Jason Fitzgerald

Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason's work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.

Recent Posts by Jason

Thoughts on Diontae Johnson and the Steelers

With the flurry of receiver contracts being signed I had a number of questions about Steelers wideout Diontae Johnson who is currently looking for a new contract before committing fully to the 2022 preseason schedule. The market has certainly exploded this offseason with 11 wide receivers signing new contracts worth at least $20 million per season. The rumor is the two sides are far apart on valuation which is not surprising since the Steelers have traditionally let many of their receivers walk when it was time to for an extension that would reach higher end numbers.

The first thing I wanted to do is to look at what would be considered a “top season” among recent NFL signings and compare it to what many would consider Johnson’s top season.


While I think Johnson does belong in the discussion with this group of players, he is a target monster compared to the other players but his numbers fall short in terms of overall impact with such a low yards per reception. Last season he ranked 12th in YPR out of the 14 players who had at least 130 targets per PFF in 2021. He was 29th among the 39 players with at least 100 targets in 2021. Of the 10 players with a lower yards per reception, 3 were tight ends and 1 is currently out of the NFL (Cole Beasley). The others were Keenan Allen, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Jakobi Myers, Hunter Renfrow, Jaylen Waddle, and Robbie Anderson. All but Anderson would be considered “slot guys” and even he had over 200 routes out of the slot. Johnson had just 42.

Obviously there are other factors that can come into play regarding, that including poor QB play, but I could see how the Steelers may very well view his impact on the game to be more in line with the Hunter Renfrow end of the market vs the top end players but clearly that won’t get a deal done.

Johnson not looking to play without a new contract makes sense. While he has not had a good situation at QB this is arguably the worst it will be with Mitch Trubisky penciled in as the starter with first round draft pick Kenny Pickett and/or backup Mason Rudolph waiting in the wings. In the seasons when Ben Roethlisberger was healthy, the team generally threw the ball around 650 times a year.  That fell to around 500 in the year he was injured. With that kind of drop, Johnson’s overall numbers could drop significantly which could impact him in free agency. His former teammate went through a similar struggle as a free agent which could also weigh on him.

Still it is hard to imagine him agreeing to a contract in the sub $20 million per year range.  Here is the market breakdown of all the young receivers earning over $20 million a season and the relevant cash flow breakdown.

PlayerYearsTotalAPYTotal GuaranteeFull GuaranteeY0 Cash1Y Cash2Y Cash
A.J. Brown4$100,000,000$25,000,000$56,470,471$56,470,471$20,000,000$32,000,000$53,000,000
D.K. Metcalf3$72,000,000$24,000,000$58,220,000$31,000,000$26,779,529$40,999,529$53,999,529
Deebo Samuel3$71,550,000$23,850,000$58,167,000$41,000,000$20,832,000$32,077,000$53,999,000
Terry McLaurin3$69,600,000$23,200,000$53,154,118$34,654,118$26,525,000$31,700,000$50,200,000
D.J. Moore3$61,884,000$20,628,000$41,610,000$41,610,000$9,619,000$29,784,000$45,834,000

 Other than Moore, whose contract predated the market growth that occurred in free agency, the numbers are all pretty similar. The APYs are all between $23.2 and $25 million a season and realistically the Brown contract is only worth $23 million if you take out the inflated final year, giving us a market between $23 and $24 million a season. Guaranteed salary is between $53 and $58 million. Most of our differences come in the cash flow breakdown where there are some differences between the players at the start of the deals.

I think the argument would be that Johnson is in the class of McLaurin and to quickly discount the other three players all of whom have had at least one Pro Bowl selection, a higher draft grade, and arguably better high end seasons. McLaurin’s career has been more consistent than Johnson’s and even though McLaurin did surpass Brown in the true APY number he is well under him in cash earned through two years.

If the Steelers would like to get a contract done they probably have to follow a similar model, likely exceeding the McLaurin annual value to hit in the ballpark of $23.5 million a season but not reaching his cash flow numbers. Maybe a deal that offers about a $20 million raise this season, $30 million by next year, and then $47 or $48 million over two years before it reaches it’s max value. This is also a situation where the team could look for the extra year of control and do a 4 year rather than a three year extension as well.

