On Monday the news broke that the Eagles extended the contract of inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks to the tune of $29 million over four years. Of course the immediate reaction was where the contract ranked among the hierarchy of linebacker contracts and how it was a pretty big deal for Kendricks, especially given a logjam of players at the position. Reuben Frank of Comcast Sportsnet was the first with the details of the contract which can help us look a little more at the line of thinking the Eagles may have used in extending Kendricks and why its a solid deal for the team.
Below is an unfinished draft of the beginning of the Front Office section of the “Caponomics Theories” section of “#Caponomics: Understanding NFL Roster Building through Super Bowl Champion Salary Cap Analysis” which I’m pushing to have published and available on Amazon during training camp. I started this project in February after going to the NFL Combine and originally planned on having it done by June. Of course, I had no idea what I was talking about because I’ve never written a book before and it’s taken longer than I originally thought, so it might be out in August or it might be out a little later than that. On top of that, I am preparing for the NFLPA’s Agent Certification Exam that’s in July, so it could be delayed a little more as I prepare for that. Continue reading #Caponomics Excerpt: Opening of Front Office Theories Section »
This is a first draft of one of the 25 or so theories from the “Caponomics Theories” section of my upcoming book Caponomics: Understanding NFL Roster Building through Super Bowl Champion Salary Cap Analysis. Any of the references to other chapters in this article are
E-mail me at Caponomics@gmail.com if you’re interested in staying updated when preview chapters are released to the e-mail group and want to be alerted to when the book will be made available. Join the list now and you’ll receive the chapter on the 2000 Ravens, which we’ve already sent out to the group! Continue reading Caponomics Book Excerpt from Theories Section: Be Different, Creative and Unique »
Estimated 2015 Cap Space: $17.5M ($140M cap limit)
Players Under Contract: 60
Pro Bowlers: 5
Unrestricted Free Agents: 7(4 with 50%+ playtime)
Draft Selection: 20
Salary Cap Breakdown
Free Agents to Re-sign
Retaining wide receiver Jeremy Maclin should be a priority on the offseason to-do list. If Maclin walks away in free agency it would leave the Eagles with a void at the top receiver position. Coming to an agreement with Maclin may be difficult. He has over-inflated 2014 numbers due to the high use he had early in the season that may boost his value around the NFL. This may be a similar situation to the ones with LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson, where a contract is worked out that hits a higher annual value but in reality is a two year contract…I think the Eagles have an interesting financial decision on their hands with Mark Sanchez. Due to lack of available QB’s, Sanchez will likely be the best free agent on the market, but will still come relatively cheap. The highest end comparison I can make is former 49er Alex Smith who was allowed to test free agency after one decent season and came back on a deal that paid him $9 million a year following the lack of interest. On the lower end would be Matt Schaub in the $6M range. Nick Foles has just one year left under contract and would cost more than Sanchez in free agency. In addition Foles may have trade value whereas Sanchez is a free agent. It may be in the Eagles best interest to work out a deal with Sanchez. He’ll bring better value based on his cost and you will still have the flexibility to move on if you happen to draft someone….The Eagles have a great deal of work to do with the secondary so if they can keep Nate Allen on a cheap one year deal they can focus more of their attention on the cornerback position. Allen will likely test free agency again, however.
Free Agents to Let Walk
Brandon Graham is a talented pass rusher that doesn’t seem to have a place in the Eagles defense. Though he did get more opportunities this season I don’t believe he will play enough to justify the cost it might be to keep him away from free agency. There are recent instances of part time, unproven pass rushers getting big contracts, such as Everson Griffen’s huge $8.5 million contract and Paul Kruger’s $8.1 million deal with the Browns. Based on the Eagles use he is probably closer to a $4-$5M player which is going to be a big gap before free agency begins. Once he hits free agency maybe he won’t get a big offer, but I think anything $6M or more is not worth the risk …Given the struggles in the secondary I can’t picture Bradley Fletcher coming back. They need to upgrade and bring in new talent.
Contracts to Modify
This day was always coming for Trent Cole. Cole’s 2012 extension was more or less a contract designed to buy out one year of free agency and potential holdout headaches at a dangerous age for extension in return for around $13 million to be paid out over a three year period. Now his salary balloons to $10.025M. Cole can still play, but the market for 33 year old rushers is more in the $4-4.5 million per year range. They should be able to bring his number down by around $5 million….LeSean McCoy put together the quietest 1,300 yard season I could ever remember. He is set to earn $10.75M after earning a combined $11.25M in the last two years combined. This was always the season the Eagles intended to have as a decision year and with the state of the running back market they should be able to bring his price down while keeping him in Philadelphia for the next two or three years….DeMeco Ryans will earn $6.9 million this year and is coming off injury. This is the final year of his contract so they could consider a more economical deal. Jon Beason who is a slightly younger and higher talent level, but more injury prone, player signed a 3 year deal for $5.67M a year with nearly 20% of the deal hinging on staying off IR. That might be a reasonable point of reference to work back from.
