NFL Stock Down: Week 2

Every Monday during the season we will take a look back at three players who are entering important stages of their contract that may have hurt their stock in upcoming negotiations with their play on Sunday. In addition we will also look at one player signed in the offseason to a new contract that did not live up to the expectations that his contract sets for the player.

Stock Down

Darren McFadden– McFadden received next to no interest from around the NFL and opted for a one year contract to stay on the Raiders with the intent to prove that there was still a long way to go before his career was over. McFadden got his opportunity on Sunday due to an injury to Maurice Jones Drew and finished the day with 12 carries for 37 yards. Unless the Raiders new GM in 2015 is Marty Hurney, McFadden’s chances of any payday next year look to be next to nothing.

Robert Griffin III– I don’t like to include injured players in this category, but I don’t think there is a way to avoid how devastating this latest injury setback is for RGIII. After this season the Redskins have to decide on the option year for RGIII and could also extend the QB. Two years ago it seemed a given that he would get a monster contract extension in 2015. Now the durability concerns may make the option an issue since its injury protected. What’s worse is that he is now going to be looked at as a project QB especially if he fails to reclaim the job when healthy enough to try again.

Osi Umenyiora– To say Umenyiora’s time in Atlanta has been a disappointment is certainly an understatement and on Sunday he played in just 21 snaps and recorded no pressures in his time in the game. Osi is expected to be a situational pass rusher but at this rate the Falcons may decrease the situational opportunities they put him in. The fit on the team is terrible and if there is trade where both sides benefit it may be this one. But he is killing his chances of finding another home in the NFL next season with games like this.


New Contract Disappointment Of The Week

Matt Cassel– Cassel was re-signed to give the Vikings a professional presence at the QB position and on Sunday he gave them a 3 year old rookie performance. Minnesota had no chance with Cassel throwing 4 interceptions that were a mixture of awful throws and bad decisions. You won’t see many more games in the NFL this bad at this position and one more like this and he will lose his job to the rookie on the bench.


Matt Cassel To Void Contract With Vikings?


When discussing voidable contracts the other day we made note that Matt Cassel of the Vikings had the option to void his deal this week. According to Darren Wolfson it sounds as if Cassel is leaning towards doing just that. Minnesota is going through many changes this year as they brought in a new coaching staff and will be moving outdoors for the foreseeable future, two items that may have led to the decision. Cassel, who went 3-3 as a starter last season on a bad Vikings team, might see 2014 as his best opportunity to cash in, especially given the poor QB market in free agency.

Cassel was scheduled to earn $3.7 million from the Vikings in 2014 with an opportunity to earn $500,000 more in incentives. For a backup QB that is a higher end salary which means Cassel has to believe that either the Vikings or another team will pay him low level starter money. It’s certainly a risk as last season the top high end backup QB signings were Matt Hasselbeck and Matt Moore. Hasselbeck earned $5 million from the Colts and Moore $4 million from the Dolphins. Cassel was third at $3.7 million. Other names such as Kevin Kolb and Ryan Fitzpatrick took deals for much less money.

While teams like the Raiders with large amounts of cap room and uncertainty at the position could be interested in Cassel, many of these teams passed on him last season when they had an opportunity and it is hard to imagine 6 starts changing the opinion that much. Cassel has also only suited up for 27 games in the last three seasons which is not going to endear him to anyone looking for a 16 game starter. So there is certainly a risk to voiding his deal if Minnesota will not be in play as a fallback position.

If there was in fact an indication that Minnesota wanted to start him this year he likely feels that he should earn more money from them. Carson Palmer, who is much higher regarded, signed for $8 million a season and $8 million in cash in 2013 with Arizona. Mike Vick received $7.5 million, a figure somewhat inflated by the potential cap consequences of releasing him. Those would be the top end numbers and I’d consider both very unlikely.  Most likely he would be looking to top Hasselbeck’s salary with maybe some incentives to push him in the $6 million range.




Kirk Cousins and the Cost of Trading for a Backup Legend


Driving in today I flipped over to Mike and Mike on ESPN and heard them having a discussion about Kirk Cousins the backup QB of the Washington Redskins and how valuable a piece he is to the Redskins. The discussion centered around a comment made by Peter King that insinuated that a team drafting in the upper half of the first round should consider giving up their pick (I believe the number they used was 7) for him. I immediately thought that would make an interesting discussion.

