Late last night following the Bills preseason game against the Browns, star defensive lineman Marcell Dareus, in the final year of his rookie contract, expressed disgust over the lack of movement on a contract extension. Dareus has stated that the offers indicate that Buffalo isn’t serious about keeping him and don’t reflect his value as a dominant talent. According to Tyler Dunne of the Buffalo News, the Bills have offered a contract worth $90 million over six years, which would make Dareus the second highest paid defensive tackle in the NFL if those are the full extension numbers. Dareus is aiming for more as he looks at the outlier contracts in the NFL and sees bigger dollars for a player like himself, especially because of the Bills past history with contract negotiations for highly desired players. Continue reading Marcell Dareus, Outlier Contracts, and Team Precedents »
I read an article by Jimmy Kempski of the Philadelphia Voice the other day about Fletcher Cox and came across an interesting quote by former NFL executive Joe Banner regarding the franchise signings.
Why so many tag deals done today. Teams realize how much cap is about to go up. Time is on players side, today’s deals will look cheap soon.
— Joe Banner (@JoeBanner13) July 15, 2015
Teams signing deals today are doing so because the contracts will be looked upon as cheap down the line given the rising salary cap. I think that’s true to an extent when discussing extensions, but I think application across the board doesn’t really work and in most cases does not work for the franchise tag contracts.
According to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle JJ Watt has signed a six year contract extension worth $100 million that will make him the highest paid defensive player in the NFL. The contract would contain $51 million in guaranteed money.
The first thing that jumps out to me are the numbers in the contract and the similarity to Mario Williams of the Buffalo Bills. Williams had signed a six year contract worth $96 million with the Bills a few years ago that had been considered an outlier for a number of reasons. The maximum value of that contract was $100 million and the total guarantee on that contract right around $50 milion (the real guarantee was $24.9 million).
So my assumption here is that they matched the contract of Williams except the incentives are a part of the base contract value. Williams’ cash flows over the first three contract years were $25 million, $15 million, and $13 million. I would imagine that those will be the baseline numbers used for Watt.
Because Watt has two remaining years under contract, techincially the new extension money does not start until 2016. When we calculate his year one cash total what we need to do is add up all his salary from 2014 through 2016 and subtract his original 2014 and 2015 salaries from the contract. Per McClain Watt will earn $20,876,385 in 2014 and 2015. That means his new money in that period is $12 million. Id anticipate his 2016 cash salary will be $13 million or slightly higher.
I’ll be very interested to see the cash flows and guarantee structure of the full contract. If the only bonus in his contract is the $10 million signing bonus that leaves very little salary cap protection for Watt. Williams received $25 million in prorated money. The fact that this is a 8 year contract for cap purposes it makes the last three years of the contract completely “pay as you go” and essentially worthless years unless there is some unique structure involved. Houston usually has per game active roster bonuses in their contracts so Id imagine this is a major part of the contract as well.
When I had looked at Watt a few weeks ago I thought he would have opted for a shorter term contract with less money, but strong cash flows up front to improve his odds of a second go around with free agency. This contract now ties him up until 2021 if he continues to perform well.
Regardless, this contract now sets the market for the young pass rusher in the NFL. There is no question that this is a valid contract, unlike the Williams one, and this represents about a 26% increase over the annual value of Clay Matthews’ contract. For Robert Quinn, Muhammad Wilkerson, Greg Hardy, etc…this contract is great news because their pay was going to hinge on what Watt could negotiate with the Texans.
From Houston’s end the timing was right if they were to sign a mega deal. At the moment they have no big name or money QB on the horizon. The team is clearly transitioning away from Andre Johnson as the face of the franchise and it was important to lock Watt up as the new face. From their perspective they could have had Watt for the next three years for around $23 million and dealt with three years of questions about commiting to him long term and potential holdouts. They will likely spend an extra $11-$13 million over the three year period for peace of mind and favorable salary cap terms.
When I get the full contract details I’ll update his page accordingly and try to do a side by side with Williams’ contract.
How do you build a winning football team? Over the next few weeks I am going to look at a handful of teams that are either relatively early in their rebuilding process or on the verge of a possible rebuild. The purpose of this is not to reflect on past regime decisions compared to the current decisions but rather to start the analysis from day one and evaluate personnel decisions along with contract structures and styles to see if certain trends help produce a winning franchise.
