Recent Posts by

Fictional Trade Deadline Tender – 2021 Season

At this time last season, I offered up a modest proposal to try to nudge more activity around the trade deadline. With this season’s trade deadline approaching, I thought I’d revisit this exercise, and call this hypothetical rule change the Fictional Trade Deadline Tender.

To review, here are its rules. First, it is determined which players are eligible to be offered a Fictional Trade Deadline Tender:

  1. The player must be on a team that has either zero or one wins by the trade deadline. (The idea here is that with a minimum of six losses plus ties, even with an expanded playoff slate it would still be daunting to come back from that hole.)
  2. The player’s contract must be set to expire at the conclusion of this season.
  3. The player must be on a vested veteran contract. (That’s defined here as having at least four accrued seasons before the current season started, and also not on a rookie contract.)
  4. The player additionally may not be on a one year contract resulting from being given a franchise or transition tender. (The idea here is that we are giving teams the benefit of the doubt that they are using these tenders in a good faith effort to later extend them.)

Among those players, the following procedure would then take place:

  1. In the 24 hours after the trade deadline ends (this year, Tuesday, November 2 at 4 PM ET), any team may tender any amount of draft pick compensation it is willing to surrender to a team in exchange for the player it would like to acquire.
  2. After this 24 hour period ends (this year, Wednesday, November 3 at 4 PM ET), the NFL notifies all teams and players in question who has been given a Fictional Trade Deadline Tender offer. If multiple tenders are offered for the same player, the tender with the higher draft compensation wins out, and compensation ties will be broken by the standard waiver order.
  3. For the next 48 hours (this year, ending on Friday, November 5 at 4 PM ET), the player decides whether or not to accept the offer. If so desired, the player and team may renegotiate their contract to avoid the trade, and they may also be granted an exemption from the trade deadline to trade the player to a different team for different compensation, should both sides agree upon it.

The list of players on the right (or below on small mobile devices) are the players that would be eligible for the Fictional Trade Deadline Tender in 2021. This season, the teams that could see some of their players end up on this list are the Lions, Dolphins, Texans, Jets, and Jaguars. The players on the Lions will be there no matter what, while the players on the other teams will remain should they lose in Week 8.

Take a look at the list, and have some fun thinking about which of these players could be good fits on other teams.

