### Looking at the Young Quarterback in the NFL

With all the recent talk about the young QB’s in the NFL I wanted to take a look using my incremental yards matrix as to how they are performing in 2013. For those unfamiliar with these numbers that I use the way it works is that using data supplied by Pro Football Focus relating to length of passes we can determine how many yards an average QB would pass for on a similar set of throws. By comparing the two we can determine just how many yards the QB actually contributed to the team. The average YPA is as follows:

Behind the Line- 5.8 yards

0 to 9 yards- 6.2 yards

10 to 19 yards- 9.5 yards

20+ yards- 11.7 yards

In addition we can calculate the expected interceptions and use that to calculate yards allowed/prevented by maintaining possession of the ball. A turnover should lead to an average of 30.8 yards being gained by the opposition. So for every interception above the expectation we consider the player to have contributed a negative 30.8 yards to the team. In the past I have considered rushing yards, but I tend to think long term that is unsustainable and we have seen major cutbacks in those numbers this year for a number of “running” QB’s.

What I found most interesting in the results is that for all the talk about how great the young QB’s in the NFL are only two players truly stand out- Nick Foles and Russell Wilson. While I have not run the numbers for the entire NFL these totals should be right at the top of the NFL. In Foles’ case it’s exceptionally impressive since he does not have as many snaps as other players. Both players are improved over last season when Foles was at -85 pass yards and Wilson at 285 pass yards. After two years of numbers like this I think Wilson has cemented himself as the real deal and should be paid accordingly after the 2014 season. Foles I think we all want to see a full year of work, but its certainly a good start.

Cam Newton is getting more love this year because his team is winning but statistically he’s worse this season. Last year he was at 388 passing yards and this year is down to 125 with 6 games to go. His turnover rates are higher as well. Cam can be extended after this season but the Panthers salary cap situation may prevent that. In many ways that might be a good thing because he has draft cache and name value which can sometimes lead to bloated contracts.  I’m not sure if you want to consider elite dollars to him yet or not. RGIII is not as bad as people are making him out to be but he is a shell compared to last season when he was close to 400 yards. His turnovers are also way up and I wonder if some of the regression is his inability to run this year.

Andrew Luck has also been overvalued the last two season, though this represents an improvement over last year where he finished with -272 passing yards. Luck is still young but right now I could see a bit of Eli Manning in there in that he gets passes for being a number 1 pick, wins games, and has late game rallys. He is not the same style player as Manning but I could see the perception being bigger than reality. He has cut down on turnovers. At this stage it’s ridiculous to compare him to Wilson, who is just a superior player.

Colin Kaepernick has crashed. He was incredibly productive last year and this year just is not. San Francisco has to think long and hard before extending him in the offseason. I doubt they offer him more than \$15 million a season.  Andy Dalton is a turnover machine and if not for that would be a slightly above average player. He’s certainly helped by his WR corps. but the turnovers are terrible.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of all was how low Ryan Tannehill ranked. Why did he rank so poorly?  Basically anything he throws 10 yards or more down the field leads to nothing. Pin some of that blame on the Mike Wallace failure, but the bottom line is Tannehill only completes 50.5% of his passes between 10 and 19 yards and just 26.5% of his deep throws. His team calls far too many intermediate passes for his skillset right now and that hurts. 31% of his passes are travelling between 10 and 19 yards. The next closest from this group is Newton who threw about 28% of his passes in that range. Newton completes 64%. I tend to think if they had him shorten the field his numbers would improve.

Of the guys getting their first chances this year we see two camps. Neither Mike Glennon or EJ Manuel are having success passing the ball but both are at least doing something positive by limiting interceptions. This is in direct contract to Terrelle Pryor and Geno Smith who are producing average pass numbers but horrific turnover numbers. Smith’s -256 yards is nearly double the next worst player. The only players worse than him lass season were Matt Cassel (-309 TO yards) and Mark Sanchez (-332 TO yards). He is on pace to shatter those numbers. Why does his passing rank as high as it does?  He completes 46.5% of his bombs. He is below average on every other throw. If that balances out his final numbers could be scary on the season.

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### Thoughts on Benching a Young Quarterback

Benching the young Quarterback is always a difficult task. Teams invest so much into the QB position and people, seemingly both inside and outside an organization, take sides sometimes which can cloud the decision making process. Though I usually focus on cap related issues I wanted to look at a few situations around the NFL and give my thoughts on the various reasons why certain players could be benched.