Anything less than this I believe would make it hard for the Steelers to get a contract finalized given the way that contracts have recently gone. It would look like a big step back to drop below $20 million a season even if that happens to be where the Steelers view him at the moment.  

Offensive Spending- NFL Preseason 2022

As we move into the NFL preseason I wanted to take a closer look at spending in the NFL this year. Today I am going to look at the offense and see how teams are spending their money on each position. The numbers are based on the new money average per year of the top 30 players on offense.

Overall Spending on Offense

The average team has $121 million per year committed to the top 30 players on offense. The Browns lead the way, by far, in value placed on the offense- their contracts average $170 million per year. The Cardinals, Raiders, and Buccaneers are all closely grouped around $155 million each. The Panthers round out the top 5 at $146 million, though you can argue what the value of Baker Mayfield should be in this situation.

The teams with hardly any investment on offense are the Bears (A paltry $57.6 million), Steelers ($72.4 million), Falcons ($82.1 million), Bengals ($82.8 million), and Giants ($93.1 million). The Bengals number is in part low because they have key players obtained in the draft. The others are just sorting through things.

QL Spending

The Eagles lead the way with $65.7 million per year invested in their offensive line. That is nearly $15 million a year more than the Browns at $51.7 million. The Panthers, Lions, and Ravens are all around $50 million. The Patriots have the least invested with just $22.8 million spend on the offensive line. Seattle, who seemingly never spend on the line, is at $26 million while the Bears are the other team under $30 million at $27 million per year. The NFL average is $40.5 million.

WR Spending

With the recent swings in salary at receiver I was curious to see how this would play out. The current average per team is $31.5 million, which is about what Miami spends on Tyreek Hill (yes I know the number is inflated but its used in the calculations). Tampa Bay is up to $57 million on the year followed by Miami at $50 million, the Rams at $49 million and the Seahawks and Raiders at $48 million. The disparity at this position is huge with a $51.4 million per year gap between the top and bottom team, by far the most of any position other than QB. The Ravens spend just $5.3 million here followed by the Steelers at $10.4 million, the Colts at $11.2 million, and the Bears at $13 million.

RB Spending

Running back spend averages under $11 million a season and just two teams have over $20 million committed to the position- the Browns and the Saints. The Vikings and Panthers are both at $19 million while the Titans round out the top 5. The teams not wasting resources at this position are the Bears, Rams, and Eagles (all under $5 million), and Commanders ($5.5 million).

TE Spending

While the Patriots don’t have much invested in their offensive line they sure do have money invested at tight end with $27 million in contracts. They are the only team in the NFL that spends more on tight ends than they do on their offensive line. The Ravens have $22 million here as they are the lone team to spend more on tight ends than receivers. Miami is the other team over $20 million. The 49ers and Eagles round out the top 5. The Giants, Steelers, Bills, and Vikings are not even spending $4 million on the position.

QB vs non-QB Spending

I thought it might be interesting to see how much teams are spending on their offense relative to their spending on QB rather than looking at QB spending which is generally just dependent on one player. The following graph breaks it down.

Teams in the top right quadrant are the ones heavily invested in the offense. These are the teams with the expensive QB’s who are still committed to trying to invest in as many parts as possible around the QB. The Browns would be the primary standout here.

The bottom right identifies the teams with an expensive QB situation who have decided to maybe cut some corners elsewhere. The Packers would be a team with a giant gap  as they have a fortune invested in Aaron Rodgers while ranking 29th in spending on the rest of the offense.

The top left are primarily teams with rookie QBs or questionable QB situations who are going out and spending on the offense. For Jalen Hurts this is clearly a big year for him and the Eagles. He has a ton of talent to work with and will be extension eligible after the season. The same can probably be said for Miami.

The bottom left quadrant are teams with low cost rookies/bad QB situations who are either heavily reliant on draft pick contribution or just punting on the offense this year. The Giants and Falcons on paper are the two worst situations while the Steelers and Bears are giving their young QB’s almost no help.

The following table has the spending breakdowns for each team. It should be sortable if you click on the header.

