2016 Cap Analytics: Green Bay Packers

Expected Contract OutcomesExpected Contract Value 2.0 utilizes an algorithm based on a player’s contract characteristics, age, position and 2015 performance to forecast probabilities as to the outcomes of contract termination decisions.   The lower the Expected Outcome, the more likely the player’s contract will be terminated in 2016.  A pay cut is treated as a termination.  We have applied ECV 2.0 to all contracts scheduled to count $2 million or more against the 2016 salary cap with the exception of exercised 5th year rookie options.  Expected Savings is the calculated by multiplying the probability a player will be released by the cap savings realized by the team upon such release.

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Packers 2015 Salary Cap Outlook

Estimated 2015 Cap Space: $32.8M ($143M cap limit)

Roster Overview

Players Under Contract: 53
Pro Bowlers: 5
Unrestricted Free Agents: 11(4 with 50%+ playtime)
Draft Selection: 30

Salary Cap Breakdown

Packers 2015 Salary Cap

Packers Offensive Spending

Packers Defensive Spending

Free Agents to Re-sign

The situation with Randall Cobb is interesting. I am certain the Packer would like him back, but at what price?  They have already seemingly set their max limit with Jordy Nelson at $9.7 million a year plus Cobb’s role is generally paid in the $8.5 to $9 million a year range. However with the large number of teams with a great deal of cap room this offseason Cobb may feel as if he can earn more on the open market. The team can use the franchise tag to virtually block him from free agency but that seems like a very high price for Cobb. In the end I think he will be back in Green Bay….Bryan Bulaga stayed healthy this season and is one of the better players at the position. I would expect the two sides to come to an agreement using a similar contract model to the one Sebastian Vollmer has with the Patriots where large amounts of money are tied to health.

Free Agents to Let Walk

At 32 years of age, Tramon Williams time with the Packers may be over. The team already has a large commitment to Sam Shields and will likely soon enter negotiations with Casey Hayward which may leave Williams as the odd man out. I would guess for him to stay in Green Bay he would be leaving money on the table that may exist elsewhere…BJ Raji’s play had declined so much the last few years that he had to settle for a one year contract with Green Bay last year. He was hurt all season and there is no reason for the team to bring him back…Letroy Guion’s legal troubles might make him expendable.

Contracts to Modify

Julius Peppers was effective last season, but he is not $9.5 million effective. Peppers will need to take a reasonable pay cut this season to remain a Packer…Extending Hayward a year before free agency should allow them to lock down their third corner to favorable terms over the long haul…

Players to Consider Releasing

If Peppers is not receptive to a pay cut look for the Packers to move on. Peppers costs $12 million against the cap in addition to the large salary discussed above. Releasing him saves $7 million in cap room…The team already made their other two big moves by releasing linebackers AJ Hawk and Brad Jones.

Offseason Plan

Despite not making it to the Super Bowl last year I think many would say that the Packers were the best team in the NFL. Their collapse at the end of the NFC Championship game was unreal and the perhaps the biggest challenge for the team this season is to make sure that there is no lingering impact that causes a hangover in 2015.

Green Bay traditionally does not enter free agency looking to improve their team. They may pick up a few small pieces here and there who were released from their contracts, but the addition of an expensive player like Peppers (who was also released) is not exactly the norm for the team.  That doesn’t mean it wont happen, but it would have to be the right player willing to sign the right contract.

Most of the Packers offseason should focus on the defensive side of the ball as their offense, if they re-sign Cobb and Bulaga, has few needs. Clearly the team will be in the market for linebackers and more help on the interior of their defensive line. Drafting a cornerback if Williams is not kept would also be an option high in the draft.

The team will likely watch the releases around the NFL to see if there are any reasonable options they can consider. A few years ago the Packers did host a restricted free agent offered a low tender so maybe they would consider such players where it is only a right of first refusal rather than draft pick compensation if they feel the fit is right.