Geno Smith– Smith has struggled for most of the season and is arguably worse than Mark Sanchez was for the Jets at any time in Sanchez’ career. The Jets are in an unlikely position of being the Wildcard leader in the AFC and the QB position has been a complete drain on the team. Smith is a 2nd round draft pick, but the Jets are likely not fully invested in the prospect of Smith as the future of their team. They certainly did not think he was worthy of a high first round pick, having passed on him twice at the top of the draft, and made no indication that they felt strongly enough about him to move back into the first round later in the draft to get him. So I doubt the team is worried about damaging his long term prospects with the team.

The thought process is likely compounded further by the relationship between head coach Rex Ryan and GM John Idzik. This is Idzik’s first year in NY and he and Ryan certainly have very different personalities. Ryan is essentially a lame duck coach and may feel as if his best opportunity to stay a head coach is if he gets his team to the playoffs. Developing a QB is not in the best interest of Ryan right now. But I am not sure how much authority Ryan has to make that decision. The Jets have maintained a veteran backup all season long (Brady Quinn and then David Garrard) but he has never been active on Sunday, instead leaving the backup duties to Matt Simms, an undrafted free agent in 2012 that made a team in 2013. I theorized that part of that decision may have been because Idzik did not want Ryan to make a hasty move in a game to bench Smith in favor of a veteran as it is far more difficult for a coach to see a UDFA as an improved option. Rex has now pulled Smith twice from games in the 4th quarter in favor of Simms.

One approach for the Jets is to hope to catch lighting in a bottle with Simms. This is not all that uncommon in the NFL where you bring a guy in with no footage and no expectations and they stun the world. I think we saw that already in Oakland and Houston this year. I think what happens here is that the players on the team actually rally around the QB and the idea that they have to raise their level of play to compensate for the “downgrade” at the QB position. Opposition also takes such QB’s lightly and coaches have limited film work to really coach their players up on and instead have to just focus on generalities of the offense, which may not even be valid.

The negative is that usually this spike in play only happens for a few weeks. Opponents begin to study the player and gain some respect for him. Next thing that happens is the world wonders how in the world is this player the QB of an NFL team.  This is also a move that can shatter the 2nd round draft pick. It’s one thing to bench a rookie for a veteran like Garrard. It is another to bench him for an undrafted player.

Simms is most likely not going to be the future for the Jets.  He would not even be a stopgap starter going forward. If the Jets do not draft a QB, the stopgap starter is Geno Smith or a massive salary reduced Mark Sanchez.  While some teams might be able to use a benching as an “evaluation period” the Jets don’t have that option in front of them.

The other option, and likely the one preferred by the head coach, is to put a veteran on the field and let him run a very controlled mistake free offense. There is zero upside to David Garrard, who hasn’t taken a snap in years, but you know he won’t turn the ball over two or three times in a few minute span. He’ll never be the story in a game, good or bad, and that is what a team would want. Right now Geno Smith is the story most weeks and it’s a negative story.

Garrard brings problems too, though. Having not played in so many years and having retired once this season because offseason workouts were too much for his body, how long can you go with Garrard as a starter?  What do you do if he gets injured?  Bring back Smith who you are admitting is not ready to play in the NFL right now? How do you spin that to the team?  You can’t.

If the Jets go with Simms I think the writing is on the wall for Smith next season. The Jets will be happy with a miracle from Simms that gets the playoffs but if he fails my guess is they will be just as happy with the high draft pick. If Garrard is the guy its simply an admission that Smith is not ready for the NFL and you want to see how he reacts to playing as a backup.

As a side to this discussion is that I think any benching scenario might open up a door, no matter how small, for Sanchez to be involved in a QB competition next season. The Jets should have significant cap space in 2014 to threaten to carry Sanchez’ salary through August if he refuses a pay cut.  If they are unable to get a QB in the draft next season you would think the Jets will go right back to square 1 with the Geno vs Mark battle.

Case Keenum– After starter Matt Schaub had his confidence destroyed the Texans used an injury to Schaub as reason to begin looking at the younger players on their team. This may have been a similar situation to what has happened in a few locations where the head coach makes the change in part to  prove a point to people that it is not the QB’s fault the way people perceive it. In many ways these are token benchings not anticipated to last.

