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OTC NFL Player Valuations For Week 2

We have updated our player values for week 2 of the NFL season and Cam Newton of the Patriots comes in as the most valuable player of the week. For those unfamiliar with our player valuation it is a metric we designed that utilizes salaries, snap counts, PFF grades, and statistics as a way to reassign the values in the NFL on a weekly basis. It is important to note that this is not a free agent value metric, but how salaries perhaps would be distributed if all contracts were created equal. You can read more about the valuation metric in our intro post from last year.

Season valuations and market visualizations are available to Premium subscribers, while we will have weekly values on the main site for the first few weeks of the year with a few random updates thereafter on the main site. If you have interest in just one individual player rather than the league as a whole their valuation for the year is updated weekly on the individual player page. You can view this weeks valuations at overthecap.com/valuation.

Players of the Week: Cam Newton and TJ Watt

Newton had a terrific game in a losing effort against the Seahawks this week throwing for nearly 400 yards while rushing for two touchdown and passing for one more. Newton’s value came in at $37.5 million.

On the defensive side TJ Watt of the Steelers took top honors at $29.6 million. Watt had two sacks, 13 pressures and 5 stops per PFF. He is going to cost a fortune to extend and should have an outside chance at becoming the first $30 million defensive player.

Team of the Week: Pittsburgh Steelers

It was a dominating effort by the Steelers players in a hard fought win against a game Broncos team that was impacted by injuries. The Steelers had a number of individual efforts on defense in particular that ramped up their value to over $350M in performance.

Notables of the Week:

Justin Herbert had a terrific debut against the Chiefs and nearly helped pull off the upset. At $30.5 million he was OTC’s 14th highest valued QB this week….CeeDee Lamb of the Cowboys put on a performance against the Falcons, coming in as our 5th ranked wide receiver at $17.9 million….The alarms are going off in Minnesota about Kirk Cousins and that is reflected here with Cousins coming in at a $9 million value for the week. $9 million is close to minimum you would be valued at if you play a full game at QB. He was the 32nd ranked QB and the worst value in the NFL considering his contract is worth $33 million….The Vikings were also our least valuable team of the week coming in at $200.8 million. Its a teamwide failure so far though Cousins will take the brunt of it…The Texans continue to be lone team that on a weekly basis can’t even match their contracted annual values.

Check Out All Week 2 Player Values

2020 NFL Roster Construction by Salary Range

With rosters largely set in the NFL I wanted to look at how teams are constructing their rosters from a financial perspective. I evaluated every roster in the NFL, ranked them by the new money annual value of players on the team, and then binned the players into separate contract categories to determine what salary range of player dominates the rosters.  Please note that I removed the Covid opt outs from the list of players so some teams were impacted much more because of this.

Overall Spending

Average roster value in the NFL is $202.5 million in 2020. The Texans dominate the NFL in average annual contract value with $263/4M per year invested in their team. This is a major departure from the norms for the Texans who have usually been on the lower end of the salary spectrum, but some big rookie contract extensions and trades for other veterans pushed their numbers. The Eagles are just over $242M at number two. This is no surprise as they have been one of the biggest NFL spenders for years. The same goes for the Saints who come in at number with a roster value of $240.2M. The 49ers and Chiefs round out the top 5.

The bottom team of 2020 is the Jaguars at just $139M. They have taken over the Dolphins spot from last year as the team to just gut the roster. Number 31 are the Patriots who lost around $30M in contract value due to opt outs. They have just $146M per year invested in the team. Number 30 may be surprising to some but it is the Ravens at just $153.7M. The Ravens have a number of rookie contracts at valuable positions and have had some salary cap issues to limit spending. The Jets are way down at $155M and while they did lose expensive LB CJ Mosley to the opt out list many will find this unacceptable when you look at the product on the field. There is a massive jump from the bottom four to the fifth lowest, the Broncos at $172.3M.

Top Tier Spending

The Rams lead the NFL with 8.6% of their roster earning at least $15 million a season. This is double the NFL average of 4.2%. They are one of the few teams with three $20M+ players and they just signed their two receivers to contracts worth over $15 million. The Falcons have 7.4% of their roster over $15 million a year and the Texans are the next team with 7%. The Jets, Patriots and Jaguars are the only teams with no $15M players.  

When we look at $10 million as a threshold the Rams drop considerably as they have a pure stars and scrubs approach. The top team in this class is the Texans. 10.5% of their roster makes between $10 and $15 million a year and a whopping $17.5% make over 10 million. They are the only team in the NFL with at least 10 players making that much. The Browns, Eagles, and Vikings all have 9 players with the Browns and Vikings having 10.3% and 11.7% of their rosters ranking between $10 and $15 million. The Jets have just one player earning $10 million a year, the only team with less than 3 players. The NFL average is 6.6% making between $10 and $15 million and 10.8% over $10 million.

