Stock Down: Week 13

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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

Champ Bailey– With the division and a potential number 1 seed on the line the Broncos had to make an incredibly difficult decision with a future Hall of Fame cornerback which they did when they relegated Bailey to the bench. Bailey was exposed badly in the playoffs last year and I thought Denver could consider moving on then but they kept with him and gave him another chance on a pretty high salary. I think Bailey even realizes his body is breaking down and he’s going to be given the chance to retire, but if he doesn’t retire the Broncos probably will have no choice following multiple games like this one.

James Anderson– The veteran linebacker was supposed to bring some type of experience to a linebacking corps. that was turning over, but Anderson has been as bad as he was in Carolina and his time in the NFL looks to be coming to an end. The Bears signed Anderson to a one year contract after he was released by the Panthers but he has failed to make any type of positive impact over the last few weeks of the season. Yesterday Adrian Peterson ran all over the Bears defense and Anderson was nowhere to be seen, being blocked out of almost every play.

Santonio Holmes– Nobody seems to have an explanation for what happened to Holmes yesterday in the Jets abysmal effort against the Dolphins. Holmes was supposed to be prepared to play and he did…for two snaps.  He seemed to indicate that he felt fine but nobody was saying he was benched either, but the bottom line is that Holmes is missing games left and right this season and has fallen off the map as far as wide receivers go. He’s going to be cut as soon as the season is over and he may have a difficult time finding a job for anything more than the minimum salary.

New Contract Disappointment Of The Week

Donnie Avery– The Chiefs signed Avery this offseason to be the secondary receiver to Dwayne Bowe. Avery has had an ok year and leads the team in yards, but in a critical game against the Broncos he was a disaster. Avery had three big drops on the afternoon which were plays that a receiver has to make. While they may not have won if he made the catches he gave them no chance with those drops. In that type of shootout you have to play perfect and Avery was anything but.

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Stock Down: Week 12

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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

Ike Taylor– The 33 year old corner was torched by Browns receiver Josh Gordon to the tune of 169 yards on 11 targets according to Pro Football Focus. Though the Steelers playoff hopes remain alive it does not change their salary cap situation in 2014 and Taylor with an $11.9 million dollar cap charge is likely on his way out the door. I believe the Steelers would be interested in keeping him at a lower cost but its games like this that have to make them worry about matching him up against some of the young talented wideouts that have made their way into the AFC North.

Ben Tate– Injury or no injury, Tate’s stock has plummeted. 7 carries for 1 yard against the Jaguars?  Maybe the Texans have given up on the year but Tate can not afford to do the same in a contract season. Case Keenum is not the answer at QB but  teams rumored to be looking at Tate were likely thinking that he would help alleviate pressure on a below average QB. A few weeks ago Tate criticized Texans fans for not giving the Texans the support they deserve. For the last few weeks Tate’s failed to give the fans the production they expected to see.

Santonio Holmes– Holmes had one of those “who cares” games on Sunday where he seemed to be going through the motions seeing the writing on the wall for his team. Holmes had two drops and just one reception for the beleaguered Jets. Though not entirely his fault, Holmes has only caught 38% of his targets this season which is brutal, even for the Jets. The next worst receiver on the team is Stephen Hill with a 49% catch rate. If you take away his huge game against the Bills he is  averaging a 32% catch rate with 1,6 receptions and 34.4 yards per game. He’s guaranteed to be cut this year due to his cap figure and was hoping to cash in elsewhere. Between injuries, lack of effectiveness, and general perceptions about his attitude that pool of teams will be rapidly shrinking as will any offers for him.

New Contract Disappointment Of The Week

Sebastian Janikowski– In our best and worst contract series I had pegged Janikowski as the worst contract on the Raiders and that was before they inexplicably signed him to another extension in the offseason. Janikowski carries a $4.9 million base cap charge this season and over $3 million next year. The Raiders continue to make him the highest paid kicker in the NFL despite the fact that  there is no metric in the world that would rank him as the best kicker or anywhere close to it. The only thing he has going for him is that Oakland is confident in letting him try from long range knowing it will reach the goalpost. Yesterday he missed a 32 and a 48 yard field goal which proved to be the Raiders undoing in a game where they could have taken control of the Wildcard lead. Janikowski seemed to blame his holder. He now has 4 misses inside 50 yards this year. 

