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

The Future for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers

After another disappointing exit from the playoffs Green Bay will be faced with the prospects of going into a rebuild while dealing with the salary cap fallout of going all in for 2021 and pushing in the ballpark of $45 million in salary cap charges to the future to keep the team together. Once Green Bay makes their futures signings official this week they will project to be about $48.5 million over the 2022 salary cap and about $52 million over once you factor in rookie contracts. It’s the second worst salary cap position in the NFL.

The big decision for the team will be what to do with Aaron Rodgers and how agreeable he might be or a team trading for him would be to help the team out with their salary cap troubles. The issues Rodgers had with the team last season have been well documented and while seemed to smooth things over during the season it is clear that Rodgers is not going to want to be part of a rebuilding process in Green Bay nor should the Packers want him to be part of a rebuild.

Rodgers has a $46.8 million cap charge in 2022, the second highest cap number in the NFL. The cost to move Rodgers off the team is substantial- $26.847 million- and that number is the same whether he is cut or traded. In both scenarios the Packers will only open up $19.95 million in cap room. So moving Rodgers is not the miracle path to salary cap heaven the way many think.

Cutting Rodgers would not make sense as he has trade value and that would be incredibly valuable towards a rebuild. I would imagine that he would bring back a 1st round pick in a trade, but there is a catch to any trade. Trades can be agreed upon prior to the start of free agency but can not be completed until the 1st day of free agency which means the Packers would need to carry Rodgers full $46.8 million cap charge. They would need to find an extra $20 million in cap relief elsewhere on the roster to comply with the cap.

The path that would have opened up the most space for Green Bay would be a restructure or extension of Rodgers contract but that certainly would not work for a rebuild and would simply be running back again with the same team that failed in the playoffs the last three years. Still the Packers could use that as a way to better comply with the cap by getting Rodgers to agree to a contract with a guaranteed roster bonus that would be due after the trade. The team could lower his cap number to $25.4 million prior to the trade by doing that. The downside to that strategy is the dead money would increase from $26.847 million to $32 million once the trade is executed with the Packers receiving a $5.2 million cap credit in 2023. That doesn’t help them for 2022.

The Packers could look to see if a team would be willing to wait until June 2nd to process a trade. Combining that with the above scenario the team would carry $25.4 million until June 2 and then have the number drop to $24.3 million. They would take on a few million in dead money in 2023 as well. The negative of that scenario is the Packers would receive no draft picks this season for the trade since the trade would not be official until after the NFL draft.

Scenario 3 is to allow Rodgers to negotiate a contract extension with another team with the knowledge that on paper they need the extension to drop his salary for 2022 to the minimum. I believe, but am not certain, that you can include a bonus in a contract that only kicks in if a player is traded. The trade bonus should not count on the salary cap until the player is actually traded. If that is not the case then the two sides could agree to a deal where all of the guarantees and salary in the future would be guaranteed after a trade. The team and Rodgers could then execute another contract after the trade to move more salary back to 2022. The Packers would get a 2022 draft pick in that trade and would be able to keep Rodgers cap number no higher than $26.9 million for the year. There would be no dead money in 2023. This may be the most complicated scenario but also the best one for them.

Beyond Rodgers the team has plenty of decisions to make. Receiver Davante Adams is a free agent. At a minimum it will cost $20.12 million to tag him which just adds to the salary cap bill. Adams will be 30 next season. Trading franchise tagged players is never easy but they would be foolish to not tag him and let him just walk away when they could get a high draft pick for him.

Given that the Packers did spend a 1st round pick on Jordan Love it is possible that they may view Adams as part of a rebuild. If that is the case then the team will need to work out an extension prior to free agency so they could bring that cap figure down from $20 million to somewhere closer to $8 million. The difficulty in doing an extension with Adams is that the Packers (and most of the NFL) do not want to acknowledge the contract of DeAndre Hopkins and to a lesser extent Julio Jones as being legitimate. Jones’ new money average is $22 million and Hopkins is $27 million. They would need to find a middle ground.