Above Average Spending Tier

9.4% of the rosters in the NFL make between $5 and $10 million a season. This is an area dominated by the Buffalo Bills with 12 players earning that much, 20% of their roster this year. This makes the Bills the only team to have 30% of their roster earning at least $5 million and symbolizes an aggressive free agent approach to building a roster. The Bears are number 2 with 15% between $5 and $10 million (26.7% over $5M overall) and are very similar to the Bills with a reliance on free agency and basically no high end players on the team earning $15M+. This is the area where the Jets make their mark with 14% of their roster earning between $5 and $10 million. This has been their focus of free agency and bumps them from dead last to 27th when we look at just spending over $5 million. The Vikings, Chiefs, and Football Team basically have punted on this area as the only squads with under 5%, well under the NFL average of 9.4%.

Average Spending Tier

About 12.7% of rosters earn between $2.5 and $5 million a year, a category made up of higher draft picks and the lower end of the middle class free agent. Football Team has been built here with 19.7% of their roster earning in this level. The Texans were surprisingly number 2, showing a very different tendency than other expensive spending teams who avoid these areas. This is why the Texans spend so much more than anyone else in the NFL right now. The Raiders also pop here at 19.3%. The Bears are the only team under 5% and the Rams and Colts are both under 6%.

Low Level Spending Tier

The Patriots dominate spending between $1.5 and $2.5 million which is where 19.7% of their roster resides. These salaries represent relatively lower tier free agents, RFA tenders, and 2nd and 3rd round draft picks so that is basically the way the Patriots are built this year. The Bengals are the next team with 15.5% and the Giants are at 15%. The Vikings just don’t even bother with these players at just 1.7% of their roster. The Eagles and Seahawks are also under 5%.

Minimum Vet Level Tier

When we look at salaries between $910K and $1.5 million a year we are mainly looking at minimum salary veterans and 4th/5th round picks. 18.7% of team rosters are made up of these players. The Jaguars take the lead here with 26.2% of their team falling in this low salary range. The Jets are number 2 at 25%. The Chiefs are at 24.1% as you can see that they are offsetting their high priced players generally with lower cost veterans. Arizona is right alongside the Chiefs and followed closely by the Bears and Vikings. The Chargers and Packers are the only teams under 10%.

Minimum Salary Tier

Not surprisingly the bulk of NFL roster make under $910K per year. Over 39% of players fall into this salary range and are the kind of players often fighting each week to stay on the team. The Rams at 55.2% are the top team here. This is clearly the biggest stars and scrubs strategy in the NFL with so much invested over $15M and so much invested at the minimum salary level. 63.8% of their team falls into those two categories, well over the 43.5% NFL average and only 1 of two teams over 60%. That other team is the Packers with 55% of their team earning this minimum level. The Chargers round out the top three at 52.6%.  The Raiders, Texans, and Saints are the teams that are the lowest use levels here.

The table below has the breakdowns and should be sortable if you click on the header. Ill be back next week with a look at overall positional spending for each roster.