Cousins has clearly fallen into the “backup legend” category where we all get so enamored with the position and the prospect of finding a great talent to start for our team. This time last season Cousins was almost an afterthought. Cousins was drafted with the 7th pick in the 4th round of the 2012 draft. This wasn’t Geno Smith falling from the top half of the 1st to the 2nd round as Cousins was projected to go anywhere from the late 2nd to the early 4th, which is exactly where he went. The scouting on him was pretty consistent: efficient player but will never be more than a game manager.

The draft pick itself was considered questionable at the time because the Redskins had just given up a draft fortune to select Robert Griffin III with the 2nd pick in the draft. To select another QB when you had just parted with so many picks seemed like a poor use of limited assets. Cousins began to create a little buzz in the preseason where he completed nearly 58% of his passes at over 13 YPC, but when Cousins was elevated from 3rd string to 2nd string over Rex Grossman more than just a few were surprised.

Once RGIII got injured Cousins got his regular season opportunity and yet another “backup legend” was born. Cousins first led a comeback against eventual champion Baltimore Ravens and then was terrific in his lone start throwing for 329 yards against the Cleveland Browns. Last night Cousins went 6 of 7 for 52 yards in a preseason game which sparked the discussion about his upside.  How quickly everyone forgets just where the young QB was a year ago as he battled for a backup job.

The best comparison one could probably for Cousins would be the career of Matt Schaub. Schaub was drafted with the 27th pick of the 3rd round in the 2004 NFL draft by the Atlanta Falcons. Schaub was brought in to be a backup to Mike Vick. Vick was a phenomenon at the time. The 1st overall pick in 2001, Vick was the most electric player in the NFL and had a reputation that far exceeded the actual play on the field. There were also questions about his durability making a backup seem like a bigger need than for other teams. Schaub was good in the preseason  and got one start in his Atlanta career where he threw for 298 yards against the Patriots. Schaub became the “backup legend”.

The price for Schaub was nothing like was being suggested on Mike and Mike. The Texans gave up two second round draft picks to acquire him. Schaub has gone on to have a solid but unspectacular career and has also been dogged by injuries at times. But he has probably been the most successful of the star backups. Other recent names who turned preseason and less than one season samples into starting jobs have been Kevin Kolb, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Derek Anderson, Matt Cassel , and AJ Feeley.  None were successful.  Kolb, Cassel, and Feeley were all acquired via trade while Fitzpatrick and Anderson were signed off their samples.

Trading a high first pick for a backup QB is a recipe for disaster. Part of the benefit of the top 15 pick now is the slotted pay scale. It allows teams an opportunity to mold a cap friendly roster around a number of potential superstar young talent. When you trade that draft pick for a “backup legend” it’s not just a draft pick being given up, but often large sums of money. Assuming a team was to trade for Cousins next season they would only have Cousins under his rookie contract for two seasons. If they waited one more season it would only be for one. After that he hits free agency.

When you make that trade commitment a financial one goes along with it. In essence you have traded the new rookie wage scale for the old one. For the group above here are the awarded salaries of the more recent backups to riches stories:



3 Year Cash
















Of all the deals Cassel was far and away the worst, which was just a sign of how inept the Chiefs front office was. Cassel has almost no pedigree at all (he was a 7th round pick) and they gave the farm away for him. At least in Fitzpatrick’s case there was no trade involved and the three year money total was smaller.

Of course the other question is whether or not a team would even consider giving up the first round selection for him. This is not the Bears trading for Jay Cutler. Most of the teams that would consider trading for Cousins are those same teams that have a scouting department that gave him a 3rd round or worse grade.  Maybe he has done enough in the preseason and limited game action to up that grade but it’s unlikely without an extensive look that a teams’ scouts would recommend giving him a 1st round grade, let alone a top 10 grade, especially factoring in the cost. Plus there are going to be teams that say Mike Shanahan runs a very QB friendly offense that turned players like Brian Griese and Jake Plummer into adequate players.