They will be faced with other decisions on extensions or cuts. Za’Darius Smith has a $27.66 million cap charge and is on the final year of his contract. Cutting him opens up $15.3 million in cap room. Smith played just one game this year. Preston Smith has a $19.7 million cap charge and is also in the final year of his contract. He agreed to a pay cut last year but played very well this season. Releasing him saves around $12.5 million. In both cases extensions would probably save the same amount of cap room but would tie Green Bay to those players for at least the 2022 and 2023 seasons. Releasing Randall Cobb will free up $6.8 million and that seems to be a no brainer.

If they can get creative with Rodgers , cut Cobb, and do whatever they need to with the two pass rushers they would only be very close to being cap compliant if they extend Adams and need about $15 million more in space if they simply tag him. The team would then move into the territory of contract restructures. They could open up around $9 million in cap space with David Bakhtiari, $9.8 million with Jaire Alexander, and $10.9 million with Kenny Clark. That would give them the space needed to function in the offseason while sorting everything out. If they cant come up with a creative solution for Rodgers $46 million cap number then they would have no choice but to do all these things plus probably tinker with a few other smaller contracts until they sorted out a trade.

Its an interesting set of decisions for Green Bay. If they are still very bullish on Love it is more about dealing with the short term cap impacts of Rodgers contract and then seeing if they can move further in the playoffs. If they are no longer bullish on Love it should be an offseason designed to find the draft capital needed to select a QB in the 2023 draft and making certain they do not do anything that sucks the life out of their salary cap in 2023 and especially 2024.

A Quick Look at Amari Cooper’s Contract

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was discussing wide receiver Amari Cooper’s performance for the Cowboys and made some interesting comments where the takeaway seem to be the following

The Cooper and Cowboys dynamic is one that I have always found interesting. Dallas traded a number 1 pick for Cooper back in 2018 but never seemed to feel the same push to protect their investment in him that other teams who traded for players (Jalen Ramsey and the Rams, Leonard Williams and the Giants, etc…) did. Dallas actually allowed Cooper to test free agency in 2020 rather than signing him to an extension after the season ended.

Eventually the two sides came to an agreement where Cooper hit the magic $20 million per year number that had been pretty elusive for most receivers and put Cooper in a rare group of players but he contract itself said something different. Usually when players sign contracts this large they get a massive amount of money up front. For example recent contracts in the $20 million per year range usually see a player earn between $28 and $32 million in the first year. Cooper received $20 million. Cooper only received a $10 million signing bonus which ranks 15th at the position.

The more interesting aspect for Cooper’s contract came with the guarantee structure. Dallas guaranteed the first two years of the contract at signing. They added another $20 million in injury protection in the third year of the contract but unlike other contracts with very favorable vesting conditions Cooper’s guarantee’s don’t become fully guaranteed until the 5th day of the league year in 2022, which is the third year of the contract.

This was not typical for the way the Cowboys have treated their star acquisitions. DeMarcus Lawrence, who also signed a $20 million per year contract and did so a year before Cooper, received $48 million in guarantees at signing and another $17 million that was injury protected. That $17 million, like Cooper’s, was due in the third year. Unlike Cooper’s the $17 million became guaranteed in the second contract year rather than the third.

Ezekiel Elliott, who also signed a lucrative contract in 2019, was treated similar to Lawrence. Though the situations are not entirely comparable since Elliott had two years remaining under contract, Elliott received about $15 million in new full guarantees at signing. He had another $22 million in injury protection in years 3 and 4 of the contract. Those salaries were guaranteed in year 2 and year 3 making him impossible to cut. Zack Martin’s contract also followed a similar pattern.

