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Two-Point Conversions: Look Into It

Over the course of the 2018 and 2019 seasons, kickers combined to make 94.1% of extra point attempts, meaning the Expected Points Added (EPA) for that play is 0.941.

During those same two seasons, the NFL’s two-point conversion rate was 49.4%, which is an EPA of 0.988.

With that data, we now know that two-point conversions have a higher EPA than extra points. The 2018 season was probably for the first time in NFL history that has been true as a consequence of the 2015 rule change that moved extra points from 20-yard attempts to 33-yard attempts.

NFL decision makers must understand their offense’s ability to convert two-point conversions and their kickers ability to do the same for one-pointers as a means for understanding how this applies to their team.

Generally speaking though, the data now tells us that going for two is more beneficial for going for one. How much so? And in how many cases? Well…

According to Pro Football Reference, during the 2019 season all but four kickers were under the EPA of a two-point conversion. Twelve kickers were below the league average, so 12 kickers were well below the league’s average EPA, which is well below the EPA of two-point conversions. Meaning: they really should’ve considered attempting more two-point conversions.

Adam Vinatieri missed six PATs in 12 games this season and was clearly not himself from the start of the year. The Colts attempted three two-point conversions. None of them were outside of late game situations where the analytics said they should do it from a points needed perspective. So they used analytics right in that aspect, just not fully.

Ka’imi Fairbairn missed five PATs for the Texans. The third-year player’s career average was already below the two-point conversion threshold at 93.4% heading into the season. Houston attempted one two-point conversion.

Considering the most PATs attempted were 49 by Wil Lutz of the Saints, a basically kicker has to hit 100% of his extra point attempts for his EPA to be higher than the two-point conversion EPA.

So, essentially, two-point conversions are almost always the right decision.

And as coaches continue to place more emphasis on the play, I imagine that offensive coaches will continue to push their efficiency upwards.

We should see a huge uptick in two-point conversions in 2020, but don’t hold your breath. As stated, the 2018 season was the first year where the two-point EPA exceeded the extra point EPA, but NFL teams attempted 17 less two-pointers in 2019.

So…will the old guard listen to the nerds and increase the number of two-point conversion attempts in 2020? Will an organization with a great offense and a bad kicker do something unconventional?

Maybe.

Zack Moore is a certified NFL agent, a writer for OverTheCap.com, as well as the author of “Caponomics: Building Super Bowl Champions,” a book that breaks down how Super Bowl champions are built in the NFL’s salary cap era and discusses how NFL front offices can best allocate resources to create successful teams.

You can follow him on Twitter at @ZackMooreNFL. You can subscribe to The Zack Moore Show podcast here. You can subscribe on YouTube here.

A Weekend at the College Gridiron Showcase in Fort Worth, Texas

Last weekend, I spent a few days up the road from Austin in Fort Worth checking out my friend Craig Redd’s College Gridiron Showcase, which he co-founded with Jose Jefferson. I’ve had a handful of meals and beers with Craig in New Jersey, oftentimes talking about this college all star showcase, so it was exciting to see the week play out in person.

After each day we would meet up to grab a drink and talk about the day’s events. Craig, being a former agent himself, would talk to me about my process I’m going through in determining how I’d fit in the reality of that industry, while I’d talk to Craig about their entire vision for the showcase and what makes it successful. It was a great learning experience that I am lucky to have had.

He excitedly told me that when he asked a scout from a successful NFC organization what he thought about the game and what he could improve, the scout said that he told this bigger all star game that CGS is doing everything that this other game should be doing. The process is sound from the scouts perspective, which was a welcome thing for Craig to hear.

That’s not to say that the other game is doing anything wrong because I don’t know, but Craig and Jose have worked with their team to knock out a lot of the fluff that surrounds college all star games, the main piece being the game. He says it is unnecessary as scouts oftentimes don’t even stick around for the game, having seen everything they needed to see in the practice portion. Preparing for the game takes time away from actual player performance as they have to take time out of practice to install an offense and defense, they also go through special teams periods.