Regardless of what the team does or does not do in free agency and the draft it would be hard to picture them not in the playoff race next year unless the quarterback gets injured or there is a serious hangover from last season where nothing breaks their way. For the most part any upgrade they happen to find should only separate the gap between they and the rest of the teams in the NFC North that much more.

Packers Links

Packers Salary Cap Pages

Packers Free Agents

Packers Contracts

Packers GM Salary Cap Calculator

Other Offseason Salary Cap Reports

Packers Free Agent Simulator

Packers Release LB AJ Hawk

The Green Bay Packers are releasing starting inside linebacker AJ Hawk, their second starting linebacker to be released in the last week.

Hawk was in the final year of his contract with the Packers and would have earned $3.5 million on the season had he been on the roster for a full 16 games. He had a $500,0oo roster bonus due this offseason that likely helped push his release along. The team will carry $1.6 million in dead money but will create $3.5 million in cap room.

Hawk had a nice career with the Packers dating back to 2006, though I don’t believe he ever lived up to the draft status. By all accounts he was a great teammate and personality for the team, but his play in recent years had declined.  In 2013 he took a pay cut to remain in Green Bay and with just one year remaining on his deal the time as likely right to make the move.

The release should push the Packers estimated cap space to jut under $32 million in 2015, which will be in the top 10 in the NFL. Green Bay is rarely active in signing unrestricted free agents but do have a few free agents of their own to consider including wide receiver Randall Cobb. tackle Bryan Bulaga, and corner Tramon Williams. Casey Hayward is also likely to receive an extension.

Green Bay looks as if they will be in the market for linebackers this year following the release of Hawk and Brad Jones. If the Packers decide to move on from Julius Peppers they will be revamping 3/4 of their group this offseason, most of which will come via the draft.

Best & Worst Contracts 2014: Green Bay Packers

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We take our first look at a playoff team with the Green Bay Packers

Best Contract: Jordy Nelson

Jordy NelsonUsually you can look up and down the Packers roster and find a number of good contracts. Even on the high end of the scale, such as the contracts of Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews which rank as the highest paid players at their positions, the Packers are locking their talent into more team friendly contracts and reasonable salary cap charges during the contributing years of the contract. However there is no contract better than the one signed with Jordy Nelson in 2011.

Whether it was bad luck on Nelson’s part or the fact that he was locked into a low cost rookie contract, the Packers convinced Nelson that it was important he sign a deal just three weeks into the 2011 season. The Packers understood where the situation was likely headed anyway. This was a passing team that was about to begin a turnover of sorts with the roster. Tight end Jermichael Finley was set to be a free agent in 2012 and veteran Donald Driver was on his last legs.  On top of that Greg Jennings was two years away from free agency and was likely not in the future plans for Green Bay.

Nelson looked like a secondary target, big play threat. In the 16 weeks prior to signing (he played 15 games) he caught 49 passes for 730 yards. He was also steadily improving. In his final two games of 2010 and first three games of 2011 he caught 16 passes for 364 yards, which would prorate out to 51 and 1164 over a full season. These were more or less proven number 2 numbers with an upside of a low level 1, especially since his opportunities were set to grow in the offense.

The Packers jumped in with an offer that was very low end number 2/high end number 3 money rather than seeing Nelson gain more leverage with the big year they expected. It certainly paid off as over the next 13 games Nelson caught 58 passes for 1,062 yards. It didn’t matter because the Packers had him signed for just $4.2 million a season. That’s less than Julian Edelman, Riley Cooper, Emmanuel Sanders, and a long list of players who were under contract at the time to be number 2 receivers. Last season Nelson had over 1,300 yards, and that came in a season where seven games started by Matt Flynn, Scott Tolzien, and Seneca Wallace

Had Nelson not panned out the Packers were in good shape. Every extension year would carry $200,000 in roster bonuses that were only earned if Nelson was active for a game. The use of this mechanism saved the Packers $50,000 in 2012. With no guarantees in the contract outside of the signing bonus Green Bay could have walked away after the first year if they absolutely needed to and at worst they would have been stuck with his contract thru just 2013, at which point he could have been released with $1.75 million in dead money.

