I had a number of requests to look at the Raiders salary cap and contract decisions and since I find the Raiders a pretty fascinating team and this is an ultra slow time for contract news it seems like a good topic. For the second year in a row the Raiders were one of the bigger spenders in free agency so there is some concern with were this leaves them in the future when it comes to re-signing some of their own. Considering where the Raiders were just a few years ago it’s certainly understandable for people to be pessimistic, but it’s probably not warranted. Continue reading Looking at the Oakland Raiders Contracts and Future Salary Cap »
Current Estimated 2016 Cap Space: $71.9 million
Expected 2016 Cap Space: $78.3 million
Estimated Rookie Cap: $6.267 million
We close out week one with the Oakland Raiders
Best Contract: Tarell Brown
Much like last season I don’t think there is a lot to choose from on the Raiders. They have done their best to change the culture and makeup of the franchise, but it’s hard to pick and choose among the contracts they have on the team. For the most part all of Oakland’s contracts follow the same basic pattern but I’m not sure any of them fit the mold of a good or bad contract. Most of the contracts are essentially one year deals for players who are out of their primes and looking to prove they still belong in the NFL at higher than average salaries.
I selected Tarell Brown because I feel he not only has the most upside of their signings but was someone that probably could have gotten a better contract elsewhere. Brown’s deal is a pure one year contract worth $3.5 million, all of which is guaranteed. That is in the same range as players like the always injured Dimitri Patterson, Antonio Cromartie and Charles Tillman, all of whom are coming off worse seasons with more to prove than Brown.
I feel like this is a situation where the Raiders presented Brown with a strong chance to stand out on a defense that does not have a great reputation which could lead to a bigger payday down the line. It is the ultimate “prove it” contract in that he should get more exposure and credit than he had before and thus has every incentive to play exceptionally well for Oakland. While you would have liked to have seen this as a two or three year contract, the clear tradeoff for getting Brown at this figure was the one year contract so that he could cash in next season. The Raiders should get the most out of Brown in 2014 at a pretty reasonable price.
Worst Contract: Sebastian Janikowski
I was tempted to go with Austin Howard simply because the Raiders clearly made a mistake with the fine print in the contract, but there really is no comparison between that and the continual overpaying of Sebastian Janikowski.
Last year the Raiders finally had a chance to get things right with their kicker. He was in the final year of his outlandish contract and the Raiders finally should have been poised to move on. GM Reggie McKenzie had purged the roster of almost every bad deal and this contract was one of the lasting memories of everything wrong with the Raider organization in the 2000’s. But Janikowski is apparently like one of the characters of the Matrix movies that survives the reboot and lives forever.
Amazingly the Raiders rewarded Janikowski with a new contract that would guarantee him $8 million, which worked out on a yearly basis to about double the closest guarantees at the position. The Raiders had moved away from using signing bonuses but gave one to Janikowski anyway such that he would still have $1 million in dead money in 2015 if they cut ties with him.
Janikowski’s contract ranks in the top 10 of the Raiders annual salary structure, top 3 in total value for the team among veterans, and first overall among kickers in the NFL. He has never been the best kicker in the NFL and only been selected to participate in one Pro Bowl. The Raiders making him highest paid and guaranteed kicker just defies all logic for whatever the team seems to be trying to accomplish as they rebuild their franchise.
2013’s Best and Worst Raiders Contracts:
2013 Best Contract: Charles Woodson (Starting safety that re-signed with team)
2013 Worst Contract: Sebastian Janikowski (Signed extension with Raiders-See above)
Key Additions: Matt Schaub ($6.8M per year), Austin Howard ($6M), LaMarr Woodley ($5.2M), Justin Tuck ($5M), Donald Penn ($4.8M), Antonio Smith ($4.5M), Tarell Brown ($3.5M), James Jones ($3.3M), Kevin Boothe ($1.3M), Maurice Jones-Drew ($2.5M)
Key Re-Signings: Charles Woodson ($2M per year), Darren McFadden ($1.8M), Pat Sims ($1.5M), Usama Young ($1.2M)
Key Losses: Jared Veldheer (Cardinals), Lamarr Houston (Bears), Rashad Jennings (Giants), Tracy Porter (Redskins),
Major Cuts: Mike Brisiel ($1.4M cap savings)
Free Agency Thoughts:
The Raiders went into free agency with the most cap space in the history of the NFL and they did what they could to spend it. Was it spent wisely? I guess that depends on your perspective. If you are excited about having a large number of contracts that are in essence one year contracts then you should feel that the Raiders did great. They added at least nine starters, kept three good pieces and if any fail they can go and cut them all in 2015. If that doesn’t float your boat, then you should think this was a terrible offseason.
