Jason Fitzgerald

Jason is the founder of overthecap.com. Jason is considered an expert in NFL salary cap and contracts analysis and has consulted on many projects in the field of NFL contracts. He is a contributor to the Sporting News and has been interviewed by many news outlets to discuss contract related issues for specific teams and players.

Recent Posts by Jason

2018 Free Agency Review: Redskins

Key Additions: Alex Smith ($23.5M), Paul Richardson ($8M), Orlando Scandrick ($3.5M), Pernell McPhee ($1.8M) (more…)

2018 Free Agency Review: 49ers

Key Additions: Weston Richburg ($9.5M), Richard Sherman ($9.1M), Jerick McKinnon ($7.5M), Jonathan Cooper ($5M), Jeremiah Attaochu ($3M)

Key Re-Signings: Jimmy Garoppolo ($27.5M), Garry Gilliam ($7.8M), Cassius Marsh ($3.9M), Brock Coyle ($2.8M)

Key Losses: Brandon Fusco (Falcons), Aaron Lynch (Bears), Daniel Kilgore (Dolphins)

Player Signings

Jimmy Garoppolo- 5 Years, $137.5M, $74.1M guaranteed

The 49ers made this trade late in the season last year and probably should have just worked on an extension prior to the trade if this was going to be the end result after just a handful of starts. Give the 49ers credit for being able to come up with a contract structure that made Garoppolo the “highest paid” despite not hitting the highest mark in any real meaningful metric while also not killing their cap if they are forced to release him in two years, but this is a fortune to pay for someone with 7 starts in his career. It is not as if Garoppolo was the first overall pick sitting behind a hall of famer, he was a player who four years had 61 other players, including 4 quarterbacks, drafted before him. As with most QBs teams are desperate so you have to look at these contract differently, but San Francisco should have had opportunities to do a much better contract. They need him to be great to make this a great signing. Grade: B-

Weston Richburg- 5 Years, $47.5M, $28.5M guaranteed

Richburg was, in my opinion, the best available center but I do think it is very fair to question the price paid for him. In general centers have not fared well in free agency outside of Alex Mack who was a top line player, though there were market changes last year when the Jaguars extended Brandon Linder to a head scratching $10.34 million per year extension which set in motion a few other big extensions. With the cap room the 49ers had, they had the luxury of being able to come in with a big number without the worry other teams might have. The 49ers made a massive 1st year $17M investment which is pretty much right at the top of the position and surprisingly used a pretty big signing bonus despite all the cap space they had. Really the big strength of the contract for the 49ers is that their full guarantee at signing comes in at under 35% of the total contract value which ranks around 12th among veteran centers. Coming off a four game season it would have been beneficial to see more tied to per game bonuses. Grade: B-

Richard Sherman- 3 years, $27.2M, $3M guaranteed

There is no doubt in my mind that if Sherman is healthy enough to play in 13 or more games a year for the next three seasons that this will be the best contract on the 49ers during those three years. The 49ers risked next to nothing to sign Sherman as his $3M guarantee is less than the $4M they paid a 30 year old Earl Mitchell off a 9 game season in free agency last year. The 49ers created an incentive laden deal that still leaves Sherman underpaid even if he is a great player again and probably will draw some comparisons to the ill fated Ricky Williams rookie contract negotiated by Master P in the late 1990’s. With millions in per game bonuses, no true future guarantees, and reasonable contract figures this is nothing but pure upside for the 49ers. Grade: A+

Jerick McKinnon- 4 years, $30M, $18M guaranteed

This contract has to be the direct result of a terrible contract that the 49ers signed last year with Kyle Juszczyk that saw the team pay over $5M for a fullback that played in under 40% of the teams offensive plays.  You can’t expect a running back signing with the same team in the early stages of free agency to not demand a far bigger contract. McKinnon’s four year Viking career saw him start a total of 14 games, rush for under 2000 yards at about 4 yards per carry. He added 142 receptions for just under 1,000 yards. That should be good for around $4 million, not a contract that makes him the 4th highest paid running back in the league. Maybe the 49ers were negotiating against slotted rookie contracts or something when they came up with this one. I believe they also may have flubbed the contract structure here causing a small signing bonus to turn into a large one due to an obscure CBA rule, though I am not 100% sure about that. Either way this is one of the worst deals of the offseason and they must have a lot of faith in him to have gone to this number. Grade: F.