While we often all buy into the fantasy aspect of the NFL and the throwing away of draft selections it has been some time since teams decided to throw first round picks at lower regarded talent. I believe the last two big ones were Rob Johnson in 1998 and Trent Green in 2001. Johnson was a 4th round pick with only one start under his belt which led to the Bills trading a 1st and 4th for his services. It is a trade so bad that it is still talked about to this day. Green was a journeyman type QB who was displaced by injury and replaced by Kurt Warner. At the time I think the feeling was that Green was just as good and that the Chiefs were getting a steal for a 1st round pick. Green would have a decent career with the Chiefs, who really have gone overboard with the trading for QB’s dating back to Joe Montana.

Really unless you have the exceptional pedigree teams are not going to throw away a first rounder and all that money on a player.  Here are some of the potential starter  trades since the Green trade to Kansas City.


Draft Round

Games Started

Trade Package
Jay Cutler



two 1’s, a 3rd, and Kyle Orton
Drew Bledsoe



1st* round pick
Carson Palmer



1st* and 2nd*
Donovan McNabb



2nd and 4th*
Alex Smith



2nd and 2nd/3rd*
Kevin Kolb



2nd* and DRC
Matt Schaub



1st round swap (2 slots) and two 2nds
Charlie Whitehurst



2nd round swap (20 slots) and 3rd*
AJ Feeley



2nd round pick
Matt Hasselbeck



1st round swap (7 slots) and 3rd
Matt Cassel



2nd (plus Mike Vrabel to KC)
* means actual slot unknown at time of trade

The marketplace really has been the 2nd round for players that do not have that elite pedigree. Of the younger talent, Cutler, who came from a Shanahan system and looked like one of the greatest prospects on the planet, is the only one to garner a fortune in compensation, losing the 11th and 18th pick in the 1st round. Kolb cost a 2nd and a player which is more or less the equivalent to the two 2nd rounders traded for Schaub. Alex Smith could be the same.

So it would be stunning, based on pat history, if any team in the NFL drafting in the top 10 would even consider trading for Cousins at that price. I tend to think that there may be more reservation as well due to the recent series of bust signings on questionable players with the small sample sizes. Over the next two seasons Kolb, Cassel, Fitzpatrick, and Matt Flynn will carry $23,950,000 in dead money for their respective former teams.

Flynn, who had backed up Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay and flashed in relief, expected to be involved in a bidding war of sorts when the Packers let him hit free agency. Teams were much more cautious with Flynn, a 7th round selection, than they had been with other players. Eventually he signed with Seattle for a base value of $19.5 million over three years. That was still good money, but not Kolb or Cassel money. Flynn of course was traded after just one season when unheralded rookie Russell Wilson outplayed Flynn by a significant margin in training camp and the preseason.

But right now I think many of us are going a little overboard on the expectations for Cousins in the trade market. Players don’t go from being 4th round draft picks to top 10 commodities based on a start and some preseason games. Maybe if he had close to a full season of work someone with a late 1st round pick might make a move, but the market is really a 2nd rounder and that’s assuming teams have not grown cold to the prospect of trading for someone else’s bench player rather than just  drafting one themselves. The financial commitment can be so large when you trade for a QB and is there really that much that separates Kevin Kolb from Blaine Gabbert?  Gabbert is certainly cheaper. Neither has been very good.  Gabbert had and probably has more upside.

I would think applying the Schaub test is really the right way to look at Cousins. Schaub has been the QB on two teams that made the playoffs and has twice gone to the Pro Bowl. He has started 79 games in 6 years and won 44 of them. Just a year after signing an extension many fans can’t wait to get rid of him because they feel the flaws, more or less the lack of physical tools that helped push him to the late 3rd round in the first place,  will keep them from winning a championship. In hindsight would you have been happy giving up the 7th pick in the NFL draft and somewhere around $60 million dollars for Schaub?  Probably not.

Now none of this is to say that Cousins can’t be better than Schaub. For all I know Cousins may be the next Tom Brady, who the Patriots wisely chose to stick with over Bledsoe in 2001. But as a teams’ GM or cap manager you have to weigh the risks associated with such a trade. You are losing four low cost seasons of a tremendous upside draft pick and replacing it with a high financial commitment for a player just a few years ago you felt did not have the tools to warrant a 2nd or 3rd round selection.  To pull that top 10 pick the player needs to be proven which means at least two years of significant meaningful game experience. Otherwise the 2nd round maximum is as far as a team should ever be willing to go.