The one decision nobody should argue with is bringing in Matt Schaub. Oakland was in desperate need of a QB and Schaub is just one year removed from at least being an effective game manager. In a sense it’s a lateral move from Carson Palmer but with more favorable contract terms. It was a huge need and they filled it. His new deal does not preclude them from drafting a QB either.
The Raiders brought in Austin Howard to play either right tackle or guard at $6 million a year. It’s a very strong contract for Howard made stronger by what seems to be a clerical error by the Raiders which caused a large first year roster bonus to be treated as a signing bonus. I’d be almost certain the Raiders had no desire to do this as no contract they signed had prorated money beyond 2014 and the bonus language here was designed to avoid this bonus from prorating. Perhaps they can petition for a change but the current management council decision has the bonus prorated.
Outside of the Howard signing free agency pretty much played out like an attempt to recreate a Pro Bowl team from 2009. Charles Woodson (38), Donald Penn (31), Kevin Boothe (31), Antonio Smith (33), Justin Tuck (31), LaMarr Woodley (30), and James Jones (30) all make up the post 30’s brigade this year, and all, except for Jones, should have question marks surrounding them. Penn and Woodley were no longer wanted by their original teams because their play had dropped so much. Tuck was willing to stay in New York for less money but the Giants had no desire to bring him back. Smith and Woodson are both at ages where you keep your fingers crossed.
I’m can’t explain the decisions at running back. The team retained Darren McFadden and then signed the ancient, in football years, Maurice Jones-Drew. There are no excuses for McFadden who is not just injury prone but also awful when healthy. McFadden’s deal contains almost no guarantees but even $1.75 million if he makes the team is too high. MJD will earn $500,000 less than the younger Knowshon Moreno and about $1 million less than the top players signed this year at RB. Oakland has to hope that the only cause for his problems in Jacksonville was the poor offensive line.
Tarell Brown was a strong signing by the team. He is a capable cornerback and being on a “prove it” contract should get the best out of him. It would have been nice to get him for two years, but I don’t think he would agree to those terms right now. Jones should be a reasonable veteran that can be the third guy with potential weeks to have more of a role. The re-signing of Sims and Young were both solid and both on reasonable contracts.
I can’t wrap my head around allowing the younger Veldheer and Houston to walk away without a fight. The loss of Veldheer in particular seemed like a lesson in not how to run a franchise. At the least they could have put a transition tag on him and then rescinded the tag had Rodger Saffold, who the Raiders identified as his replacement, passed a physical. Instead they let Veldheer walk and when they backed out of the Saffold deal had to scramble to find a name off the scrap heap to play left tackle.
Overall Grade: D
For whatever reason when I look at Oakland I see the same type of team that they put out there two or three years ago, except the contracts are not obscene this time around. I would have thought they would have been aggressive in trying to nab a few younger players such as one of the cornerbacks or guards but they passed on the front tier of free agents. I understand wanting players on your contract terms (no signing bonus and nothing more than vesting guarantees) but that should not hamper you from getting a player. The Buccaneers run a very similar style and had no issues getting players to sign. If the Raiders vision is to have these veteran players show a new crop of younger guys how to professionally approach the job, that’s something, but as it stands there is very little long term vision in the group that was put together.
It was reported yesterday that the Raiders and LT Jared Veldheer are working on a contract extension, so I figured we could take a look at what contract possibilities there could be for him. Veldheer is a 26 year old former 3rd round draft choice playing the final year of his contract. He has been sidelined by injury for the first 11 games of the season but prior to that had started 44 games over his three year career and never been injured.