Essentially Cooper was treated in this respect more like the second tier star players who had signed in recent years. Players like Jaylon Smith and La’el Collins had the less favorable vesting schedules in their contracts. Now this is sometimes a common tradeoff we see in contract negotiations. Cooper reaching $20 million a year was likely a must reach target for him. Since few receivers before or since have gotten to that number it would make sense that Dallas would pull back on a favorable pay structure and guarantee structure especially if in the back of their minds they felt they were overpaying to keep him.

When Cooper was signed to the contract I noted at the time that it seemed to be a deal that had a bit of “buyers remorse” built into the contract. Cooper would be easily tradeable at any point in time since the signing bonus was so low and he could be cut in the third season with minimal penalty assuming he was not injured. If cut his salary he would have earned from Dallas would have trailed the two year earnings of lower annual value contracts signed by other star receivers.

One way Cooper would have had more security and assurances on his future is if the Cowboys would have restructured his contract for salary cap relief. Last season Cooper had a $22 million cap charge which could have been brought down to about $6.8 million had the Cowboys converted most of his salary to a signing bonus. He would have been a logical choice since he was coming of a 1,100 yard season but the Cowboys resisted. Instead the restructured the contracts of Elliott, Martin, Tyron Smith, La’el Collins and Dak Prescott. The prior year they had restructured Lawrence, Martin, Smith, and Collins rather than modifying the Cooper contract.

It just seems like this is a possibility that Dallas has always had in mind. Cooper has a $22 million salary cap charge and just $6 million in dead money if they were to cut him,(this assumes that he is healthy). While he is still productive Cooper is coming off a year where he failed to reach 900 yards and seemed to deal with nagging injuries all season. It’s probably enough of a decline with all of the other factors here that they would at least discuss options with his contract ranging from offering a pay cut to seeing what trade market might exist to just leaving it as is.

This is not the same situation as Dez Bryant as that name may be brought up when people think of Dallas’ options. Bryant’s numbers had fallen for a few years and he was older than Cooper when Dallas decided that they were paying number 1 money to a non number 1 player. Cooper may still be a 1, Dallas just has to decide if they want to spend the full $20 million to find that out in 2022.

Covid Update for Dec. 22, 2021

The Covid numbers continue to spike in the NFL and as of today we are up to 197 players on the Reserve/Covid list (this includes PS players) across 29 teams in the NFL (unless we are missing someone the 49ers, Colts, and Falcons have no players listed). Here is the list as of today.

TeamPlayersSalary Cap
Football Team11$25,089,127

the NFL has revised protocols which should allow players to return quicker than before. The NFL postponed three games last week due to Covid and the magic number seemed to be 20 players on Covid caused a postponement. currently the Browns lead the league with 19 players, but they were greatly impacted last week and it should be expected to see their numbers go down.

The Jets are second with 18 players and that has been mainly over the last few days. Jets head coach Robert Saleh also tested positive. That would be a team to keep an eye out for if the NFL needed to postpone a game, though Im not sure anyone would be too excited about the prospects of a Jets/Jaguars primetime game this week.

The Chiefs have 15 players on the Covid list and are second to the Browns with $49 million in cap dollars on the sidelines, so these are heavy hitters unlike the Jets list. They have a big afternoon game Sunday against the Steelers which is the national game for the late window. I would imagine the NFL would strongly consider holding this one if the Chiefs are not in a position to subtract from the list and it continues to grow, This game would be a clear ratings winner if moved but would really damage the NFLs afternoon slate this Sunday.

The Ravens also have 15 players on Covid as they head into a big game with the Bengals. If their surge continues it would make some sense to hold this off. I would also guess that from a TV perspective this game would do very well as a national standalone game.

Finally the Texans have 14 players on the Covid list. They were in the middle of the Covid list last week so hopefully their number drop down rather than increase higher.

Thoughts on the NFL Postponing Three Games

The NFL postponed three games for the week due to Covid outbreaks, moving games featuring the Raiders and Browns, Football Team and Eagles, and Seahawks and Rams to Monday and Tuesday evening respectively. Naturally the decision upset many players and fans with some people taking to social media and basically saying that the teams who have been hit with Covid should forfeit.