Since the 1999 season, 31 of the 32 NFL teams have made the playoffs in at least one season. After five straight seasons finishing last in the AFC East, its fourth in a row under now former GM Buddy Nix, the Buffalo Bills are the lone team not to make a playoff appearance since 1999 and are in the process of a full rebuild. With new General Manager Doug Whaley, Head Coach Doug Marrone, and first round quarterback selection E.J. Manuel, the Bills are hoping they can turn the franchise around and end the long playoff drought. Whaley, who served under Nix as Assistant General Manager since 2010, assumes the vacated GM position created by Nix’s resignation after this years NFL draft. Whaley received a contract extension in February and had been heavily involved in the coaching search that eventually led to former Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone replacing Chan Gailey as the Bills new head coach. Nix’s resignation as GM is not a clean cut from the organization though, as he is being retained as a Special Assistant to the team.
Contract Strategies and Trends
The succession of Nix to Whaley and subsequent retaining of Nix on staff poses an interesting question – will anything actually be different? The Bills have not been shy about using both roster and workout bonuses in significant deals. Over the past few years, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Fred Jackson, Stevie Johnson, and Leodis McKelvin all received substantial roster and workout bonuses in their respective extensions and Kyle Williams also received yearly roster bonuses in his. Free agent acquisitions Manny Lawson and Kevin Kolb received both roster and workout bonuses as well in their deals this offseason. Lawson is due a $500,000 roster bonus in 2014 and 2015, a $250,000 roster bonus in 2016, and a yearly $50,000 workout bonus as part of his 4-year deal while Kolb is due $250,000 roster bonus in 2013, a $1 million dollar roster bonus in 2014, and a yearly $100,000 workout bonus as part of his 2-year deal.
The big elephant in the room though is Mario Williams’ behemoth contract he signed last offseason. Williams’ 6-year/$96 million contract also has substantial roster and workout bonuses including a $10,600,000 roster bonus in 2014 and a yearly $500,000 workout bonus in 2013-2016. Jason did a great job summarizing exactly why this deal does not make any sense considering the circumstances and why its such a cap killer in his Best and Worst Contracts: The Buffalo Bills.
“Williams was never a top pass rusher in the NFL. He has always been good but more like top 20 good, not top of the NFL good. Williams makes 14% more than Julius Peppers and about 26% more than Charles Johnson and Jared Allen, the next three highest paid players at the position. Williams 3 year average leading into his deal with the Bills in both sacks and tackles was worse than all 3 of those players yet he earned significantly more. Williams will cost the Bills $17.8 million in dead money if cut in 2014 and $12.4 million in 2014, making him a near impossible player to move on from in the near future. Williams can be productive but it is unlikely he can ever be productive enough to match the price that the Bills agreed to pay for him.”
One final thing to take a quick look at is the Bills’ dead money situation. As part of their massive rebuild, the Bills released Ryan Fitzpatrick, Terrence McGee, Nick Barnett, George Wilson, Tarvaris Jackson and Mark Anderson among other players and as a result racked up about $11.6 million in dead money so far for the 2013 season. In year 1 of a rebuild, that figure is nothing to really worry about and by comparison is fairly low. Other teams in the midst of a full rebuild like the Jets and Raiders have upwards of $21 million (mostly $13 million from trading Revis) and a whopping $50 million respectively this year. The part to keep an eye on is 2014 where right now the Bills have the most dead money going into the 2014 season at $10 million due to Ryan Fitzpatrick’s $7 million and Mark Anderson’s $3 million respective charges. By comparison, the Jets don’t have a single dollar of dead money charges right now and the Raiders only have Michael Huff’s $6.2 million charge.
A few months ago, this section would have been all about what to do with Ryan Fitzpatrick and would have looked like a much more basic version of Jason’s great write up here. Now the biggest decision for the Bills is how to handle their All-Pro free safety Jairus Byrd. Instead of letting Byrd test free agency, the Bills used their non-exclusive franchise tag on him. The non-exclusive tag for a safety this year is $6,916,000, contingent on Byrd signing his tender. Under the non-exclusive tag, Byrd was free to negotiate with other teams, but if he agreed to terms with that team, the Bills had the right to match the offer or receive two 1st–round picks as compensation for Byrd. Unsurprisingly, no team agreed with Byrd, and after extensive attempts by the Bills and Byrd to come to an agreement, a long-term deal could not be reached by the July 15 deadline. Currently, Byrd refuses to sign his tender and his holding out of training camp. The Bills’ hands are tied – by rule, they are unable to sign Byrd to a long-term extension until after the 2013 season or trade him until Byrd signs his tender. Byrd’s options are now to sign his tender before week 1 of the regular season and play out the year under the franchise tag or wait until week 10 and sign his tender in time to play 6 games and get credited for the league year. The best Byrd can hope for is to sign his tender and collect a nice paycheck this year and try to prevent the Bills from franchising him again in 2014.