NameTeamPos.AgeSnapsRemaining Salary
Alex AnzaloneDETLB2799.1%$972,222
Andrew NorwellJAXLG3098.5%$5,000,000
Christian KirkseyHOULB2998.1%$1,388,889
Morgan MosesNYJRT3087.2%$888,889
Justin BrittHOUC3082.4%$1,500,000
Damien WilsonJAXLB2876.8%$638,889
Chris ConleyHOUWR2969.1%$694,444
Desmond KingHOUCB2769.1%$1,388,889
Kamu Grugier-HillHOULB2765.9%$833,333
Charles HarrisDETEDGE2664.1%$777,778
Emmanuel OgbahMIAEDGE2863.4%$4,152,778
Nicholas WilliamsDETIDL3162.5%$833,333
Maliek CollinsHOUIDL2658.5%$1,666,667
Jason McCourtyMIAS3457.3%$597,222
Jacoby BrissettMIAQB2955.9%$1,388,889
Vernon HargreavesHOUCB2654.9%$722,222
Elandon RobertsMIALB2754.5%$744,444
A.J. CannJAXRG3050.9%$2,736,111
Jihad WardJAXEDGE2749.8%$1,083,333
Tyler KroftNYJTE2944.7%$972,222
David JohnsonHOURB3043.9%$1,111,111
Jalen Reeves-MaybinDETLB2643.6%$1,244,444
Adam GotsisJAXEDGE2943.1%$550,000
DeMarcus WalkerHOUIDL2738.9%$666,667
Justin ColemanMIACB2838.4%$833,333
Greg ManczMIAC2938.3%$550,000
Mark IngramHOURB3238.1%$1,111,111
Mack HollinsMIAWR2837%$550,000
Keelan ColeNYJWR2836.4%$1,388,889
Adrian ColbertNYJS2835.7%$550,000
John JenkinsMIAIDL3233.4%$645,833
Jamison CrowderNYJWR2833.2%$3,055,556
Darren FellsDETTE3532.1%$597,222
Sharrod NeasmanNYJS3031.8%$550,000
Antony AuclairHOUTE2830.4%$550,000
Jon WeeksHOULS3530.4%$597,222
Malcolm BrownMIARB2828%$861,111
Jaleel JohnsonHOUIDL2727.9%$550,000
Albert WilsonMIAWR2927.4%$1,625,000
Dean MarloweDETS2927.3%$550,000
Brennan ScarlettMIALB2825.8%$550,000
Tyrod TaylorHOUQB3224.1%$1,666,667
Chris MooreHOUWR2823.4%$550,000
Michael PalardyMIAP2923.1%$555,556
Nevin LawsonJAXCB3022.4%$708,333
Tavon AustinJAXWR3121%$597,222
Tyler ShatleyJAXC3020.7%$1,034,722
Thomas MorsteadNYJP3519.9%$597,222
Jacob HollisterJAXTE2819.7%$550,000
Austin ReiterMIAC3015.9%$550,000
James O’ShaughnessyJAXTE2915.9%$806,944
Will FullerMIAWR2714.1%$550,000
Danny AmendolaHOUWR3612.3%$833,333
Tevin ColemanNYJRB2810.7%$555,556
Rex BurkheadHOURB319.5%$763,889
Geronimo AllisonDETWR279.3%$550,000
Terrence BrooksHOUCB299.1%$833,333
Daryl WorleyDETCB268.4%$550,000
Tyrell WilliamsDETWR298.1%$1,111,111
Lerentee McCrayJAXEDGE315.7%$550,000
Vincent TaylorHOUIDL275.6%$694,444
Duke RileyMIALB273.8%$550,000
Daniel BrownNYJTE292.7%$550,000
Neville HewittHOULB282.2%$833,333
Lamarcus JoynerNYJS312%$1,111,111
Jeff DriskelHOUQB280%$550,000
Conor McDermottNYJRG290%$611,111
Dan FeeneyNYJLG270%$1,111,111
Jarrad DavisNYJLB270%$1,666,667
Alex LewisNYJLG290%$1,944,444

The NFL Management Council Makes Corrections To The 2021 Compensatory Picks

Per Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal:

These corrections by the NFL Management Council mean that what I thought was my biggest miss in projecting the 2021 compensatory picks ended up being a correct projection on my part. I had thought the value of Damiere Byrd’s contract would not qualify against the Patriots, and that it would thus not cost them an additional comp pick on top of the 3rd and 4th rounders they had been awarded without any controversy for the departures of Tom Brady and Kyle Van Noy (the latter of who’s already back on the Patriots). The initial release of the comp picks by the NFL Management Council said otherwise, but now they have backtracked.

There are two possible reasons for this. One could have been that the qualification cutoff just needed to be nudged a little bit higher to disqualify Byrd’s contract, even at $1.9 million APY. However, I believe that is not the case, as it would cause misalignment in the valuation of other comp picks. Specifically, it is because the Patriots are only getting a 5th rounder for Jamie Collins’s departure, and not a 4th as I had projected. That valuation indicates that one thing that I still got wrong was that I had the wrong number of leaguewide players considered in the formula, regularly the most difficult aspect of projecting compensatory picks.

Instead, I am guessing that the NFL Management Council decided not to count the $300,000 in incentives that Byrd earned on the season. Further evidence of this comes from Michael Signora stating that the correction was “to the calculation of average yearly compensation”. Although Appendix V, Section 2(a) states that incentives “that are earned by the player in the first League Year of the contract” will count, my guess is that this was overridden by Paragraph 11, which allows for teams to designate signed unrestricted free agents as “Excluded UFAs” that automatically disqualify the player from qualifying as a compensatory free agent (CFA). Byrd’s base compensation was for $1.6 million, which fell below the threshold of $1.75 to qualify for Excluded UFA status. However, study into future similar contracts, where the base is below the threshold but adding earned incentives pushes it above, will be needed to verify whether this is the case.