I like to break down pass blocking effectiveness using pressures and sacks allowed using a formula I developed where we consider a completed pass as a “success” and an incomplete as a “failure”. Every time a QB drops back to pass he is expected to complete about 63.7% of his dropbacks when he faces no pressure. If he Is pressured that number falls to 43.1%. So what I do with pass blockers is determine the percentage of plays where I can assign then to be the cause of “play failure”.
To illustrate this calculation I’ll use Joe Thomas of the Browns, who has been the best pass blocking tackle in the NFL for the last three years. Using statistics from Pro Football Focus we see that Thomas blocked on 574 plays. With no pressure 574 dropbacks should result in 208.3 failed pass attempts (574 * (1-63.7%)). That is our baseline number for the perfect player.
Thomas has allowed the QB to be pressured 27 times bringing his unpressured dropbacks down to 547, which equals 198.5 failures. Of the 27 pressures one is a sack which equals one failure. Of the 26 other pressures (hits and hurries) we can calculate that the play failed 14.8 times (26 * (1-43.1%)). Add those three numbers together and we calculate that Thomas’ plays resulted in 214.3 failures, so, in essence, his blocking is responsible for 6 non-completions, an increase of 2.88%.
Over the last three years the average left tackle who appeared in at least 50% of his teams passing snaps, allows an increase in failures of 5.01%. The best of the last three seasons was Thomas in 2012 with 2.05% and the worst was D’Anthony Batiste of the Cardinals in 2012 at 11.12%. For players who qualified for at least 2 of the last 3 seasons the average is 4.55%. Thomas again ranks highest at 2.43% for his three years of work while J’Marcus Webb is the worst at 6.66%. Obviously other factors play a role in the effectiveness of a players such as play calling, QB smarts (the Peyton Manning vs Tim Tebow disparity being the greatest), and play grading by PFF, but it’s at least a tool to put some perspective into the position.
Veldheer ranks in the top half of the position in both 2011 and 2012. In 2011 he scored a 4.36%, which ranked 11th for the position. In 2012 he was more effective with a grade of 3.71% which was good for 10th in the NFL. His two year average score of 4.04% ranks 9th among the 27 players who qualified for at least two seasons. That’s a better number than Ryan Clady (4.12%), Joe Staley (4.31%), Jordan Gross (4.84%), Jake Long (5.06%), D’Brickashaw Ferguson (5.1%), Jermon Bushrod (5.16%), and Will Beatty (5.99%).
I don’t really think teams put significant weight into this aspect of the game when paying a Left Tackle. For one teams simply don’t run that often as the NFL has become a pure passing league. Secondly runs in the direction of the outside part of the line are only around 25% according to data maintained by Football Outsiders. So while the tackle plays a role in all running plays, overpaying for that aspect of the game is a bad business decision. You just want to make sure the player is not going to hurt you in that part of the game.
Veldheer would seem to be a capable player in the run game. in 2012 runs directed at the LT for the Raiders ranked 10th in the NFL. In 2011 they ranked 11th. This year they rank 10th as well without him. While the run personnel is better this season I don’t think anyone will be fooled into overpaying for “rub blocking” nor will they downgrade him for the same.
I think one of the things that works against Veldheer is the fact that he is a 3rd round draft pick. While late draft picks can make up for their draft positioning, general honors and recognition come far easier for the top picks in a draft, until a player is established, which Veldheer is not having just two full seasons in the NFL. Veldheer also plays in relative obscurity in Oakland because they have been so bad for so many years.
With no Pro Bowls, All Pro seasons, or draft stature pushing a contract I felt that this was probably the best list of comparables I could come up with:
The gold standard here would be Brown, who was a much higher pick and an established four year starter but had yet to earn any Pro Bowl or All Pro nods when he signed his contract. Brown was also a superior player. His pass block numbers the past three years have averaged 3.02% and he was the 4th rated LT in 2011, the year before he signed his mega extension.