Reports are that Byrd wishes to be the highest paid safety in the league and Bills seem to not be willing to match that demand. Will that demand change by the end of the 2013 season? At the high-level Byrd has played consistently over the past few years, probably not. Assuming that Byrd signs his tender at some point and gets credited for the league year, the Bills will have a few options once the season ends. They can agree to a new deal with Byrd, franchise him for a second year in a row, or let him test free agency. If they decide to tag him again, the price will be at 120% of his tag price this year, which comes out to about $8.3 million. The bottom line is this situation is a long way away from being resolved whichever route the Bills decide to go.
Past ‘State of Rebuild’ Articles
Ryan Feder Tulane University Law School J.D. Candidate 2015 @RyanFeder firstname.lastname@example.org [subscribe2]
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. Clicking on a players name will take you to his salary cap page.
Best Contract: WR Stevie Johnson
A tough decision here as the Bills have very few players that would be considered good value talent. The other two players I would consider are DT Kyle Williams and G Kraig Urbik, but Johnson stood out more to me than both of them. Working with no help at QB or from other receivers Johnson has managed to produce over 1,000 yards 3 years in a row from 2010-2012. The only other players to accomplish that feat were Marques Colston, Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, and Roddy White.
Johnson only makes $7.25 million a year and had $11 million of his contract fully guaranteed. Those numbers rank around 20 and 24 among all wide receivers. He has also been the only player in the NFL to consistently match up well with CB Darrelle Revis when Revis was healthy. When players like Mike Wallace are making $12 million a year having Johnson on such an affordable deal allows the Bills to outspend their rivals at other positions. His annual value is less than inferior players such as Pierre Garcon, Santonio Holmes, Miles Austin, and Sidney Rice, making him one of the best bargains in the NFL at the position.
Because Johnson is so young the deal itself only carries the Bills to when Johnson turns 30, giving them a reasonable dead money charge if they decide to move on in the last two years of the contract if his play begins to falter with age.
Worst Contract: DE Mario Williams
The Bills have their fair share of bad deals on the books, but none worse than the head scratching 6 year $96 million dollar contract they gave to Williams. Williams was a former number 1 pick of the Houston Texans and 3 years removed from a 10 sack season when the Bills signed him to bolster their defense. To make matters worse he was coming off a season ending injury in 2011, the second time in two years he ended the season with an injury.
Williams was never a top pass rusher in the NFL. He has always been good but more like top 20 good, not top of the NFL good. Williams makes 14% more than Julius Peppers and about 26% more than Charles Johnson and Jared Allen, the next three highest paid players at the position. Williams 3 year average leading into his deal with the Bills in both sacks and tackles was worse than all 3 of those players yet he earned significantly more. Williams will cost the Bills $17.8 million in dead money if cut in 2014 and $12.4 million in 2014, making him a near impossible player to move on from in the near future. Williams can be productive but it is unlikely he can ever be productive enough to match the price that the Bills agreed to pay for him.
One of the things that I like to do here is come up with different ways to value positional players. Today on Twitter Joel Corry mentioned Jared Allen and how difficult it will be to get a $10 million a year contract because of his age. I pretty much think its impossible but Joel brought up a great point when I compared him to John Abraham in that Allen plays well over 90% of the snaps while Abraham is a situational player. So of course that got me to thinking about putting something together on the 43 Defensive End position. As always the raw data comes from Pro Football Focus but the actual analytical work is my own.
Defensive Ends primarily have two responsibilities- rushing the passer and stopping the run. Some drop off into coverage but it’s a small part of the positional responsibilities so Ill avoid that here. I thought maybe an interesting way to look at things would be strictly from the point of view of increased failures on a play. How do we define a failure?
People who read my work know I focus on something called Pass Russ Performance (PRP) where I determine the expected result of a pass play if there was no pressure vs that of pressure. That difference for each player equals the added benefit of a player. Using Allen as an example he rushed the QB on 638 snaps and registered 64 pressures and 11 sacks. If the QB was not pressured he would have completed 413.8 passes. Factoring in the effect of Allen’s pressures and 11 sacks he only completes 394.7. So he adds 19.06 negative plays to the Vikings defense via his pass rush.
To value run defense I wanted to look at PFF’s category of stops since a stop would constitute a “loss” for the offense similar to an incompletion. To value this I wanted to compare the player to the average performance of DE’s in the NFL. The average DE generates a stop 6.1% of the time he is on the field for a run possession. So to grade this we calculate the number of times a player would simply be stopped by an average player and subtract that from the number of stops the player was actually credited. Using Allen as an example we can calculate that a player should fail 21.5 times based on Allen’s 349 run snaps. Allen was credited with 28 stops, so we can say he was responsible for 6.5 additional failures on his run play.