The practices revolve around the players doing the normal warm ups of routes on air for receivers, cornerbacks work through backpedal drills that warm them up while illustrating hip dexterity and fluidity, and linemen move through their steps and get offs. They then come together with their counterparts on the other side of the ball for one-on-ones, which gives coaches and scouts what they want to see: a player’s ability to win against the man in front of him.

After one-on-ones they come together for a natural 7-on-7 period, then it goes into team. They hold scrimmages at the end of each group’s week with players playing off of cue cards, rather than going through the full installation.

Prospects are separated into three groups. Over the weekend was the small school group named the Marshals, then started the Desperados who were the second tier, while the Wranglers were the first tier of prospects. Players from the small school group and Desperados could move their way up to the Wranglers group at the request of scouts. Sixteen players from the Marshals group were moved up after the small school days on the weekend.

Three of the players that moved their way up to the Desperados group from the Marshals group who impressed me as well were wide receivers Daylon Person from Langton and JoJo Gause from IUP, plus running back Jaquan Hemphill from Hardin Simmons.

Players from the Wranglers who impressed me were wide receivers as well as being a former receiver leads to my eyes always being curious as to what they’re doing.

Sean Riley Jr. from Syracuse moves in a way that immediately tells you he’s likely the most fluid athlete on the field from the moment you see him warming up.

RJ Turner, a graduate student from Texas Tech after a four-year career at Louisiana-Monroe, performed exactly as I’d expect one of the better receivers in the Big 12 to perform. He’s 6’2″, 215-pounds and feels like he plays a little bigger in an Anquan Bolden style.

Dontavion “Lucky” Jackson from Western Kentucky had the kind of shake that I expected out of him at the line of scrimmage, which led to quarterbacks having big windows to throw through.

Safety Sam Franklin Jr. from Temple seemed to be a terrific athlete with the build to contribute at the next level.

The Regulators are the special teamers, who had their own separate showcase on Wednesday between scrimmages for the Desperados and Marshalls. This kept scouts at the field, watching special teamers, and giving them a platform that other games don’t provide.

They also have kicking coach Mike McCabe there to facilitate that whole Regulators program, which is a very positive relationship for the CGS and McCabe.

Craig, Mike, and myself.

Maybe even more importantly than the on field showcase is that the event clearly has an atmosphere that’s conducive to players and scouts meeting. While position groups at the biggest all star game in the sport, the Senior Bowl, are scheduled to meet as a group with the scouts having limited time to speak with each individual, the CGS gives scouts as much time as they need. It’s a much more laid back environment.

Again, this isn’t to bash other games, but to illuminate the benefits the game provides for players. It’s especially important because the CGS is targeting the later round prospects, the players that scouts want to see in one-on-one scenarios and want to meet with to learn more about their psyche.

Craig has big goals for the game in Fort Worth. He understands the value the game provides in terms of hotel rooms, economic activity, and attention. Goals are to continue to grow it in this growing city inside the DFW metroplex, which is the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the US with over 7.5 million citizens, while providing the city of Fort Worth something to call their own on the heels of their Armed Forces Bowl as the new year kicks off every January.

The CGS team is committed to continuing to make adjustments to the game to better serve the players who attend it. I had a great time learning about the thoughts that go into such an event and I look forward to attending next year.

Zack Moore is a certified NFL agent, a writer for OverTheCap.com, as well as the author of “Caponomics: Building Super Bowl Champions,” a book that breaks down how Super Bowl champions are built in the NFL’s salary cap era and discusses how NFL front offices can best allocate resources to create successful teams.

You can follow him on Twitter at @ZackMooreNFL. You can subscribe to The Zack Moore Show podcast here. You can subscribe on YouTube here.

Richard Sherman’s Contract is Still a Bad Contract

Richard Sherman went on a tweet storm today because he hit his incentives and now wants to tell everyone who doubted him that the $9 million per year contract he signed is a good contract.