Nelson will be a free agent after the season and it remains to be seen if he will jump in on an early extension again during the summer. Maybe he won’t be the great bargain his is now when that happens, but at this moment he is one of the best bargain players in the entire NFL.

Worst Contract: Sam Shields

Sam ShieldsOne can criticize the Packers lack of activity in signing players who were not retained by their own team, but it’s very difficult to criticize them for the contracts they do actually sign. But there are always going to be mistakes made and even Green Bay can sometimes misread the landscape of the league, which is exactly what happened when they re-signed cornerback Sam Shields to a contract worth nearly $10 million per season this offseason.

Shields is a decent player who had typically graded out as a mid grade corner equivalent to the Sean Smith’s and Keenan Lewis’ of the world. Those players earn in the ballpark of $5 million a season. But the Packers had a difficult time with defense in 2013 and Shields was one of their better players and perhaps they were afraid of losing him. The 2014 free agent class was loaded with talent that included Aqib Talib, Alterraun Verner, Vontae Davis, Brent Grimes, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and others.

The thought may have been that as teams missed out on choice A they would drop down the list and eventually target Shields.  With the increase in salary cap to a very unexpected $133 million, two teams felt that this was a sign that there would be a great deal of increased spending around the NFL. The Packers were one of those teams (Minnesota was the other).

Rather than seeing the price tag inflate and then losing the player the Packers offered $9.75 million a year and a $12.5 million signing bonus guarantee. Shields will receive $15 million in the first year of his contract and $21 million over the first two years. The large signing bonus virtually guarantees him of the $21 million take and likely another $9 million in 2016 as he carries over $6 million in dead money, a number the Packers would almost never decide to take on under any circumstances.

Once free agency began it was clear that the money was never going to come close to these numbers. Shields ended up earning the biggest contract of the free agents. His $15 million year one salary obliterated the market- the next closest free agent was Talib at $12 million (even Darrelle Revis following a release earned $12 million in 2014). His $21 million was $1 million more than Davis’ contract with the Colts. The next closest to his $30 million take over three years was $27 million.

About the only benefit the Packers received in the contract was the per game roster bonuses that total $500,000 each year. Everything else favors Shields. The value of the contract. The structure of the contract. The yearly cash flow of the contract. It’s all a benefit for Shields. Maybe the deal works out great and he proves to be an upper echelon player, but the Packers went to a salary level they never needed to go to in order to get this contract done.

2013’s Best and Worst Packers Contracts:

2013 Best Contract: Jordy Nelson (See above)

2013 Worst Contract: AJ Hawk (Remains starting LB at $5.1 mil cap hit)

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

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K Mason Crosby Takes Pay Cut From Packers

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According to Brian McIntyre of Yahoo! Sports Shutdown Corner the Green Bay Packers have renegotiated the contract for K Mason Crosby, more or less assuring him the job of Kicker. Per the report Crosby reduced his salary from $2.4 million to $800,000 and will earn $800,000 in roster bonuses if he is active during the year. If he achieves a certain accuracy level he can earn his $800,000 in a bonus, thus giving him a chance to earn his entire salary for the season. For cap purposes the $800,000 does not count against the 2013 salary cap, allowing Green Bay to save $800,000 in cap room.

The pay reduction likely comes as a result of a Kicker competition that the Packers had been staging in camp. Crosby, by far the most highly compensated of the group, was likely given an ultimatum that he would be cut unless he took a more team friendly contract. Many teams do this during camp to force players into pay cuts. Considering that two recently released Kickers, Rian Lindell and Dan Carpenter, only found jobs for the respective minimum salaries the market was certainly not going to treat Crosby that well either giving Green Bay all the leverage needed.