Further evidence that there were miscalculations on the NFL Management Council’s part with regard to APY was an error in where one of the Falcons’ picks were placed. This one is easier to explain. I am guessing that they erroneously counted a $500,000 incentive in De’Vondre Campbell’s contract that would have been awarded had the Cardinals made the playoffs. I had added it in as a way to get Campbell to be placed in the right order, but since the Cardinals did not make the playoffs, clearly that was not earned by Campbell.

The lucky beneficiary of these errors were the Bears. Had the Patriots been properly awarded with a comp pick for Collins’s departure, Chicago’s second 6th rounder would have missed the 32 pick limit. However, the NFLPA was willing to relent on the 32 pick limit, and retain the awarding of that Bears pick.

Changes to my evaluation of the 2021 compensatory picks projection will be made to account for these corrections.

2022 Compensatory Picks Potential

The 2021 league year in the NFL officially starts on Wednesday, March 17. The two day negotiating period of free agency commences on Monday, March 15, and this is the time when we would typically get first knowledge of the largest contracts to be signed. With those contracts signed come the generation of compensatory picks for the 2021 NFL Draft, thus it’s time to take a look at what comp pick potential teams might be looking at.

Buffalo Bills

With Matt Milano recently extended, the only other pending UFA that might see serious action on the comp pick list would be Daryl Williams, who got his career back on track in Buffalo at right tackle. With some money to spend on a solid team with Super Bowl aspirations, the time to strike on signing the right CFA may be now. Potential: Very Low

Miami Dolphins

Ted Karras played every single snap at center on a 1-year deal. Davon Godchaux is a young interior defensive lineman that could see a comp pick worthy deal. Finally, there’s Ryan Fitzpatrick, one of the most popular veteran quarterbacks out there that even on a backup salary could be in consideration. But with only 13 pending UFAs and a team still being shaped for Brian Flores, more work on the free agent market could be in order. Potential: Low

New England Patriots

The Patriots have 20 total pending UFAs even after the new extensions to Cam Newton and Justin Bethel. Combine this with a team that regularly makes an effort to get them, and with previously tagged Joe Thuney not getting tagged again at the top of the list, and that should keep New England on the list somewhere. The only aggravating factors might be having the lowest payroll in the league to improve a roster on a team that missed the playoffs for the first time in ages. Potential: High

New York Jets

There are not many notable potential CFAs on the Jets’ list of pending UFAs (Breshad Perriman? Neville Hewitt?), and like their division rival Patriots, they are just below them with money to spend on a worse roster. I would expect the Jets to be one of the big teams to generate comp picks for other teams than for themselves. Potential: Very Low

Baltimore Ravens

It looks to be typical comp picks season in Baltimore once again for the 2022 NFL Draft. They’re down to only 12 pending UFAs, but they include two previously tagged edge rushers in Yannick Ngakoue and Matt Judon, a key reserve at the same position in Tyus Bowser, starting center Matt Skura, complementary wide receiver Willie Snead, and the perennially underrated Derek Wolfe. Potential: Very High

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals did not use a tag on either William Jackson III or Carl Lawson, and both players should be in high demand on the market. Combine this with 22 pending UFAs and a franchise that typically is not known for spending, we should expect the Bengals to break their usual drought of earning comp picks this time around. Potential: Very High

Cleveland Browns

Most of Cleveland’s pending UFAs of note that were big contributors last season are on the older side (Olivier Vernon, Malcolm Smith, Terrance Mitchell, Andrew Sendejo), which may depress their comp pick potential. Rashard Higgins is an intriguing option at wide receiver for teams should he not re-sign with the Browns. Like the Bills, a recent playoff team like the Browns might be better suited to make a push for the right CFAs right now. Potential: Low

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers just emerged from a deep cap crunch, and one consequence is that they did not use any tag on possibly worthy players like JuJu Smith-Schuster or Bud Dupree. Both should expect good deals elsewhere if they leave Pittsburgh. But it doesn’t end there: Alejandro Villanueva, Matt Feiler, Mike Hilton, and Cameron Sutton are also key contributors hitting the market. The Steelers should be very competitive with the rival Ravens and Bengals in collecting comp picks for 2022. Potential: Very High