Not every agent gets the best contract they can get for their player, which is a part of his argument. Not every agent is that qualified. Plenty of agents get draft picks because they’re ready to pay for training or they’re good at networking, not because they’re contract experts.

Not every agent being very good is a fair assumption. I agree. But most are pretty good. And all of them are more competent than Richard Sherman.

My real issue with the rant is that he called out Joe Thomas for correctly stating that Pro Football Focus’ cornerback of the decade got duped into signing a three-year prove it deal without visiting any other teams because his ego was enticed by the potential of playing the Seattle Seahawks twice a season and negotiating his own contract.

The soon to be 30-year old Sherman was coming off a torn Achilles, but he was still considered a top cornerback and was on his way to being named the top cornerback of the decade, a real insight into the kind of player he has been. That has value, despite the torn Achilles, he was on the road to a comeback.

Just like fellow Legion of Boom brethren Earl Thomas was considered a top safety when he went down with a broken leg, then David Mulugheta of Athlete’s First signed him to a near market setting $13.75 million per year deal.

The torn Achilles doesn’t excuse him though. This is a bad contract.

It was essentially a prove-it deal. It still is.

He received $9 million per year with a $3 million signing bonus. The average per year and the $5 million signing bonus are below what Aqib Talib signed…in 2014, at 28 years old himself. Granted, $2 million was guaranteed after passing a physical, which he knew he would pass, so let’s say $5 million was guaranteed. It’s essentially what a lesser player, who wasn’t coming off an injury, signed four years earlier, not something to brag about.

The $3 million signing bonus means he could have been cut by a team with a ton of cap space with just a $2 million consequence this year. It was essentially $8.8 million in cash in year one to get the right to play for a hard to reach potential $13.05 million per year over the life of the contract.

Sherman had only $7 million in salary for this year, year two. If he got injured, there goes the $2 million roster bonus right away.

A number he essentially only reaches if he plays at an AP All-Pro level every year, plays 90% of snaps, makes the Pro Bowl, and plays every game. The contract’s per game roster bonuses total $2 million in each season. Which means $125,000 is tied to him being active every game, so if he had any issues coming back from the injury, he would’ve lost out on that money.

So he signed a one-year prove it deal that’s three year built in earnings puts him in the much less prestigious slot cornerback or wide receiver market (that $9 million area) for the right to be paid as what would now be the 10th highest paid cornerback for hitting All Pro level incentives.

The deal is more like an $11 million per year deal if he hits everything else, but doesn’t play like an All Pro.

The same offseason Sherman negotiated this deal, Donte Moncrief got a one-year prove-it deal with the Jaguars for $9.6 million guaranteed. Devin Funchess got $10 million from the Colts this year with $7 million guaranteed.

The only guarantee that Richard Sherman got was his $3 million signing bonus.

And if Sherman wasn’t playing well, they just would have cut him. So it was a one-year prove it deal with $8.8 million in cash for year one for all intents and purposes. One-year prove it deals for top talent are worth much more than that in cash.

Talk about protecting yourself and maximizing your value!

According to Over The Cap, he was the most valuable cornerback in the NFL in 2019 with a production value of $14.7 million. So he produced at this top of market level, while busting his ass to get incentives that will just pay him what he should have signed for. And he won’t reach those incentives every year.

Even if you’re coming off an Achilles injury, as one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL in a market where Trumaine Johnson and Josh Norman had earned $14.5 and $15 million per year in years prior, you’re supposed to get $13 million per year. You’re not supposed to have to keep proving you’re one of the best players in the league to earn that.

Sherman also said he spent ten to 12 hours researching contracts to prepare for his negotiation.

From article:

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You think 12 hours is doing the research?!

If you’re going to try to negotiate with Paraag Marathe of 49ers with 12 hours of practice, you’re going to get beat. You might not know how, but somewhere important he’s going to win. He’s going to do it to almost anyone.