TeamTeam APYUnder $910K$910K-$1.5M$1.5-$2.5M$2.5M-$5M$5M-$10M$10-$15M$15M+
Texans$263,483,48528.1%22.8%5.3%19.3%7.0%10.5%7.0%
Eagles$242,330,39740.3%22.6%4.8%11.3%6.5%8.1%6.5%
Saints$240,216,92628.8%18.6%11.9%15.3%13.6%5.1%6.8%
49ers$232,737,03438.1%17.5%9.5%12.7%12.7%3.2%6.3%
Chiefs$231,835,77243.1%24.1%5.2%10.3%3.4%6.9%6.9%
Cowboys$231,713,94439.7%19.0%7.9%14.3%6.3%6.3%6.3%
Cardinals$220,035,52937.9%24.1%5.2%6.9%13.8%8.6%3.4%
Raiders$218,592,60926.3%21.1%8.8%19.3%12.3%8.8%3.5%
Browns$216,731,02034.5%19.0%13.8%10.3%6.9%10.3%5.2%
Bills$216,436,04535.6%13.6%8.5%11.9%20.3%8.5%1.7%
Bears$214,252,78936.7%23.3%10.0%3.3%15.0%10.0%1.7%
Vikings$212,694,66543.3%23.3%1.7%13.3%3.3%11.7%3.3%
Titans$212,288,57635.7%19.6%7.1%12.5%12.5%8.9%3.6%
Colts$211,998,93041.4%22.4%10.3%5.2%8.6%5.2%6.9%
Buccaneers$208,901,01041.0%19.7%11.5%6.6%8.2%8.2%4.9%
Rams$208,321,41555.2%13.8%6.9%5.2%6.9%3.4%8.6%
Chargers$206,773,17952.6%7.0%5.3%10.5%12.3%7.0%5.3%
Lions$205,389,22739.7%15.9%11.1%14.3%11.1%4.8%3.2%
Bengals$204,716,38736.2%13.8%15.5%12.1%10.3%8.6%3.4%
Packers$204,626,81255.0%8.3%8.3%8.3%10.0%5.0%5.0%
Steelers$203,305,18938.2%20.0%5.5%14.5%9.1%7.3%5.5%
Falcons$202,645,92035.2%22.2%5.6%18.5%7.4%3.7%7.4%
Seahawks$193,768,78740.0%23.1%4.6%16.9%7.7%4.6%3.1%
Panthers$183,269,77539.7%17.2%12.1%13.8%6.9%5.2%5.2%
Dolphins$177,288,83738.2%14.5%9.1%18.2%9.1%7.3%3.6%
Giants$174,960,09936.7%15.0%15.0%16.7%8.3%6.7%1.7%
Football Team$174,395,42744.3%13.1%9.8%19.7%4.9%4.9%3.3%
Broncos$172,316,61341.7%15.0%11.7%16.7%5.0%6.7%3.3%
Jets$154,972,93640.6%25.0%6.3%12.5%14.1%1.6%0.0%
Ravens$153,722,92136.2%22.4%10.3%12.1%13.8%3.4%1.7%
Patriots$146,125,31537.7%16.4%19.7%14.8%6.6%4.9%0.0%
Jaguars$139,057,29041.0%26.2%9.8%9.8%6.6%6.6%0.0%
NFL Average$202,497,02739.3%18.7%9.0%12.7%9.4%6.6%4.2%

Practice Squad Elevation Tracker

The new CBA brought a new wrinkle into the practice squad rules, allowing teams to elevate players to the active roster without having to ever terminate a practice squad contract. This is important for teams because it gives them a chance to avoid waivers for players they want to protect from being poached by another team. It also allows them to use a veteran player for a week while avoiding the required termination pay guarantee that usually comes with a veteran contract.

The catch is that a team can only use the designation two times per year on the same player (this limit per player does not cross teams). At that point the teams will need to execute regular contracts with the player and if they want to avoid him being claimed will need to keep him on the 53 man roster.

Thus far 28 teams have elevated at least one player in the first two weeks of the season. The exceptions are the Dolphins, Falcons, Steelers, and Raiders. 10 teams have taken full advantage of the rule in these first two weeks of the year, giving themselves a 55 man roster to select from on Sundays.

The most popular positions to elevate are running back (10), wide receiver and cornerback (9), safety (7), defensive tackle and tight end (6 each). The top ones makes sense as these are positions that require a lot of depth and many of these positions also double on special teams.

We’ll update the list of players on OTC each Sunday so if you want to see who is no longer eligible check out our updated list each week.

PlayerTeamPositionTimes Elevated
Hroniss Grasu49ersC2
Trayvon HendersonBengalsS2
Derrek TuszkaBroncosEDGE2
Robert JacksonBrownsCB2
Cyril GraysonBuccaneersWR2
Cam SimsFootball TeamWR2
Sean ChandlerGiantsS2
Ben EllefsonJaguarsTE2
Josh AdamsJetsRB2
Josh MaloneJetsWR2
John LovettPackersQB2
Jordan RichardsRavensS2
Jeremy McNicholsTitansRB2
Dontae Johnson49ersCB1
Cairo SantosBearsK1
Devante BondBearsLT1
Freedom AkinmoladunBengalsEDGE1
Amani BledsoeBengalsDT1
Cameron LewisBillsCB1
Andre SmithBillsLB1
Justin ZimmerBillsDT1
Deon LaceyBillsLB1
LeVante BellamyBroncosRB1
P.J. LockeBroncosS1
Tanner HudsonBuccaneersTE1
Mazzi WilkinsBuccaneersCB1
Jordan ThomasCardinalsTE1
Darius BradwellChargersRB1
Ryan GroyChargersC1
Gabe NabersChargersTE1
Braxton HoyettChiefsDE1
Farrod GreenColtsTE1
Brandon CarrCowboysCB1
Eric SmithCowboysLT1
Iosua OpetaEaglesLG1
Trevor WilliamsEaglesCB1
Jared NorrisFootball TeamLB1
Chad SladeGiantsRG1
Ryan LewisGiantsCB1
Nathan CottrellJaguarsRB1
Mike GlennonJaguarsQB1
Kevin StrongLionsDT1
Dee VirginLionsCB1
Kenny WigginsLionsRG1
Jonathan WilliamsLionsRB1
Tipa GaleaiPackersEDGE1
Willington PrevilonPackersDE1
Woodrow HamiltonPanthersDT1
Nick FolkPatriotsK1
Nick ThurmanPatriotsDE1
Xavier WilliamsPatriotsDT1
Marquise CopelandRamsDE1
Natrez PatrickRamsLB1
Bennie FowlerSaintsWR1
Margus HuntSaintsEDGE1
Chad WheelerSeahawksRT1
Anthony RushSeahawksDT1
Scottie PhillipsTexansRB1
C.J. ProsiseTexansRB1
Nick WestbrookTitansWR1
Cameron BatsonTitansWR1
Mark FieldsVikingsC1
Hardy NickersonVikingsLB1

