Michael Thomas and the New Orleans Saints are about four million apart on average per year according to Jeff Duncan from NOLA.com. Thomas and his representation team led by Andrew Kessler of Athletes First are asking for $22 million per year, while the Saints are offering $18 million for the wide receiver going into his fourth season of a second round rookie contract that sees him set to earn just $1.15 million in salary this upcoming season.
As many of you have probably noticed, we had over the last year begun to add contract history sections to the player pages. While we are still working through these we wanted to introduce a new feature for the start of free agency that allows you to view how all these contracts throughout the salary cap era compare with each other in terms of value and guarantees and more importantly a new concept of an inflated APY (IAPY) of inflated total guarantee (ITG).
The inflated APY and guarantee gives us the ability to better compare contracts across eras by adjusting the contract’s value from the time in was signed to today’s $188.2 million salary cap by determining the value as a percentage of the salary cap in the year it was signed and then converting that to the IAPY and ITG. This can help identify trends that have occured in the sport such as how guarantees have generally gotten larger while APYs may have been reduced or what positions have historically been considered more valuable than they are now.
To view the tables simply select a position and it will take you to the big list of players with some contract metrics in which you can rank the contract. The default order is the IAPY but you can click on a column to sort by any of the valuation metrics listed. Active players will have their rows shaded green to quickly identify a current from a historical contract. I personally think this should be a great tool for free agency and for those trying to negotiate contracts for players when trying to best put the value of the player in the context of the growing salary cap.
These lists are certainly by no means complete so if you see a player you would like to see a history for or notice a major mistake just let us know and well look to update. At the moment you can access the page from our other features section or you can just bookmark the page for quick reference. If you have any other thoughts for OTC or how to improve on this please share as well.
When I began writing this article, the Khalil Mack rumors appeared to be nothing more than a pipe dream. No one really believed the Raiders would trade one of the best defensive players in the NFL, but here we are. Without getting into the details of the trade and Mack’s monster contract (which I will do soon), I want to look at a guy who will benefit greatly from Mack’s presence on the defense. DT Eddie Goldman’s ability to take on offensive linemen is even more crucial now with an elite edge rusher on the roster.
Bears GM Ryan Pace has been known to extend his guys before entering the final season of their contract, and communication between Eddie Goldman’s camp and the Bears has reportedly been productive. One thing immediately stuck out when looking for comparable players for Chicago Bears DT Eddie Goldman; he is still only 24 years old and doesn’t turn 25 until after the 2018 regular season. A second-round draft pick out of Florida State in 2015, Goldman took a major leap this past season after injuries limited him to just six games in 2016. He appeared in 15 games and contributed on 57.5% of the Bears defensive plays, battling opposing interior offensive lines alongside Akiem Hicks. Hicks was rewarded for his outstanding play with a four-year, $48 million extension on September 9, 2017. One year later, is Eddie about to cash in too?
Goldman’s role is mainly as a run stuffing nose tackle, but in his rookie season he had 5 sacks, showing he’s certainly capable of getting after the quarterback. A nagging ankle injury derailed much of his sophomore campaign, but he never needed surgery and was able to get proper rest once the Bears were no longer in contention. Goldman showed just the type of dynamic player he can be in 2017, and with presumably more growth ahead for the 24-year-old, the Bears would be smart to lock him up long term.
According to Pro Football Reference, Goldman had 27 solo tackles and 17 assists in 2017, both career highs by double digits. While his sacks dipped to just 1.5 in 2017, Goldman made his presence felt in the backfield with 3 more tackles for loss. Basic statistics are not always the best way to measure a position such as nose tackle, as they can be hard to come by.
The Quant Edge is a goldmine of advanced data, including an “Injury Impact Tool” that shows the effect on a team that comes from an individual player being on the field or off it (I highly recommend checking out the site, it is a great new resource for NFL fans). The table below shows Bears opponents’ average yards per carry during Eddie Goldman’s “In Splits” and “Out of Splits.”
