Best and Worst Contracts 2016: Cincinnati Bengals

The best and worst picks continue in the AFC North with the Bengals…

Best: Andy Dalton, 6 years, $96 million, $17M guaranteed

There are so many places to go with the Bengals who are one of the best teams, in my opinion, and consistently negotiating good contracts with their players. They are very unique in that they drive good deals that give the team major flexibility but unlike others they have almost every intention of honoring the entire contract when its signed. It makes for a different decision for a player and his agent when deciding if he should or should not sign a contract. For many players the two or three year cash flow is incredibly important because come year four the player is cut or asked to take a pay cut. The decision should come down to the more or less the entire Bengals offer versus the other teams up front cash and what you might earn after being cut in three years. Continue reading Best and Worst Contracts 2016: Cincinnati Bengals »

2016 Cap Analytics: Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals are one of only two teams (the Seahawks are the other) with no players who can be considered more likely to be released than not, and as a result the team has the lowest expected change in salary cap room in the entire league.  Further, the team’s 4th place ranking in True Cap Space and 26th place ranking in Commitment Index show that these high Expected Outcomes are not a result of heavily mortgaged contracts that would be painful to terminate from a salary cap perspective.  On the contrary, the team has consistently demonstrated an ability to both accurately forecast which players will perform well in the future and to capitalize on negotiating leverage to design team-friendly contracts.

Continue reading 2016 Cap Analytics: Cincinnati Bengals »

Backloading Contracts and Mortgaging the Future

When teams sign a player to a certain contract value they have a general expectation of return based on that salary figure. The salary cap numbers, however, can be manipulated pretty easily as some teams will create an incredibly low cap figure early in a contract only to see that contract explode in later years even though the cash component of the contract will always remain as is.  I’ve always been of the opinion that the more cap that you can eat early in the contract the more flexibility it gives you in the future when player’s performances decline. With all the talk of restructures of contracts and their impact on the future I wanted to explore just how much teams are backloading or frontloading those deals to have that cap flexibility. Continue reading Backloading Contracts and Mortgaging the Future »

Bengals 2015 Salary Cap Outlook

Estimated 2015 Cap Space: $32.8M ($140M cap limit)

Roster Overview

Players Under Contract: 57
Pro Bowlers: 2
Unrestricted Free Agents: 13(4 with 50%+ playtime)
Draft Selection: 21

Salary Cap BreakdownBengals 2015 Salary Cap Allocation

Bengals 2015 Salary Cap-Offense

Bengals 2015 Defensive Spending

Free Agents to Re-sign

If the team is looking for stability in their running game and pass protection it would seem clear that Clint Boling would be brought back. The question will be if he wants to test free agency and see what’s there or take a deal with Cincy now. Testing free agency can be a risk for him if nobody bites but it’s also a risk for Cincy to let him get there in the event he finds a big contract that the Bengals won’t match…The only avenue to upgrade over Ray Maualuga is through the draft so he will probably return on low cost contract. There is limited upside but he knows the system and the coaching staff is comfortable with him so for a reasonable salary he is worth keeping…I would expect the team to keep both Mike Nugent and Eric Winston next year. Nether will cost much.

Free Agents to Let Walk

The Bengals have not been able to get the maximum potential out of Jermaine Gresham and even if they wanted him back I doubt he would want to come back. His best contract strategy is to find a job with a team that utilizes the position and hope that springboards him to a big contract in 2016…Neither Dane Sanzenbacher nor Brandon Tate contribute offensively to really care about either way as both are replaceable. Tate does have some value with returns, but not enough to make a real effort to keep.

Contracts to Modify

The Bengals should approach AJ Green about a contract extension to see if they can get something worked out. Green has put up incredible numbers prior to his injury filled 2014 season and is arguably the best receiver in the NFL. The Bengals have not had to negotiate a contract of this magnitude since the days of Carson Palmer and this may be their best chance to get something done on their terms. If they let things play out and begin the franchise tag process it will just hurt long term.

Players to Consider Releasing

The Bengals will likely have three release candidates in Domata Peko, Robert Geathers, and Wallace Gilberry. That said none make much money and none should be cut until replacements are found either in free agency or the draft.

Offseason Plan

The Bengals are the first playoff team we’ve covered and by far look to have the most uneventful offseason ahead, which is why the above sections were so short compared to the other teams. They don’t really have any major contract headaches nor any big time free agents. While they do have a large surplus of cap room I don’t think anyone expects them to go on a wild spending spree in free agency. If they want to take that quick step forward they may need to do some things they have not been comfortable with in the past, though that may not be in the long term interests of the team.

I see this offseason focused more on bringing more youth onto the defensive side of the ball and preparing for a somewhat large roster turnover in 2016. Seven big defensive contributors (T. Newman, Geathers, A. Jones, R. Nelson, Gilberry, L. Hall, and Peko) are all at least 30 years of age and clearly the defensive side needs those young players to take over the defense sooner rather than later.