Saints Restructure Rankins Contract

The Saints didn’t have too many ways to create more cap space this year, but they found a way to get a little creative by reworking the contract of free agent to be Sehldon Rankins.

In order to make this work the Saints added two voidable contract years to the existing contract for Rankins and prorated $6 million of his $7.69 million salary. The move opens up $4 million in cap room for the cap starved Saints. Rankins was in the fifth year of his rookie contract and will still be a free agent after the season.

I would imagine that the Saints added large dummy year salaries in the void years to maintain a window for a contract extension without falling into any CBA related issues that would make an early extension challenging. If not extended, Rankins will count $4 million on the cap next season, a year in which the Saints project to be around $75 million over the cap.

Unlike the Lawrence restructure yesterday this has nothing to do with cap room in 2021. The Saints were tight against the 2020 cap with about $2 million in cap space so this does give them breathing room. It probably also opens up the cap room needed to give Alvin Kamara a signing bonus in the $12 to $15 million range and still be ok with the cap this year. If Kamara is to be extended expect it to come down today or early next week as teams usually cut off negotiations after that point.

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Cowboys Restructure Lawrence’s Contract

The Cowboys continued their run of contract restructures with today’s restructure of DeMarcus Lawrence, creating $12 million in cap room by converting $15 million to a signing bonus.

This is the third major restructure of this offseason for the Cowboys. Prior to this move they converted $8.9 million of left tackle Tyron Smith’s salary to a bonus and $10 million of guard Zack Martin’s salary to a signing bonus. All told the three moves created a whopping $27 million in cap room.

However every time Dallas makes a move like this I get questions about big signings like Earl Thomas or Dak Prescott (you never know about Thomas and Prescott can’t be signed), but Dallas now has over $29 million in cap room. They didnt need these restructures for this year at all.

For some reason this is something that is completely being lost in some of the reporting on these restructures. The Eagles restructured Lane Johnson’s contract yesterday and the immediate reaction was that it was because of a raise for Jason Peters. The Eagles had millions in cap space and it had zero to do with that.

Most of these moves are coming down because some of the teams are currently being very proactive in maximizing their carryover to deal with cap issues next season when the cap is expected to fall by over $20 million. By converting salary to a bonus now the teams are essentially getting to double dip on conversions by getting a chance to maximize the cap room via restructure this year and next.

For example by restructuring Lawrence now they create $12M in cap room to carry over to next year while increasing his cap hit by just $3M, a net gain of $9M. They can turn around again and restructure his deal next year if they want to and gain another $12.8 million or they could just be happy with the $9 million. Dallas now has close to $30 million in cap room under the worst case cap scenario next year so they are in position to tag Prescott again which is the most important thing for them to be concerned with.

I have been surprised that more teams have not done this yet besides Dallas and Philadelphia. Partially this may be because of the pandemic and teams wanting to see if games will be cancelled or not (a signing bonus is a sunk cost even if games are cancelled), but I think this can give teams more clarity by doing this now, provided you are doing with players who would never be cut in 2021 anyway.

Players should be pushing for this as well. Getting the bonus protects you from the pandemic cutting a season short. It also can give you significant dead money protection on non-guaranteed salaries in the future. This is kind of a lost art in contract construction but dead money can be a good way to better protect a roster spot.

In any even think of some of these restructures as the year goes on a bit more critically as to what they might accomplish versus them signaling an immediate corresponding move (now go watch the Cowboys sign Earl Thomas to a 1 year, $12 million contract).