In 2016 when Goldman missed ten games with an ankle injury, opponents’ yards per carry rose over a yard from 3.59 to 4.63 yards per carry. This trend continued in 2017 when Goldman played over half of the defensive snaps. Other immeasurable data, such as how Goldman’s presence on the field frees up pass rushers like Akiem Hicks, paints a more complete picture of Eddie’s contribution to the Chicago Bears. Goldman now commands the respect of opposing offensive lines, and if he pulls double teams this season then Hicks, Leonard Floyd, and brand-new Bear Khalil Mack will be getting after the quarterback quite often. Additionally, Goldman’s relationship with Bears DC Vic Fangio is very strong, as he had many kind words to share with the media when Fangio chose to stay in Chicago this offseason.
Goldman’s importance in Chicago is clear; determining his market requires a look around the league, and it is a bit foggy. With Goldman being a 2015 draft pick he still has a year left on his deal, so there are no comparable players from his draft class that have received new contracts (Malcom Brown and Danny Shelton were the only DTs drafted ahead of him). The next issue with finding comps is that 3-4 DTs and 4-3 DTs are technically different positions. However, the NFL considers all DTs the same when it comes to determining franchise tag amounts, so I am going to include 4-3 DTs. The players I have used to compare with Eddie Goldman, for varying reasons, are Beau Allen, Star Lotulelei and Timmy Jernigan.
The below table is the average playtime percentages and cumulative stats for the two years preceding when these players signed their current contracts:
Beau Allen is a 26-year-old, 4-3 DT for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Allen was a seventh-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2014 NFL Draft out of Wisconsin. Allen was given a three-year, $15 million contract by the Bucs on March 15, 2018. The Eagles defensive line is arguably the best in the NFL, so Allen electing to sign as a free agent with the Bucs was a different situation than Eddie Goldman’s. Nevertheless, they have both worked to maximize their limited opportunities, Goldman because of injury and Allen because of a steep depth chart. Allen is the biggest special teams contributor of the group, but has the fewest sacks per game by a good margin. It is fair to wonder what the impact was on Beau Allen playing with one of the best DTs in the league in Fletcher Cox, although Jernigan was obviously in the same position. Allen’s deal will serve as our floor.
Star Lotulelei at 28 years old is quite a bit older than Goldman which complicates the comparison, but he just signed his second NFL contract for five years, $50 million on March 15, 2018 with the Buffalo Bills. Lotulelei was playing under his fifth-year option in 2017 in Carolina, as he was the Panthers’ first round draft pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Lotulelei is on the field a ton both on defense and in special teams and plays a more similar role to Eddie Goldman than the other two comps. Here are Lotulelei’s In-Splits and Out-of-Splits:
Lotulelei clogged up the middle against the run and created space for Carolina’s great edge rushers on the outside. He certainly had proven more in his career before signing his latest contract, but Eddie Goldman will likely be signing a third contract by the time he turns 28. Given Goldman’s youth and potential, I think Lotulelei’s $10 million APY could be a benchmark used in negotiations by Goldman’s representation.
Finally, Timmy Jernigan will serve as our ceiling. Jernigan is a 25-year-old, 4-3 DT for the Philadelphia Eagles. He was drafted in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft out of Florida State (sound familiar?) by the Baltimore Ravens and was traded to Philadelphia going into 2017. About two months into the 2017 season, on November 10, Jernigan was given a four-year, $48 million contract extension. Jernigan’s 10 sacks and 13 tackles for loss in the two seasons prior to his current contract show how he can get into the backfield and disrupt an offense. While the Eagles obviously regret very little about their 2017 season, they might regret giving Jernigan an early extension. Jernigan underwent back surgery for a herniated disc this offseason and is on the Eagles’ Non-Football Injury list heading into 2018, meaning he will miss at least the first six games of the season. This is essentially the risk you take with an early extension. It enables teams to negotiate a more team-friendly contract but opens them up to paying a player earlier than necessary who ends up injured. This may be on the minds of Ryan Pace and the Bears front office.
Following the Bears’ trade for Khalil Mack and his subsequent massive extension, the Bears have $6,255,556 in cap space according to OverTheCap.com. Goldman’s 2018 Cap number is currently $1,809,282. Taking a look at Jernigan’s contract, I predict the Bears will try to structure Goldman’s the same way for 2018:
The base salary from Jernigan’s final year of his rookie deal was not changed in the extension, so the $2 million proration of his $10 million signing bonus (additional $376,891 is remainder of original signing bonus) was the only additional money added to his 2017 Cap Number. The Bears will attempt to mirror this in Goldman’s extension.
At 24, Eddie Goldman will have a great opportunity for “another bite at the apple.” We saw above that Star Lotulelei just signed a five-year, $50 million deal at 28. For this reason, I think four new years on an extension will be the maximum Goldman’s camp is looking for. Lastly, throughout this offseason, far before Khalil Mack, Ryan Pace has shown he is willing to pay a premium for top end talent that he believes in. Trey Burton, Taylor Gabriel, and Allen Robinson all came with several question marks. Limited roles, injuries, etc. Eddie Goldman has his own injury history, but he also has a huge leg up on all of those guys; Goldman was Ryan Pace’s second ever draft pick as General Manager. Oh, and the first? Kevin White, who is effectively still making his Bears debut this Sunday, playing in his sixth NFL game. This deal is a win-win for all parties.
Look for a Goldman extension in the four year/$44 million range, with an $8 million signing bonus and $20 million fully guaranteed at signing (so Bears will have $4,255,556 in 2018 Cap Space). Ryan Pace likes to guarantee base salary, so approximately $7-8 million total could be guaranteed for Goldman’s 2019 and 2020 seasons. Lastly, Pace also employs March roster bonuses; the remaining $4-5 million guaranteed at signing could be in 2019 and 2020 roster bonuses.
Here is Akiem Hicks’ contract extension from last season for reference to Pace’s style:
The contract stalemates between Sam Darnold and the Jets and Roquan Smith of the Bears have certainly been discussed a lot in recent days as neither was signed at the start of training camp. Darnold’s contract issue has been resolved and he is now practicing with the Jets while Smith is still unsigned in Chicago. At the center of both players contract disputes is nothing financial in nature but instead the mechanisms to protect guaranteed salary. Continue reading Voiding of Guarantees »
With the rookie wage scale effectively eliminating bargaining ability for draftees, players seeking their second NFL contract often come to the negotiating table with big demands after feeling undervalued for their first four (or five) years in the league. This year there are plenty of veteran camp holdouts that want to boost their current contracts such as Julio Jones and Earl Thomas, but this article takes a closer look at the guys that have yet to sign a truly negotiated contract in their young careers.
Being selected in the first round of the NFL Draft can become a double-edged sword with the fifth-year option, which provides teams with an incredibly valuable tool to retain top talent at a discounted price. For first rounders, the initial rookie deals are far superior to those of their counterparts taken later in the draft. However, these later round players can then get a seat at the negotiating table for their second contract a whole season earlier. Teams exercising the fifth-year option is very similar to tagging a player; the player receives a fully guaranteed, one-year contract that is based off the market at their respective position.
As we’ll see with the first holdout below, although Le’Veon Bell was a second-round pick and thus not subject to the fifth-year option, he has now been franchise tagged in consecutive seasons. Monday, July 16th was the deadline for franchise tagged players to reach an agreement with their team on a new contract. A deal didn’t come to fruition for any of the remaining players that had received a franchise tag for the 2018 season (Bell, Detroit Lion Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah, Dallas Cowboy Demarcus Lawrence, and LA Ram Lamarcus Joyner).
Here is where the top holdouts currently stand:
RB Top 10 APY – $14,544,000 – $5,083,333 (Bell only one over $8.25 million)
Le’Veon Bell (Steelers): Franchise Tag – 2018 Salary Cap Charge: $14,544,000
% of 2018 Team Cap: 8.04%
Fully Guaranteed Money: $14,544,000
Steelers Cap Space: $5,483,820
For the second offseason in a row Le’Veon Bell has chosen to holdout from attending the Pittsburgh Steelers OTA’s after the club placed another franchise tag on him for the 2018-2019 season. Bell is set to make $14,544,000 this season on the tag, which by rule must be 120% of the previous year’s salary. The money becomes fully guaranteed whenever Bell signs the tag.
Le’Veon believes he should not be paid as a pure running back, and that any reference to the running back market is a mischaracterization of his contributions on the field. He may have a point: on top of leading the NFL in rushing attempts in 2017 with 321, Bell was also 10th in the league in receptions with 85, just 3 fewer than Julio Jones. Bell had 60 more offensive touches than the second highest player, LeSean Mccoy, who had 346 to Bell’s 406.
Bell had reportedly been seeking somewhere in the $17 million APY range on a five-year deal with a signing bonus in the $15-$20 million range to maximize his upfront cash flow. Last season’s biggest sticking point for Bell was guaranteed money, which the Steelers historically are not willing to shell out (Antonio Brown’s 2017 extension converted P5 base salary to signing bonus and includes multiple roster bonuses, but not a dollar of P5 base salary is guaranteed).
Bell had shifted his focus accordingly, but ultimately the two sides were unable to reach a long-term deal before the deadline on Monday, which prompted Le’Veon’s agent to say that this is likely his last season in Pittsburgh. At 26 years old for a running back there is probably one good payday left, and Bell clearly knows this. He aims to maximize his next deal which apparently will come next offseason from a team other than the Steelers.
43DE Top 10 APY – $17,143,000 – $9,125,000
Khalil Mack (Raiders): 2018 Salary Cap Charge: $13,846,000
% of 2018 Team Cap: 7.61%
10/71 at 43DE
Fully Guaranteed Money: $13,846,000 – Fifth Year Option
Raiders Cap Space: $2,342,599
In 2015, Mack became the first player in NFL history to be named an AP All-Pro at two positions in a single season; defensive end and outside linebacker. Following this historic achievement and consistently elite production, the Raiders obviously chose to execute Mack’s fifth-year option, and that brings us to present day. For top ten draft picks, the fifth-year option salary amount is equal to the transition tag at the player’s position during his fourth season (so 2017 defensive end in this case, full list here).
As Khalil Mack watched the Raiders organization shell out a 10-year, $100 million deal to new head coach Jon Gruden, there is no question he wondered why some of that money wasn’t coming his way. Six months later, as Gruden & Co. have made so many head scratching moves it could lead to hair loss, Mack and the Raiders are no closer on reaching a deal. Mack is set to play this season on his fifth-year option of $13,846,000 and become a free agent heading into 2019. The two sides allegedly are not close because of what Joel Corry of CBS Sports describes as “sticker shock” in a recent article. As the quarterback market has continued to grow exponentially over the past year, the non-QB market has not kept up the pace. Mack and fellow 2014 draft-pick-turned-superstar Aaron Donald are not interested in topping the current market, they’re interested in blowing the roof off it. Additionally, although they don’t play the same position, they may be engaged in a game of chicken, as whoever signs a new deal first provides the other with the ability to use that contract as a benchmark.
As we saw with the quarterbacks, particularly Kirk Cousins, guaranteed money is a major focus in contract negotiations this offseason. Olivier Vernon and Von Miller have the premier defensive end/outside linebacker contracts, with Vernon receiving $40.5 million fully guaranteed and Miller $42 million fully guaranteed at signing. Cousins and recently-extended Matt Ryan both have double that amount fully guaranteed, with $84 million and $94.5 million respectively. Khalil Mack’s camp is likely doing all they can to anchor guaranteed money negotiations closer to the recent quarterback numbers than to the top defensive player numbers.
34DE Top 10 APY – $16,666,667 – $7,000,000
Aaron Donald (Rams): 2018 Salary Cap Charge: $6,892,000
% of 2018 Team Cap: 3.85%
7/49 at 34DE
Fully Guaranteed Money: $6,892,000 – Fifth Year Option
Age – 27
Rams Cap Space: $2,206,614
It is not an exaggeration to say that if Aaron Donald ends up playing for his fifth-year option amount of $6,892,000 in 2018 it may be one of the more underpaid seasons for a premier player in NFL history following the standard four-year rookie deal (more on this later). The fifth-year option for a first-rounder outside of the top ten is calculated by taking the average of the 3rd through 25th highest salaries at the player’s position, in this case defensive tackle. Coming off Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2017, it still does not appear that Donald is going to receive the payday he deserves.
The Rams front office have shown with several offseason moves that they are certainly aware of how good they have it with Donald right now, and that they must capitalize before he gets a likely record-setting deal. With only 3.85% of the 2018 Team Cap allocated to Donald, and with Jared Goff, Todd Gurley and Marcus Peters still playing on their rookie deals, the Rams have gone all-in for 2018. The trade for cornerback Aqib Talib, who is set to make $8 million this season, bolsters a secondary that was exposed at times last year. The acquisition of Ndamukong Suh on a one year, $14 million deal creates one of the scariest defensive tackle combos of all time. The franchise tagging of Lamarcus Joyner to avoid negotiating a big, long-term payday for now… I could keep going. All of this is possible because of Donald’s fifth-year option.
Donald deserves a monster contract, a fact he is keenly aware of, but he may have to forego getting it now for a very legitimate chance at a Super Bowl ring instead. There is not much money left to dish out in LA at this point.
WR Top 10 APY – $17,000,000 – $14,000,000
Odell Beckham Jr. (Giants): 2018 Salary Cap Charge: $8,459,000
% of 2018 Team Cap: 4.77%
Fully Guaranteed Money: $8,459,000
Age – 25
Giants Cap Space: $7,288, 664
Honorable Mention goes to Odell Beckham Jr., although it now appears he is going to participate fully in team activities. Coming off a season-ending injury in 2017 likely hurt Beckham Jr.’s bargaining power, but he has made it known he expects to be paid big money soon.
Let’s get back to this pesky fifth-year option, often a common thread seen every year with camp holdouts. What can first round draft picks do to avoid it?
Khalil Mack, Aaron Donald, and Odell Beckham Jr. were all taken in the 2014 NFL Draft, and after remarkable starts to their careers they have all fallen prey to the exploitation of the fifth-year option. Beckham Jr. went 12th overall, Aaron Donald 13th, and then went a guy who did not have the same issue this offseason: Kyle Fuller at 14th overall to the Chicago Bears.
This is admittedly somewhat of a conspiracy theory, and although there can be huge upside, it is likely too risky a move to pull in the NFL… but bear with me here (no pun intended). Kyle Fuller looked like a rising star in his first two seasons with Chicago, then in year three the injury bug reared its ugly head (or did it?). Fuller didn’t play a snap in 2016 following a routine knee scope operation and there were rumblings, some coming from inside the organization, that he was healthy enough to have played at some point. Chicago has never won more than six games in the four years Fuller has been on the team, so his presence in year three of a rebuild (“rebuild” may be putting it nicely) would not have made a difference in the team’s overall success. After the 2016 season the Bears chose to decline Fuller’s fifth-year option for 2018 as concern arose about his desire to play in Chicago, injury concerns, or perhaps his toughness. After an outstanding 2017 season, and with zero returning starters at corner, the Bears were set on retaining Fuller… and now they had to pay top dollar. Did Fuller hold out of 2016 on purpose to avoid the fifth-year option and get a head start on his second contract? It is easy to say “of course not, because if he got hurt in 2017 than this huge gamble would have turned into a disaster.” Perhaps.
Chicago Bears GM Ryan Pace decided to place the rarely-used transition tag on Fuller for 2018, guaranteeing $12.971 million for 2018 and providing Chicago with the “right of first refusal” to match any offer sheet the player may agree to with another team. A few weeks later, after Fuller signed an offer sheet with the rival Green Bay Packers, the Bears matched. Fuller received $18 million fully guaranteed in his four-year, $56 million deal. Mack, Donald, and Beckham Jr. will certainly surpass that amount barring something catastrophic happening this season, but for now it is Kyle Fuller that is in the best financial position. I’m not suggesting this is a route that rookies take to avoid the fifth-year option, nor am I suggesting that this is what happened, but it did work out pretty darn well for Fuller.