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Nicks, Britt, and Gordon- Should they be Traded?

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With trade rumors swirling in the NFL, I thought it would make sense to look at three of the big names mentioned at Wide Receiver and the reasons why the teams might or might not pull the trigger on trading their players.  The big names in question are the Giants’ Hakeem Nicks, Browns’ Josh Gordon, and Titans’ Kenny Britt. All three would seem to be on the block for various reasons and we’ll try to look at some comparables to determine what the players may gain in a trade.

Kenny Britt

Of the three names Britt is likely the least appealing. Britt is a former 1st round draft pick whose best seasons came in 2009 and 2010 when he looked poised to break out as one of the next great receivers in the game. Britt suffered a serious knee injury in 2011 that seemed to de-rail his career. Prior to his injury Britt averaged 17.5 YPC and was looked to be at a minimum a 55 catch/900 yard type player. Since then his numbers have plummeted to under 13 YPC and he has basically been benched by the Titans for general ineffectiveness. Britt’s off the field problems are well documented and I think there are some who question whether Britt is simply not recovered from injury or just unhappy in Tennessee.

Britt will be a free agent in 2014 and there is no chance that the Titans would designate him a franchise player. For Tennessee they first need to weigh what they would receive in draft compensation in 2015 if they let him walk next season. I don’t believe it would be much anything because there are so many questions surrounding him that it would seem hard to imagine a team signing him to anything more than a two year low base value but incentive laden contract.

There are rumors that the Titans are looking for at least a 3rd round pick for Britt. That number is insane and I’m not sure what justification there would be to that price tag other than management preferring to have him suffer through the rest of the year on the bench. The best high end comparison I could come up with for Britt was Santonio Holmes. Holmes was 26 years old when traded to the New York Jets prior to the 2010 NFL draft. Holmes was in the final year of his deal and had well documented off the field issues. He has just finished a season in which he went off for more than 1200 yards and was two seasons removed from being named Super Bowl MVP. Holmes only fetched a 5th round pick.

Another possible player to look at would be Ted Ginn, Jr, who was just 25 when he was traded from Miami to San Francisco. Ginn’s productivity was nowhere near that of Holmes and like Britt had seemingly regressed, though he was never at as high of a level as Britt. Ginn did not have the off the field issues and also had tremendous value as a kick returner. Ginn also only cost a 5th round pick and was set to enter free agency one year following the trade.

The final possible look would be Davone Bess. Bess was a bit older than Britt and never had the upside or cache of Britt, but maybe one could make an argument that a motivated post-injury Britt could be productive as a shorter field threat capable of gaining maybe 500-650 low impact yards a season. The trade for Bess amounted to a 5th rounder in return for Bess and a 7th. Bess was set to be a free agent when traded.

At the most the Titans could expect to receive a 5th round pick for Britt and even that could be pushing it due to his lack of use this season. He was never as good as Holmes and may not be as varied a threat as Ginn especially post-injury. My gut feeling is that they should be happy with receiving a 5th for him and giving up a 7th in return, similar to the Bess trade. Even a 6th rounder might be worth doing. I don’t see the compensatory pick being very large in this case, if it happens at all. It seems to be a trade that should happen if anyone is really interested.

Josh Gordon

Gordon is a very interesting prospect because he still has two years remaining on his rookie contract and will thus be an extremely low cost option for a team that acquires him. As a rookie Gordon had over 800 yards and this season would be on pace for 1700 yards if he played 16 games. So the upside with Gordon is tremendous. So why are the Browns looking to trade him?

In this case I think this is the Browns trying to strike before the clock strikes 12. Gordon has had many drug issues in the past and is one strike away from being out of the NFL for a full year. I doubt the Browns trust him to stay clean and he missed two games for a failed test this season. If he was to slip up again next year he goes from high value to no value.

The Browns are said to be seeking a first round pick for Gordon. It is pretty much impossible to find a comparable player because players this young never get traded.  In terms of off the field trouble Holmes would be a comparison, but contractually they were in very different spots. Godson would give a team 2 ½ low cost years while Holmes was only going to give one.