Houston Texans

Will Fuller is the only notable potential CFA of note for Houston this year, and given a new regime at both GM and head coach that’s in place, they may want to shape the roster to their own liking with external CFAs from teams they are familiar with. Potential: Very Low

Indianapolis Colts

Long time leading wide receiver TY Hilton leads this list, followed by other long time familiar names in the NFL like Justin Houston, Xavier Rhodes, and Denico Autry. The downside is that all of them are over 30. Younger names that teams might take a shot on are Marlon Mack and Malik Hooker, both recovering from injuries, and Jacoby Brissett could also be good for a high level backup contract that’s comp pick worthy. The Colts have some money to spend but they may also have room to gain some comp picks at the same time. Potential: Moderate

Jacksonville Jaguars

With Urban Meyer now in charge, the Jaguars having oodles of both cash and cap to spend, and with Keelan Cole leading a very unimpressive list of pending UFAs, look for the Jaguars to extend their league leading comp pick drought from 11 drafts to 12. Potential: Very Low

Tennessee Titans

Notable Titans hitting the free agency market are Jonnu Smith, Jayon Brown, Corey Davis, Desmond King, and DaQuan Jones, with the eternally curious contractual case of Jadeveon Clowney on the table as well. Last offseason, the Titans broke their long drought of comp picks with quality, focusing on one 3rd rounder for letting Jack Conklin depart, while extending other candidates in Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry. This time around, I’d expect more quantity coming Tennessee’s way. Potential: High

Denver Broncos

With Justin Simmons once again tagged, likely on the path to a long term extension, Shelby Harris is the only other pending UFA of note, and his value on the market has high variance to it at that. The Broncos’ needs in free agency are very targeted (cornerback, high level backup quarterback), but especially if they extend Harris this may be a good year for new GM George Paton to acquire more CFA talent if the price is right for now, laying the path for comp picks later. Potential: Low

Kansas City Chiefs

On the one hand, the Chiefs have a handful of intriguing potential CFAs that could similar intrigue teams. Bashaud Breeland, Austin Reiter, Demarcus Robinson, and Daniel Sorensen are among them, and never discount Sammy Watkins getting another big deal based on his high draft pedigree. On the other hand, their offensive line needs a ton of help, as Super Bowl LV demonstrated, and was confirmed with the recent cuts of long time tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz, and they may have no choice but participate a little in the CFA market in order to fix it. Potential: Moderate

Las Vegas Raiders

Jon Gruden has never been shy in pursuing CFAs–even when they regularly don’t work out–nor has he been shy in tampering with them, either. With an offensive line decimated by recent cuts, a defense still very much struggling, and Nelson Agholor the only possible CFA of note, I expect Gruden to continue his modus operandi of being a league leader in signing CFAs, creating comp picks for other teams instead of the Raiders. Potential: Very Low

Los Angeles Chargers

Hunter Henry did not receive another tag, and thus he’ll be a leading tight end on the free agent market for teams to target. Melvin Ingram turns 32 but should also still have demand at edge rusher, too. Other players that could get comp pick worthy interest include Michael Davis, Rayshawn Jenkins, Denzel Perryman, and a trio of starting offensive linemen in Sam Tevi, Forrest Lamp, and Dan Feeney. However, given those last three pending departures, of which Trai Turner may soon join them, the Chargers’ comp pick potential could be hampered by the necessity to sign CFA offensive linemen. Potential: Moderate

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys prioritize keeping their own homegrown players–like Dak Prescott–over signing external veterans, and this practice naturally leads them to earn comp picks. This offseason should be no different, with players like Jourdan Lewis, Chidobe Awuzie, Xavier Woods, and Tyrone Crawford hitting the market, with Andy Dalton still likely good for a high backup QB salary that would be comp pick worthy. Potential: High

New York Giants

With Leonard Williams tagged again, the defensive lineman that will likely get the most attention in free agency will be Dalvin Tomlinson. Kyler Fackrell could also get some attention after playing out a one year deal in New York, while Wayne Gallman caught some eyes in relief of Saquon Barkley in 2020. An aggravating factor is that there’s not many other notable CFAs beyond this trio, but a mitigating factor is that the Giants don’t have a lot of cap space to work with to pursue external CFAs. Potential: Moderate

