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

2022 Salary Cap Update

We should now have all releases and waiver claims accounted for in our salary cap estimates for the season. Most of the practice squad estimates are also in place for each team. With those finished we have switched all of our salary cap space estimates over to reflect regular season accounting.

Please note that you will see teams listed as being over the cap over the next week as teams have until September 6th to be cap compliant with their full rosters, but we wanted to jump the gun again so you have can have a better understanding of what teams may or may not have to do in the coming days with their roster.

As of today our estimates would indicate that the Giants, Jets, Patriots, Lions, and Rams all will have some work to do before next week. For teams further over the cap like the Giants it likely means contract restructures where salary cap money is deferred to 2023. For teams like the Rams it may just mean finalizing an injury settlement or making a minor tweak of a contract.

Seven teams (Eagles, Bucs, Chiefs, Vikings, Saints, Jaguars, and Titans) are going to have less than $6 million in cap space. These are teams that may opt to make a move or two just to give themselves more of a cushion to cover players landing on IR during the season, practice squad elevations, and potential in season extensions. It is often better to do that now than wait until later in the year when you may have to rush to make ends meet. This happened last year with the Giants when a rash of injuries had them restructuring contracts where they could only pick up a handful of dollars because it was so late in the year.

The 2023 cap space estimates do not yet include carryover estimates for next year. I will put in placeholders for those either next Wednesday or after the first week of games, which more often than not is the last day that extensions are done until later in the year. If you want a clearer picture for next year before this just add whatever cap space you see for your favorite team in 2022 and add it to the 2023 numbers.

As always thanks for the support at OTC. Feel free to email me with any corrections. They are always appreciated especially since there are bound to be a few mistakes with so many transactions over the last 48 hours.

NFL Preseason Playing Time By Salary Range

As we get ready for the final roster cutdown I wanted to take a quick glance at team usage in the preseason. The preseason used to be something of a warm up for the regular season with starters often ramping up their participation, peaking with the 3rd preseason game of the year. The depth evaluation phases of games were primarily relegated to the 1st and 4th games of the preseason, but it seems clear that now we are strictly in an evaluation phase in all three preseason weeks.

Here is how our participation breaks down on offense, sorted by salary range.

Contract RangePlayersSnapsSnaps/Player

Approximately 87% of the snaps on offense were played by players earning less than $2 million per season. Their participation rates were basically double the next closest groups. As we get into the expensive tier of players the threat of injury has more or less brought this down just a handful of snaps across three weeks.

On defense we have the following

Contract RangePlayersSnapsSnaps/Player

This skews even further away from using higher priced players. Nearly 68% of all snaps were played by those earning under $1.035M a year despite that group making up just 47% of NFL rosters. If you earn at least $10M a season odds are you were getting the preseason off.

Here is a breakdown of snaps per player for each team based on salary.


I think the interesting things here will be whether or not teams playing more expensive players a little more than others will have any impact on the start of the season or not. The Commanders led the NFL with 35.6 snaps per player making at least $10M a season. The Steelers and Jaguars were both over 34 snaps per player and also had massive playing time for those between $5 and $10 million a season. The Chiefs were the other team over 30 snaps a player for those earning over $10 million.

On the flipside were the Bengals, Broncos, Cardinals, Chargers, Cowboys, Packers, Raiders, Rams, and Ravens who more or less put no expensive players on the field. The Rams, in fact, played almost all low cost players this preseason. The Cardinals did something smear.

These are probably some traits that are worth keeping an eye on in the future when determining future strategies for player usage in games during the summer. If the Chiefs look far more crisp than their opponents in the AFC West maybe it will say something about their approach to the preseason getting their players a bit more game ready. If all teams look equal than it might say more about sitting talent.

I know some want to do away with the preseason but I think even with just three games it is clearly a strong evaluation tool and showcase for players who are fighting to make a team. At the same time this is a game of high priced tickets and tv contracts and it is becoming increasingly clear that as a product the league has no business marketing these games at full price or as anything more than tryouts to make a 53 man roster or practice squad.

OTC Podcast: August 20, 2022

In this week’s OTC Podcast

  • NFL and Watson settle on a suspension
  • Roquan Smith situation
  • Derwin James signs monster contract
  • All of your questions for the week

Listen on Google Play Music

2022 NFL UDFA Analysis- 1st Cuts

With the first NFL cutdown complete I wanted to take a look at how the 2022 undrafted players have fared thus far. The first look is to see the success rates based on the guaranteed salary of the players. Please note that these numbers are based on the result of the player’s original contract with the team who signed them. They may or may not still be in the NFL  as that is something I’ll look at that after the final roster cutdowns.