NFL. Avg$40,472,619$26,141,950$11,556,950$11,525,065$31,498,637$95,053,271$121,195,221

OTC Podcast: July 31, 2022

In this week’s OTC Podcast

  • Kyler Murray’s independent study clause
  • DK Metcalf signs big extension
  • Orlando Brown not reporting
  • All of your questions for the week

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OTC Podcast: July 24, 2022

In this week’s OTC Podcast

  • Kyler Murray’s $230.5 million extension
  • All of your questions for the week

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Thoughts on Kyler Murray’s $230.5 Million Contract Extension

Kyler Murray agreed to a $230.5 million contract which would make him the second highest paid quarterback in NFL history today and Pro Football Talk has the full details of the contract. So with all of the key number more or less out at this point let’s take a look at the contract and how it compares with the rest of the market.

Cash Flow Analysis

Here is the running cash breakdown of the quarterbacks who earn in excess of $40 million per year on multi year contracts on a new money basis.

PlayerAPYYear 0Year 1Year 2Year 3Year 4Year 5Year 6
Aaron Rodgers$50,271,667$0$42,000,000$101,515,000$150,815,000FAFAFA
Kyler Murray$46,100,000$33,807,640$72,657,640$105,265,140$147,807,640$184,142,640$230,500,000FA
Deshaun Watson$46,000,000$0$46,000,000$92,000,000$138,000,000$184,000,000$230,000,000FA
Patrick Mahomes$45,000,000$6,000,000$35,450,000$75,900,000$113,850,000$155,800,000$197,750,000$257,700,000
Josh Allen$43,000,000$40,445,405$68,445,405$98,445,405$137,945,405$176,445,405$216,445,405$258,000,000
Derek Carr$40,474,160$5,122,481$38,122,481$80,122,481$121,422,481FAFAFA
Dak Prescott$40,000,000$0$75,000,000$95,000,000$126,000,000$160,000,000FAFA
Matt Stafford$40,000,000$38,500,000$66,000,000$97,000,000$129,000,000$160,000,000FAFA

Murray received a relatively strong contract in this respect.  While his raise for the next two years will rank just third, that number jumps to 2nd by the end of his first new year, trailing Dak Prescott’s massive $75 million haul from the Cowboys. Through two years Murray will rank 1st in the NFL before dropping behind Aaron Rodgers in year 3. Murray will earn slightly more than Deshaun Watson in the final two years of the contract.

This is a different level than the Allen and Mahomes contracts, both of whom will have to play, at the least, into a 6th year. Murray likely has Watson to thank for that as Watson pushed the market beyond Mahomes’ and Allen’s average annual values a few months ago. This allowed Murray to take the approach of being the “next man up” when it came to his contract. Had the Cardinals done this deal earlier than the Watson contract I feel confident that he would have maxed out at no more than $44 million and possibly as low as $42 million per year as comparisons to Mahomes and Allen are very difficult to make.  This is not a critique of doing the deal earlier as no rookies are usually extended that early and the Browns doing what they did with Watson was completely unexpected, but it is worth pointing out.

Also worth pointing out is that it appears that Murray did give up his 17th game check as part of this negotiation. Allen also did that when he did his extension. It is not an insignificant number as it is about $1.75 million. I don’t factor those into my analysis of the contracts unless it is clear they were negotiating with them in place, but some agents have been more forceful on including them in any new contracts.

Guarantee Structure

Murray looks to have about $104 million fully guaranteed at signing and $162 million guaranteed for injury. It looks as if there will also be a rolling guarantee structure based on Florio’s breakdown of the contract similar to Allen’s and Mahomes’ where some non-guaranteed money will become guaranteed during the course of the contract. About $65 million of the guarantee will come in the way of prorated bonuses which will rank 3rd behind Prescott ($66 million) and Rodgers whose whole contract is effectively signing and option bonuses. I always like these structures for a player.

Needless to say the contract is not fully guaranteed and I think we can stop the speculation, at least for now, that the Watson contract was any more meaningful in that regard than the Kirk Cousins contract signed back in 2018. Both of those were situations where the teams were extremely leveraged due to needs and willing to do anything. Extensions are not the same situation and likely never will be unless you get a weird situation where you have a great young QB who somehow is still on a bad team and he is threatening to not play.