Philadelphia Eagles

Never count out Howie Roseman in the quest for comp picks, but this looks like a weak year for him to pursue them for Philadelphia. Jalen Mills is the only Eagle that looks to sign a comp pick worthy contract on a low list of 12 pending UFAs. However, with the Eagles holding a high payroll and low cap space, that might end up naturally creating a comp pick or two for them. Potential: Low

Washington Football Team

The two names to watch here would be Ronald Darby, who may finally get his chance to earn a lucrative long term deal, and Ryan Kerrigan, long a reliable edge rusher but no longer has a path to starting in DC with Chase Young and Montez Sweat now in town. However, Ron Rivera does have cash to spend to improve the team if he so chooses, so there is reasonable doubt as to whether he’ll pursue the path of comp picks down the road, or CFA help right now Potential: Moderate

Chicago Bears

The Bears have 20 pending UFAs, but there’s only two of them that might be comp pick worthy: defensive lineman Roy Robertson-Harris, and of course Mitch Trubisky, even if it’s only on a backup contract. If the Bears do get comp picks, it’ll likely be similar to last offseason, with more quantity than quality, getting 6th or 7th rounders on the lower end of the list. Potential: Low

Detroit Lions

Kenny Golladay was not tagged by the Lions, making him perhaps the most desired wide receiver that will become a UFA. Romeo Okwara and Marvin Jones round out a list of 18 total pending UFAs. The Lions typically do not prioritize comp picks, but on one hand there is a new GM in Brad Holmes in the building, and like many teams the Lions are on the cap brink. But on the other hand, Holmes may want to immediately craft his new roster to his liking, starting with free agency. If the Lions do pursue comp picks, the priority will likely be focusing on preserving a 3rd rounder for Golladay’s departure. Potential: Moderate

Green Bay Packers

It looks like business as usual for generating comp picks for Green Bay. Corey Linsley and Aaron Jones will be the two leading names to watch here, and despite his playoff struggles Kevin King could get a comp pick worthy deal as well. Combine their history with a payroll that’s already been dedicated to the players they’ve committed to keep, and it would be a surprise if we don’t see the Packers on the final comp pick list. Potential: Very High

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings’ quantity of pending UFAs is low at 11, but they do have some quality to work with here. That starts with Anthony Harris, who will not be tagged again, and fellow defenders in Eric Wilson and Jaleel Johnson. The question will be whether Minnesota has to hold off on signing CFAs of their own to avoid canceling any of these possible departures. Potential: Moderate

Atlanta Falcons

Alex Mack turns 36, but may still have plenty of desire for teams to continue his career at center. Keanu Neal, Damontae Kazee, and Sharrod Neasman will be a trio of safeties that could also pique attention elsewhere. With other peripheral names like Darqueze Dennard or Charles Harris on the table, there’s no one that stands out for the Falcons but their pending UFA slate is not desolate, either. Potential: Moderate

Carolina Panthers

There’s not a lot of intriguing names slated to leave Charlotte: Curtis Samuel and Mike Davis might be the only headliners. Perhaps Russell Okung can still find attention at a desirable position at tackle. Also working against the Panthers getting comp picks is having plenty of money to spend on a team that still needs improvement. Potential: Low

New Orleans Saints

The Saints surprisingly tagged Marcus Williams, but even with him off the market they have lots of other pending UFAs that will draw interest. They include Trey Hendrickson, Alex Anzalone, Sheldon Rankins, and Jameis Winston. Combine this with one of the most nightmarish cap situations the NFL has seen in years, and it may no longer be prudent to regularly note that the Saints historically don’t care about comp picks. Potential: Very High

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs tagged Chris Godwin, and extended Lavonte David, so those moves, though obviously a net positive for the franchise, depressed their comp pick potential for 2022. But they still have Shaq Barrett to try to also extend before he’d hit the market as a very desirable edge rusher. Other players with contracts expiring are Ndamukong Suh, Leonard Fournette, and while it would seem highly unlikely that Rob Gronkowski or Antonio Brown would play elsewhere, they also are without new contracts. Conclude this with a total of 23 pending UFAs, and even if the Bucs succeed in extending Barrett, they should still be in play for comp picks. Potential: Moderate

