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

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.

Salary Cap Spending on QBs since 2019

The other day Nick put up a tweet that got some attention looking at the Panthers spending on the QB position the last few years which had some discussion on the Panthers approach. Shortly thereafter the Panthers signed former starter Cam Newton to a very, to put it mildly, player friendly contract which led to me getting a number of questions on spending at that position and how bad the Panthers are. Rather than focus just on the Panthers I took at look at just what was spent on the salary cap by every team in the NFL from 2019 to 2021. While this is in many cases very different than actual spending I thought it would be a fun look to see who has and has not pushed the right buttons over the last few years.

Our first look is how much was spent per team and how good or bad their record has been since 2019.

These numbers will obviously change since this season is only half-way finished but in general the the way you can read this is as follows. The teams in the top right are those who spent a ton of cap on QB’ and have been 0.500 or better. If you are below the 0.600 mark you are probably disappointed because you overspent. As you shift left you find the teams who have been successful but have not had to spend much on the position. For the teams like the Bills and Chiefs the question is how do things change once the cap hits begins to move the teams to the right quadrant.

In the bottom left we have teams that have not spent much on the position nor are the teams successful. Basically these are the teams who have tried and failed to develop rookies but have not gone overboard on veteran backups.  The exceptions here are the Texans, who have just been inept, and the Chargers who will probably move to the top left by seasons end. The bottom right is the worst of the worst. Spending big on the position and not having a team that can win games.

I thought the other way to look at it is just how much teams are paying for wins the last few years. Again this will improve for most teams since there are still plenty of games to play but it can give a good idea as to who has really failed at building a team the last few years.

The Lions have been, by far, the worst in the NFL. They have spent a mini fortune on Matt Stafford, Chase Daniel. Jared Goff, etc…and have posted 8.5 wins in the last 2.5 seasons. Their $10.9M per win number is nearly $4 million more than the next closest team in the NFL. They have to draft a QB next season to try to change this approach. Washington was second worst in large part because of the Alex Smith contract while the Jaguars had to deal with the remnants of the Blake Bortles and Nick Foles disasters.

The Panthers, who were the inspiration for this, come in 4th on the heels of the Cam Newton (twice), Teddy Bridgewater, and Sam Darnold messes. It is worth noting that Darnold is carrying a near $19M cap hit next year which is not reflected in these totals. At this point they may have to hope that someone calls them for a 2nd round pick if they take Darnold off their hands. The Colts round out the top five. The Colts landed here because of the Andrew Luck retirement which led to the beyond awful decision to effectively designate Jacoby Brissett a franchise player before he took a snap that year. He was replaced the following season and rode the bench with a $21M cap hit.

Not surprisingly the top three team are the Chiefs, Ravens, and Bills. This is the massive benefit of hitting on a rookie QB and not worrying much about the backup. For Kansas City and Buffalo the free rides may end soon while the Ravens may be able to defer it a bit longer. As I mentioned above these are the teams that will be interesting to watch as the margin for error on the other 52 players is much smaller. The Ravens have some experience following the Joe Flacco contracts but this will be completely new for the Bills and somewhat new for the Chiefs who have more experience with a mid level pay structure than the big numbers for Mahomes, though that is somewhat mitigated by the incredible length of that contract.

Here are the numbers for every team over the last three seasons.

TeamRecordCap SpentWinsCap/Win
Football Team0.300$84,486,86312$7,040,572

Odell Beckham’s Contract Worth Up to $4.25 Million

After much drama surrounding Odell Beckham’s decision he finally selected the Rams yesterday and NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport has the details.

Since we have discussed so much about Beckham’s decision to turn down money and leave the Browns I thought it would be good to look at the pros and cons of this contract for him and the Rams.

I’ll start with the Rams. When the news came out yesterday there was a rash of “all in” comments about the Rams. I’m not sure why that was the case. This differed greatly from the Von Miller move. No draft picks were given to the Browns to acquire Beckham. In fact this opens the door for the Rams to receive a draft pick down the line if Beckham plays well and signs as a free agent elsewhere, though the Rams typical approach would be to re-sign a player like Beckham if he plays well. Financially they really gave up nothing. When the Rams made the decision to release Desean Jackson they freed up just over $1 million in per game bonuses that were due to Jackson. The cap charge for Beckham’s contract is worth $1.25 million, so basically a wash. If he does earn those incentives the $3 million would impact the 2022 salary cap.

I was a little surprised that the Rams made the decision to sign him because it seems more like an insurance signing than anything else. I would guess the biggest benefit comes to the Rams if Cooper Kupp or Robert Woods were to go down as this gives them the depth to replace one of them. The secondary benefit is that he does not land on a team they may have to play in the playoffs such as the Packers or Saints, two of the teams that were rumored to be interested.

With the new contract Beckham will have an opportunity to earn back what he gave up in salary from the Browns. Though widely reported that Beckham gave up $3 million, the actual number is $3.805 million because Beckham also gave up a 17th game check by renegotiating his contract with the Browns. So he can get above that number if he were to earn all his incentives. That is probably one of the reasons why he took this contract over other offers. It is also notable that the base value of the contract is the same as Desean Jacksons recent deal with the Raiders but worth slightly more in cash due to the structure.

Rapoport mentioned that $500,000 is tied to winning the Super Bowl and that probably gives an idea of what the incentives in the contract are. My assumption would be that there are bonuses for making the playoffs, winning (or getting a bye in) the wildcard round, winning the divisional round, winning the conference championship, and finally the Super Bowl win. I dont know these for certain just that this would be my guess. Obviously each level would be harder and harder to reach so outside of making the playoffs I am not sure how likely one would consider these but at least there is a chance.

It was reported that there is no performance related to the incentives but I do find it hard to believe that the Rams did not include a playtime condition for each round. Most teams would have a 35% conditional playtime to earn each bonus. If they have that in there that does give them a level of control over the incentives depending on how much of a role he does or does not have in the offense. The Rams use three receivers very often (Kupp and Woods are both around 92% playtime while Van Jefferson is at 78%) but havent really used a 4th with Jackson having been around 20% playtime. So he will need to eat into some snaps, Jefferson’s being most likely, if there is a condition on playtime. If he does not fit in and there is no condition I would expect the team to release him before any incentives could be earned.

It is an interesting choice for Beckham. Rightly or wrongly there are opinions about Beckham’s negative impact on a team. The Rams are 7-2, are 5th in the NFL in scoring, have an MVP candidate in Matt Stafford and have a wide receiver in Kupp having a dominant season. If things go south he is going to get the blame even if he has nothing to do with it. Other teams may have been a safer bet for his future but if they do win, even if he doesnt have a big role, it will at least show that he can be a part of a winning team.

This is a better contract than I thought Beckham would have received. I am not sure many teams would have added an incentive package like this at this stage of the season as even Antonio Brown last year had an incentive package that maxed out at $1.5 million. At the least Beckham will earn $5.5 million between the Browns and the Rams and keep his termination pay benefit for the future if he only earns that $1.25 million from the Rams.