Marathe and his team told him if he wanted a deal done today and a sure thing, this was what they would offer him. He took it. He made a few calls around, but didn’t take any visits.

They pressured him into it and he took what amounted to a one-year prove-it deal with two years tacked on that are all far under the market value of someone who had already proven to be one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL and could be again if healthy.

If you liked this article and want to learn more about the salary cap and contracts, my book Caponomics: Building Super Bowl Champions is available for $14.99 on Amazon.

Zack Moore is a certified NFL agent, a writer for OverTheCap.com and OnnitGymMMA.com, as well as the author of “Caponomics: Building Super Bowl Champions,” a book that breaks down how Super Bowl champions are built in the NFL’s salary cap era and discusses how NFL front offices can best allocate resources to create successful teams.

You can follow him on Twitter at @ZackMooreNFL. You can subscribe to The Zack Moore Show podcast here. You can subscribe on YouTube here.

The Potential of a Kirk Cousins Extension in Minnesota

My friend Andy Carlson had me on his Purple FTW! Podcast to discuss the potential for a Kirk Cousins extension with Minnesota. I go into detail regarding his performance this year, the quarterback market, and the way his three-year guaranteed contract structure could re-shape the way quarterback deals are negotiated.

Andy and I will be working together moving forward to craft more YouTube videos of this kind of quality thanks to Andy’s terrific editing and production skills.

If you want to listen on iTunes, you can click through here. SoundCloud here.

Cousins’ signed for $28 million per year with his 2018 contract and the market is now at $35 million per year with Russell Wilson’s deal that was signed just 13 months later.

Rather than being on a traditional five-year contract that would have him asking for an extension after three years, he’s in a position to demand whatever he pleases.

My perspective is that, considering the Vikings are currently projected to be $10 million over the 2020 salary cap with three or four free agent defensive backs they will have to make decisions on re-signing, he could agree to an extension for $35 million per year guaranteed starting in 2021.

The contract would be a simple extension tacked on to the last year of his previous contract, but guarantee him $105 million more, which would benefit the Vikings in terms of securing him below the $40 million or more that he might demand in free agency in 2021 after Dak Prescott, Patrick Mahomes, and/or Deshaun Watson agree to new terms and push the market even higher.

As Jason Fitzgerald pointed out, the benefit of waiting to make it to 2021 could be substantial for Cousins. As many as 14 or 15 teams could need quarterbacks.

Another factor in this decision for Cousins is what is important to him. He has played in a bad organization before with the team from Washington DC and has expressed his desire to win. Minnesota is a strong organization from the front office to the coaching staff that can be relied on to put him and his team in position to succeed.

By the conclusion of the 2020 season, Cousins will have made $130.5 million in on field earnings. It’s up to him to decide what he wants next.

Zack Moore is a certified NFL agent, a writer for OverTheCap.com and OnnitGymMMA.com, as well as the author of “Caponomics: Building Super Bowl Champions,” a book that breaks down how Super Bowl champions are built in the NFL’s salary cap era and discusses how NFL front offices can best allocate resources to create successful teams.

You can follow him on Twitter at @ZackMooreNFL. You can subscribe to The Zack Moore Show podcast here. You can subscribe on YouTube here.

The Ravens New School Smash Mouth Style of Offense Versus Belichick’s Team Building Model

As a preview for this week’s Sunday Night Football match-up with the Patriots at the Ravens, I wrote an article for Baltimore Sports and Life. John Harbaugh and Greg Roman believe their offensive system may be the next evolution in offensive football, which I can believe, especially after the success over the first seven games of this season.

But the great test for any idea is a battle with Bill Belichick. This year, it’s an especially hard test as his defense has been constructed using team building principles that he’s been using forever. He constantly finds low-cost veterans to build an experienced and intelligent roster, which is allowing for his defense to be incredibly multiple and aggressive this season. This has led to a historic season through eight games.