The two cases that I can recall which were similar were Vinny Testaverde being benched in Dallas in 2004 for Drew Henson and Kyle Orton being pulled in favor of Tim Tebow in 2011. In the Testaverde situation the Cowboys coach, Bill Parcells, claimed injury, but by halftime Testaverde came back into the game to replace an ineffective Henson. Parcells wanted to prove a point by starting Henson and having him implode on a big stage, which he did going 4 of 12 for 31 yards and a pick before being benched.

The pressure to bring in Tebow was overwhelming in Denver. Nobody in the organization supported him but this was considered a lost season and starting Tebow solved a dilemma of having to face mounting media and public pressure to start him the following season. The Broncos released Orton as a favor to Orton so that he could continue his career elsewhere. Along the way, though, Tebow took the Broncos on a miracle playoff run making the situation more complex. The Broncos proved the point that Tebow could not play a traditional QB role in the NFL, but they had failed to realize the way the team, in particular the defense, responded to him playing. They raised their level and Tebow did just enough late in games to sneak away with some wins based on the immense leg of their kicker. The Broncos traded Tebow away the following year because they never wanted him in the first place.

I don’t think Texans coach Gary Kubiak considered the fact that Keenum might look competent in these games. Keenum created that spark that I mentioned above, except the Texans were not winning games like Tebow did. They simply did not look lost and incompetent. To many that is progress but Keenum was pulled in middle of yesterdays game for really no good reason.

In most cases coaches are loyal to their guys. If not for Schaub, Kubiak probably would not have a job in Houston right now. That is his guy and he is going to go to bat for him.  Kubiak is also going to send a message to management with the move. If you want to retain Kubiak know that it is either Schaub or a draft pick as QB. He is not going to work developing someone he does not believe in. He is also not going to waste his time letting people evaluate Keenum on his watch if he is going to be let go. That can be their job next season.

Of all the possible moves this benching makes the least sense, but I do not think it is as big of a problem as many are making it out to be.

Terrelle Pryor- The Raiders are in a difficult position. I don’t think anyone in the organization knows if they will or will not be back in 2014. You have to feel bad for some of those guys as they walked into the worst situation in the NFL and were given a task to clean it up. It is not unlike what happened to the New York Knicks who hired guys to literally suffer through awful seasons so they could create cap space to get a star. Eventually they were all fired after they did their jobs of cleaning house and fielding non-competitive teams.

Pryor is a prospect. He is very athletic but extremely raw. As the weeks have gone on he’s looked worse and worse and an injury allowed them to bring in UDFA Matt McGloin. McGloin sparked the team to a victory and in the awful AFC the Raiders are legitimately in contention for a wildcard spot. Finding a way to remain relevant through December is the best opportunity for all involved to be retained by ownership moving forward.

In terms of evaluating players the Raiders have likely seen enough from Pryor to determine if he can start for them next season or simply be a backup player. His numbers have plummeted and they have gone as far as they can with him this season. In the first four games of the year Pryor was completing 68.2% of his passes for 845 yards with 4 TDs to just 2 interceptions. Since then he has completed just 50.8% of his passes for 715 yards. He has just 1 touchdown and 8 interceptions in the last 4 games.

The Raiders need a spark and if McGloin gives that to them they need to make the switch. Pryor gave them that spark early but the league caught up. Maybe McGloin can give them a few weeks and then you can turn to Tyler Wilson after that. For this team they have to do whatever they can to keep their jobs. None of the players are considered high end prospects so they are not really hurting any development by not bringing Pryor back.

Robert Griffin III– I find this situation to be fascinating. RGIII was basically the best rookie in the league in 2012 but he has been awful in 2013. He is the face of the franchise but he has not looked the same following his knee injury and his relationship with the coach is icy to say the least. I would lean towards thinking that Mike Shanahan will not be back as coach of the Redskins in 2014. Considering he is only 24-34 in four seasons I don’t think anyone will shed any tears over him leaving either. I think that fact should play into a decision.

If I am running the organization I want to make my coach bench RGIII and look like the bad guy in the situation, if he wont return next year. I believe in RGIII but I need him healthy and right now he is not doing anything to stay healthy nor is he winning the confidence of his teammates. He looks lost. Getting him to take a step back is probably in the best interest of the Redskins.