This contract is significantly more team friendly for two reasons. The first is that if Crosby lands on IR before the roster bonuses kick in the Packers are only liable for his $800,000 P5 salary. Prior to the renegotiation they would have been liable for the full $2.4 million. Secondly the contract calls for roster bonuses which are not protected under the termination pay clauses. Termination pay only protects Paragraph 5 Salary in a given year so Crosby’s only guarantee is the $800,000 rather than the full $2.4 million. This is of extreme importance because Crosby only hit 63% of his FG’s in 2012 and Green Bay did not want to be locked into $2.4 million of guarantees again if he played poorly in 2013.

Just to throw some guarantees into the contract Green Bay guaranteed his P5 if he is on the roster on September 7, the day before their first game. Considering the salary automatically guarantees the following day that seems to be a meaningless concession. The date of that guarantee does still leave the door open for another kicker to claim the job. The reason that the deal was renegotiated yesterday was, in part, because of salary cap rules. After the final preseason game any roster bonuses used in a contract are treated as a signing bonus, so Green Bay could not afford to wait until after the final preseason game to approach Crosby about a pay cut using this same system. Still I would imagine that this is a good sign that they want him to keep the job since he was willing to give them the protections they wanted.

View Mason Crosby’s Salary Cap and Contract Page

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Best & Worst Contracts: The Green Bay Packers

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A few weeks ago Jason LaCanfora published a list of best and worst contracts in the NFL so I thought it might make a good idea for us to do the same here at OTC, with a team by team approach. I’ll try to be a bit more analytical in terms of why money was paid and how it fits in the market, but the general premise is the same. The one key difference is outside of restructured rookie contracts under the old CBA we will only use veteran contracts as there is a big difference between best draft picks and best contracts.  Please note that there is a difference between a bad player and a bad contract when discussing some of the selections. Clicking on a players name will take you to his salary cap page.

Jordy NelsonBest Contract: Jordy Nelson

You can take your pick on a number of contracts Green Bay has signed. This is one of the best front offices in the NFL and it shows on their cap sheets. Aaron Rodgers is the highest paid QB in the NFL and you can make a clear argument that the Packers were big winners in that contract negotiation. Clay Matthews is the highest paid OLB and you can make the same argument that they were the true big winners in the negotiation. You can go so many places, but there is no contract that has proven to be better than the extension given to Jordy Nelson in 2011.

The Packers identified the skills that Nelson had and used the leverage of a low cost rookie salary to sign Nelson to an incredibly cap friendly contract. At an APY of just $4.2 million a year, Nelson is one of the best bargains at the number 2 position in the NFL.  He earns less money than players like Eddie Royal and Nate Washington who have not produced the way Nelson has.

Green Bay’s contract offered the Packers a great deal of protection, a standard in the Packers contracts. Every extension year would carry $200,000 in roster bonuses that were only earned if Nelson was active for a game. The use of this mechanism saved the Packers $50,000 last season. With no guarantees in the contract outside of the signing bonus Green Bay could have walked away after the first year if they absolutely needed to and at worst they would have been stuck with his contract thru just 2013, at which point he could have been released with $1.75 million in dead money.

Of course none of that became an issue as Nelson has averaged about 70 yards a game the last two seasons and is a terrific player that can produce big plays. Nelson’s cap number will be under $4 million in both 2013 and 2014, making  him a strong extension candidate again after this season provided he is healthy and continues to play well.  And the deal will again be a salary cap bargain for the Packers because of the way they are handling most of their roster management.

AJ HawkWorst Contract: AJ Hawk

The Packers don’t get many things wrong but if there was one mulligan that they could have it might be the contract given to Hawk in 2011.  Green Bay decided to go further in with Hawk even though I think most would agree that he had been a disappointment as a draft pick. Their payment structure was a bit uncharacteristic in that they gave Hawk an $8 million dollar signing bonus which meant the cap costs of release were likely too high until at least 2014. Usually I would have expected them to use more upfront non-prorated money, but they decided otherwise in the near $7 million a year contract.

