Steelers Open to Trading Le’Veon Bell

Three weeks into the season and star running back Le’Veon Bell has still failed to sign his franchise tender with the Steelers. Now apparently the Steelers are open to a trade according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Continue reading Steelers Open to Trading Le’Veon Bell »

Seahawks to Possibly Fine Earl Thomas

There was some odd news in Seattle this week that indicated Earl Thomas was out for personal reasons. His contract dispute with Seattle was well known so some thought it had to do with that while others thought this was a deactivation to keep him healthy for a trade. Chris Mortensen of ESPN shed more light  on the situation Sunday morning.

Conduct detrimental in the CBA is a pretty powerful weapon for teams. A team is allowed to fine a player up to one weeks salary under the conduct rules which for Thomas is $500,000. That is a big chunk of change. Teams also have the right to suspend players up to four games without pay if the player’s conduct is considered detrimental to the club.

Thomas’ situation with the Seahawks has gotten ugly and if it gets that bad Seattle has a lot of financial leverage here. While I dont know if any agreement was made after his summer holdout he could have gotten significant fines for that time as well as triggering a $475,000 bonus forfeiture/repayment obligation. If Thomas fails to report for practice that could (or maybe did) trigger a second forfeitable breach of his contract. That would increase that forfeiture from $475,000 to $1.9 million as a 2nd breach in the same year can lead to the maximum forfeiture. Combine that with a conduct fine and potential suspension and you are looking at over half his salary being lost for the year in an ugly dispute. I would also imagine he has lost his termination pay protection for the year after this, though the only thing that prevents is a double dip as he would likely get a decent salary as a free agent. Things rarely would get this ugly but it is worth noting the options that Seattle has here. The most famous case of in season conduct violations came in the Terrell Owens/Eagles dispute back in 2005 which was responsible for shaping the current conduct rules as they relate to suspensions.

A team trading for Thomas would be required to take on the balance of his salary for the season. That is $7 million right now. There are probably 20 teams that could afford him  depending on how tight they want to be on their salary cap. The Chiefs would be very tight barring restructures but would fall into the tail end of that category. Dallas would have no problem.

Seattle has asked for too much in return for Thomas based on reports but it would seem that this may be like the Duane Brown situation from last season where he held out on the Texans for some time before being traded to Seattle. It is less likely that Thomas will get the extension he wants at this stage similar to Brown last year. That said he may find it better to play with another team that will likely extend him in 2019 than continue with Seattle who has shown little interest in keeping him as part of the team. The Seahawks traded a 3rd and a future 2nd round pick for the rights to Brown and a 5th round pick. Offensive linemen are usually better investments as they age so my guess is they can bump those by a round (4th and future 3rd) and get a deal done.

Panic Alert: The Worst Teams in the NFL

Once week 2 ends in the NFL the panic alarm goes off for teams sitting 0-2. Generally 0-2 is looked at as near death when it comes to the playoffs so the sentiment turns ugly pretty quick when you are there and people begin to focus on the future even though we are just two weeks in. I wanted to do a quick look at those teams and see what they have done and where they may be headed. Continue reading Panic Alert: The Worst Teams in the NFL »

Will Le’Veon Bell Miss the Season?

Most of the summer everyone was under the assumption that LeVeon Bell would report to the Steelers as he did last year at the start of the season. Apparently that is no longer the case as Bell has indicated that he is doing what he feels is in his best long term interests which is to not play right now. That has of course incurred the ire of some fans and surprisingly his teammates. The question now is what is the end game for Bell? Continue reading Will Le’Veon Bell Miss the Season? »

2018 Spending on NFL Rosters

With the turn to Tuesday NFL rosters are now largely complete so we can take a look at how some of the teams stack up. Though there are a few stragglers on the rosters (injured players who will be released with settlements) and a few players we don’t yet have contract information on the numbers are good enough to begin looking at the roster construction. As time allows we’ll try to do a few different looks at the NFL between now and Sunday’s first set of games, but here we’ll start off with just how much teams have invested in the rosters.

The Big Spenders

There are seven teams in the NFL that go into the season with rosters whose average annual value tops $190 million. The biggest spender by far is the Jaguars who have $224.9 million in contracts on their team. More than half their money is spent on non-homegrown players as the Jaguars have gone into the non-minimum areas of free agency as much as almost any team in the NFL. They are tied for second in the NFL with 8 players who earn more than $10 million a season.