Lamar Jackson and his Ravens offense will try to change the course of history this Sunday.

Read the article or listen/watch the podcast at the links below.

Article

iTunes Link

YouTube Link

Zack Moore is a certified NFL agent, a writer for OverTheCap.com and OnnitGymMMA.com, as well as the author of “Caponomics: Building Super Bowl Champions,” a book that breaks down how Super Bowl champions are built in the NFL’s salary cap era and discusses how NFL front offices can best allocate resources to create successful teams.

You can follow him on Twitter at @ZackMooreNFL. You can subscribe to The Zack Moore Show podcast here.

Ravens Thoughts After the Marcus Peters Acquisition

Two weeks ago, I wrote another article for the team at Baltimore Sports and Life, then I did a follow up podcast about it as well last week.

With the Patriots at Ravens on Sunday Night, this article and podcast seem especially relevent.

I’ll have a piece on how both teams were constructed available on Baltimore Sports and Life later this week.

Article Link

Podcast Link

Zack Moore is a certified NFL agent, a writer for OverTheCap.com and OnnitGymMMA.com, as well as the author of “Caponomics: Building Super Bowl Champions,” a book that breaks down how Super Bowl champions are built in the NFL’s salary cap era and discusses how NFL front offices can best allocate resources to create successful teams.

You can follow him on Twitter at @ZackMooreNFL. You can subscribe to The Zack Moore Show podcast here.

The Atlanta Falcons Prepare to Enter Salary Cap Hell in 2020

As the Falcons fell to 1-6 with the 37-10 loss to a Rams team that was on a three game skid, I was inspired to turn towards 2020 to look at how this Falcons team and their terrible defense can potentially make a change.

Currently, they’re slated to be $8.7 million over the cap and largely because of some massive investments at the top of their salary cap. And that’s before you take into account the $9.6 million team is currently projected to spend on their 2020 draft picks.

Matt Ryan and Julio Jones will consume 27% of their cap in 2020. Steve Young and Jerry Rice set the Super Bowl record for a champion’s Top 2 cap expenses at 21.84% in 1994. Young’s cap hit of 13.1% is the highest cap hit for any Super Bowl champion in the 25 seasons of the salary cap era.

An astute 49ers organization re-signed 17 players in December 1993 to avoid the cap, so they kind of cheated the cap. This makes Matt Ryan’s 16.8% cap hit, and the QB market rates in general, even more crazy.

If you add Jake Matthews, Grady Jarrett, and Desmond Trufant, the Falcons top 5 cap hits will consume 50.6% of the cap. The Super Bowl record was set by the 2002 Bucs. Warren Sapp, Brad Johnson, Simeon Rice, Derrick Brooks, and Jeff Christy combined for 38.4% of the cap.

If you add Alex Mack, Deion Jones, Devonta Freeman, Mohammad Sanu, and Ricardo Allen, the Falcons top 10 cap hits consume a shocking 73.6% of the cap.

The 2015 Broncos have the cap era record for champions in spending 62.3% of the cap on Peyton Manning, Demaryius Thomas, Ryan Clady, Von Miller, Demarcus Ware, Aqib Talib, Louis Vasquez, Emmanuel Sanders, and Chris Harris, Jr.

Demaryius Thomas’ cap hit of 9.2% is the record for wide receivers and #2 cap hits on champions. Jones’ cap hit of 10.2% will be a percentage point higher.

When you consider why the Falcons defense is so horrible, you can look towards the low-percentage situation they’ve put themselves in. They were heavily reliant on too many low-probability things working out for them.

For offensive skill players, Ryan, Jones, Freeman, and Sanu consume 35.8% of the cap. Add Matthews and Mack, the team has 49% invested in six veteran offensive players. The team spent a first round pick in 2018 on another receiver, Calvin Ridley. There is so much invested in this offense and it has impacted the defense.