Beatty is the name that should interest Veldheer the most. Beatty only started 31 games prior to signing his extension with the Giants this past offseason. New York fell into the one season wonder trap with him. In 2010 he graded at a below average 5.89% but when playing for a new contract saw the number fall down to a terrific 3.38%. The Giants bought in, as teams often do when they believe in a player, and this year he is up to an 8.7% number, second to last in the NFL.
Despite the fact that Veldheer has not played this year he is the player he should be looking to exceed in contract value. Beatty’s two year average of 4.63% leading into his new contract is inferior to Veldheer’s 4.04%. Neither is exactly established at the position. Neither was a high draft pick and neither really rewarded for his play leading into a deal.
Jermon Bushrod could be used to drop the price a bit. Bushrod had more experience and because he was a member of a high powered offense he also received recognition in the form of back to back Pro Bowls. His numbers were only impressive in 2011 (3.83%) and have fallen back to slightly below average after that. His guarantees and cash flows are nowhere near as impressive as Beattys.
The other interesting contract that I want to use to push the price is that of Sam Baker. Baker is another one of those players whose price was pushed by draft status. His 2012 contract year was nothing more than average (4.93% rating) and he was injured in 2011. While his $6.85 million average is not as impressive as the $7.2 million Bushrod received, the cash flows are tremendous. Provided the Falcons pick up a 2014 option his money is also well protected.
The following two tables present the cash flows and percent of five year payouts earned in each year
Outside of overpaying for Sebastian Janikowski, which I have to think was a directive that came from ownership, the Raiders front office has not really shown how they will be handling contract negotiations for top tier players. They did make Marcel Reece the highest paid Fullback in the NFL, but that is not a premier position either so I would throw that out. Veldheer is going to be their first high quality signing and may be a precedent point for the organization.
I would think a fair compromise is to match the annual value of the Bushrod contract, but make the cash flows match closer to that of the Baker contract. That would still put Veldheer under Beatty, which may not be fair but I think will be important to Oakland. While I don’t know what they will be planning I don’t sense that they want to be a pricing point for any position.
Due to uncertainty since he was out this year I would also imagine that the Raiders will include playtime bonuses that, in unearned, would bring his contract down to the Baker 5 year number of $6.9 million. If they want to bring him above Beatty than the bonuses I would have would bring him down to Bushrod’s APY. I would also like to get a deal done in the next few weeks if possible. Oakland currently has $2.75 million in cap space and can afford to use up $1.5 million of that on Bushrod this season to lower the dead money at the end of the contract.
The Raiders do have luxury of using more cap space next season than most other teams since they project to have around $70 million in cap space, but if using a somewhat traditional contract structure I’d consider something like this:
In this proposed structure Veldheer receives the first year fully guaranteed and will earn a vesting guarantee in 2015. If he is injured again in 2014 the Raider can move on with just $4.5 million in dead money. They could probably add another vesting guarantee in 2016 as well if they wanted. For cap purposes they could very easily swap the 2014 and 2015 salaries to frontload the contract a bit more. I think as long as 2016 is a reasonable number, since the hope would be that the team actually has players to pay at that point, they won’t be compromised when dealing with other players.
I’ll be interested to see where they go with Veldheer since he is not a marquee name but has played pretty well in his two full seasons. If they use the injury this year to their advantage that’s a great job by the Raiders because there is really no reason for him to not be somewhere in that $7 million to $7.5 million a year range based on how he has played. I’d imagine this will be finalized in the next two weeks.
Last week Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reported that Raiders FB Marcel Reece signed a contract extension that would provide for the largest guarantee ever for a Fullback. We now can share the details of the contract.
According to a league source Reece will now earn $12.45 million over the next four seasons with an opportunity to max the contract out at $12.95 million via Pro Bowl incentives. Reece was scheduled to earn $1.423 million in 2013, so the new money in the contract is actually $11,027,000. Upon signing the contract Reece is guaranteed $4,116,294, which is comprised of a $3.52 million signing bonus and the balance of his Paragraph 5, which was reduced to $630,000.