Jonathan Cooper- 1 year, $4.95M, $2M guaranteed

This is a pretty big price to pay for one year of Cooper, who is now on his fifth team since 2015. I guess the strategy in moving on from Brandon Fusco is similar to their trade for Laken Tomlinson last year in that they are stockpiling high draft picks at guard and expect two of three to make the team, so you want contractual flexibility to release this year. Still Cooper has basically been a $1.5M or less player the last few years and I cant imagine there was much interest anywhere else at $5M. The $2M guarantee is reasonable but that is a big upside number for him to not be named a starter. Generally you should not go over $3.5M if there is a chance to be a backup and bridge the gap with incentives. Cooper has the highest current true 1 year contract (Mike Iupati’s recent pay cut puts him just slightly over Cooper) in the NFL among guards and its not even close, with Chance Warmack and Matt Slauson at $2.5 million. Grade: D

Garry Gilliam- 2 years, $7.8 million, $3.65M guaranteed

This is one of those contracts that people probably look at negatively because of the nearly $4M APY for basically a journeyman swing tackle, but when you look at the overall structure it’s a different story. Gilliam will earn $2.7 million this season, just $500,000 more than he received last year from the 49ers. His salary next year jumps to $5.05 million and it costs nothing to release him. So basically he is a market or very slightly above market player this year and either proves he can be a starting right tackle or is cut. Nothing wrong with that kind of contract. Grade: C

Cassius Marsh- 2 years, $7.7M, $3.1M guaranteed

Marsh fills a role for the 49ers as a situational end that also plays special teams. As a contract this is a bit rich for his production so far. While the contract has more in year 2 than year 1, it’s not the big discrepancy like the Gilliam deal. Alex Okafor, who has had a far more productive career and a similar draft grade, re-signed with the Saints for slightly less money during the heart of free agency. The 49ers wanted to get a bunch of their contracts done early but they would have probably saved around $1M a year if they waited.  Grade: C-

Jeremiah Attaochu- 1 year, $3M, $2.5M guaranteed

This is a shot in the dark contract on a second round pick who has spent a good deal of the last two seasons battling injuries and ineffectiveness. There was a time when he looked like he would be a good pass rusher but he likely needs a strong coaching system to see if they can get that out of him now. In essence he is a cheaper replacement for Aaron Lynch, who signed for $4 million with the Bears. Lynch had less guaranteed and I think you could make the argument that the 49ers over-guaranteed this contract  especially since players like this may not even make the team but maybe they see enough openings that they are considering his spot a given no matter what. Grade: C

Brock Coyle- 3 years, $8.4M, $4.1M guaranteed

This is similar to the Marsh signing where it seemed to be more about just whatever number out there for the purpose of getting a deal done.  Coyle played a role last year but other players have had similar roles and far more upside that signed for less money at the position. He’ll make close to $3.5 million this year and I’m not sure he should be earning much more than $2 million based on his history. Hes also hurt and will take some time to fully recover.  Small deals like this don’t really hurt you but that doesn’t make them good ones either. Grade: D

Overall Thoughts

No team committed more new contract money than the 49ers this offseason, but most of that is because of the massive contract for Garoppolo.  Overall I just look at the moves made and come out feeling underwhelmed given all the resources they had to work with. I honestly expected them to be competing for some of the big name talent at corner, guard, and receiver while maybe trying to land a decent pass rusher and they were never in on those players. They really overspent on a number of players and while none will hurt them whatsoever it just seems they could have done more outside of having Sherman fall to them. I will say that this has to be a pretty unique situation where a team may have signed both the best (Sherman) and worst (McKinnon) contract in free agency in the same season.

Some of what the 49ers do still has that seat of the pants feel to it. Maybe that’s the inexperience of the GM, but the 49ers spent more money last year on players that didn’t stick on the team for the full season and this year has that same potential. Already they signed center Daniel Kilgore to an extension in February and turned around and traded him in March when they decided to make a play for Richburg. That didn’t cost them much but that was more luck than anything that they found a partner willing to trade for him.

They added a better center, a better corner, and some depth but this feels like the same team. They ranked 12th in the NFL in terms of outside dollars added and that number is kind of bloated when you look at some of the signings. That’s not to say that this is a bad thing as building through the draft is better but with everything they had at their disposal they could have probably covered themselves at one or two more positions better. If that 5 game streak at the end proves to be a fluke there is going to be criticism for not doing enough in free agency.