That decision would impact the Packers who needed Hawk to take a paycut in 2013 because they could no longer justify keeping at his cap figures. This time around they got a deal structure more in line with what they normally do, but even at $3.5 million a year Hawk is probably overpaid. Not overpaid like he used to be, but all things considered on this team, overpaid.

The 2011 deal is still going to haunt Green Bay with Hawk. Because of the high salary he was owed he got some favorable terms in a guarantee for this year and offseason bonuses next year to force Green Bay to either take on a $3.2 million dead money charge or use the June 1 designation on Hawk. That is not the end of the world for the Packers, who rarely are active in free agency and won’t need cap room for external free agents, but the Packers are a team that avoids these kind of mistakes and he is one of the few on the team. For other squads a contract like Hawk’s might go unnoticed, but on the Packers he stands out.

Check out Our Other Best & Worst Contract Articles

AFC East: Buffalo BillsMiami DolphinsNew England PatriotsNew York Jets

AFC North: Baltimore RavensCincinnati BengalsCleveland BrownsPittsburgh Steelers

AFC South: Houston TexansIndianapolis ColtsJacksonville JaguarsTennessee Titans

AFC West: Denver BroncosKansas City ChiefsOakland RaidersSan Diego Chargers

NFC East: Dallas CowboysNew York GiantsPhiladelphia EaglesWashington Redskins

NFC North: Chicago BearsDetroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings (July 21)

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Estimating the Value of WR Greg Jennings

Well today the story came out from multiple sources that free agent wide receiver Greg Jennings of the Green Bay Packers would like a contract worth $14 million a season. That seems like pretty lofty goals for a player who only saw action in 8 games last season and created 366 yards of offense for the team. A salary of $14 million a year would rank Jennings 3rd in the NFL and well above the market prices for anyone not named Johnson or Fitzgerald.  I’ve personally considered Jennings to be the least of the “big 3” of Jennings, Dwayne Bowe, and Mike Wallace but those thoughts were just based on watching the players rather than strong analysis of anything.  Now I’ve done analysis of both players and what they should receive so lets take a look at exactly how Jennings may stack up against these two players.

Basic Stats

Now for starters I am just going to throw out Jennings 2012 campaign since he dealt with injuries most of the season. While I don’t think a team can just throw that out for the sake of comparison I will do that just to see what the highest end market is for Jennings. So for Jennings the 3 year statistics will be from 2009-2011:

G

Rec

Yds

Avg

TD

Catch Rate

2009

16

68

1113

16.4

4

63.6%

2010

16

76

1265

16.6

12

63.3%

2011

13

67

949

14.2

9

69.8%

Average

15

70.3

1109

15.8

8.3

65.6%

Clearly these are solid numbers and superior to both Wallace and Bowe, but Jennings also plays in a prolific offense with arguably the best Quarterback in the NFL.

Comparative Stats

Now comes the time where we look to see just how much Jennings contributed to his team’s wide receiver corps. over that three year stretch.

Team Tgts

Team Rec

Team Yds

Team Tds

Team Ints

2009

35.6%

35.8%

38.2%

25.0%

37.5%

2010

33.6%

33.3%

39.8%

52.2%

63.6%

2011

35.8%

34.5%

31.2%

31.0%

40.0%

Average

35.0%

34.6%

36.4%

36.1%

47.0%

Overall these are extremely steady numbers. He is more or less about 1/3 of the Packer passing attack that gets filtered to the Wideouts. His yardage contribution began to decline in 2011 (and these stats are adjusted for only his 13 games played so its not due to less games) and his interceptions are higher than expected given his targets, both of which are negatives. Green Bay seems to have little interest in bringing him back and I think these numbers paint a picture as to why. He is part of the machine but not the key component of it.

Comparable Players


Rather than rehashing the old charts with all the players lets just look at Jennings in comparison to the other two stud free agents.