While the main focus of this guarantee will be on the total dollar figure, which trails only Watson, I’d rather try to add some context to the numbers. For whatever reason nobody wants to discuss guaranteed salary in the way they do new money. Basically teams are sometimes able to get a massive guarantee discount via extension but it is hidden due to the way we report the guarantee.

Two of the better ways to look at the guarantee package are to compare it to the total years given up by the player in the contract and the percentage of the total contract value. In both cases we look at the effective contract length and value which includes the money that existed in prior contracts.  

PlayerTeamTotal YearsTotal ValueInjury GuaranteeFull GuaranteeInj. Guar/YearFull Guar/Year% Inj. Guar% Full Guar
Aaron RodgersPackers3$150,815,000$150,665,000$101,415,000$50,221,667$33,805,00099.9%67.2%
Deshaun WatsonBrowns5$230,000,000$230,000,000$230,000,000$46,000,000$46,000,000100.0%100.0%
Dak PrescottCowboys4$160,000,000$126,000,000$95,000,000$31,500,000$23,750,00078.8%59.4%
Matt StaffordRams5$183,000,000$120,000,000$63,000,000$24,000,000$12,600,00065.6%34.4%
Kyler MurrayCardinals7$265,692,360$161,700,000$104,300,000$23,100,000$14,900,00060.9%39.3%
Josh AllenBills8$284,644,595$150,000,000$100,000,000$18,750,000$12,500,00052.7%35.1%
Derek CarrRaiders4$141,300,000$65,300,000$24,900,000$16,325,000$6,225,00046.2%17.6%
Patrick MahomesChiefs12$477,631,905$141,000,000$63,081,905$11,750,000$5,256,82529.5%13.2%

Despite the big number here Murray ranks 4th in full protection per year and percentage of contract fully guaranteed and 5th in injury protection per year percent of contract guaranteed for injury.  Now perhaps the rolling mechanisms (I don’t have those particulars) make up for this but this contract is definitely lighter on the injury side. Even if we go back a few years and look at players like Jared Goff (68.3% guaranteed for injury), Carson Wentz (69.6%), and Russell Wilson (68.2%), this one is a step back from where contracts had been even on extensions. It is relatively on target with the full guarantee.

Now I think guarantees, especially for QB’s, are a bit overrated since the early cut rates are still pretty low but it is important to consider the scope and size of the total contract when we look at these things rather than just eyeballing the total guarantee number.  

Other Contract Mechanisms

There are two things that stick out with Murray’s contract. One is that he has $9.3 million tied up in workout bonuses, about 4% of his contract. This to me was a strange addition unless it was requested by Murray’s side. I personally like the workout bonus for a player since its easy offseason money to earn unless he just has no desire to remain in the city in the offseason, but ideally you would get this money as a roster bonus at the start of the league year. As far as I know Murray has always attended workouts so its not as if this is holdout protection and they didn’t include camp bonuses each year so that doesn’t seem to be a concern for Arizona. Arizona also has no players under contract to my knowledge with a workout bonus so it is not as if this is the Packers where the teams want’s everyone to have the workout money. So I will lean toward this being a Murray suggestion.

Murray has $4.25 million tied up in per game bonuses which is a real weird thing for a QB. Of all the QB’s in the NFL I only have a record for 10 players with a per game bonus, and 8 of those players have contracts that average under $4 million a year. The other player is Jimmy Garoppolo of the 49ers, a team with a big commitment to per game bonuses. In the grand scheme of things it is not a lot relative to the size of the contract but it would seem to indicate a bit of worry by Arizona that he won’t hold up 17 games and this at least reimburses them a few dollars a year. Arizona has used per game bonuses in the past so this should also help them in future extension and free agent signings in looking to max compensation tied to per game play.

About $50 million of Murray’s salary is tied to roster bonuses which is a great get for him. While not at the level of Mahomes and Allen, the $10 million a year in roster bonuses would rank 4th among QBs (Goff is third). These are great because they force the team into early decisions and often lead to conversions to signing bonuses which are only more helpful for keeping a player employed by the team.