The forfeit talk is partially the NFL’s own doing. The NFL released a set of rules back in July which made it sound as if the concept of rescheduling was off the table. The reality was that was never the case. The rules gave the NFL about a million different avenues to reschedule games but they emphasized (or at least reports emphasized) harsh consequences for unvaccinated players which would impact entire teams including forfeits.  

The purpose of all that stuff back in July was to gain wider acceptance of the vaccine so the league could attempt to go back to business as usual and lessen all the restrictions and testing that had to occur back in 2020. It would really be hard to imagine a situation where the NFL would just cancel a game and leave their TV partners and fans without a game featuring the two home markets.

It is important to also realize that if the game is forfeited that the players involved in the game would not get paid for the week despite spending the time practicing and doing everything needed to prepare for a game. That would extend to both teams regardless of which team was more responsible for the game cancellation. That would mean that players would lose out on their paragraph 5 salary for the week as well as any per game roster bonuses, if applicable.  

How much was at stake?  Here is a rough estimate for the six teams which were impacted by the postponement.

TeamSalary Lost
Football Team$6,922,082

By no means is that an insignificant amount of money if you are a player.  Million of dollars would have bene lost to the players simply because the NFL decided the cancel a game. So while I think you can argue with the NFL making players have such a quick turnaround for next week (really the teams playing on Tuesday should get their games moved to the following Monday) I don’t think there is much of an argument for just cancelling the game.

The question is could the teams have played the games this week?  Here is a breakdown of the rosters around the NFL, give or take a player or two.

TeamTotalCovidAll ReserveAvailable
Football Team91213556

I think it is clear that the Rams would have had a difficult time playing Sunday. They only have 43 available players and that includes their practice squad. The Rams are dealing with a major outbreak with 13 players added to the Covid list on Friday alone and there is no guarantee that the number will not be under 40 by the time Sunday rolled around. While there is no assurance that things change by early in the week, at least it gives them a chance to get some players back for the game.

The other two teams, the Browns and Football Team, are probably a little more questionable. The Browns have 51 players available as of Friday night which is probably enough to play a game, but like the Rams they are right in the middle of things. They had 7 players added to the Covid list on Friday and were supposed to play on Saturday which gave them no chance of it getting better and if anything it had a chance to be worse.

With Washington is where we get into a little bit more of the questionable area. They have 56 players available which is a pretty solid number. They only had three players added on Friday so while their situation is not ideal it is not trending the same way as the Browns and Rams which were still exploding. They only have three more players available than the Giants who have a 59 man roster this week, though the Giants are less impacted by Covid and are simply beat up.

There is also the concern that things can spread. The last thing the NFL wants, especially going into the playoffs, is a leaguewide outbreak. If you have teams where Covid is rapidly spreading the last thing you want to do is create an environment where it moves from team to team if you can prevent it. With the teams going into more of an isolation mode this should hopefully ensure that the players on the field and sidelines are not going to cause an outbreak among the opponent. That is more likely the reason the Washington game was moved than simply the roster size and I don’t think that is a hard one to argue with.

If there is a team to keep an eye on it would be the Bears. Chicago is scheduled to play Monday against the Vikings. They only have a 60 man roster and have 12 players on the Covid list, eight of whom were added on either Thursday or Friday. If there was a surge over the next day or two I can’t see how their situation would be any different than Washington’s. Hopefully that does not happen but the league should be thinking of contingency plans if that does happen.

2022 NFL Salary Cap Expected to Reach $208.2 Million

NFL Network is reporting that the NFL salary cap is expected to reach $208.2 million in 2022, confirming that the salary cap will reach the max threshold agreed to by the NFL and NFLPA back in May. The report is not very surprising and this is the estimate that we have been using for cap calculations since last May as well. Once it was clear that Covid would have minimal impact on gameday operations it would be difficult for the sides to not reach the max number given the steady year over year revenue growth since 2013.