Players to Consider Releasing
Cary Williams struggled at times last year and his release saves the team $6.5 million. That $6.5M number is more than the Eagles paid him in 2013 ($5.75M) and 2014($4.75M), so this would clearly be too high a price tag…I still scratch my head over the James Casey signing. He only plays in about 15% of the teams snaps and makes $4M to do so. He is a fine special teams players, but the most anyone should be getting for specials is maybe $2M. The guarantees are gone from his deal so it would seem to be time to move on and save that $4M in cap space….Cutting Nolan Carroll saves $2.9 million. He is one of those players that might be a later release once they guarantee a replacement….Cole and Ryans would both be on this list if they are not willing to talk on a contract.
This is a very interesting offseason for the Eagles. In the blink of an eye they can create the cap room necessary to either keep whatever players they want or to go out there and find new players. They also have chips on the team that could potentially be moved for draft picks the way they peddled Kevin Kolb off on the Cardinals years ago. Very rarely do the Eagles miss on re-signing or keeping their players, so regardless of what players are allowed to leave the team, I would be confident if I was an Eagles fan that they won’t regret the move.
After the failures of the “Dream Team” movement a few years back I would not expect the Eagles to get in the hunt for any of the high priced players in free agency unless it is at a safer and more moderate cost position such as guard, where there are some good options this year, which would fill an immediate need. The team already has a great left tackle and center so it would not be a shock to upgrade that interior. Otherwise I think free agency will be used to improve the depth, which can be accomplished for safety, inside linebacker, and cornerback, where the deals are likely no longer than 3 years in length.
I don’t believe the QB situation will have any bearing on the team’s offseason plans. If the re-sign Sanchez he will start. If they don’t Foles will start. Neither is good enough to prevent the Eagles from making a move to draft someone they think is a better fit. If they need a backup in free agency they can target an athletic reclamation project like a Jake Locker for a low cost similar to Sanchez last season.
What they do with Maclin will have more of a bearing. If they are comfortable letting Maclin walk will they look to get in on someone like Torrey Smith, who has blazing speed but questionable hands? Would they take a flier on a Michael Crabtree type? I don’t think they can avoid the position if Maclin is gone since Josh Huff is still a complete unknown and Riley Cooper played down last season. There is enough depth in free agency where they should be able to get a fill in if they need one.
The team should find better value in the draft than free agency in targeting a top notch cornerback and outside linebacker. These are high cost free agent positions and can really hurt a team when the acquisitions don’t work out. I would expect both of these spots to be a target come draft time and potentially provide long term solutions for some very expensive spots. If they are lucky enough to get two quality starters in the draft it would give them a somewhat unique roster construction of a relatively low cost QB, pass rusher, and cornerback which should allow them more free agent flexibility down the line.
While the 2014 season ended on a sour note the Eagles are probably best set up for the future among all the teams of the NFC East. They already has a talent base, a unique head coach that was still effective even after a season of preparation, and flexibility to improve in the future. There is no scrambling for salary cap space or desperation to sign free agent players. The postseason is clearly within reach but they need to hit in a few key spots, specifically on defense, to ensure they have a chance to advance in the playoffs if they get there.
In the first part of our series we looked at the percentage of a Super Bowl Champions salary cap that was spent on the top players on their team. In part two we looked at positional spending on the Super Bowl Champions. Now we turn our focus to the 2014 NFL season and see just what teams are built like a champion and which teams are not.
Top Player Spending
Six NFL teams are spending more on one player than any team that had ever won a Super Bowl in the salary cap era, which was set by the 1994 49ers at 13.1%. Those teams are the Lions, Giants, Steelers, Bears, Saints, and Rams. All but the Lions have their cap money spent on the quarterback position, which is normal. The Lions money is spent on a defensive tackle, Ndamukong Suh. Only one SB champ spent the most cap dollars on that position.
The lowest amount of spending was done by the 2000 Ravens at just 6.7%. Seven teams will be under that mark this season. Those teams are the Eagles, Jaguars, Bengals, Titans, Colts, Raiders, and the 49ers, who surprisingly have the lowest spend on a top player in the entire NFL.
The teams who fall closest to the average are the Seahawks, Cowboys, Jets, Cardinals, Redskins, and Chiefs. What is somewhat surprising is that of that group just the Cardinals have the most money spent on the QB position. The Cowboys, Jets, and Redskins have their money tied into positions that have been the top charges on a team before. The other three do not, though the Seahawks set a new mark last year when they won a Super Bowl with a tight end as their top cap position.