Another $7.5 million in incentives are available to Murray. At $1.5 million a year that is fifth among active QB’s earning $30 million or more a year on multi year contracts. He trails Allen, Wentz, Goff, and Mahomes. I would imagine this is on the lower end because the contract value is probably higher than where Arizona wanted to be a few month ago.

Salary Cap Impact

Murray’s cap hits should be as follows (give or take a few bucks)

YearCap Hit

 The new contract only increases the cap charge this year by $1.28 million, assuming that his workout does not prorate(which it may depending on contract language, but it would be a minor change). His cap next year will drop by $13.7 million. While the $51.86 million charge in 2024 is eye popping, that is the year that we would expect the salary cap to increase significantly as new TV deals roll in and all the Covid stuff should be paid back. So this wont be $51M on a $220M cap but probably on a $250M or $260M cap. While high it is not outrageous and currently would rank 3rd in the NFL. The Cardinals could bring that number down significantly with a restructure as they have maximum proration years remaining in 2024 without the need for void years. As long as Murray doesn’t implode that should not be a concern.

As the contract stands right now a franchise tag in 2029 would cost a minimum of $55.6 million which is probably a fair number from the Cardinals perspective. A max restructure in 2024 would bring that number way up to around $64 million which would be great for Murray if it occurred.

Thoughts on QB Market Impact

After the numbers came in for Watson I would guess that this is probably mildly disappointing. If we throw out the Rodgers contract as meaningful this would represent a 0.2% raise over Watson. Watson raised the market over Mahomes by 2.2% and Allen by 6.9%, which is a contract closer in length. This would be the most minor market increase by a QB in modern history (Joe Flacco was around 0.5% on his two contracts). The average has been in the ballpark of 7%. While nobody expected him to hit the 10%+ mark that the elite players have, I think it was fair once the Mahomes mark was surpassed to think a 2-3% raise was possible as the “next man up”.  That was the range for players like Derek Carr and Kirk Cousins. Clearly if there was any hope for QB guarantees to get easier that was gone with this deal.

I think as we look forward to Lamar Jackson’s new deal the Ravens are probably happy with the level of injury protection in the contract, the per game bonuses, the workout numbers, and incentives. Id guess that they would offer $46.2M a year based on what went down here even though Jackson has had a better career than Murray.

Thoughts for Arizona

Despite what I said about the raise being low, the fact is I would not have projected Murray to get any raise over Mahomes a few months ago. Even the Rodgers contract I think would have been meaningless. While I like Murray and have at times said he should at least have been in MVP discussions during the year, the fact is his seasons have seemingly trailed off after the first month or two of the season. It may be more of a team thing as Arizona has had some older players on the team but rightly or wrongly QBs get the credit and blame when a team flames out.

To me Murray right now is not a sure thing. Dead money on QB’s has skyrocketed in recent years as teams have committed million of guaranteed dollars with the assumption that he will just get better but often it doesn’t happen. The Cardinals decision to double down on the coach, GM, and QB in the same offseason for so many years is quite risky in my mind, but I guess once you sign the first two you may as well do the QB at the same time.

Arizona has more or less been an average spender in the NFL and have had the benefit of a cheap QB. They are a team that in recent years has looked more like the Ryan Grigson Colts struggling to put a long term competent roster around a young QB and instead taking fliers on veteran free agents and trades while going year to year on most of their contracts. They have to find a way to get more continuity to their roster and I would imagine with a high priced QB that is going to mean they have to rely on the draft more than before with the free agents likely falling more toward veteran minimum territory. If the close of the season is a precursor to what the results will be the next two years this will wind up being looked at negatively the same way that Wentz and Goff were even if it is not entirely Murray’s fault.

OTC Podcast: July 16, 2022

In this week’s OTC Podcast

  • Orlando Brown and the Chiefs
  • Bates and the Bengals
  • All of your questions for the week

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OTC Podcast: July 12, 2022

In this week’s OTC Podcast

  • Baker Mayfield trade
  • Franchise tag deadline thoughts
  • All of your questions for the week

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