Over the last two seasons, an organization that has known defense was a weakness since their Super Bowl loss to the Patriots, has invested three first round picks in offensive players over the last two years: Ridley, plus linemen Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary.

In the five drafts since 2015, the team has only had 32 draft picks, that’s eight less than the league average. Eight less opportunities to draft defensive players and instead have to take a larger chance on an undrafted player.

The team has become fully committed to their strategy for success: pass for more production than anyone else. It’s a valid idea for a strategy for success, but we’ve already seen Drew Brees play out this 7-9 reality when his defenses were terrible from 2012 through 2016.

It feels like some tough decisions should have been made over the last couple years like recognizing the crazy investment totals in 2020 and the likely need to trade Julio Jones who wanted a new contract.

He’s having a good season by anyone’s standards, but before this week, he’s already a bad value for the team as he’s produced about $12 million in value versus his $22 million average per year. That’s $22 million number is based on the player Jones was in his late-20s, the end of a receivers prime years. It’s not based in the reality of who he will be in the future.

Trufant is producing $9.4 million in value below his contract value, so two big investments aren’t working out great. Add the rest of the group in though too. Jarrett, Mack, Allen, Ryan, Matthews, Freeman, and Deion Jones are all producing below their value. Sanu is the only player in the Top 10 producing more than his contract value.

This is just an unfortunate truth of NFL contracts. Most second contracts will be proven to be bad values by Jason’s standard because of the extremely undervalued prices of everyone who basically contributes at all while on a rookie contract.

What the organization seemed to fail to recognize in all of this is the value that Kyle Shanahan provided to the organization during that 2016 season. Ryan and Jones had similarly massive cap hits during that year, but because of that trademark Shanahan offense, he was able to pull out the most extreme value out of that offense. The defense was still poor, but Shanahan made their offense the NFL’s highest scoring, not just the most prolific at passing.

That offense was ranked fifth in rushing with Freeman and Tevin Coleman leading an attack that ran for 4.6 per carry, rather than the 3.8 it’s churning at this year. It’s no secret that the Shanahan offense is terrific.

Even with Shanahan though, this 2020 team would be in a lot of trouble. The issue with spending $146.7 million on your Top 10 is an over-reliance on accepting sub-optimal players on the rest of the roster due to costs. Atlanta already has $3 million in dead money costs next year with potentially more dead money charges to come considering the need to get under the cap next year.

If the salary cap is $200 million, the Falcons have $51 million, or just 25.5% of the cap, to spend on the 43 other roster spots. That’s just $1.19 million or 0.59% of the cap per player to invest.

The team currently has just 40 players under contract AND they’re already projected to be over by $18.3 million when factoring in draft picks!

After the Top 10 players, the team has 12 players making over $1 million. When factoring in those 12 players, the Top 22 cap hits for the Falcons consume all but $1.95 million of a $200 million cap.

So an NFL team has 53 players on a roster, the Falcons are spending $198.05 million on 22 players, plus dead money. This leaves the team with $1.95 million for 31 players, which leaves $62,903 per player.

If the team does a complete fire sale and moves on from Mack, Freeman, Sanu, Allen, Keanu Neal, and Allen Bailey, that saves $32.125 million, which brings that total to $34.075 million in cap space. That’s still just $1.1 million per player, which, especially considering all the talent they’d be ridding themselves of in that scenario, likely makes them one of the worst teams in the NFL next year.

I have no idea what the Falcons are going to do to right the ship right now and I don’t think they do either.

Welcome to salary cap hell. We’ve been waiting for you.

Zack Moore is a certified NFL agent, a writer for OverTheCap.com and OnnitGymMMA.com, as well as the author of “Caponomics: Building Super Bowl Champions,” a book that breaks down how Super Bowl champions are built in the NFL’s salary cap era and discusses how NFL front offices can best allocate resources to create successful teams.

You can follow him on Twitter at @ZackMooreNFL. You can subscribe to The Zack Moore Show podcast here.