Certainly it would seem that the level of guarantee has had an impact on who has and has not been retained thus far. Of players receiving a minor guarantee the hit rate has been just 46%. Players with no guarantees and guarantees between $5,000 and $15,000 are around 60%. Those numbers rise to 75% for those guaranteed between $15,000 and $50,000 and we move into the 80% range for the other categories. $75,000 seems to be a reasonable number for a team to offer to at least have a higher probability of keeping players through the first cut.

Here is a look at where each team stands with their initial UDFA signings in 2022.

TEAMGuaranteeGPP% ActiveRemaining GuaranteeRemaining Guar. %
NFL. Avg.$612,739$40,20969.9%$518,94280.7%

The Bears had the least success rate but as a team bringing in a number of players to try to stick that is pretty expected. They still have about 85% of their guarantees still on the roster, so that would be above average for more targeted UDFA signings. The Packers and Rams are both under 50% and their guarantee levels are very similar, so they haven’t had any more or less success based on who they guaranteed salary for.  This could be a case of just not having the openings. Neither team put a priority here with the Packers offering the lowest guarantee per player this year and the Rams being the 6th lowest.

Arizona has 50% of the players still on the roster but has already cut 65% of the guarantees they gave out, which might indicate a pretty poor prioritization of UDFA resources. The only team worse than them in this regard is Buffalo who has 64% active but just 34% of the guarantees still on the active roster.

The top hit rate is in Minnesota with 90% of the players still on the roster and 100% of the guarantees still on the team. They had the 7th highest amount guaranteed per player so they put a lot of effort into identifying this group. The Bengals have 89% of the UDFAs remaining but are among the lowest spenders. I rarely read into the Bengals numbers here as they will prioritize keeping guys as long as possible if they have any sunk investment in the player.

Dallas is number 3 and they put a massive priority here. Their $1.8M spent on UDFAs is second only to the Eagles as is their $87K average guarantee. Dallas has grown very risk averse in free agency so they are clearly looking to hit with their UDFAs. They have 85% of the players still on the team.  The Chiefs and Chargers round out the top five with just under 85% each.

OTC Podcast: August 14, 2022

In this week’s OTC Podcast

  • Jets escape major injury
  • Roquan Smith and the Bears
  • Short term contracts
  • All of your questions for the week

Listen on Google Play Music

Defensive Spending- NFL Preseason 2022

The other week I looked at how teams were set up financially on offense and today I’ll take a look at the spending on defense. The numbers are based on the new money average per year of the top 30 players on defense.

Overall Spending on Defense

The average team invests $102 million per year in defense, compared to about $120 million on offense. The Eagles lead the NFL with nearly $132 million being spent on defense. No team in the NFL has been more proactive on both sides of the football in utilizing the benefit of the “rookie contract window” than Philadelphia. The Steelers rank 2nd with about $130 million spent on defense. The Bills come in 3rd with $128 million followed by the Jaguars at $123 million and the Chargers just behind them.

The teams currently with the low cost approach are the Cardinals with $72 million, Cowboys with $74 million and Falcons with $75 million. The Giants and Bears round out the bottom five at just over $75 million and $78 million respectively. The Falcons, Bears, and Giants are all rebuilding teams while Dallas and Arizona have simply gone offense first.

CB Spending

There is always great debate between the Edge or Corner decisions so it is always interesting to see how these teams split. The Dolphins are at the top of the NFL with $47 million spent on cornerbacks. They are followed by the Ravens at $42 million. Those are the only teams with $40 million or more spent annually on cornerbacks. The Eagles are at $37 million, the Packers $35 million and the Bills $34 million. The Dolphins and Ravens have massive gaps between corner and Edge spending ($21.5 million and $25.5 million more per year on corners) while the other three are closer.

Punting on the idea that coverage is worth spending on are the Cardinals at just $7.2 million, Chiefs ($8.6 million), and Bears ($8.9 million). The Titans, Raiders, and Seahawks are all between $10 and $12 million. The Raiders and Titans have gone heavy at Edge and light here while the other three are just light at both positions.