That said the only receivers in the last few years to get a 1st round pick in return were Percy Harvin and Roy Williams, both of whom were entering their contract years and received extensions following the trade. Williams was a colossal bust and Harvin has yet to play a game for Minnesota. Prior to that would be Deion Branch in 2006 and Randy Moss in 2005. Considering Gordon’s history I think a first rounder would be out of reach, though a 2nd rounder from a playoff contender could be in play.  Even a second, though, could be high. Brandon Marshall is the only recent trade (the one that sent him from Denver to Miami) to include a 2nd round pick. Beyond Marshall the only other trade I can recall is the 2007 in-season trade of Chris Chambers from the Dolphins to the Chargers.

Whatever decision is made with Gordon will take a great deal of guts on both sides. If the Browns think he can be clean then they should hold on to him. If they feel he is going to fail another drug test they should take a 2nd or 3rd for him.

Hakeem Nicks

Of the three names Nicks is the most intriguing. Nicks has had monster years in the past and has been treated as a true number 1 target. But injuries in 2012 seemed to move him to second fiddle behind Victor Cruz and it’s clear that he never regained his chemistry with QB Eli Manning. Nicks is on pace for nearly 1200 yards this year but it seems like a quiet 1,200 yards as he has battled drops and gaining the attention of his QB. Some seem to perceive a rift between Nicks and Manning that most will blame on Nicks going through the motions and not putting in the work.

Nicks is in the final year of his contract, but unlike Britt is going to be a Franchise player. I get the feeling that Nicks is not too thrilled to stay with the Giants but he is going to get that tag which will allow the Giants to control his rights for next season as well. While nobody expects the young wideout to really sign a contract with another team as a Franchise player it does set a bar even now as to his worth. The other two teams can dream and ask for whatever they want but the Giants are the only team that can truly block Nicks with the price they want.

I tend to think the rumors of the Giants being open to offers for Nicks is more of a fishing expedition to hear what he is worth to teams next season. They could just be setting the groundwork for a trade next year rather than this one. Provided the Giants don’t go wild in free agency next year, which they likely won’t, at worst he is worth a compensatory 3. So they are the one team that can really set parameters of a 1 all the way down to a 3 and have reasons behind those parameters.

Finding the trade value for Nicks is difficult because the results are so varied. Nicks is a much more proven player than Harvin and the Seahawks gave up a fortune for him in both draft picks and money. Harvin is also injury prone. Going back to the Williams trade in 2008 the situations could be looked at as similar. Williams often had lingering injury issues, but he had shown tremendous talent when healthy. Dallas gave up a first rounder and other mid round picks to get the job done. I would think both would be the Giants ideal scenarios.

Other teams could use the Braylon Edwards in season Browns to Jets trade as some type of lowball offer. Edwards was an extremely high draft selection who never really lived up to expectations in Cleveland and had fallen out of favor with the new coaching staff. Edwards still was somewhat productive and the Jets traded a 3 and a 5 along with some spare piece players in order to acquire Edwards from the Browns. Edwards was in the final year of his contract at the time of the trade. Other deals involving third round picks include Marshall from Miami to Chicago and Anquan Boldin from Arizona to Baltimore. Both players were in different stages of their carriers than Nicks

Nicks has been t he better pro than Edwards and remains more productive even now. Edwards was almost like a firesale trade because he clashed with the coach. The least the Giants should settle for is the two second round picks that the Dolphins gave for Marshall in 2010. Marshall also signed an extension almost immediately upon being traded. Teams could make the deal at a 2 and a conditional 3, with the 3 becoming a 2 if Nicks is re-signed.

The Giants clearly have options here and with the Franchise power probably do not have any reason to trade him this year. Unless he gets injured his value should remain the same and teams have shown a willingness to spend on the position. The only reason to trade him now would be because they want to make certain they have additional draft selections in the 2014 draft, which may not occur if they have him on the tag.

If it was me I would not trade him, but Franchise him instead and let him more or less seek out his own trade next year. If they do that early enough they should grab two picks over the next two drafts. It allows the Giants to keep up a mirage that they think this season means something and probably will not compromise their position in the long run.


 

Stock Up: Week 3

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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 helped 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 exceeded all expectations and provided exceptional value to his team.