Cincinnati is very value conscious and they will likely look for low cost free agents with upside to help fill in some gaps while focusing on the draft for the bigger production. I don’t think you would connect the Bengals with any Tier 1 or probably Tier 2 free agents, but more likely find them sorting through the bargain bin of the Adrian Clayborn’s of the world where they think they can might uncover a low cost starter, specifically at one of the end positions.

Even if the team doesn’t keep Gresham it would not seem that offense will be their focus. They have a terrific backfield and Green is an all world talent at receiver. Andy Dalton is streaky as a quarterback, but at this point the team is resigned to what he is. Hopefully he can grow into something more, but adding more receivers isn’t going to make the difference.

I would anticipate the draft will put a strong emphasis on defense. The team desperately needs to improve the pass rush and upgrade their defensive end position. They need more youth in the secondary and may need more players at linebacker. The team should have enough left in the tank to compete again for a playoff spot, but unless they have a good draft this is probably going to mark the end of their consistent playoff run.

Bengals Links

Bengals Salary Cap Pages

Bengals Free Agents

Bengals Contracts

Bengals GM Salary Cap Calculator

Other Offseason Salary Cap Reports

Bengals Free Agent Simulator

Best & Worst Contracts 2014: Cincinnati Bengals

My final look for the week features the Cincinnati Bengals

Best Contract: Andrew Whitworth

Andrew WhitworthSlowly but surely the Bengals have become one of my favorite teams to study for contracts. They have a reputation for being cheap but they have been able to field a good team for a few years now and the contracts are almost all very team friendly. They do a good job extending early and using cap room early to make players easy to move on from if they do not work out.

Andrew Whitworth remains, for me, the best value on this team. His contract is one where the numbers look higher than they are because the Bengals signed Whitworth to a two year extension back in 2011, but in reality it was a $6.2 million contract, which is bargain basement pricing for a quality left tackle.

This was a situation where the Bengals acted quickly and extended him after just two years in the NFL to set the stage for numerous good contracts down the line. This is the strategy that the 49ers, Eagles, and Packers often use and they are three of the best managed teams in the NFL. Not surprisingly the Bengals reworked the deal in 2011 by adding another two years to the contract. His cap number the next two years is just $6.2 million each season and the cut cost is next to nothing. In essence this was the contract model used for the recent Joe Staley extension in San Francisco.

What makes this even more impressive is that Whitworth was signed at a time when tackles were making obscene dollar figures. Whitworth’s contract has stood out as the best value at the position over that time. Most players have yearly cap figures between $8.5 and $9 million a season with the top end contracts often topping $10 million. The contracts were loaded with guarantees making cutting of a player difficult in the event of failure once extended. It was never the case with Whitworth whose been a great bargain at a very expensive position.

Worst Contract: Domata Peko

Domata PekoThis is one of those teams where pointing out bad deals is more difficult. The contractual guarantees are all low. Nobody is really overpaid and the contract structures allow teams the team to exit whenever they want. I could see choosing Leon Hall since he has had trouble with injuries, had a larger signing bonus, and is paid as an elite cornerback, but at the time he signed the corner salaries were all high and he was playing at a high level. Instead I’ll go with Domata Peko simply because I think he wa overvalued even though he has a relatively decent contract structure.

Peko was another player who was initially extended early by the Bengals and was set to earn $4.325 million in 2014 due to the inclusion of some moderately easy to earn escalators. I’m not really sure what Peko did to earn a raise and a new contract but that is Cincinnati decided he did enough for one. The Bengals increased his salary to $5.9 million, $4.4 million of which was guaranteed, in exchange for the next two years at $3.7 million.

It’s not really a bad contract as much as it is an unnecessary one. Peko consistently grades as one of the worst defensive tackles in the NFL. Last year Pro Football Focus ranked him 66 out of 69 qualifying players. That should not be worth the 19th highest paid contract at the position. Peko received nearly as high a guarantee along with the same annual contract value as Sen’Derrick Marks, a younger and higher upside player at the same position.  Marks signed recently as well and also has a team friendly contract structure.

2013’s Best and Worst Bengals Contracts:

2013 Best Contract:Andrew Whitworth (See Above)

2013 Worst Contract: Michael Johnson (Contract expired; Signed with Buccaneers)

Click Here to Check out OTC’s other Best and Worst Contracts from around the NFL!