Top 3 Cap Spending
The Lions are in a different universe when it comes to top heavy spending in 2014, with 38.6% tied up in their top 3 players. The next closest team is the Rams with 30.9%, though a big chunk of that is already on injured reserve. The top spending on the cap by a Super Bowl winner was done by the 2002 Buccaneers at 27.8%. The Lions, Rams, Steelers, Ravens, Saints, and Giants are all above that level. Our low spending champion was again the 2000 Ravens at just 17.4%. In 2014 the Jaguars, Eagles, Raiders, 49ers, and Colts are all below that figure.
Our most average teams are the Bills, Cardinals, Falcons, Vikings, Browns, and Patriots, and Dolphins. Buffalo is one of those teams with a heavy portion of their spending not actually on the roster. Two of their top three cap charges are being spent on released/traded players- Stevie Johnson and Ryan Fitzpatrick. New England also has big money tied up in a released player with Aaron Hernandez carrying the second highest cap charge on the team. The Falcons and Cardinals have the most traditional breakdown by position of this group.
Top 5 Cap Spending
Our two top 5 extremes remain the same in the 2002 Bucs and the 2000 Ravens. Eight teams are currently spending more than those Buccaneers. The Lions, Rams, Ravens, Steelers, Texans, Saints, Buccaneers, and Bears would all set a new high mark if they were to advance to a Super Bowl this season. The Titans, 49ers, Eagles, Jaguars, Colts, and Raiders would all set new low marks if they were to advance.
Our closest to average teams are the Chargers, Vikings, Bills, Browns, Falcons, and Patriots. Neither the Browns nor the Vikings have a QB make their top 5 in spending.
Top 10 Spending
The Buccaneers and Ravens were again the two extremes as champions at 56% and 44.4% respectively. We have eight teams spending above 56% of their adjusted cap on the top 10 and seven spending below. The teams above are the Rams, Steelers, Texans, Lions, Bears, Ravens, Buccaneers, and Panthers. Those below are the Eagles, Colts, 49ers, Titans, Jets, Jaguars and Raiders.
The teams that would be closest to the average range are the Giants, Cardinals, Redskins, Browns, Bengals , Bills, and Falcons.
Putting it all Together
Three teams would set a new high in every category if they were to win the Super Bowl this year. Those teams are the Rams, Steelers, and Lions. From a salary cap perspective these would be the three most unlikely teams to advance to the Super Bowl. Five teams would set new lows in every category if they won the Super Bowl. Those teams are the Eagles, Colts, 49ers, Jaguars, and Raiders.
When we look at just three categories you can add the Bears, Ravens, and Saints to the high list and the Titans to the low list. The most average teams, which hit the average mark in 3 of the 4 categories, were the Cardinals, Browns, Bills, and Falcons. Of those teams the Cardinals and Falcons would have the most normal positional breakdowns and would also likely be considered to be the only ones with the talent to make the playoffs.
If we score each category by calculating the percentage below or above the average and then sum the values together we can get a better idea as to just how far away each team is from the average Super Bowl spending habits. Breaking it down per category the average NFL team score is an 18.5% difference from the average Super Bowl winner’s cap spending breakdown.
The Lions winning the Super Bowl would really be something extraordinary. They average 52.9% per category from the average. That’s nearly 3 times greater than the average and its 19.1% more than the next closest team. It’s a method of constructing a team that has simply never been successful in the NFL and they would be the first to ever do it. The Rams, Steelers, Raiders, and Ravens make up the remainder of the top 5 and the Giants, 49ers, Colts, Bears, and Saints round out the top 10 least likely winners.
The teams with the least percentage difference are the Cardinals, Vikings, Browns, Redskins, Patriots, Cowboys, and Seahawks. These teams exhibited less than 10% difference from the average per category. The Patriots and Seahawks are certainly favorites in the NFL. The Cowboys are a team that manages the cap on a year by year basis to help manipulate numbers which has them coming in pretty normal this season.
The following table will show the percentage of cap spent on each category and the average percentage difference per category. The table should sort itself if you click on the header.
|Team||% Cap Spending, Top Player||% Cap Spending, Top 3 Players||% Cap Spending, Top 5 Players||% Cap Spending, Top 10 Players||Avg. Percent Difference Per Category|
Moving on to the champions of the NFC East…
Best Contract: Jason Kelce
Philadelphia is one of those teams where there are always a number of good contracts. They are one of the best run front offices in the league and are often signing very team friendly contracts. There were a few places I thought of going with this including Brent Celek (who got the nod last season), Trent Cole, and even Riley Cooper, but thought that the Jason Kelce contract was just a bit better than all the others on the books.