Stock Up

Greg Hardy– With One year remaining on his rookie contract Hardy is ready to break the bank. I had rated Hardy as the 2nd best overall 43DE in the NFL in 2012, behind only Cameron Wake of the Miami Dolphins. Hardy absolutely overwhelmed the Giants on Sunday racking up 3 sacks and setting the tone for the defense all day. Provided the Panthers can afford him, and they had recently restructured a contract to perhaps get a deal done, Hardy has a great starting point for negotiations on his own team. The Panthers had given Charles Johnson a 6 year $76 million dollar contract with $32 million in full guarantees back in 2011. Distancing himself from Johnson gives him a tremendous base contract to work with. Games like his Sunday performance only stand to give him more leverage for getting a contract extension done sooner rather than later. With the future of Julius Pepper and, to a lesser extent, Mario Williams in doubt I think it’s important to get a deal done soon so the Panthers can sign Hardy and at least say to themselves he is not the highest paid in the NFL, even though he will be when those players are no longer active on their current contracts.

Santonio Holmes– Most people have written Holmes, a talented but often disgruntled receiver, off following a poor showing in 2011 followed by a foot injury in 2012 and questions about his determination to play in 2013. Due to his contract structure Holmes was forced to take a $3.5 million dollar paycut to remain on the Jets. Next year he is due to earn $9.5 million from the Jets and with just $2.5 million in dead money in his contract that makes this a contract year for Holmes. Holmes had a number of big catches, including the game winner, and averaged over 30 yards per reception. The Jets have a young QB finding his way in the NFL and if Holmes develops the chemistry with Geno Smith that he lacked with Mark Sanchez he becomes a hard player to just release. Even if he is released Holmes needed to use this season to prove that he can still be a high level player and command a $7+ million a year type contract, a number most would have said was crazy before the season. A few more games close to the one he had on Sunday and he’ll be able to stand on top of the WR2 market.

Doug Free– It is not often that we give credit to the guys on the line, especially ones like Free, who has had a rough time of it in Dallas, but Free yesterday really played a terrific game in Dallas. The Rams are a decent team with a number of pieces on defense that can pressure the QB and get into the backfield and stuff runs or knock down the QB. Watching the highlights from the game I was surprised at how good Free looked in sealing the right side for the run game and seemingly never letting anyone near his QB, including some big blocks on two TD passes.  I waited until Pro Football Focus posted their evaluation since they watch every snap compared to my highlight reel watching and Free graded extremely high under their criteria. Free took a pay cut this year and has $3.5 million in salary coming his way in 2014 if he is on the roster in early March. Most never would have thought Free would see that money but games like this will see him keep that roster spot at that salary next season.

New Contract Player Of The Week

Ahmad Bradshaw– All offseason Bradshaw was like a forgotten player. He was cut by the Giants for salary cap purposes and then remained unemployed until June when the Colts took a flier on Bradshaw for just $2 million dollars. Bradshaw has always been productive when he is close to 100%, but health is always a concern and that may have scared some teams away. When injury to starting RB Vick Ballard opened up more touches the Colts instead turned to the trade table rather than trusting Bradshaw with more work. In return Bradshaw played like a man possessed running for 95 yards on just 19 carries against a defense that was considered elite while his new teammate could only muster 35 yards against the same defense. Bradshaw proved to be terrific value for the Colts on Sunday.

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Is Santonio Holmes Slowly Rehabbing to Prepare for Free Agency?

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Rich Cimini of ESPN NY had this tidbit in his Sunday Notes

If you’re betting on Santonio Holmes‘ return, the smart money says he will miss the entire preseason as he continues to rehab his surgically repaired foot. So when will he come back? Holmes is such a mercurial personality that people close to the organization don’t know what to believe. Is his Lisfranc injury still healing or is he milking the injury to protect his self interests? Holmes, with a $10.75 million cap number in 2014, knows he will be released after the season. That makes this a contract year for him.

Cimini goes on to talk about some of the other opinions regarding Holmes of those close to the organization and some other thoughts on the subject. It’s certainly an interesting topic for discussion.

santonio holmesAs Cimini notes Holmes is scheduled to count for $10.75 million against the 2014 salary cap and knows he will be released. The dead money associated with releasing him is just $2.5 million so the move is a foregone conclusion.That fact brings many questions about Holmes motivation for and dedication to the 2013 NFL season.