The Redskins also have to realize how bad the personnel on the team is. Last year they had a wild ride and ran to the playoffs but this year every wart was exposed. The problem for them is that they gave up next years first round draft pick to the Rams as part of the RGIII trade. They need to replenish the farm system but don’t have the picks to do it with.

The Redskins have a capable backup QB in Kirk Cousins who people were crazily discussing as fetching a first rounder in a trade. I know that won’t happen but I want to use the next five or six games to showcase Cousins around the NFL. If he can play well they can recapture at least a 2nd round pick for him. Maybe they can even grab a 2nd and 4th or 2nd and 3rd. Losing with RGIII only makes the Rams happier. Losing with Cousins might net the Redskins something in return.

If the coach is not coming back I would not expect any negative effect on the confidence of my star young player. People have already turned on Shanahan. He is going to get the brunt of the negative press for his handling of the summer with the QB and general poor overall record with the team. When the new coach comes in and welcomes RGIII in with open arms all of the discussion will be about how the prior coach wasted a year of RGIII’s career.

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### Ca(m)p Position Battles: Mark Sanchez vs. Geno Smith

2013 Cap Hit – Sanchez: \$12,853,125; Smith: \$912,655
Amount Remaining on Salary – Sanchez: \$40,475,000 (\$19,250,000 guaranteed); Smith: \$5,019,603 (\$3,068,784 guaranteed)

Although this will get plenty of national media coverage, the battle between New York Jets quarterbacks Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith for the starting job may not be the most interesting storyline to a diehard football fan. However, there is much at stake cap-wise. Mark Sanchez, much lamented for his performance as a starter in 2012 (attributed to the “butt-fumble” and beyond), still could be a viable option as a starter this year. While Rex Ryan has shown in past and present press conferences to have an inexplicable fondness for the beleaguered Sanchez, if the Jets wish, they can have him off the books by the end of the season. Why not give him a shot at the beginning of the season to attempt to recreate some of the magic from his back-to-back AFC championship game appearances (2010-2011, albeit surrounded by a more talented roster)?
The Jets can however wait on Geno Smith. Thanks to both the new CBA and Geno’s plummet to the second round in the 2013 NFL Draft, Geno has a very team-friendly contract, so the Jets can afford to let him study the game in a backup role. Additionally, contrary to the wave of young quarterbacks that have set the league on fire in the last few years (Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick and, to a lesser extent, Andy Dalton), Smith is considerably less polished coming into the league. It does not seem to be beneficial to throw him under fire amidst the circus that is the New York Jets. In my opinion, the Jets should give him time to study and observe from the sideline. For the time being, keep Sanchez on the field until it becomes unbearable (I would say at least 5 weeks). It could not go worse than it did last year. Sorry Jets fans, that’s as optimistic as I could get.

Due to the impatience of the Jets’ fan base and organization, however, Geno Smith could start as soon as Week One. Rex Ryan could be, after all, coaching for his job.

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### Geno Smith’s Contract Contains No Year 3 Guarantees

Earlier today we discussed Geno Smiths contract structure and the potential reasons behind the workout bonuses in the contract. According to Joel Corry the contract does not contain the year 3 guarantees:

So what to make of this then? We’ll its a loss for Roc Nation in that Smith becomes the first QB to not receive a premium in terms of guarantees in the 2nd round. That said it does give Smith an opportunity to earn actual cash faster than his peers, specifically in the 4th year of the contract, a year none have any guarantees.

I think for the Jets its a win. They didn’t cave in on somewhat of a precedent that had been set by some more difficult to deal with teams like the Bengals and Broncos. The bonuses nearly ensure participation in the event Smith is unhappy with his contract in 2016 and give the Jets a longer time to evaluate him in that 4th year in the event they are turning elsewhere.

For Smith the focus is simply on timing of cash flows. It is better than the rest of his comparison players so in that manner its a win provided he makes it to year 3. The worry for him would be if the Jets are bad this season and have an opportunity to draft a QB then the 3rd year guarantee may have come in handy. As a backup his salary would be low, so I don’t see that as a big concern, but still its puts him a bit behind others who were protected a little more in the event of not claiming the job quickly. If he plays as well as Dalton or Kaepernick the 3rd year guarantee will be no issue.