The Vikings are second with $212.7 million in contracts. They have the highest amount of $10M or greater players in the NFL with 9 which is more or less reflective of their offseason which saw them sign Kirk Cousins and extend Danielle Hunter and Stefon Diggs. The Vikings have been aggressive for the past few years in an attempt to make the playoffs and it paid off last season. They are all in on the team and it should largely be the same squad the next three years.

The Rams are the final team with over $200 million in contracts. They have been ultra aggressive this offseason with trades and contract extensions. With their signings of Todd Gurley and Aaron Donald they have the two largest contracts in the NFL relative to the position. Still with all the maneuvering they rank 8th in the number of homegrown players on the roster as they have tried to fill out a large chunk of the team with players they are familiar with.

The Bears, fresh off their Khalil Mack signing, and Super Bowl champion Eagles both sit right around $197 million. The Bears have had difficulties with the draft and have spent in free agency to fill voids which is why their payroll is so high. They have spent nearly $121 million on non-homegrown players, second to only the Jaguars. They have a young team so they may be able to get by with a non-playoff season but if they don’t show major improvements and potential their front office may be in trouble.

The Eagles were more or less the Vikings a few years ago locking into high priced extensions to get a stable roster for the next 3 or 4 years. It paid off with a Super Bowl. This is more or less the window for Philadelphia. They have 11 non-QB, special teamers who will be at least 30 by the end of this year, 4th in the NFL. With $54M invested in those players it is the highest spend on older talent in the league.

The final two teams are the Packers and Steelers, who both go into the season with around $192 million per year invested in the team. The Packers are a big drafting team with only 13 contracts with players who they did not draft or sign as an undrafted free agent. Only two teams have fewer outsiders. In many ways they are constructed like the Vikings with a very high spend on homegrown veterans but of course with Aaron Rodgers instead of a free agent QB.

The Steelers are always a big spender with heavy investments in their own players, but also a willingness to go outside the organization to find some talent. The Steelers have $143 million invested in their own players and generally don’t let anyone they can find a role for leave in free agency.

The Non Spenders

The Bills, who made the playoffs the last season, have by far the cheapest roster in the NFL. Their salary cap was a mess this season and they traded away as many parts as they could as they try to overhaul the roster. With just a $124 million roster they are $20 million lower than the 31st ranked team.  It’s almost hard to believe but they have the lowest spend on veteran players and third lowest spend on non-veterans which means they haven’t even been able to find ways to maximize draft picks. Despite all their issues they employ 13 players of 30+ age. Their issues date back to the Rex Ryan era and with just 19 homegrown players they have the least direction in the league.

Ryan Grigson left the Colts a mess and they continue to just sit around and do little while waiting for Andrew Luck to return. They have $146 million in contracts but with a high IR list so expect that to fall by a few million after players reach settlements. Unlike the Bills this is a more traditional approach to a roster with 55 players on rookie deals and just 19 veterans, only five of whom will crack the 30 year barrier.

Though the Cowboys are known as big spenders the team has been very conservative the last two seasons leaving with a $153 million roster. This is in part because of the salary cap where they have had some issues because of Tony Romo and Dez Bryant but overall they have taken a more cautious approach to their contracts. With a QB, RB, and DE likely all looking for new deals starting next year don’t expect Dallas to remain here for too long.

The Ravens are another team hamstrung with cap concerns much of which is because of bad decisions made with the contract of Joe Flacco on two occasions. The Ravens rarely go outside the organization to sign players, with the 2nd least amount of non-homegrown players, but unlike the Packers and Steelers they have lost talent in free agency which may have to do with the cap.

The Cardinals are in a stage where they are coming down from a playoff contender run and trying to piece the roster together. They still have big money invested in the top with three players earning over $14 million a season but it all falls from there. They have struggled finding talented players in the draft which has led to 33 outside signings, tied for third most in the NFL. They have a number of older players (13) and perhaps more than any team in the NFL they are trying to rebuild on the fly which is difficult.

The final sub $160 million team is the New York Jets with a $158 million roster. That number may be a bit misleading as $10 million of the team is tied up in their backup QB so it’s fair to place them closer to the Colts in terms of expectations. The team has still struggled with the draft and are investing more in mid/low tier veterans than most others. The Jets have the 6th fewest homegrown players in the NFL and 2nd lowest salary among those players.

The Full NFL Spending Chart

Here are some of the various salary rankings for each team in the NFL. Please note that the Chiefs total does not include a recent extension for Cameron Erving which will push them over the $160 million number. The table should be sortable by clicking on the header.

TeamTotalAPYVets.Veteran APYRookiesRookie APYHomegrown PlayersHomegrown APYOutside PlayersOutside APY

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 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: