Jamal Adams Asks To Be Traded

I’ve spent a lot of time between writing and podcasting talking about Jamal Adams contract situation with the Jets and just one week after saying that the situation looks like it’s going to be a problem, Adams has asked for a trade and here we are again talking about Adams. Neither side is blameless in this one but we are about to enter the real ugly side of things so the question is where do you go from here if you are the Jets.

The start of the major blowouts between the Jets and Adams started last year but I think you can trace Adams frustration to the Jets going back to 2018, his second year in the NFL. It’s no secret that the Jets have been mismanaged since 2013 and are only now hopeful that things will get better under Joe Douglas, but Adams first three years in the NFL have basically been playing under the construction of prior GM Mike Maccagnan.  Here was a quote from Adams in 2018 as reported by Bob Glauber of Newsday.

“I’m [ticked] off. I’m [ticked] off,” safety Jamal Adams said Sunday after a 13-6 loss to the Dolphins dropped the Jets to 3-6. “I don’t know what else to say. I’m sick of losing. Honestly, I’m sick of losing. Enough is enough. I’m fed up with losing.”

Adams suggested his teammates ought to “look yourself in the mirror, man. Everybody. Everybody in this locker room. Look yourself in the mirror. I’m not going to hold my tongue for anything anymore. Enough is enough. I’m not a loser. I don’t do this for fantasy points or anything like that. I do this for the love of the game. I’m very passionate.

“I’m passionate about this team and I believe in this team. I go out there each and every day and play for this team. I’m just frustrated.”

Things got worse in 2019 first with a brief benching against the Browns and then during trade time when it came out the Jets were shopping him. Adams felt disrespected by the team and pretty much openly campaigned for a job with the Cowboys. The Jets reportedly were asking for a ransom of two first round picks which is the equivalent of saying we really don’t want to trade him but Adams was upset.

This is where I pin blame on the Jets for where they are now. Reportedly the Cowboys were willing to trade a 1 and 3 for Adams. That’s a major haul for a safety and once your safety is campaigning for the trade you have to realize that this has the possibility of getting bad. You have to know the pulse of your team and players and Adams was on a perennial loser and pretty much sick of it and has been vocal about it. If you pull the trigger on the trade you get what you get for Adams and simply talk to the fans about the big picture. It’s not a hard situation especially for a new GM that can work the narrative to blame the last GM for the failures. You get your draft picks and get rid of a potential headache. The team has stunk with Adams playing at a high level so it’s not like you are trading a player off a contender. However When you don’t pull the trigger you have to get things under control.

Rather than having a long term solution here Douglas opted to let Adams know how important he was to the team and started the conversation about how they wanted the Jets to be a team of players like Adams and how they wanted to address his contract after the draft. He doubled down on that this February

“Jamal is an unbelievable player. We’re excited about Jamal. The plan is for Jamal to be a Jet for life,…We’ve had some preliminary talks with his agent. I’m not going to get into the specifics of that. But the plan is for Jamal to be here a long time.”

Sometimes words can get twisted in the NFL and often players (and agents)hear things that they want to hear rather than what they are being told, but these quotes aren’t exactly misleading or open to interpretation. You said you wanted the player to be here for a long time. You said you wanted a team of Jamal Adams. You had recently signed an inside linebacker for $17 million a year. If you are sincere you have to make an offer around that figure. Based on what Adams has said no offer was really even presented.

There are plenty of reasons to not extend a player early and for the most part it’s very rare. For first round picks since 2011 only 17 players have been extended after their third year. Of those 17 players only five play defense- JJ Watt, Luke Kuechly, Robert Quinn, Patrick Peterson, and Whitney Mercilus (the Texans did not pick up his option but extended him shortly after declining it). The last of those contracts was signed in 2015. However if this is going to be your policy you can not say the things you said between last year’s trade deadline and this year’s combine.

All this did was make a situation get worse when all the Jets had to do in the first place was explain why they were looking to trade him, how the compensation should reflect how they feel about him, and extend the idea that they are happy he is here. Don’t make this about contracts if it’s not something you are going to offer. Was it a short term way to pacify the situation?  I guess it was but all it does is fuel a fire and when you have a player with a short fuse what happens when you indicate you are going to do something and you don’t?  He explodes. It makes you feel even worse about a team you don’t really want to be on.

That doesn’t mean Adams is blameless. The going on social media and basically openly campaigning for a trade and indicating that its time to move on isn’t exactly constructive. Adams laid out, per Adam Schefter, 7 teams he would be willing to be traded to– all teams considered Super Bowl contenders. That pretty much tells you that while the contract talk has added to things the goal here is to get out of New York. If the goal was money it would be “trade me to someone who wants to pay me” or threats of holding out and saying you don’t want to put your body on the line until you get paid what you are worth. Seemingly he really wants a better situation.

Before today I suggested that the Jets try to front him some of his 2021 salary if the concern was doing a contract now rather than next year, but that’s just another short term band aid and who knows how long it keeps things from getting bad.  Maybe through the first three weeks of the year.  Maybe a bit longer if the team plays better. But its destined to explode again.

An extension would probably be a disaster. Not because Adams isn’t deserving of one. Not because the Jets don’t have the cap room to do it. But simply because Adams isn’t happy. He’s not going to be happy and you don’t want to pay a bunch of extra money to a player just to have send him packing the next year. That’s what happened to the Giants with Odell Beckham. Neither side was really that thrilled with each other when they did that extension but they did it because they thought it was the best way to move forward and the Giants likely regretted that the next year.

What’s unfortunate is that the Jets have allowed a disgruntled player control the narrative for months about the team. Though Adams has hurt his standing with the fans in the last week or two with his outbursts for the last few months all the focus has been on the Jets as an organization and their approach to this contract. Now if they trade him it looks as if they were backed into a corner by a player and for a team trying to change it’s image they are really flailing.

That being said I can’t see how at this point the Jets can make this better. Maybe they can find a way to bury it for a few more months but the longer this goes on the more the trade value drops. Adams is due a roster bonus in early August and there is no need to pay that to delay what seems to be the inevitable.

The reality is this is not a contract dispute and the Jets cant let this be sold as a contract dispute while they wait figuring out what to do. A contract dispute is what is happening between the Vikings and Dalvin Cook. Dont let the narrative be that the Jets are cheap, ownership doesnt want to spend and focusing on cap space. If he doesnt want to be on the team a contract isnt going to change that.

Adams does not have any control over what the Jets do or do not do. They can trade him to any team in the NFL and they should aggressively shop him. They missed their window for them to get anything back this year on the field, but they can at least try to reclaim something out of this by working as many teams as possible. The Jaguars were able to do that to some extent last year with Jalen Ramsey and while I think two first round picks is a pipe dream getting a 1 and a 2 or even a 3 is something you can spin.

The most important thing is getting the best package back. If it comes from one of the teams that he wants to go to so be it, but use the next few weeks to make it sound like you are taking things back in your hands and do what should have been done months ago in formulating the way to sell the trade as to how you are improving a team that has been 16-32 since Adams was drafted.

However if they let this linger through the summer the odds are that it will end up making the team look bad in the long run and they will end up losing Adams for much less if they try to force this through the year. That would be the biggest mistake the Jets could make.

Immediate Impact From NFL Draft Picks

As a follow up to some of the draft discussion I decided to go back and look at the immediate opportunities for draft picks in their rookie year. This doesn’t say anything about the quality of play or future prospects just the expected chance to contribute. Rather than going by traditional rounds I split up the draft into 32 pick blocks with the exception of the first round which I broke into three segments- top 10, 11 to 20, and the playoff teams. The data is from 2011 through 2019 and I took out special teams players and supplemental picks.  

Overall Participation

Draft RangeSnapsPlayersAverage% Above 350 snaps
Top 1066,1799073588.9%
11 to 2057,9799064485.6%
21 to 3254,63010850661.7%
33 to 64140,27628748960.2%
65 to 9693,99028732743.2%
97 to 12866,81228623426.6%
129 to 16052,59728418518.3%
161 to 19237,58627213813.9%
193 to 22425,103284889.5%
225 to 25616,246263623.8%

The numbers at the top are pretty much what you would expect. The best talent lands in the most opportunistic situations and lands, on average, about 735 snaps per player. Most teams average around 1,100 snaps a year so this would equate to a player who plays about 67% of the time. The next section of round 1 drops to around 60% while the playoff tier would be under 50%.

The data in round 2 matches up with the work Brad and I did in terms of overall impact in that there is minimal difference between the end of the first round and the second round of the draft. Both see similar initial playing time and both have about the same percentage of players that play at least 350 snaps as a rookie.  FWIW those criticizing the Eagles and Packers moves because of what they missed out on this year its essentially players who average around 45% playing time as a rookie with a 40% chance they wont even play 350 snaps on the year.

There is a steeper decline in rounds 3 to 5, with round 3 really being the last place you can expect any type of immediate help. As you get into what are essentially the final two rounds of the draft there is basically little immediate help available and its all contributions coming on special teams with the standout performers doing more in the future.

Top 10 Participation

PositionSnapsPlayersAverage% Above 350 snaps
S1,10311,103100.0%
RT4,17641,044100.0%
LT5,3336889100.0%
LB5,9317847100.0%
CB6,6738834100.0%
QB15,1381979789.5%
IDL3,6155723100.0%
Guard3,547570960.0%
RB4,0466674100.0%
Edge9,2641657981.3%
WR6,3681157972.7%
TE9852493100.0%

If you are looking for players to really make an immediate contribution the positions to draft are offensive tackle, linebacker, and cornerback. QB is also high here but I don’t think that is much of a surprise since teams usually rush the QB on the field because the situation is usually really dire and this is the lone spot of hope for those franchises.

The positions with the least impact are the edge rushers and wide receivers. Runnings backs will all get used but the position itself doesn’t lend itself to a higher number of snaps so in that respect its not really the kind of immediate impact many think.

Picks 11 to 20 Participation

PositionSnapsPlayersAverage% Above 350 snaps
RT1,03811,038100.0%
Guard5,999785785.7%
Center3,4234856100.0%
S6,3468793100.0%
LT5,129773385.7%
TE1,2982649100.0%
LB4,485764185.7%
CB7,5721263166.7%
WR4,0847583100.0%
IDL9,5071755976.5%
QB2,1574539100.0%
Edge6,5461350484.6%
RB3951395100.0%

For this range of the draft the offensive line stands out. Guards and centers have seen a large amount of playing time as rookies as have offensive tackles. Safeties are a big hit too and I think that in part because it is rarely drafted in the top 10 so the best available are first selected here. This is in contrast to the corners who have already seen the top players go at the top of the draft. Edge rushers remain the worst immediate impact picks while the interior line and receivers also struggle to get the max playing time.

Picks 21 to 32 Participation

PositionSnapsPlayersAverage% Above 350 snaps
Center1,5562778100.0%
S5,440777785.7%
Guard4,208670183.3%
LB5,822964788.9%
RT3,166563360.0%
TE2,226455775.0%
CB8,1141554153.3%
QB2,562551260.0%
Edge7,0941644362.5%
WR6,0531443257.1%
IDL4,3031235941.7%
RB2,130635533.3%
LT1,956727928.6%

The interior offensive line and safety still stand out  at the backend of the first round as do the linebackers and to some extent right tackles. The left side however sees a big decline. This is a small sample size but these may represent a bit more of a “reach” pick or future pick, more likely the latter since the numbers do bounce in round 2. Corners become much more hit of miss at this stage, while the edge, receiver, and d-line remain the least impactful. I think the most eye opening number here is the running back. These are often taken by successful teams as the “missing piece” but they have gotten nothing from them. Again it’s a small sample but why draft here at all?