Edge Spending

The NFL average is $27 million on Edge rushers. The Chargers are tops in the NFL at just under $55 million per season, though it should be noted that they traded for one of the big contracts that make up that total. The Raiders are just under $52 million. The Eagles are at $46 million followed by the Jets at $42 million, and the Titans at $39 million. The Jets number shocked me but its because we are classifying JFM as an Edge and he easily could be classified as an interior defender instead.

The teams that seem to dislike the pass rush are the Falcons at a ridiculous $7.9 million, the Cardinals ($10.2 million), Giants ($13.6 million), Commanders ($14.5 million), and Panthers ($16.4 million). In Washington’s case and perhaps the Cardinals you can argue similar to the Jets above about positional roles deflating the value here.

Interior D-Line Spending

Not surprisingly the Rams with the massive Aaron Donald contract are number 1 with nearly $40.5 million invested in the interior. The Steelers are next up at $37.3 million followed closely by Tampa at $37.2 million. Indianapolis, Green Bay, and Philadelphia are the next three teams.

Miami is lowest in the NFL at $10.3 million followed by the Browns at $11.4 million, Texans at $11.5 million and 49ers at $11.6 million. The Cowboys round out the bottom five at $11.8 million.

Linebacker Spending

Teams are nowhere near as aggressive at this position as others with just $14.6 million a year being spent on non-rush linebackers. It is no surprise that the Colts and 49ers lead the way in spending at linebacker as they are the only two teams with linebackers earning close to $20 million a season. Miami, Tampa, and Buffalo are all over $22 million.

The Bengals are barely spending a dime here with just $4.2 million spent per year. The Seahawks after shedding Bobby Wagner’s contract dropped from a top spender to a bottom feeder at $6 million. The Chargers, Patriots, and Ravens are all close to the Seahawks as well. This seems to be a good position for teams focusing on paying up at the corner and edge positions to pass on.

Safety Spending

Finally we have safety where the Seahawks spend a ludicrous $35.9 million a year. It is 2.4 times the NFL average and nearly $11 million more than the next closest team (the Steelers). It is more than they spend on any other defensive position and is more than the combined total of the cornerback, edge, and linebacker spending on their own team. The Ravens are at $24.5 million followed closely by the Saints at $24.2 million and the Bengals at $24 million. A good chunk of the Bengals spending is allocated to Jessie Bates who has yet to sign his tender.

The Rams are at the bottom of the NFL at just under $5 million. The Buccaneers are 31st at $5.9 million followed by the Colts ($6.2 million), Falcons ($6.3 million), and Eagles ($6.4 million).

Offensive vs Defensive Spending

Here is a look at how each team’s spending on the top 30 on defense compares to the top 30 on offense.

Teams in the top right quadrant are basically spending everywhere on the team. The Eagles and Jaguars really stand out here since they have rookie QBs and are still in the top spending on both units.

The bottom right are the teams making offense a priority. If you see the Cowboys and Cardinals (and to a lesser extent the Raiders) lose in a bunch of shootout type games the blame is going to fall squarely on the GMs who constructed the teams. The Chiefs may fall into that category but will likely escape that scrutiny.

In the top left we have the teams who are heavy on defense and light on offense. For teams with rookie QBs this is expected. For teams like the Colts and perhaps the Vikings it should lead to some questions if their offenses are pretty dull this year.

Finally the bottom right are the teams just not spending at all. Chicago, Atlanta, and New York are all in complete rebuilds and are pretty much doing what is expected. The team that stands out here is New England. They are still more or less committed to the Brady era philosophy that you can just patch it all together and win, but with Mac Jones on a rookie deal you wonder if they are missing out on something here.

The team with the biggest gap between defense and offense is the Steelers who have $40.5 million more per year spent on defense. The next closest team is Chicago at $20.6 million and that will fall if they do sign Roquan Smith to an extension. The only other teams who spend more on defense than offense are the Bengals, Chargers, Ravens, Colts, and Eagles.

On the other hand Arizona is nearly $84 million less a year on defense than offense. The Browns are at $66 million, followed by the Raiders at $62.8 million, Panthers at $58.1 million, and Cowboys at a $57.4 million gap between defense at offense.

The following table should be sortable if you click on the headers.

NFL. Avg.$23,633,416$27,062,668$22,108,604$14,624,040$14,849,203$102,277,930-$19,459,635

Thoughts on Diontae Johnson and the Steelers

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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