An Offseason Look at The Kansas City Chiefs

I’m going to (hopefully) go over all 32 teams rosters and potential cap moves over the next few weeks. We’ll start things off with the Kansas City Chiefs, who own the number 1 pick in the draft. The Chiefs had a miserable season in 2012. Pro Football Focus ranked them to have the 20th ranked offense and 27th ranked offense, Football Outsiders ranked them 31st on offense and 30th on Defense, and in my own efficiency rankings they were 32nd in scoring and 25th in defense. So they need significant overhaul.

Cap Positions

Surprisingly the Chiefs have a high cap payroll on the books in 2013. My estimates have their top 51 at just under $120 million plus nearly $3 million in dead money. The team does have significant money to carry over from 2012 that will give them more than enough cushion once free agency begins, but as of today their cap number is going to be closer to $12 or $13 million once things get underway, so clearly they have some housecleaning to do.

The biggest dead weight on the roster is Tyson Jackson, who carries a base salary of $14.72 million despite a grand total of 3 sacks in 2012 and only 5 in his career. Releasing Jackson, who took a $3.75 million dollar paycut last season, would create $14.97 million in cap room, which moves them from average to near top of the market in spending dollars. Jackson should be as good as gone.

The other possible release would be QB Matt Cassel who turned a fluky 2008 cameo for the Patriots into a $48 million dollar contract from the Chiefs. Cassel is extremely mistake prone and both sides would probably benefit from a change of scenery. Releasing Cassel saves the team $7.75 million in cash and $5.875 million in cap space.

Notable Free Agents

The Chiefs have two free agents that will draw interest around the NFL. LT Branden Albert is one of the better tackles in the NFL and wants to be paid top 5 money. Is that reasonable? Probably. I think you can compare Albert to someone like Jordan Gross of the Panthers or Duane Brown of the Texans, both of whom are in the upper echelon of salary. I dont think Albert will reach the $10 million a year club that the Jets D’Brickashaw Ferguson snuck into a few years ago, but he should settle in that $9.5-$9.75 million a year range which will probably earn him $25 million in guarantees. It is a move the Chiefs should stronly consider making.

The teams other free agent is WR Dwayne Bowe who played last season on the franchise tag. Franchising Bowe again would cost the team $11.418 million in 2013 and that is not really an option for a team with no Quarterback. Bowe is looking for premier money on a long term deal and the Chiefs will probably be best suited to let him accept an offer from another club while they rebuild the more important positions on the team.

Rookie Pool:

The Chiefs have 7 picks thus far in the upcoming draft. Below you will find my estimates for the cost of the draft picks. The signing bonus money is typically going to be cash needed this season to sign their players this year.

PickSigning Bonus2013 Cap2014Cap2015Cap2016CapTotal
Round 11$14,518,444$4,034,611$5,043,264$6,051,917$7,060,570$22,190,362
Round 22$2,324,836$986,209$1,232,761$1,479,313$1,725,865$5,424,148
Round 31$703,304$580,826$717,826$854,826$990,826$3,144,304
Round 42$486,000$526,500$616,500$706,500$796,500$2,646,000
Round 51$215,512$458,878$548,878$638,878$728,878$2,375,512
Round 62$125,116$436,279$526,279$616,279$706,279$2,285,116
Round 71$69,124$422,281$512,281$602,281$692,281$2,229,124

For the Chiefs to get the fast turnaround they really need to hit in this years draft to begin that roster overhaul. The class will take up a nice little chunk of cap room, but if they can find one or two stars from the group it will give the team significant financial flexibility to make other moves.


With 10 players set to be unrestricted or restricted free agents in 2014 this could be a year where the Chiefs sit on some cap room while they get a better handle on their needs and then try to have a more impactful free agent season in 2015. I would think its in their best interests to re-sign Albert this year and look for a stopgap QB to hold the fort while they develop their roster, see what they get out of this years rookies, and then plan to make a splash two years from now.