I would think the contract will be used against Roc Nation if a veteran agent is considering signing a 2nd/3rd round grade QB that he thinks is considering Jay Z’s agency. Its a small bullet point that can be used to discredit the job that was done. If Smith is a star, though, and has his face plastered all over NYC, it will be a moot point. The purpose of signing with Jay Z is about marketing potential and it will be tough to convince someone that they can market the player better than Jay Z will if there is any success shown by the player off the football field.

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### Why Does Geno Smith’s Contract Contain Such Large Bonuses?

According to ProFootballTalk the Jets have added large workout bonuses into QB Geno Smith’s contract. I speculated yesterday that Smith’s contract would contain at least \$100,000 in workout or offseason bonuses but was a bit surprised at the amount that these contain, \$690,819. Some speculate that it’s a sign the Jets could be worried about Smith’s offseason dedication while others say that it was a masterful negotiation by Jay Z’s Roc Nation. Which is it?

In terms of offseason money this is the largest amount for a non-first rounder over the final two years of his contract. The prior largest figure was Janoris Jenkins, whose deal contained \$684,163 in season roster bonuses, an amount that was chosen because of Jenkins off the field problems. That doesn’t mean it is uncommon to have bonus money, I believe 18 of 32 second rounders had some sort of bonus money last season, just uncommon for it to be of this size. That could indicate some issues with Smith that the Jets are trying to ensure don’t pop up.

While the Jets in the past have been big workout bonus believers, their new GM, John Idzik, has come from a system where the offseason money is not a priority. Considering the Jets let go of the teams lead contract negotiator it is highly unlikely that they would be looking at workout bonuses as a main component of contracts. Again this paints a unique picture for the GM making this a somewhat unique situation.

On the other side of the coin offseason bonus money is always in the players favor as it forces a teams hand to release a player early or pay him. It’s almost like having a “no-offset guarantee” clause in your contract if you make it through workouts or a roster bonus date.  In terms of cash flow it is beneficial to get more money early rather than needing to wait for the season to begin.

Again its not uncommon, specifically for the QB. Colin Kaepernick had \$200,000 in workout bonuses with the 49ers. Andy Dalton received \$200,000 in reporting bonuses from the Bengals. Brock Osweiler has \$349,245 in roster bonus money coming his way from the Broncos. So the precedent for the bonus money is there and in all of these cases this was money pushed for by the agents to improve the cash flows to a very highly valued asset.  Osweiler’s situation is probably the most unique because of the presence of Peyton Manning which is why he pushed for high roster bonuses rather than the later bonuses the others received.

So what was the purpose of the high bonus?  First I would say it depends on the guarantee structure of the contract. As of typing this I do not know  if Smith’s 2015 base salary was guaranteed. I would assume that it was based on former treatment of QB salaries. Dalton received a guarantee on his 3rd year salary. Kaepernick had close to \$600,000 of his third year salary guaranteed. Osweiler, selected much later in the round, received his first two years guaranteed. All of their contracts, more or less, represented a premium in guarantees over the slot. That is the QB premium I talk about that exists in the draft.

If Smith did receive a full \$585,000 guarantee on his P5 in 2015 that is a big win for the player. The presence of the workout bonus in this case essentially guarantees him  a full guarantee on his third year. That is better than Kaepernick and puts him in the same category as Dalton, both players drafted a few slots higher. That’s a big win.  If there is no year 3 guarantee then Smith lost big and the workout bonus was just a compromise to cover for the guarantee. That will be a big blow for Jay Z’s first client in the NFL and one that will be used against him.

The Jets tied all his extra year 3 and year 4 compensation to workouts, normally meaning something like 70-80% attendance. As I said before the number is a surprise especially given Idzik’s track record.  It may not have anything to do with Smith the player, as is being speculated, but more Jay Z the agent. The Jets have to assume that Smith is going to be their QB of the future. The NFL permits contracts to be renegotiated after the 3rd season in the NFL. This agency is a complete unknown around the NFL and there could be a feeling that Smith is going to be advised to holdout in the future to make it known that he wants a new contract.