Reece’s $2.95 million salary In 2014 is guaranteed for injury only but will vest on the 3rd day of the League Year and be protected for skill, injury, and salary cap termination. In 2015 the base salary is $2.55 million and in 2016 it will be $2.6 million. Reece can earn workout bonuses of $50,000 each year.
While these numbers are lower than the initial reports, these are still very strong numbers for a Fullback in the NFL and the highest full guarantee upon signing given to a FB that I can recall.
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 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.
State of the Franchise and Front Office
It’s well recognized by even the most diehard Raider fans that the team hasn’t lived up to its mantra “Commitment to Excellence” for a very long time. General Manager Reggie McKenzie and Head Coach Dennis Allen enter their second year with the Raiders in one of the most unique situations I can remember. To put it simply, McKenzie has blown the whole thing up. This is essentially an expansion team that has been broken down to the bones and in the early stages of a massive and complete rebuild. For a great in-depth look at how the Oakland Raiders got to where they are, I encourage you to read Joel Corry’s piece by clicking here.
With McKenzie seemingly purging the roster completely, the Raiders have amassed a stunning $50,321,847 in dead money this year, effectively decimating this year’s salary cap. In my opinion, it’s an absolutely brilliant maneuver. The Raiders weren’t going to compete for a Super Bowl this year, let alone a division title, and were anchored down by terrible contracts and personnel decisions. By cutting loose the awful contracts and biting this bullet this year, the Raiders are set to have almost a complete clean slate heading into 2014. The Raiders currently have the smallest amount of money committed to players under contract next year at $51,476,044, and are set to lead the league in cap space going into next year by a long shot even after factoring in the $6,609,588 of dead money. With a cleaned out roster and tons of cap space, it will be interesting to see if McKenzie builds through the draft and avoids free agency like he did when he was the Director of Football Operations for the Green Bay Packers or splurges with all the available funds.
Despite all the pessimism around the chances of the Raiders winning more than a handful of games this year, there was a brief moment during last weekend’s contest against the Colts where everyone watching thought, “The Raiders might actually win this game.” But alas, a late interception by Terrelle Pryor sealed a week 1 loss for the Raiders to the relief of nearly half the Survivor Pool participants who confidently picked the Colts.
Contract Strategies and Trends
There isn’t a ton to look at in this section yet. Most of the players McKenzie has brought in this offseason have similar style deals, usually one-year in length, with a small to medium sized signing bonus, and a workout bonus usually ranging from $100,000-$250,000. Some of these players include S Charles Woodson, CB Mike Jenkins, and DT Vance Walker. McKenzie for the most part has avoided using roster bonuses but there are a few exceptions including Tracy Porter’s $187,500 RB and Usama Young’s $65,000 RB, both of which are in 2013. After using the franchise tag on S Tyvon Branch last offseason, McKenzie also used a pair of roster bonuses when the Raiders agreed to a new contract with him before the deadline that contained a $1,000,000 roster bonus in 2014 and 2015.
McKenzie’s biggest free acquisitions over the past two offseasons were G Mike Brisiel and LB Nick Roach. Both contracts are set up very similarly with Brisiel’s 5-year deal and Roach’s 4-year deal both containing a standard breakdown of P5 (base) salaries, signing bonuses, and workout bonuses. Brisiel was brought in last year to play guard in the zone-blocking scheme, but after one unsuccessful year the Raiders have abandoned it. Brisiel’s underwhelming play last year and an offensive-line scheme change led to what was originally believed to be a pay-cut. Instead it seems to be more of a normal restructure. This is odd because it was widely believed that Brisiel wouldn’t quite fit into the Raider’s new scheme, and would only have cost $2,240,000 in dead money to move on from him. Now it would cost almost $3,930,000. If Brisiel turns his play around this year than there is nothing to worry about, but if he continues to struggle, now the Raiders are committed even more to a player they don’t want, and had the chance to bite a smaller bullet earlier. For what it’s worth, PFF graded his first game against the Colts as an average performance.