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals are tied for the lead with a division rival with pending UFAs at 26. That alone will put them in play for some form of comp picks. Most of them won’t generate such picks, but there’s enough notable names at the top (Haason Reddick, Patrick Peterson, Kelvin Beachum, De’Vondre Campbell, Dre Kirkpatrick) that they could be in good shape even if they decide to pursue external CFAs to sign. Potential: High

Los Angeles Rams

The Rams are the inverse of all of their division rivals: low in quantity (11 pending UFAs) but high in quality (John Johnson, Leonard Floyd, Troy Hill, Austin Blythe, Josh Reynolds, Gerald Everett Samson Ebukam). Combine this with their payroll very locked in on their top players, and their draft capital depleted from acquiring such players, and the Rams will likely appreciate some high comp picks to help fill that void. Potential: Very High

San Francisco 49ers

And it’s the 49ers that are the aforementioned tie with the Cardinals in leading in pending UFAs. And there’s some good names set to hit the market, too: Trent Williams, Richard Sherman, Ahkello Witherspoon, Kerry Hyder, Kendrick Bourne, Kyle Juszczyk, Jaquiski Tartt, and Jason Verrett. Like the Cardinals, the 49ers should have no problem earning comp picks even if they sign external CFAs to replace some of them. Potential: Very High

Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks also have a high number of pending UFAs at 21, and like the 49ers and Cardinals there are names that could get attention on the market at the top. They include Shaquill Griffin, Chris Carson, David Moore, Quinton Dunbar, and perhaps most intriguing is the very long tenured KJ Wright. Seattle is not afraid of signing CFAs from other teams if they feel they need them, but they also have a long history of prioritizing comp picks. Potential: High

New Changes to OTC’s Draft Section

In preparation for free agency, of which will result in the beginning of the creation of a new slate of compensatory picks, as well as the draft itself, OTC’s section on the draft has been upgraded to better serve the needs of learning more about the draft from a contractual standpoint.

Streamlined Draft Page

OTC’s main draft page will be keeping things simpler for the time being. One table, listing all draft picks, and what contract each pick will receive. This will allow for more flexibility in the future to add more possible draft features, as well as to build an archive of previous drafts.

Rookie pools have been updated to account for the current salary cap. Updates on traded picks have also been made, a process that will be finalized when the NFL releases its full draft order soon.

Centralized Compensatory Picks Page

You’ll now find on the same page OTC’s list of projected compensatory picks, as well as cancellation charts for all 32 teams. Our goal here is to make it easier for readers to understand how comp picks are assigned by being able to see the list and charts side by side in one view.

Currently, comp pick information for 2021 is up, as well as for 2022, which will update in real time as compensatory free agent (CFA) signings are agreed upon, starting next week. Comp pick history for previous drafts will be restored in the near future. OTC’s old comp pick cancellation charts page is now deprecated and will be sunsetted in the near future, so please use this link to OTC’s compensatory picks page from here on out.

Compensatory Formula Page

Appendix V of the 2020 Collective Bargaining Agreement ended the official secrecy of the compensatory formula. To help to provide more transparency to how the compensatory formula works, we’ve created a dedicated page on the subject. Here, you will see all players considered in the formula, with CFAs highlighted, as well as OTC’s projections on how each player’s points are calculated in order to rank them by round. This is a good place to go if you understand the basics well and are looking to go into the weeds on why certain players are valued at certain rounds.

Fitzgerald-Spielberger Trade Value Chart

Finally, we have created a page to reference our recommended trade value chart, devised by OTC founder Jason Fitzgerald and Pro Football Focus analyst Brad Spielberger. Use this chart to assist in whether trades of draft picks make good sense, and to learn more, consider reading The Drafting Stage.

* * * *

To access all of OTC’s draft tools, go to its dedicated dropdown on the navigation dashboard. We hope these upgrades will make your draft-oriented, contract-based information gathering better!

Introducing New Cash Flow Features To OTC

There are several important factors to consider when analyzing NFL contracts. Most observers are well aware of the Average Per Year (APY), as well as how essential fully guaranteed money is for the well being of players and for the roster management of teams.