We can use those figures to determine a number of benefits about a player. Adding them together we can say that the Vikings are paying Allen for 25.6 negative plays. You can look at it as negative plays as a percentage of on field opportunities. You can also look at it from the perspective of percent of increased failures. There can be a big difference between the 3 numbers. Allen ranks 2nd just based on total number of negative plays but falls to 13th and 14th among players with at least 200 snaps in the other categories, putting his totals more as a byproduct of snaps played than overall impact.
I always find this a hard item to reconcile. A player in on every down is hurt by the latter metrics because we are not taking situations into account, such as that of a screen pass having no chance of leading to a pressure. If a player comes in only on 3rd and 6 or more he can just tee off on a QB. Those same players often suffer when they are forced to play more snaps. So it can be hard to put a numeric value on the player.
One method I thought of using was to use percentage increase in failed plays and then adjust downward based on downs played. In other words if a player is worth $10 million but only plays 300 snaps we need to reduce that salary by what it costs for an average players that plays somewhere between 600 and 700 snaps to make up for the snaps. After some thought that seemed to be a lot of extra work so instead I looked at the median snaps for the top 32 players (807) and adjusted the players who had above that level downward based on their negative plays per snap. While not perfect I felt that this provided a fair estimate of what the player would do in a normal role with another team.
To revalue the position I wanted to look at the performance of the top 50 players and determine how much above or below the average a player performed and then use that to determine the players salary. The average performance worked out to be 12.23 negative plays and the average salary was $4.77 million.
Not surprisingly the results indicate a gross overpricing of the market, which is the result of a combination of free agency and likely the overvaluing of the sack statistic. Cameron Wake, who graded out as the best player, should be the top of the market at just over $10 million a year. Based on the current marketplace there are 7 players who make more than that. Greg Hardy of the Panthers and Jason Pierre Paul of the Giants ranked 2nd and 3rd, which shows the importance Pierre-Paul has to that team and how devastating his injury can be to New York. Allen ranked 5th and should be worth around $8.2 million a year.
The biggest upside players would be Brandon Graham of the Eagles and William Hayes of the Rams. Neither played 400 snaps but both still racked up enough negative plays to rank in the top 11. Their performance per play was off the charts with over 20% increases in failures. Top of the market is under 14% for a full time guy. Other high upside players would be Junior Gallette and Austen Lane.
The most overpaid is clearly Mario Williams at $16 million. Williams only ranked 19th last season and was worth barely over $5 million. The signing of Williams, which was way outside of any logical parameters even when signed, shows the problems with many philosophies in pricing free agents. In fact the 7 players who are paid in the double digits in APY only ranked 19, 14, 10, 5, 9, 21, and 17. Six of the top eight players are on rookie contracts and with some lower cost options like Hayes, Ron Ninkovich, and Kroy Biermann in the top 16 it should signal something to NFL front offices.
If your options are Williams at $16 million or drafting a rookie you should be drafting a rookie. There is more upside and far less cost involved. You also need to set positional allocations and decide how best to fill those voids. The Bills spent nearly $21 million on two free agents and they combined for only an additional 15.7 negative plays. The Giants got 34 on around 1/3 of the cost with a rookie and a timely contract with Osi Umenyiora. The Panthers got around 41 with 1 high cost player and a rookie. Their spending was around $13 million. So if you must sign a high priced player or re-sign one of your own he must be paired with a low cost player. The dual high priced approach is doomed to failure.
More teams seem to realizing this as teams paid record low dollars for free agents and the older veterans had trouble even finding jobs. John Abraham, who ranked 18th last season can’t even find a job. Getting back to the original question surrounding Allen it would be hard pressed for him to reach the $10 million mark next year. Even as arguably the 2nd best player last year he would not be worth that kind of money. My guess is the market drops further in the near future. Both Williams and Julius Peppers will likely see their contracts vanish by 2014 or 2015. Chris Long can be renegotiated at any time as he has little protection in his contract. Michael Johnson is a free agent next season as is Allen. That leaves Charles Johnson as the lone player who will be left earning over $10 million a year. We will need to wait and see how the market turns in the future but it should be closer to this chart than the current chart as it exists.
|Rank||Name||Team||Failures||Total Snaps||% Increase|
|% Fails/Snap||New APY|
|17||Michael D. Johnson||Bengals||14.44||796||7.4%||1.8%||$5,630,695|
The Darrelle Revis contract that contains no guaranteed money is one of the most surprising turn of events I can ever recall. I understand his desire to be the highest paid player on defense but to give up guaranteed salary is quite the surprise for a number of reasons and I wanted to address some of the topics I have been reading on Twitter.
