you have starting caliber players at every position on the roster, you will not have to draft on a need basis and will be free to draft the best player available (BPA) on the board. If you have 2 empty spots at safety, even if the rest of your defense is comprised of pro bowl players, you will likely feel pigeon-holed into drafting safeties early in the draft instead of drafting the BPA. Sometimes overpaying for FAs to fill out your roster will help immensely by increasing your flexibility and ability for a skillful GM to outplay the other NFL GMs on draft day.

    My main point is that having a low cap commitment can be a huge advantage if you have an intelligent GM in place to take advantage of that. Otherwise it might be a small advantage or no advantage at all.