It was just three years ago that Julio Jones agreed to a five year contract extension worth $14.25 million a season with the Falcons and now he is looking for an “update” to his contract, despite having three years remaining on the contract. I think it’s a good situation to examine and a good illustration as to why some players should consider thinking outside the box when it comes to contracts. Continue reading Julio Jones, “Updated” Contracts, and Contract Decisions »
I thought it would be worthwhile to look at the players who are making the most or least of their free agent season. For this week we will look at the offense with each position, except tight end, getting a stock up or stock down nomination. Why no tight end for both? I simply couldn’t come up with a good stock up candidate as it’s a weak free agent class thus far.
Stock Up: Kirk Cousins, QB, Redskins
Cousins did not need to do much to improve his contract hopes for next year, but through four weeks his Redskins look like one of the two best teams in the East and he is on pace for another 4,000 yard season. He has a lot of new faces on the offense yet is still producing and has a 7:1 TD to interception ratio. He is well on his way to earning a $27 million+ a year contract next season.
Stock Down: Jay Cutler, QB, Dolphins
Cutler was out of the NFL and heading into broadcasting when an injury to Ryan Tannehill gave him a chance to revitalize his NFL career. Through three games he has been awful and the Dolphins offense is the worst in the NFL. He looks disinterested and that he is there to collect a paycheck. Unless things change he’ll be out of the NFL next season.
Stock Up: Carlos Hyde, RB, 49ers
Hyde has had a solid, injury riddled and somewhat hidden career in San Francisco, but has basically become their offense this year. Hyde is on pace for over 1,200 yards at a 4.9 YPA clip. More importantly he is showing that he can be a factor in the passing game with 17 receptions for 88 yards, which is on pace to shatter his career high of 27 receptions for 163 yards he set in 13 games last year. Age is not on his side, since he is already 27, but he can crack the $6-$6.5 million a year club if he keeps this up.
Stock Down: Le’Veon Bell, RB, Steelers
Bell reportedly turned down a massive contract offer this summer for reasons that nobody but himself could explain. Bell wanted to earn around $15 million a year, an absurd number for a running back, and gambles on the franchise tag. Thus far it hasn’t been a good decision. Though he arguably could set a career high in yards, he is on pace for well over 300 carries to do so and his yards per carry is down a full yard from his career norms. His receiving efficiency is down too. He’s still going to get a big offer from someone, but its doubtful it will be as good as the one he turned down.
Stock Up: Davante Adams, WR, Packers
While few free agent receivers have stood out this year, Adams leads the Packers in yards and targets this season. I don’t know what Adams worth is on the open market but with Jordy Nelson in his 30s the Packers probably need Adams. Green Bay has already pretty much set their own market for receivers around $10 million a year and Adams stands to make at least that from Green Bay if he finishes the year as their top target.
Stock Down: Terrelle Pryor, WR, Redskins
Pryor saw little interest as a free agent last year so he took a lower cost contract to get away from Cleveland and try to make a name for himself elsewhere. Thus far it hasn’t worked out that well. He is on pace for under 800 yards as the Redskins passing game is being spread all over the field. He did have his best game of the year last Monday so maybe things are looking up, but he needed a great year to solidify himself as a potential 1 and right now hes going to settle for mid level 2 money.
Stock Down: Tyler Eifert, TE, Bengals
You don’t like to put an injured player on these types of lists, but I don’t think there was much choice here. A big year and Eifert was looking at $8 million or more a year, but the former first rounder absolutely needed to stay healthy to get a chance at that. In his two active games Eifert continued to look like a mid level player and there is no way around the fact that he is always injured.
Stock Up: Zack Martin, OL, Cowboys
Martin didn’t have to do much to be the top available free agent this year, but I don’t think too many available players have stood out so far which is only going to make his market more lucrative this year. No sacks or penalties so far and Martin is well on his way to the Pro Bowl and to setting a new high for guards, which will be over $12 million a season.
Stock Down: Xavier Su’a-Filo, OL, Texans
The guard market is so lucrative right now that it doesn’t take much to get paid and Su’a-Filo has a chance as a high second round pick to really make it big, but his current pace is going to see him land on the bench rather than vying for a big contract. In 4 games he’s been credited with 3 sacks allowed and 2 penalties, which isn’t going to cut it.