Holmes, probably the most disappointing Jets signing of at least the last five years, would have been released this past year had he not had $7.5 million of his base salary fully guaranteed. Holmes was originally scheduled to earn $11 million in 2013, but with $3.5 million not guaranteed as well as offset provisions for the guarantee he had no choice but to accept a pay cut from the Jets.

If Holmes is in fact milking the injury and anticipates playing football in 2014 the decision to slow down his rehab would be a bad one, in my opinion. Holmes will be three years removed in 2014 from having a good season and his reputation, already poor around the NFL, took even more damage since signing his extension with the Jets. Holmes battled with teammates in 2011 and was in an altercation with his teammates in the huddle of the final game of the 2011 season, in which the Jets still had an outside chance at the playoffs. For many this is the last football memory of Holmes.

Holmes will be 30 in 2014 and if he was to sit the season out because he wanted to have his body in its best shape for free agency it would almost be the equivalent of three seasons in which he was retired from the NFL.  That is not a good combination for what will essentially be looked at as a football comeback. Holmes needs to rehab his image and also prove that he can play the game at a reasonable level to get a mid tier contract. He can not do that on the sidelines.

Playing with the Jets this season would give him a chance to rehab that image by being a good soldier on a rebuilding team that at some point will likely be starting a rookie QB. With 16 teams in the NFL starting young players Holmes needs teams to believe that he can be an aide to the young QB in the NFL to expand the list of teams willing to take a chance on him. Right now the memory of him destroying Mark Sanchez is fresh in the minds of many and those young quarterbacked teams would never consider such a personality. The Jets also have limited talent at Wide Receiver which would give him an opportunity to pad his football stats showing him to be more productive that he might be in a more talented environment. There have been many players far more talented than Holmes that could not get jobs because of the baggage that they bring on and off the field.

Attempting to protect himself from the rigors of training camp, also a suggestion from sources in Cimini’s article, would be just as bad a decision. Missing out on practice time in training camp doesn’t give him the ability to build that relationship with Geno Smith or the coaching staff, which has been overhauled and is using a completely different offensive system that may require added concentration from Holmes. Being out there practicing gives him the best chance to hit the ground running and actually be a productive player in 2013. Dogging it to miss training camp is not going to lead to a good 2013 season and at that point teams may just pass entirely. If he can’t put up numbers in an offense with no weapons why even waste the roster spot for a tryout?

Now if Holmes is truly injured then it is in the best interest of both sides for Holmes to continue his current rehab pattern. The risk of re-injury to Holmes effects both parties. If Holmes was to get re-injured his career would essentially be over. If he was to land on IR again the Jets will likely be on the hook for injury payments under the CBA’s injury protection program. If he lands on IR and the injury does not allow him to pass a physical in 2014 the Jets would have to pay him $1.05 million in 2014 and an extra injury protection payment of $525,000 in 2015.

While those numbers do not count on the salary cap (the cap treatment for such payments does not begin until 2016) the last thing the Jets want to do is pay Holmes more money. At the end of this season the Jets will have paid Holmes $24 million dollars for the last three seasons. Thus far he has accounted for just  71 receptions and 926 yards. So the Jets would not want him out there either if his foot stands a significant risk of being re-injured.

I think in some of these situations players, specifically older ones, often over-estimate their worth if they head to free agency. When Steve Breaston was released earlier this year by the Arizona Cardinals there was genuine interest by the Pittsburgh Steelers. While we don’t know what figures were discussed Breaston and his team felt that it was better to go full steam ahead into free agency where he anticipated getting a job as a number 2 receiver for another team. Breaston did not get signed until just last week, playing for the minimum salary benefit with not guarantees. With the exception of the first time free agents often times that first offer if often the best one and 90% of the time that offer is not coming back.

While Holmes does not yet have an offer he runs the risk of falling into the same trap as Breaston and so many other if he thinks he can just waltz into another decent paying opportunity based on how he produced in 2009 and 2010 and claiming full health. The reality of the NFL is that teams won’t care.


 

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The Buccaneers, Eric Wright, Darrelle Revis, and the Jets

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Per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have renegotiated the contract of CB Eric Wright reducing his base salary from $7.75 million to $1.5 million, a $6.25 million dollar paycut. While Wright can earn up to another $1.5 million in unknown incentives it is likely that these incentives will not count towards the salary cap in the 2013 season. This move leaves the Buccaneers with about $33 million in cap space which opens up a number of questions about what they plan on doing with the cap room.