The workout bonus gives the Jets protection for that in year 4. A roster or reporting bonus can allow Smith to collect without being present in the offseason, staging a bit of a mini-holdout as we have seen others do. The large workout bonus makes it almost mandatory for Smith to participate even if unhappy with his contract status. About 40% of his 2016 salary is connected to workouts now. That should at least help, a little bit, the potential of an agency turning the offseason into a big story about contracts. The Jets have been down this road multiple times with Darrelle Revis.  Idzik himself even saw a little bit of this last year when someone starting floating a story about how Russell Willson was underpaid and was going to demand his contract redone, even though the CBA didn’t allow it. It was likely a bogus story from the start, but it takes the focus off football.

So when the details of the contract are official we can make a better determination of the whys of the contract. If that guarantee is missing from 2015 then it was a win for the Jets side and they have likely tried to protect themselves from any outside forces keeping Smith from attending the offseason programs. If the guarantee exists then Smith’s team did a really good job and maybe the Jets felt that this was the best protection they could get in the future. We should know the answer later today.

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### My take on what the Jets should do with Mark Sanchez (if he’s not the starting QB)

Since I started writing posts here on OverTheCap.com, I have rarely, if ever, written about my beloved New York Jets. Jason does an incredible job covering every move the team makes, so there is never anything to add. However, with the Jets set to entertain a quarterback controversy (…again), I want to take a minute and write about a scenario the Jets may be facing, the question of what to do with Mark Sanchez if he isn’t the starting quarterback next year.

As we all know, the Jets quarterback situation isn’t exactly stellar and so the team is set to host a competition for the starting job come training camp. With the abrupt retirement of David Gerrard, we are left with two realistic options to win the job, incumbent Mark Sanchez and touted rookie Geno Smith (no, I don’t count Greg McElroy). In terms of skill, the competition could go either way. Nobody quite knows what the Jets have in Smith just yet, and there’s an argument to be made new Jets coordinator Marty Mornhinweg’s offense is as best a fit for Sanchez as any scheme he’s been in since entering the league in 2009. It wouldn’t shock me if either one outperformed the other come camp. For purposes of this post, let’s assume Geno Smith wins the job and is under center against Revis and company on September 8th. At this point, you’d have voices screaming from every direction as to how handle Sanchez.

There are really two ways the team could go here. The first option is to keep Sanchez on the roster as Smith’s backup. Many would say he’s a better backup then the free agent scrap heaps that remain, and that’s certainly a fair statement. But, if Sanchez remained on the roster all year and wasn’t the starting quarterback, it could create a headache that no one needs. If Smith succeeds, we’re sure to get many camera shots of Sanchez looking glum on the sidelines during games. If Smith struggles, we’ll certainly read a ton of stories about Sanchez looking over Smith’s back, ready to pounce on the job before Smith could truly grab it. I’m sure we’ll even hear how Sanchez looks like a new man in practice, much like we heard during camp last season. This is not the route I would take, but you can certainly understand where people are coming from who would argue Sanchez is the best option as a backup QB. The other option would be to release (or potentially trade) Sanchez prior to the season’s commencement and either sign a new backup or roll with McElroy or someone else competing during camp. I feel confident in saying thiis the choice many Jets fans would prefer. However, whenever you hear talk of Sanchez’ release, you always hear the cap “experts” on TV say it’s, “not a possibility based on the Jets cap situation.”

If you were to listen only to the folks on ESPN, it would quite honestly be a reasonable assumption that the Jets were doomed to go 1-15 next year (hell, let’s say 0-16 for the next decade, just for fun) solely due to cap issues. However, if you’re a reader of this website, you know that the Jets cap issues were vastly overstated.  If you want to argue the Jets aren’t a good team based on talent issues, that’s fine. But to say the team is in “cap hell” shows a lack of homework on the part of the speaker. The team made the no-brainer moves of releasing unproductive players that yielded high cap savings, guys such as Bart Scott, Calvin Pace, Eric Smith and Jason Smith. Of course these savings were not contemplated by the people reporting these issues. These releases saved the team nearly \$30 million in cap room (Jason Smith saved \$12 million alone!).