First of all I don’t consider the fact that the no guarantees was simply a form of injury protection for the Buccaneers. You can guarantee contracts for skill and salary cap terminations which would still allow the Buccaneers to drop Revis if the injury he sustained is so severe that he can not play. You can also have the player sign an injury waiver where his money is protected unless an injury occurs to the same damaged area of his body, in this case his knee.
In my mind this was more of the ability of the Buccaneers to flex their muscle and get full protection in the event that Revis is no longer a top echelon player or the team is no good. They knew that nobody else in the NFL would have given Revis this type of salary and really there is no team in the NFL that has the cap structure and willingness to spend to absorb a player like Revis other than the Buccaneers. It was the only match.
If Revis really thought that he could get more money by proving he was the same player he would have simply turned down the offer. The Bucs can tell you that they explained the situation to he and his agents about how they cant give up two high picks and large guarantees, as reported by SI’s Peter King, but that doesn’t hold water. The Jets explained multiple times to Revis about how the rookie salary he earned was slotted far above his original draft position. Revis rightfully argued that didn’t matter. The Jets explained that the Nnamdi Asomugha contract was an outlier, very publically on Hard Knocks in fact, and Revis argued it didn’t matter. Revis didn’t ask for a trade. The fact that the Bucs wanted him shouldn’t have mattered, but now we are supposed to believe that the player felt bad for the Buccaneers? No chance.
Outside of the annual value tradeoff Revis really got nothing out of the contract. If we take this as a brand new contract, as all sides seem to be, the cash flows in the contract don’t compare to those of Mario Williams, the other $16 million dollar a year player. The reality is the first three years of cash flows are similar to those of star players like DeMarcus Ware who had deals that earned less than $13.5 million a season.
For Revis to really be considered a significantly more valued player than Ware (or even Clay Matthews or Terrell Suggs for that matter) he has to make it to the 4th year of his contract. It is at that point where he significantly jumps Ware and begins to close the gap on the Williams contract. That would be considered highly unlikely since Revis has no prorated protection in his contract. Ware was virtually guaranteed to earn $40 million as was Williams. Williams had a much better chance of earning the full $53 million due to dead money charges upwards of $17 million in his third contract season.
In terms of percentage of contract paid out in the first three years Revis hits at an even 50%, lowest among the core defensive players, which I think indicates that the Buccaneers probably put a real value on him closer to what you would pay a $13.8-14 million dollar a year player on the front end of the contract.
% Contract Paid in 3 Years
It is a very risky contract for Revis. I have seen people saying that he is functionally guaranteed at least $32 million, or the first two years salary of his contract. I disagree. NFL owners are not in the business of giving money away if it is not working. If they were they would not have squashed the union in their last set of negotiations. Revis isn’t just betting on himself being healthy but also on those around him being good.
The Buccaneers last season were 7-9, with a questionable QB and a porous secondary. The team spent a lot of money trying to fix that secondary signing Revis and S Dashon Goldson, but what happens if the team again finishes around that 0.500 mark? The Buccaneers are built to win now and their contracts are structured in a way to simply move on if things go south.
Besides the QB being a free agent next season the Buccaneers can save themselves $38.4 million in cash salary obligations for only $7.96 million in dead money charges by releasing Revis, Donald Penn, Davin Joseph, and Vincent Jackson. It is a real question that could be faced by the Buccaneers- retool for one last run via free agency or rebuild? The ages of the other three I mentioned during the 2014 season are all 31, not players kept in a rebuild. Revis would be 29 and if you are going with a new QB and getting rid of some core players as you rebuild would one keep a $16 million dollar a year cornerback who will be 30 or 31 by the time the rebuild is effective? It is the same dilemma that the Jets faced and the answer is likely not.
I doubt in the grand scheme of thing Revis’ contract means anything to future negotiations. No player in their right mind should trade cash now for potential cash 4 and 5 years down the line. Most of those players are out of the league by the time year 4 and 5 comes around. Some corners play effectively forever such as Champ Bailey, but I just think it’s a risk that a player of Revis’ stature didn’t need to take. Maybe in the new market the money simply wasn’t there unless this structure happened but I would take the $40 million guaranteed over two years rather than the hope of $64 million over 4 and shave a little off the total value of the deal. Time will tell if he made the right choice.