First I just wanted to discuss the situation with Wright. Everyone is well aware that Wright signed a lucrative contract last year, but voided his guarantees when he was suspended in 2012. This left Wright in a bad position when it came to roster security. The Buccaneers are one of the few NFL teams that employ almost a pure cash to cap philosophy. Outside of rookies very few players on the roster have any cap protection that comes from the potential of dead money acceleration. Tampa Bay simply guarantees P5 salary, typically for two years, and once the guarantees vanish so can the player without penalty. Wright’s roster spot was clearly in jeopardy.

The decision to keep Wright benefits both sides. From Tampa’s perspective you have to consider where would they get another cornerback with the same upside at this stage of free agency?  The answer is they couldn’t. $1.5 million is a bargain even in this market, The NFC South is a pass happy division in a much stronger conference making cornerbacks a premium position within the division. You need two of them in the division more than any other division in the NFL. From Wright’s point of view the cornerback market grew incredibly soft and he is coming off a very low point in his career. Free agency is basically at an end and the teams with the most cap room such as the Browns, Jaguars, Eagles and Bengals would likely not be looking for a player like Wright. Other teams might show interest but they may not even match the $3 million potential Wright gets in Tampa Bay. In return for accepting a low salary the remainder of his contract, per reports, will void, giving him a shot at free agency next season when, in theory, the market might be better.  The other added benefit for Wright deals with the potential trade with the Jets for CB Darrelle Revis. If Wright plays alongside Revis he could benefit greatly from the situation.

The added cap space for the Buccaneers is only going to add fuel to the fire on the Revis speculation and I am going to feed into that here as well. The logical reason that the Buccaneers are interested in creating more cap room would be to frontload a contract for the injured Revis and protect their salary cap in the event Revis is not the same player post surgery. Remember how I said that the Buccaneers like to guarantee 2 years of a contract, well when you are looking to sign a deal with a Revis that is going to be a large amount of money. With $33 million in cap space and likely no first round draft pick to sign the Buccaneers could give Revis as much as $26 million in 2013 in both cap and cash considerations.

Per the rules of the CBA Revis would need to earn at least $13 million in 2014 to avoid the difference being treated as a signing bonus. Per my estimates the Buccaneers have around $98.25 in cap commitments in 2014 for 43 players, making a $13 million dollar hit very reasonable for the team. While they do need to either re-sign Josh Freeman or find a new QB, both moves are doable within the Bucanners cap especially considering that they could be parting with two number 1 draft picks in a trade with the Jets. Structuring a deal this way gets $39 million out of the way in two years, a number almost equal to the $40 million two year payout received by the Bills Mario Williams, who Revis is looking at as a guide for his contract. By using conditional guarantees in the third year of the contract the Buccaneers could likely structure a deal where Revis could be cut in 2015 with no or limited penalty if unhealthy.

The other more “out of the box” possibility is that the Buccaneers are creating cap space to essentially take on a salary dump from the Jets. In other sports we see trades for cash, something that can’t be done in the NFL. But if a team has the cap space to absorb a bad contract with guaranteed salary they can sweeten a trade offer by essentially taking a majority of the cash and cap obligation away from the trading team.

The Jets have three bad contracts on their team that contain minimal prorated money but guaranteed base salaries. These guaranteed salaries essentially prevent the Jets from cutting the player but by no means prevent the trade of a player. The two big ones on the books are LB David Harris and WR Santonio Holmes. Harris has $9.5 million in fully guaranteed salary in 2013 and a $13 million dollar cap hit. If traded Harris’ dead money would only be $4 million freeing up $9 million in cap for the Jets. Holmes carries a $9 million dollar cap hit, $7.5 million of which comes from a fully guaranteed base salary. Trading Holmes frees up $5.25 million in cap space for the Jets. The other name is QB Tim Tebow, who only carries a $2.586 million dollar cap charge, of which $1.531 million is owed to  the Denver Broncos. None of these 3 players, to the best of my knowledge, carry any guaranteed salary in 2014 pretty much making them a 1 year rental for Tampa with no damage done to their future salary cap.