Back to Sanchez. Again, we are assuming Geno Smith is the team’s starting quarterback at this point and the team wants to release or trade Sanchez. What are the cap implications? Well, let’s say he’s released out of the blue today. The Jets would suffer a dead money hit on their 2013 salary cap of \$17,653,125.  This consists of his guaranteed base salary, workout bonuses, and accelerated signing bonus prorations. However, it’s currently May 20th, Smith hasn’t done anything except look decent in rookie minicamp and Sanchez remains on the roster. It is very doubtful right now that Sanchez is getting released prior to June 1st, so lets look at the implications if he’s released after June 1st. As Jason has thoroughly explained on the site before, a June 1st cut spreads out the dead money hit Sanchez would cost the team. If Sanchez were cut after June 1st, the Jets would suffer a 2013 cap hit of \$12,853,125 from his guaranteed base salary, 2013 signing bonus proration and \$500k workout bonus. The Jets would then suffer a \$4.8 million dead money hit in 2014 due to the acceleration of his bonus proration in 2015 and 2016 (on top his 2014 proration). Either way, the Jets are suffering the same cap hit, it’s just a matter of when.

Now, let’s just go back to the Jets salary cap for a second. The team has an estimated \$11,743,505 in cap space for 2013 (which includes Sanchez’ 2013 hit of \$12,853,125). Additionally, this includes those draft pickss that are signed, but does not include the estimates for those who remain unsigned (The Jets 2013 cap number for all draft picks is an estimated \$6,916,58). If the Jets cut Sanchez today, another chunk of \$4.8 million eats into that space (that \$4.8 million is from his accelerated bonus proration). So, could the Jets release Sanchez today and absorb the full hit? Yes, they could. It wouldn’t leave them with much room at all though, and they still need to account for signing a new backup (if they don’t stick with McElroy or someone else on the roster) and any injury replacements. It would be tough to swallow, but it’s theoretically possible. As mentioned above though, if the Jets do release Sanchez, it would likely be as a June 1st cut where his cap hit would be spread over this year and next. If this happens, the estimated cap space listed above wouldn’t change; Sanchez’ 2013 hit would be the same as if he were here (the Jets would then just suffer the \$4.8 million hit in 2014).No matter which way you look at it, the cap situation isn’t 100% stopping the Jets from making the move.

Many people would scream, “Why would the Jets suffer a 2013 cap hit to release Sanchez that’s at the very least, equal to the amount the Jets would suffer if Sanchez were on the roster?” Very reasonable question. It’s definitely not the most financially prudent move in the world. But, the benefits from other places may outweigh the negatives suffered from the financial imprudence. Despite all the numbers and cap figures thrown around, this is still, you know, a football team (I know, hard to believe sometimes). There are other considerations besides those numbers and cap figures. It’s not going to be financially sound regardless of what the Jets decide to do. Aside from the options I listed above regarding his release, Sanchez will either be an extremely high-paid backup that will be a constant distraction (through no fault of his own – Sanchez likely would play the good soldier), or, if traded, the Jets suffer a hit on their cap anyway due to covering part of his salary AND for the bonus proration that would accelerate into 2013 (similar to Revis’ prorated bonus amounts accelerating in 2013 due to the trade). There is simply no escaping a significant salary cap commitment to Mark Sanchez right now, but there IS escaping the media and locker room headache that comes with it. The Jets are clearly not sold on Sanchez progressing to where they need him to be, they wouldn’t have spent a second round pick on a quarterback if they were. There are available ways out of the Sanchez situation, we’ll see if the team decides to take any.

Check out Mark Sanchez’ contract page here.

### The Benefits of Starting the Young QB

Yesterday Brian Costello of the NY Post had a piece discussing starting rookie Geno Smith over battered starter Mark Sanchez and focusing instead on Smith and the future. It’s a great piece with an interesting comparison between Sanchez and the Mets Oliver Perez, but it also got me to think about reasons why teams in a situation like the Jets should start a rookie quarterback.

We all know that the NFL is a QB driven league. For the most part teams with above average QB play are the teams going to the playoffs. In my opinion 8 teams that made the playoffs last season had high level QB play and at least 3 more had passable play.  Teams with sustained success typically have very good QB play. Maybe Sanchez can be a passable QB, but most likely he has no chance of having that happen in NY, especially on a team under a major roster overhaul. The Jets need to assess what they have moving forward at the position.