But cash flows–the timing of when, and how much, money goes from a team to a player–is the other important metric that doesn’t get as much attention, yet should. And we at OTC hope to raise more awareness of cash flows to the NFL discourse.

Securing the bag

To explain the importance, let’s say that you are good enough at your job that someone is willing to pay a very large sum of money to you over a course of multiple years. In what manner would you want that money to be distributed to you? Generally, you want as much as you can get as soon as possible. That’s because it would give you greater ability to utilize the benefit of money to its fullest extent, whether that is spending it on goods and services that would immediately improve your life, or taking advantage of compound interest via investing on your part, instead of your employer’s.

In the NFL, the importance of getting as much cash as you can as soon as you can is considerably heightened when, as is well known, the length of contracts can be deceiving. A recent OTC database query indicates that most contracts of three years or more fail to last beyond two seasons, with the odds of the contract being terminated after just one season being greater than the contract being fully completed.

As such, a contract with a very high APY or even high guarantees may end up being a poor deal for the player if the cash is backloaded into seasons the player never sees with the team.

Our new cash flow features

To help you better understand how cash flows in the NFL work, we’ve launched two resources to get you started just before free agency, with plans to expand in the future.

The first is our central cash flows page that can be found under the Contracts dropdown of OTC’s dashboard. Here, you’ll find all active contracts listed by how much they are paying over the course of each year of the contract. As with other pages, the columns are sortable and can be filtered by team and position.

There are two tabs to view:

  • Annual cash payments are a useful place to go to see just how much cash is due to a player in any given year, which can be important in times like this when teams are judging whether they feel players are worth those payments, even regardless of their accounting on the current salary cap.
  • However, the view is defaulted to running cash flows, which are a summation of how much the player is set to earn over the course of the contract. This is more important in judging the cash value of a contract as a whole, instead of over just a given year.

To further illustrate the importance of running cash flows, let’s go right to the top four contracts in APY in the league, all quarterbacks:

Patrick Mahomes has been renowned for shattering the APY ceiling in the NFL. But take a look at how much money is coming to him in the first four years of his extension, officially starting in 2022. Mahomes is behind all three of his peers in earning new money through the first two years, does not pass Aaron Rodgers until Year 3, and is still behind Deshaun Watson by Year 4.

Mahomes shouldn’t be begrudged for choosing to play the long game–he is in a very safe position in the NFL, after all. But there’s a reason why ten year contracts like he signed are extremely rare–almost all other players in the NFL won’t get the benefit from a team of presumptive employment that long. Instead, the aim for players is to frontload as much cash as you can early on in the contract.

The second view is that each active player now has a cash flow section on his dedicated page, right below the main contract details and notes. This section will document the annual and running cash due to each player, as well as visualizing the progress he has made in his contract.

Let’s use Garett Bolles, a left tackle recently extended by the Broncos, as an example:

Within his $68 million extension was a shade under $2 million classified as old money, cash that he had already earned or was scheduled to earn under his previous contract. Bolles was paid a $20 million signing bonus to kick off his new contract, of which has obviously been marked as earned. As you can see, Bolles has already surpassed more than a quarter of earning his entire contract.

But in 2021, the first official year of his extension, you can see how minimal his pay is, just $1 million. This is somewhat a misleading extreme, as this feature was designed more to keep Bolles’s 2021 cap number low. But when this view is paired with comparison at his peers at his position, it can be demonstrated that it will take him longer to earn his money. Of course, like with Mahomes, Bolles shouldn’t be begrudged for his decision to get the comfort of knowing where he’s going to play for the long term.

Preparing for free agency

As we see start to see news of new contracts trickle out 10 days from now, keep an eye on how these contracts measure up in cash flows. Typically, when you see an NFL insider explicitly report that a player will be paid $X in the first year, $Y over two years, $Z over three years, and so on, the source is coming from the agents’ side that is positive about how the cash will flow to the player. Similarly, whenever you hear a report that contains only the APY and/or guarantees, even if impressive, once we have the contract up on OTC double check to see how the cash flows stack up with other positional comparables. It might end up demonstrating that the player ceded ground on this metric in return.