BoweWallaceJennings

From a standpoint of importance there is little comparison between Jennings and Bowe. Bowe was on a far worse team with no supporting cast. He was the dominant figure in Kansas City accounting for nearly 50% of the WR offense. Those are the numbers that define true number 1 potential. Jennings was targeted slightly more than Wallace in Pittsburgh but did not have the yardage production of Wallace. The touchdown category is no comparison. Bowe and Wallace are potential difference makers, Jennings is not. Jennings also saw a much higher percentage of passes get picked off than these other two players.

The Final Verdict

If you want to get a better idea of the market you can just read the two articles I wrote looking at Bowe and Wallace. Even discounting the last season Jennings is simply not in the same class as the group of talent that makes over $10 million a season. At best you would say he would earn the same as Wallace, which I put to be in that $9.7 million dollar range, but that doesn’t even take into account the other variables that come into play with Jennings.

Jennings has only played in 21 regular season games over the last two years. His YPC fell to 14.2 in 2011 to just 10.6 in 2012 after years of being around 16. That’s a 38% drop. Jennings will be in his 8th NFL season next year compared to 7th for Bowe and only 5th for Wallace. In a study I am working on looking at productivity of receivers beyond their 5th year in the NFL, the drops in production seem to begin in year 9 for elite receivers and Jennings is close to that and his numbers are already seemingly in the declining stage.  While that won’t make him unproductive by any means he probably will not be the  consistent 1,000+ yard number 1 target that a team would expect. Most likely he fits best on a team that is in a “win now” position rather than a developmental stage like the Miami Dolphins., unless they were going to pair him with another high quality wide receiver, such as Wallace.

$14 million is a pipe dream. If he accomplishes that number that is truly amazing, but I can’t imagine any team would see him as that type of talent. My guess is the model we would be looking at would be that of Anquan Boldin in Baltimore back in 2010. Boldin was in his 8th season in the NFL when traded to the Baltimore Ravens and quickly signed a new 3 contract extension worth $25 million in new money containing $8 million in firm guarantees and $10 million in functional guarantees. Boldin’s numbers immediately tailed off though he was always a useful player and was an integral part of their Super Bowl run, but he just never was the dominant player they expected.

At the time I believe the top market contract was Larry Fitzgerald of the Cardinals making $10 million a year with $15 million in guarantees.  So Boldin’s deal was 83% of the top market number in the league and a few percent less on the guaranteed percentage of the contract. Maybe that is where Jennings came up with $14 million. The top of the market APY is now around $16.2 million, 83% of which is just under $13.5 million a year.  The problem with using that number as a base is that the two contracts at the top of the market are positional outliers which won’t be used by other teams as a point of reference.  The real top of the market is Brandon Marshall and Vincent Jackson at just under $11.2 million a year. Based off that salary Jennings new APY would be $9.296 million a year which fits in much better with our statistical analysis and actual past market data.

So I think Jennings realistically is looking at a 4 year contract worth just north of $37 million with around $12 million in real guarantees and between $15 and 16 million in functional guarantees assuming teams feel he is perfectly healthy and negotiate based on what he did prior to 2012. I think for him to push the price point to DeSean Jackson territory ($9.7 million a year) he will need to reach certain incentives to get there.  My guess is most teams would be disappointed with the overall results over the 4 year period but that is a reasonable deal if he can sign with a winning team.

What benefits Jennings finding a home and maybe pushing the price is the fact that he was injured last season and put up a statistically poor season. Teams that should be most interested in a player like Jennings who is likely just out of his prime are those that think its window of opportunity is now such as the Patriots, Texans, 49ers, or even Cowboys. Those are the type of teams that tend to overpay a bit for results in the present and deal with the problems that could arise in the future.  Utilizing a number of “not likely to be earned” incentives in his contract such as a large bonuses for40 receptions or 400 yards available one time in any of the next four years and backed up by guaranteed base salary in future years, cap strapped teams can fit Jennings under the cap in 2013 and push those charges out into future years when perhaps they have more payroll flexibility. That’s really the perfect match for Jennings and his best chance of getting his top contract.

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