While in the NFL you never say never, most people do not give the Jets a chance at making a real run at the playoffs. Most would rate the Jets as one of the worst 5 teams in the NFL, with some saying it was the least talented roster in the NFL. I’d disagree with that latter statement but on paper this does not look like a good football team. The odds are higher that the Jets end up with the number 1 pick in the draft than raising a Super Bowl trophy above their heads this year.

The 2013 draft was a poor group of QB’s with only 1 player going in the first round. One would assume 2014 has to be better. A team like the Jets needs to evaluate what they have as much as possible to prepare for the 2014 draft. While some will say that its crazy to think that 1 year of evaluation means anything in a league where most players are given 3 or 4 years before a decision is made, the point is not so much to make a final determination but to at least get an educated opinion on the player.

If Geno Smith fails as a starter it doesn’t mean his career is over by any stretch of the imagination. John Elway was awful as a rookie. So was Eli Manning. But sometimes a player as a rookie can be so good that an organization knows that they have a star on their hands such as Dan Marino or, to a lesser extent,  Ben Roethlisberger.  Playing the rookie gives you insights into how much they learn week to week. How they handle failures. How they handle their teammates and pointing blame in failure. Are they processing information better in week 16 than they were in week 4?

The new CBA has changed the whole evaluation process in my mind. Thru 2010 when you made an investment in the QB position you were stuck. Matt Stafford has cap charges in excess of \$20 million. The Rams have made incredible investments in Sam Bradford. From a financial perspective a team could not draft a QB at the top of the draft and then afford to draft another QB in the 1st or even second round. You were already allocating so much to the position, but in terms of cap and time, that putting another high priced player on the team that could ride the bench was not feasible.

Times have changed. The highest cap charge Andrew Luck will ever have on his rookie contract is just over \$7 million. At the same point in their career Bradford would have cost around \$13 million with more to go. Now while I would never expect any team to potentially abandon ship on the number 1 overall pick after just a year, financially a team can now do it.

An average starting QB in the NFL will likely earn around 12 million a year and a backup maybe 3. So teams are willing to allocate around \$15 million to the position if you don’t have a superstar. Under the old system that simply means you get Bradford and a backup. Now?  Its up to the GM. You could grab Luck with the number 1 overall pick and then go out and grab next years top QB prospect as well if you wanted to. The allocation per year would be around \$11.5 million for both players.  That’s still less than an average NFL starter with no upside plus his backup allocation.

When you are working with a lower level draft pick like Smith the money is even easier. Smith will average  around \$1.25 million a year with the Jets. That’s nothing money in the NFL. But if the team falters with Sanchez and then decides to pass on a QB because they think they might have something in Smith the results can be catastrophic. You can not afford to pass on a QB prospect because you see some things in practice that look nice about a player. You need evidence. You need proof.

Teams such as the Jets and the Raiders are clearing out millions and millions in cap room for 2014. That money is going to be there to spend provided they feel they have the building blocks in place for the team. Smith could be a building block and your best chance to determine that comes from playing him. If he shows you enough despite a losing record you at least have a reasonable argument to now pass on the QB prospect in 2014 and sell that pick to the highest bidder. The rookie wage scales have made those picks valuable and it is a kings ransom for a highly regarded prospect.

If Smith doesn’t show the promise it changes your whole philosophy. You are going to draft the QB high. It doesn’t mean Geno is sunk, he simply competes the next year. If he makes the leap, you have a very tradable commodity sitting on the bench. If he fails to make the leap you have your guy ready  to go and your allocated dollars at the position are still well within reasonable limits.

Getting a feel for Smith will only strengthen your offseason planning. If Smith looks reasonable the Jets may decide that overspending is worth doing to quickly rebuild the team. Many free agents only have a shelf life of 2-3 years so you only want to go that route if you know you have a team ready to make the jump. If you are going with a rookie again you are going to temper your spending, looking maybe at a few young pieces coming off a team in bad cap shape or simply carrying the money over to the following year when you feel more comfortable with the QB situation. The Buffalo Bills should be following this same plan as they have major decisions to be made next year with high priced veterans.

Teams with a dim outlook for 2013 have no reason to look to the past to try to win an extra game or two in the present and dilute the decision making process in the future. This is the time to gain as much real information as possible about a potential QB of the future. Financially teams can keep swinging now at the most important position on the team.  Starting a player like Smith is only going to help you maximize your financial investments in the future.