One thing I am noticing since this report is a rash of comments about how everything is back to normal now. That really is not the case. While the rise in the salary cap looks massive since the cap was a Covid influenced $182.5 million this year the fact is the cap this year would have been expected to be between $208 and $210 million. In 2022 the number would have been between $218 and $221 million, so realistically we are still about $10 million off from where the cap should be.

Just as the decrease in salary cap space this year barely impacted contract extensions or free agent signings I would not expect this increase to impact the numbers in 2022 either. While there is some correlation between the salary cap and contract values the teams themselves operated under the same assumptions that the salary cap was steadily rising. While teams did have to perform “salary cap gymnastics” at times there was minimal impact on the market, especially at the top which is what most people pay attention to when it comes to contracts.

The real tangible increase in the salary cap that should create a meaningful jump in contract value will come in 2023. The new TV deals kick in that season and that should move the cap significantly higher and to the point where a contract shift should occur. How high it will be is anyone’s guess. The players are still paying back Covid losses and it is possible some payback still will exist in 2023. It is also possible that the NFLPA has to account for some benefit borrowing that could also impact the cap.

Whether or not 2023 will be the big year for contract growth will depend on what we see with the cap that year. If it reaches between $228 and $230 million it will likely still be considered flat for contract purposes. Anything above that number will show more growth over the old CBA rates and thus impact contracts. It may not be until 2024 that we actually see how the salary cap and NFL revenues settle for the balance of the CBA.

Teams have already begun dumping millions of salary cap dollars into 2023 by frontloading prorated bonuses into 2021 and 2022 in lieu of base salaries or by using void years for the 2023 season so they have clearly planned for 2023 to be “the year” for the cap to really return. It would not be surprising to me if, in 2022, we see a large number of extensions as teams try to get contracts in ahead of a meaningful jump that should impact the markets for players. Teams can still claim uncertainty about the 2023 cap probably through the first few weeks of the 2022 regular season.

Cap space will still be at a premium next season. We project the average cap room per club to be just $29.4 million with a median of $31.5 million. That includes carryover from 2021. Once rosters are brought to 51 players those numbers will plummet to $17.6 and $19.4 million respectively. We project the Dolphins to be at the top of the NFL with $77 million followed by the Chargers at $72 million, and Jaguars at $70.2 million.

Here is a snapshot of our estimates for next season. The cap space is just based on players under contract for next year while the effective space takes into account a full 51 man roster.

TeamCap SpaceEffective Cap Space

Positional Value in the NFL

The other day Kevin Cole had a few interesting thoughts on MVP race as to why its so hard for a non-QB to win the award and he mentioned a few things on contract value to identify importance for perhaps a non-QB winner so I thought why not look to see just how the markets currently value each position by slicing the data a few ways.

First, I wanted to look at the overall spending in the NFL. This would include every contract in the league with the exception of practice squad players. Each group is ranked by average spent per player and I added a value index which is how many times more valuable the league sees the position than every other position.


You can certainly see across the NFL how much value a QB brings. They are worth 2.72 times more than the average non-QB, compared to LT which is at 1.49. Interestingly enough left tackle was second which surprised me but it is a position with fewer players than along the defensive line and is also a bit more veteran friendly and I think one that trends to feature higher drafted rookies. Right tackle would be 4th while wide receiver comes in at 5.

What if we got rid of rookie contracts and SFAs from the mix?  It really does not change that much in terms of value, though obviously the salaries rise.


Our top three remain the same while right tackle and wide receiver flipped. CB and LB also increased a bit but again not too much.

What if we limit the numbers to the top 10 players at each position?  This is a bit more indicative of what the NFL does and does not view as “most valuable” as it takes out a bit more of the impact of volume on the each position’s players.