Of these names the two that make the most sense would be Holmes and Tebow. Holmes, if healthy, could be a good complement to WR’s Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams giving Freeman another weapon in the passing game. Holmes could be convinced to play the slot in Tampa. The money he would free in cap space would balance out the $3 million loss of cap from Revis and the $1.83 million cap charge the 13th pick in the draft should carry making the trade much more acceptable to the Jets. If Tampa has to part with a 1st round pick in 2013 plus a 2nd or another 1st in 2014 the addition of a second contributing player in the trade will make the price more acceptable to the Buccaneers. Tebow does not benefit in the same way, but gives the Jets the chance to save face and money from the ill advised trade with the Broncos. The low cap charge for Tebow would not impact the Bucs ability to frontload a deal with Revis the way Holmes’ would.

While nothing more than wild speculation on my part I do think that it can provide a pretty interesting way to manipulate the salary cap that has not really been used at all in the past. As more teams move towards the cash to cap philosophy it could open the door for more teams to consider trades as a normal business operation to fix a teams salary cap.

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Jets Look to Restructure Contract of Santonio Holmes

I already had plenty written on this possibility about a month ago over on Nyjetscap, but I thought it might be worth outlining here as well since Adam Schefter did confirm that the Jets are looking to restructure the contract of WR Santonio Holmes.

Holmes is set to earn $11.25 million in cash payments in 2013 under the terms of his current contract and count for a whopping $12.5 million against the teams salary cap. Since signing his $45 million dollar contract in 2011 Holmes has been ineffective and a perceived locker room cancer before suffering an injury in a loss against the San Francisco 49ers which led to one of the more bizarre outcomes ever in which Holmes just gave the ball up while going down in pain leading to an easy score for the 49ers. The injury cost Holmes the season and it has been a slow recovery process, with Holmes set to begin jogging in April.

Of Holmes’ salary  there are $7.75 million in guarantees, which are comprised of fully guaranteed base salary of $7.5 million and a $250,000 injury guaranteed workout bonus which is probably functionally guaranteed now since Holmes’ injury will likely prevent him from working out for another team. Holmes guarantee, unlike those of many of his teammates, contains offset provisions which means he can not double dip on his salary, effectively capping off his compensation this year at $7.75 million whether it is with the Jets or another team. That leads me to believe that a restructure would simply be taking the difference of $3.5 million and turning it into either a roster bonus in 2014, guaranteeing his release from the team next year or into a set of not likely to be earned incentives that he can earn back if he plays well this season. Such a restructuring would reduce his cap number to a more manageable $9 million.

Though many would say Holmes will be hesitant to agree he has little options. The Jets are in a position where releasing him would actually give them cap room and in the long run remove their cash obligation to Holmes who would at some point in the coming months sign with another team. Any move to another team would take Holmes’ contract value out of the top tier, which is important to players, and into the bottom tier, quite a drop for a former Super Bowl MVP. The one benefit he would have by playing on another team is the ability to work with a better QB and perhaps pad his statistics, though the Jets would be the only team to give him a number 1 label. Other teams, such as the Cowboys, would view more as a compliment to a better Wide Receiver.

I do think it is worth noting that Holmes’ agent, Joel Segal, also represents the Eagles Michael Vick. Vick was in a similar situation to Holmes in that he had a bloated salary with offset containing guarantees. Early posturing by Vick indicated that he would not play for a penny less than his contract called for in Philadelphia, but at the end of the day he took a significant paycut with the option to earn a little back in incentives. In return the Eagles allowed him to void his contract and become a free agent next season. This renegotiation will clearly be a point of reference used by the Jets during their talks about Holmes.

If Holmes is agreeable to remaining with the Jets and working with them on the salary cap there are a large number of ways in which the Jets can use his injury as a way to build cap flexibility into their 2013 salary cap via the use of NLTBE incentives with low performance thresholds. Holmes was only active for 4 games which resulted in 20 receptions for 272 yards. Using per game roster bonuses or incentive payments for things like 25 receptions or 300 yards would avoid salary cap charges in 2013 and push them to 2014 when the Jets have more cap flexibility. In the event the injury worried Holmes the Jets could back these NLTBEs up with future guaranteed salary that would void if the incentives were earned, creating a win-win for both sides. Of course all these cap scenarios require a good relationship between the two sides and that may be a stretch as we sit here waiting for the new League Year to begin.

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