Picks 33 to 64 Participation

PositionSnapsPlayersAverage% Above 350 snaps
Guard12,2231676481.3%
RT7,6891169981.8%
Center6,6451066570.0%
S16,7172859771.4%
WR22,3614154573.2%
LT5,2881052950.0%
QB4,263947444.4%
LB12,6932747055.6%
CB16,5923646155.6%
TE7,6911940568.4%
Edge11,1372938451.7%
IDL9,7872736255.6%
RB7,1902430045.8%

No doubt about it that if you are expecting an immediate starter this is where you pick the offensive lineman. The surprising one to me here is the receiver position which mores to 73% over 350 snaps and an average of 545 snaps per player. That is basically on par with the top wide receivers selected in the draft in round one. So it is certainly a viable way to find an immediate 50% playtime type of receiver. Corners and linebackers really trail off here as the talent pool is probably depleting. Tight end, edge, and d-line just wont give you that much help as a rookie. Running backs again come up at the back end of this. There really is nothing to suggest “its an immediate help” based on years of data.

Picks 65 to 96 Participation

PositionSnapsPlayersAverage% Above 350 snaps
Guard14,1122556472.0%
WR13,8663539651.4%
S6,6471836944.4%
LB8,8722634142.3%
Center2,666833350.0%
IDL11,2113730340.5%
RB7,3912529636.0%
Edge9,6413428441.2%
QB2,7871027930.0%
CB9,2273625636.1%
TE3,5651425542.9%
RT2,060922933.3%
LT1,9451019520.0%

Guards have really been the only position from this area to make a big impact as a rookie with 72% of those selected playing at least 350 snaps. Tackles on the other hand fall off the map. Receivers and safeties are also among the bigger contributors selected here. The linebacker drop from round 2 to round 3 isnt much which should indicate if you are targeting the position that waiting until round 3 might be a fair strategy. While the D-line and Edge rushers remain below the average expectation they move closer to it here so the expectations meet the actual results.

Ill combine more of the picks from here on out and really I don’t think there is any need for commentary since the numbers get lower. Basic gist of it is centers have a reasonable chance of helping as do “developmental” right tackles. At the end of the draft you should just be looking at those spots corner and safety, Running backs remain less impactful than people think and I don’t get why anyone selects a fullback.

Picks 97 to 160 Participation

PositionSnapsPlayersAverage% Above 350 snaps
Center4,2091626331.3%
RT3,8471525626.7%
LB18,2387424629.7%
TE9,9764323227.9%
S13,2756022125.0%
LT2,5261221116.7%
CB14,0986721023.9%
Edge7,9263820923.7%
WR13,0346320717.5%
IDL10,3235219921.2%
RB11,5796318417.5%
Guard7,6984417518.2%
FB37631250.0%
QB2,3042011510.0%

Picks 161 to 256 Participation

PositionSnapsPlayersAverage% Above 350 snaps
Center5,3542323326.1%
RT5,0082817917.9%
CB11,2539611712.5%
IDL8,099731119.6%
FB1,833171085.9%
TE4,7194710010.6%
S6,008639511.1%
WR9,442107889.3%
LB9,368114827.9%
RB5,92173814.1%
LT2,487318012.9%
Guard3,92849808.2%
Edge3,83262621.6%
QB1,68336472.8%

Michael Thomas’ Contract Negotiations: How the Franchise Tag and Rookie Wage Scale are Garbage

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.

Continue reading Michael Thomas’ Contract Negotiations: How the Franchise Tag and Rookie Wage Scale are Garbage »

New OTC Feature: Contract History Comparisons

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.

Go to the OTC Contract History Page

Projecting an Extension for Chicago Bears DT Eddie Goldman

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:

Timmy Jernigan’s Extension Year

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:

Voiding of Guarantees

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 »

Camp Holdouts Seeking Second NFL Contract Have Not Been Successful

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:

Le’Veon Bell

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%

1/103 RB

Fully Guaranteed Money: $14,544,000

Age: 26

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

Age: 27

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%

19/202 WR

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.