Here we get what I think is considered the more traditional alignment of impact on a game. QB dominates with over $36M a year per player and a value that is 2.94 times more than the other positions. Edge jumps to number two with a spend of $21.7M per player and a 1.63X value. Wide receiver also increases to three with left tackle and the IDL basically being a tie at 4.

Right tackle takes a big high dropping from the top 5 to number 9. This is an increase from the past as they had been under guards but now are right in line with that position. Center also takes a major fall as teams do not pay up for centers at all and that has been a constant for years. Running back value increases which is a sign of a poor process by too many teams IMO. Its been beaten to death at this point but basically no running backs “beat the system” and there is really no reason for them to make a jump here other than being blinded by volume of attempts in a given year. I think the same can be said for the off the ball linebackers who have seen their salaries spike at the top. While they do not physically break down like a running back I think it is a bit strange to see teams put so much emphasis on top players when overall the team’s do see them as a less impactful position.

As for the MVP discussions I think it is very clear as to why QBs almost always win. Their value just skyrockets everyone else. Wide receivers and offensive lineman are probably considered somewhat dependent on the QB and it is going to be hard for pass rushers to make up the big gap in any given season to reach the same value level.

Running backs do occasionally win and I guess it shows the bias that exists for watching a player with the ball in their hands at the snap. Even on a top player basis the NFL teams value a left tackle, right tackle, and guard as more important than a running back. You would think that the perception in that case should be that the running back benefits greatly from those three positions the way that a receiver benefits from the QB. But I guess getting the ball at the snap and “leading the charge” blinds the voters the way some teams at the top get blinded when handing out massive contract extensions that turn into dead money in the blink of an eye.

Breaking Down Dallas Goedert’s $57 Million Contract Extension

The in-season extension surprisingly keep coming with the Eagles signing tight end Dallas Goedert to a four year contract extension worth $57 million in new money with a maximum contract value of $59 million. The following is the breakdown of the contract per a league source with knowledge of the deal.

Goedert will earn a $10,218,660 signing bonus this year and will have his salary reduced from $1.246 million to $920K for the rest of the year. His salary cap number should increase from $1.789 million to $3.688 million as a result of the extension.

In 2022, Goedert has a $1.035 million base salary and a $3.215 million option bonus. These are both fully guaranteed at signing. My assumption is that the contract will carry two void years for cap purposes to bring the cap charge in 2022 to $3.72 million.

In 2023 Goedert will earn a $1.08 million salary and an option bonus of $12.92 million. He can also earn a $250,000 workout bonus. This is all guaranteed for injury and will become fully guaranteed in March of 2022. Goedert’s cap number should be $6.6 million.

Goedert’s 2024 salary is $14 million and he can also earn a $250,000 workout bonus. $6 million of this salary is guaranteed for injury and will become fully guaranteed in March of 2023. The cap number should be $19.52 million.

In the final year of the contract there is the same $14 million salary and $250,000 workout bonus. None of the salary is guaranteed. The cap number is also $19.52 million.

All in all it works out to $57 million in new money with $35.13 million in guarantees of which $14.877 million is fully guaranteed at signing and $29.12 million is virtually guaranteed at signing.

In my opinion this is a pretty solid contract for Philadelphia. Despite ranking 3rd in annual value, the one year cash flows will rank 5th, trailing market leader Mark Andrews by $12.25 million. His two year cash flow will rank 3rd trailing both George Kittle and Andrews by around $5.5 million. He will pull within $2.25 million of Andrews after three years and finally jump his contract in the final year of the contract. This was a good way of hitting a target annual value while keeping the cash flows in a class down from that target APY.

I would imagine the tradeoff for the Eagles was giving that guarantee on the 2024 salary but because the cash flows are team friendly up front I doubt that was a big concern for them nor was the player favorable vesting schedule since the overall guarantees will trail some other deals both in total and on a percentage basis. Because the Eagles did not have to go higher in the 2024 guarantee they should have plenty of wiggle room to bring the contract down in the event things do go south that year.