Kelce is one of the bright young centers in the game, having started every game he was healthy enough to play in since his rookie year in 2011. Kelce was entering the final year of his contract and would have likely become a free agent in 2015 as the cost of the Franchise tag for centers is usually prohibitive for using a tag on the position. Kelce’s deal was also important for the Eagles to do sooner rather than later since they realized that the market could potentially change once Alex Mack hit free agency, not to mention expected extensions for the Pouncey brothers. While teams were awaiting final word on salary cap possibilities the Eagles entered into negotiations with their players and signed them before the new salary cap rise was made public knowledge.
The Eagles pretty much hit it right on all accounts. The higher priced centers did seem to extend the market. The salary cap rise was large. None of it mattered to Philadelphia as Kelce was locked into a six year extension that pays $6.25 million a season. The value of the contract over the first three and four years is just $6 million a season and the signing bonus was also $6 million. By 2016 Kelce could be released with $3.6 million in cap charges and the last two years of the contract carry no dead money.
Over the first three years of the contract Kelce’s cap charge will never exceed $6.2 million and the Eagles did not give away much upside to get that. Kelce can only incase the value of the contract by $200,000 for each time he makes the Pro Bowl. The guarantee per year and percent guaranteed in the contract are well below the norms for a player in his salary range. About the only thing missing that could have benefitted the Eagles would have been per game roster bonuses to protect in the event of injury. That’s a very minor quibble on a very good contract.
Worst Contract: James Casey
Last year there were plenty who disagreed with my selection of LeSean McCoy as worst contract on the team and the selection looked even worse in light of a great season. I still believe $10 million a season for almost any running back qualifies as a poor contract, but in light of last years use of James Casey I felt the need to change the pick.
Casey is one of those players that can play some tight end or a bit in the backfield. In today’s game I’m not sure that this is worth $4 million a season on a three year contract, but I know it is not worth it when you never play the player. Casey officially saw action in just 153 offensive snaps (around 14% of their plays) for the Eagles in 2013 and was relegated to mainly playing just special teams. The year prior, in Houston, Casey played in over 50% of the teams offensive plays.
What made it worse is that the Eagles guaranteed 50% of his contract- $6.05 million upon signing. If they were to release him this season it would cost the Eagles $2 million in cash. I don’t know if the Eagles did not play him because they were hoping they could find a trade partner and were afraid that playing him might hurt his trade value or just because they did not have space for him, but they essentially have a $4 million hole in their salary cap.
I’d guess they will see if they can trade him this preseason the way they traded Isaac Sopoaga last season, who had a similarly structured bad contract and rarely played, but I would think that ship has sailed. Maybe the Eagles will try to negotiate his contract down this season or perhaps they can find a role for him in the offense, but something will need to change to make the contract fit with the performance.
2013’s Best and Worst Eagles Contracts:
2013 Best Contract: Brent Celek (Starting TE)
2013 Worst Contract: LeSean McCoy (Pro Bowl RB)
According to Paul Domowitch, Eagles tackle Lane Johnson has been suspended for four games under the Leagues PED policy. Johnson, a top draft pick just a year ago, will now face mandatory salary forfeitures that will require repayment of signing bonus money.
Per the CBA rules Johnson will be required to pay back 4/17ths of his signing bonus proration for the season. In addition he will forfeit a portion of a roster bonus that he will be paid in August and will lose 4/17ths of his $495,000 base salary. All told that should add up to a loss of $934,226 for Johnson. He had been scheduled to earn $1,307,404, so he will now play the season out for just $373,388. It is also likely that his guarantees will void with the suspension as it is common for teams to have clauses that coid future guarantees following suspension. Johnson’s contract is fully guaranteed.
Things could have been worse for Johnson and his case should provide an example for why teams could, in the future, fight over roster bonus payments in lieu of Paragraph 5 salary. For top rookie picks the roster bonus has become a yearly mechanism that all contracts use. it is my understanding that for the purposes of salary forfeiture a roster bonus will be prorated over the remaining term of the contract (in this case three seasons) making Johnson only responsible to pay back 7.8% of his roster bonus rather than 23.5% had his salary been all Paragraph 5 base salary.
In a battle over offsets, many of which would never come into play, the Eagles may have cost themselves $127,435 due to that roster bonus decision. With a long term suspension having been to Justin Blackmon of the Jaguars and now a four game suspension to Johnson the forfeiture aspect is something that teams should consider when they strategically structure the contracts. Thus far it looks to be more of a factor than the offset clauses teams are fighting so hard over.