Overall Grade: C

Grading the NFL Trades

Chiefs trade Alex Smith to Redskins for Kendall Fuller and 3rd round draft pick

There were some people who I think believed that the Chiefs could get more for a starting QB, but when you factor in the fact they it was likely that he would be released and is in his mid 30s I’m not sure how anyone could have expected more. They bring back a 3rd rounder and a decent corner with upside. Washington really should not have had to give up a corner in the trade especially considering they will need to sign Smith to a new contract as well. The Redskins bungled the Kirk Cousins situation and were likely fearful that they would downgrade in free agency. Smith should at worst be a lateral move and more within the Redskins budget.

Chiefs Grade: B+; Redskins Grade: C

Chiefs trade Marcus Peters and 6th round pick to Rams for 4th round pick and 2019 2nd round pick

This may have been the most surprising trade of the offseason. Peters is just 25 years old, has 19 interceptions in three seasons, and has been named to the Pro Bowl twice and has also been an All Pro.  He has two cheap years remaining on his rookie contract and is in line to be the highest paid corner in the NFL when he receives an extension. Those are not players that you trade especially for nothing notable until a year later. This had to be a no brainer for the Rams. He is far better than anyone they could expect to get with that pick in 2019 and they have him for a few seasons on the cheap first.

Chiefs Grade: F; Rams Grade: A

Rams trade Robert Quinn to Dolphins for 4th round pick

Quinn was an elite pass rusher at one point in his career but he’s been injured a lot the last few seasons and was a potential release with his $12.4 million salary cap charge. What Miami was looking at here is questionable. They bring on $11.4 million for the year on a team that has salary cap problems and isn’t a player away from being competitive. Quinn by no means is old at just 28 and they can rework the contract to extend him, but this just comes off as a move for the sake of making a move. That said the compensation is reasonable for a pass rusher.

Rams Grade: B+; Dolphins Grade: C

Rams trade Alec Ogletree and 7th round pick to the Giants for 4th and 6th round pick

Ogletree just missed my cutoff for worst contracts signed in 2017. He isn’t an elite player yet he is paid elite money at a position that is generally reasonable from a salary perspective. The Giants will pick up a $10 million salary for this season and gave away more than the Dolphins did to acquire Quinn. Rams shed $5.2 million in cap space for the year with the cut.

Rams Grade: B+; Giants Grade: D

Bills trade Tyrod Taylor to the Browns for a 3rd round pick

This is a trade that makes a lot of sense for both sides. The Browns will likely draft a quarterback with one of their first two draft picks but could use a veteran QB to hold down the fort for a year and try to make the team somewhat competitive this season. Taylor isn’t a great QB but he won’t make a ton of mistakes and can push the ball a bit. The Browns take on $16 million for the year and will potentially get a draft pick back for him down the line when he leaves in free agency. The Bills have been trying to get rid of Taylor for over a year and to get anything back for him is a win since just about everyone in the league knew he was going to get cut. From a football standpoint they don’t have a better option right now but they are playing the long game and will save $10.44 million in cap space with the trade.

Browns Grade: A; Bills Grade: A

Eagles trade Torrey Smith to Panthers for Daryl Worley

This is a trade nobody saw coming. Smith should have had no value in a trade. Its been years since hes been a good player and with a $5 million salary everyone knew he was going to be cut. Worley hasn’t had a good career thus far but he is young, cheap, and has experience. To get that upside for essentially nothing is a great move. The only logic I can see in the trade for the Panthers is that they are bringing in a player with no guarantees which would not have happened if they had to sign him or any other player in free agency. Moving Worley was likely a new GM getting rid of an old GMs picks.

Eagles Grade: A; Panther Grade: F

Dolphins trade Jarvis Landry to the Browns for a 4th round pick and a 7th rounder in 2019

The Dolphins took a very big gamble that they could get something for Jarvis Landry and to their credit they did. Still I don’t know how you risk $16 million for what amounts to the compensatory pick they likely would have received if they let him walk. Maybe they felt they would be boxed in with free agency if they had to worry about protecting a comp pick. The Browns didn’t give up much and they get a player who may not have gone to their organization if free agency was clear.

Dolphins Grade: C; Browns Grade: C+

Seahawks trade Michael Bennett and 7th round pick to Eagles for Marcus Johnson and a 5th round pick

I love this trade for the Eagles. Bennett is cheap this season, costing the Eagles under $5.7 million. He is a significant improvement over Vinny Curry who should be released. The Eagles are in a win now mode and have a few years where they can take some risks while they have a QB under a rookie contract. It should be a perfect fit. Seattle I think grew tired of some things with Bennett and also needed to retool as they are in a different phase than the Eagles. Extending Bennett when they did was a mistake but this is probably close to the return they would have gotten as a comp pick so in that respect they got ok value back.