Of course there is always K Sebastian Janikowski. The longtime Raider was given an extension through the 2017 season maintaining his status as the leagues most expensive place kicker. From what I can tell, Janikowski’s P5 (base) salaries are guaranteed in 2013 and 2014 at $3,500,000 and $2,700,000 respectively, and with small signing bonus proratations, it’s basically only a 2-year deal. If the Raiders finally decide to move on from the Janikowski era after the 2014 season, it will only cost them $360,000 in dead money in 2015, 2016, and 2017.
McKenzie also extended long snapper Jon Condo shortly after Janikowski. Condo’s deal isn’t anything special contractually, just a standard P5 (base) salary and signing bonus, but yet again a Raider who plays special teams is being paid at the top of the market. For more details on Condo’s extension, click here.
Biggest Upcoming Roster Decision
The comical but semi-realistic answer to this question would be Jadeveon Clowney or Teddy Bridgewater but it is the NFL, and despite Oakland’s current situation, the Raiders are by no means guaranteed to have the 1st pick in the 2014 draft (looking at you Jacksonville). The Raiders actually host the Jaguars this week and are giving 6 points now in what could be a decisive game for determining who has the 1st overall pick in next year’s NFL draft. The real decision then is between Matt Flynn and Darren McFadden.
The Raiders and Flynn restructured his deal in May to create a little cap space, which in turn aided in bringing back Charles Woodson to the silver and black. As a result, Flynn goes into the 2014 season with a cap charge of $7,625,000. Had he won the job, and presumably would have been the starting quarterback going into next offseason, that figure isn’t terrible at all. But after losing to Russell Wilson in Seattle last year, Flynn lost the quarterback competition again, this time to Terrelle Pryor. Whether Pryor is the starter heading into 2014, or the Raiders use a high draft pick on one, the total cost allocation of the quarterbacks for the Raiders is still going to be a friendly figure, making keeping Flynn at the high cap number, even as a backup, reasonable. If they decide to cut him, it would cost the Raiders $2,625,000 in dead money in 2014 as well as throwing away the 2014 5th round pick and most likely the conditional pick in 2015 that was paid to the Seahawks for Flynn. Jason pointed out one additional reason the Raiders might choose to keep Flynn around – to reach the CBA mandated minimum cash spending. Remember the CBA divided the actual cash spending by the teams into 4-year buckets. Because the Raiders payroll is so freakishly low this year, they are one of the few teams that could plausibly not reach the minimum threshold. Keeping Flynn, and paying him, would help the Raiders reach that threshold.
As for McFadden, it was reported that the Raiders haven’t officially reached out to him about signing an extension before he hits free agency next offseason. The 4th overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft is entering the sixth season of a disappointing career. The best player comparison I can think of going into this season for McFadden is 2008 2nd overall pick Reggie Bush. Before being traded to Miami prior to the 2011 season, many of the concerns about Bush are shared by McFadden now; unproductive, injury-prone, and underachieving. Through the first five years of each of their careers, one of those players played in 57 of 80 possible games, scored 23 rushing or receiving touchdowns, and compiled 4,803 yards from scrimmage while the other played in 60 of 80 possible games, had 29 rushing or receiving touchdowns, and compiled 4,232 yards from scrimmage. Player 1 is McFadden and Player 2 is Bush. Both stat-lines are extremely similar and fall far short of the expectations both franchises had when they selected the running backs at the top end of the Draft. While I personally don’t see McFadden resurrecting his career like Reggie Bush has, I think it’s more than likely this is the final season Run DMC spends in Oakland, completing the eradication of the Raiders’ 1st round picks.
This is going to wrap up the preliminary look at some of the franchises starting their rebuilding process, in the midst of it, or on the verge of one. There are a few more teams we could have taken a look at but I either felt that they are going to be sufficiently analyzed on the site already (Jets) or would repeat some of the styles we’ve already started analyzing from previous teams. I’ll probably do a check-in article sometime towards the middle of the season to look at some of the moves that have been made since the articles were written and a general progress report on how their season is currently going. As always, if you have any questions, concerns, or disagree with anything – don’t hesitate to comment or reach out to me.
Past ‘State of Rebuild’ Articles@RyanFeder email@example.com