Free Agency Thoughts: Cincinnati Bengals


Key Additions: Danieal Manning ($1.6M per year), Jason Campbell  ($1.5M)

Key Re-Signings: Vincent Rey ($2.1M per year), Mike Pollak ($1.6M), Brandon Tate ($1M)

Key Losses: Michael Johnson (Buccaneers), Anthony Collins (Buccaneers), Andrew Hawkins (Browns)

Major Cuts: Kyle Cook ($2.1M cap savings), James Harrison ($1.4M cap savings)

Free Agency Thoughts:

With the Bengals I think what stands out most are the losses. I think the loss that has most up in arms is the defection of Michael Johnson to Tampa. Johnson would sign a deal worth just under $9 million a season which is a pretty large sum of money for someone who is not a great pass rusher. A fairer price would have been in the LaMarr Houston range ($7 million) and I don’t think you can blame the Bengals for not approaching the $9 million level to keep him. That is a contract you regret the minute you sign it.

There was likely no window for them to really sign him. In 2012 he had a career season that was going to drive his price too high. Once the offseason came around there were too many big numbers being rumored for him to listen to any offer that would be reasonable for the Bengals. So he was going to hit free agency under any circumstance.

Anthony Collins was a great luxury to have, but it is not smart cap management to pay for that. Collins I am sure wanted an opportunity for more playing time which he will now get in Tampa Bay. Teams in the NFL consistently lose depth due to the cap and this is a consequence of that aspect of the NFL.

Andrew Hawkins had more value to the Browns than the Bengals, but the Bengals may have been able to protect themselves had they used a higher tender. Many players end up reworking their tender offers to include guaranteed money at a reduced salary and they could have done that if they knew others were interested.

When it came to actual free agency the Bengals barely registered. The best signing may be journeyman QB Jason Campbell who could at least provide professional play if Andy Dalton gets hurt. Could they have looked for a higher upside backup?  I guess it is possible but if Mike Vick and Josh McCown are looking for opportunity than this was not the place for either. Should they have looked at Mark Sanchez even though Campbell was already under contract?  I would have. He has better physical tools than Campbell and has played in tough weather environments. The Bengals would provide him with a far better set of skill players than he had in New York where he was acceptable in the playoffs, but fell apart the last two years during the regular season.

Danieal Manning will provide some depth at the position but his best days are long behind him. The Bengals have taken chances on older players than others have given up on with some mixed results and they will hope he is a positive case.

Of the re-signings Vincent Rey was a RFA that the team signed for an extra year on his extension. He’s a good backup that is versatile and the cost is certainly reasonable considering the tender for a year was $1.4 million. The others are also depth signings with little upside.

Overall Grade: D

I can understand building through the draft and saving cap space for AJ Green and Andy Dalton, but this is a team with the third most cap space in 2014 and near the bottom of the salary cap spending charts in 2015 as well, and that already includes a $10 million option for Green. I get that the big knock on the team is that they will not go anywhere unless the QB play improves, but after three straight rapid playoff exits you should be working to do anything you can to make the most out of what you currently have. All things considered this team made sense for a Justin Tuck or Lamarr Woodley as a one year trial on defense as a lower cost alternative to one of the big names that were available. There were safeties available that they could have bid on that would have improved the team. There were reasonably priced centers on the market that may have helped. I just cannot see the purpose of sitting on the money that they sat on this year with the stage that the team is at. This is the ideal location to successfully add to the mix via free agency and they did not touch it at all.




Contract Year Series, Geno Atkins


Geno Atkins #97 DT, Cincinnati Bengals

When discussing NFL Draft steals, a name that is rising up the list, like a rocket, is Cincinnati Bengals Defensive Tackle- Geno Atkins. The knock on Atkins prior to the 2010 Draft was he is simply too small to play as an interior lineman in the NFL. Well the past three years have obliterated the experts’ opinion of him. From a production standpoint, Pro Football Focus has graded Atkins as the highest ranking player on the Bengals defense for each of his first three seasons. With 12.5 sacks, 54 tackles, and 49 QB hurries, his 2012 season ranks with the best players -defense or offense- since PFF began ranking players in 2008.

Let’s analyse Geno Atkins’ market value. The highest paid NFL DT is the 3rd overall pick from the same draft, Tampa Bay Bucanneers’ Gerald McCoy. McCoy has recorded a total of 9.0 sacks and 69 tackles in his entire 3-year career. This stat line has cost the Bucaneers $12.7M APY and considering his Pro Bowl nomination in 2012 they should be happy with his deal. There are two other DT’s that have crossed the $12M APY threshold- Haloti Ngata and Ndamukong Suh. After these three players, there is a large break to the next level between $8M-$8.5M range of Randy Starks, Henry Melton and Vince Wilfork.

McCoy will command at least $12M and possibly upwards of $13.5 if he puts together another big year. Time is actually on the side of the Bengals in this negotiation as Atkins will be hard pressed to repeat his amazing 2012 season. This is also one of the few situations that the franchise tag will be a cost savings as well as a time filler for the Bengals. I looks as though Atkins won’t hit the open market until after the 2014 season.

Estimated New Contract: 5 years, $67.5 million