Eagles Grade: B+; Seahawks Grade: C+

Packers trade Damarious Randall to the Browns for DeShone Kizer

I thought this was a solid move for the Browns. Randall is a starting quality corner that has some upside to be above average. He can make plays on the football and should upgrade the Browns secondary. They don’t give up much for him since Kizer looks to be the odd man out following the trade for Tyrod Taylor and expected drafting of a first round QB.  Randall also gives them a chance for a compensatory pick in 2020 while Kizer was likely going to be released down the line. I’m not really sure what the Packers are thinking since Randall was likely their top corner and they are simply trading right now for a backup. I guess this means the Packers will be in the mix for a corner in free agency, and this is a deep group at the position. They also much love Kizer, who was terrible last year but is very young. I’m sure the organization got spooked by how bad they looked with Brett Hundley but they must really think they can coach Kizer up. Obviously if they can get some good preseason games out of Kizer they can  up his value and flip him two or three years down the line but that is a big if.

Packers Grade: D; Browns Grade: A

Broncos trade Aqib Talib to Rams for a 5th round pick

This is a clear win-win trade. The Rams get a guys who fits their scheme perfectly and isn’t that expensive at $11 million for the season. If he plays well the prize comes next year when he is under contract for $8 million.  Given where the Rams are as a team using a 5th round pick is perfectly fine. The Broncos have other pressing needs on their team and were likely going to cut Talib. To get anything back for that kind of player is great.

Broncos Grade: A; Rams Grade: A

Browns trade Danny Shelton and 5th round pick to Patriots for 2019 3rd round pick

This I guess qualifies as the Patriots yearly move to acquire a somewhat disappointing former first round pick from another team. This move is nothing but a salary dump from the Browns who were on the hook for $2M this year to Shelton. Shelton can provide some run defense in the middle and is a younger and cheaper option than Alan Branch. Browns were just looking to makeover the roster and jettison some guys. Not sure if they could have gotten more but there was probably more benefit to keeping him considering money is of no concern to the Browns.

Browns Grade: C-; Patriots Grade: B

Bills trade Cordy Glenn, 21st pick, and 5th round pick to Bengals for 12th pick and 6th round pick

The Bills complete the teardown of the big contracts with this trade to essentially move up 9 spots and get the ammunition needed to move into the top 5 in the draft to draft a QB. In a league where left tackles are so expensive regardless of talent level they should have gotten more for Glenn, even with his injuries. The problem for the Bills is they made it too well known that they wanted him off the team which seemed to hurt their leverage. Glenn’s contract averages an affordable $10 million a year for the next three seasons. In a year where there are few left tackles available the Bengals should be happy with a deal that has no guarantees remaining and could still be cheap. The Bengals moving down to 21 should also save them some money as the difference in value is about $4 million.

Bills Grade: C-; Bengals Grade: B+

Steelers Restructure Antonio Brown’s Contract

Per multiple reports the Steelers have restructured the contract of wide receiver Antonio Brown to help with their salary cap situation in 2018. Assuming that the Steelers converted all but $915,000 of his $13.875 million salary to a signing bonus the team should free up $9.72 million in cap space. The move will increase Brown’s salary cap charges in the remaining three years of his contract by $3.4 million to $22.17M (2019), $18.34M(2020), and $19.54M(2021).

Though Brown was never going anywhere anyway the restructure should virtually guarantee Brown’s 2019 roster status and increases the odds of his 2020 status as well. The move increases his dead money next year from $11.4M to $21.12M and $7.6M to $14.08M in 2020.  As long as my estimate is correct on the bonus restructure the Steelers will have paid Brown $31.96 million in signing bonus money over the last two years. Those massive bonuses go a long way towards guaranteeing roster status even when salaries are not truly guaranteed.

The Steelers needed the cap space after applying a $14.5M franchise tag to running back Le’Veon Bell. It is unlikely given the tag number that the two sides will be able to agree to a contract anytime soon. The Steelers, per our estimates, should be about $1 million under the salary cap following the Brown restructure.

NFL Sets Salary Cap at $177.2 Million

Per ESPN’s Field Yates, and later confirmed by multiple sources, the NFL salary cap for 2018 has been set at $177.2 million for the season. This is right in line with the NFL projected range and our projection of $178 million for the season. The OTC pages should now be updated to reflect the change (if they aren’t showing that way they will shortly). If my math is correct (and it may not be) that should mean that the RFA tenders are now set at $1.907M (ROFR), $2.914M( 2nd rounder), and $4.149M (1st rounder).