A Quick Look at Amari Cooper’s Contract

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was discussing wide receiver Amari Cooper’s performance for the Cowboys and made some interesting comments where the takeaway seem to be the following

The Cooper and Cowboys dynamic is one that I have always found interesting. Dallas traded a number 1 pick for Cooper back in 2018 but never seemed to feel the same push to protect their investment in him that other teams who traded for players (Jalen Ramsey and the Rams, Leonard Williams and the Giants, etc…) did. Dallas actually allowed Cooper to test free agency in 2020 rather than signing him to an extension after the season ended.

Eventually the two sides came to an agreement where Cooper hit the magic $20 million per year number that had been pretty elusive for most receivers and put Cooper in a rare group of players but he contract itself said something different. Usually when players sign contracts this large they get a massive amount of money up front. For example recent contracts in the $20 million per year range usually see a player earn between $28 and $32 million in the first year. Cooper received $20 million. Cooper only received a $10 million signing bonus which ranks 15th at the position.

The more interesting aspect for Cooper’s contract came with the guarantee structure. Dallas guaranteed the first two years of the contract at signing. They added another $20 million in injury protection in the third year of the contract but unlike other contracts with very favorable vesting conditions Cooper’s guarantee’s don’t become fully guaranteed until the 5th day of the league year in 2022, which is the third year of the contract.

This was not typical for the way the Cowboys have treated their star acquisitions. DeMarcus Lawrence, who also signed a $20 million per year contract and did so a year before Cooper, received $48 million in guarantees at signing and another $17 million that was injury protected. That $17 million, like Cooper’s, was due in the third year. Unlike Cooper’s the $17 million became guaranteed in the second contract year rather than the third.

Ezekiel Elliott, who also signed a lucrative contract in 2019, was treated similar to Lawrence. Though the situations are not entirely comparable since Elliott had two years remaining under contract, Elliott received about $15 million in new full guarantees at signing. He had another $22 million in injury protection in years 3 and 4 of the contract. Those salaries were guaranteed in year 2 and year 3 making him impossible to cut. Zack Martin’s contract also followed a similar pattern.

Essentially Cooper was treated in this respect more like the second tier star players who had signed in recent years. Players like Jaylon Smith and La’el Collins had the less favorable vesting schedules in their contracts. Now this is sometimes a common tradeoff we see in contract negotiations. Cooper reaching $20 million a year was likely a must reach target for him. Since few receivers before or since have gotten to that number it would make sense that Dallas would pull back on a favorable pay structure and guarantee structure especially if in the back of their minds they felt they were overpaying to keep him.

When Cooper was signed to the contract I noted at the time that it seemed to be a deal that had a bit of “buyers remorse” built into the contract. Cooper would be easily tradeable at any point in time since the signing bonus was so low and he could be cut in the third season with minimal penalty assuming he was not injured. If cut his salary he would have earned from Dallas would have trailed the two year earnings of lower annual value contracts signed by other star receivers.

One way Cooper would have had more security and assurances on his future is if the Cowboys would have restructured his contract for salary cap relief. Last season Cooper had a $22 million cap charge which could have been brought down to about $6.8 million had the Cowboys converted most of his salary to a signing bonus. He would have been a logical choice since he was coming of a 1,100 yard season but the Cowboys resisted. Instead the restructured the contracts of Elliott, Martin, Tyron Smith, La’el Collins and Dak Prescott. The prior year they had restructured Lawrence, Martin, Smith, and Collins rather than modifying the Cooper contract.

It just seems like this is a possibility that Dallas has always had in mind. Cooper has a $22 million salary cap charge and just $6 million in dead money if they were to cut him,(this assumes that he is healthy). While he is still productive Cooper is coming off a year where he failed to reach 900 yards and seemed to deal with nagging injuries all season. It’s probably enough of a decline with all of the other factors here that they would at least discuss options with his contract ranging from offering a pay cut to seeing what trade market might exist to just leaving it as is.

This is not the same situation as Dez Bryant as that name may be brought up when people think of Dallas’ options. Bryant’s numbers had fallen for a few years and he was older than Cooper when Dallas decided that they were paying number 1 money to a non number 1 player. Cooper may still be a 1, Dallas just has to decide if they want to spend the full $20 million to find that out in 2022.

Houston Texans – 2021 Incentive Tracker

Player incentives are something that myself and Houston fans are not used to hearing about. Rick Smith was the General Manager from 2006 through 2017 (along with capologist Chris Olsen) and did not employ the use of player/team incentives into player contracts. That practice has since changed dramatically with new General Manager Nick Caserio. Caserio came over from New England where incentives were heavily used. Interim General Manager tandem of Bill O’Brien and Jack Easterby started the process in 2020 with incentives sprinkled into a few contracts. Caserio took that to a new level, negotiating incentives into the majority of free agent contracts signed during the 2021 season including offseason and in-season contracts.

Given that Houston fans are likely not familiar with incentives and how they can affect the team’s salary cap; this was a good time to explain how they work. We will also show where each player stands with their individual incentives heading into the last game of the regular season. We will not cover salary escalators as Houston has not deployed escalators as of yet.

For specific details into incentives and the list of specific incentives available, you can refer to the Collective Bargaining Agreement Article 13 Section 6 Part C.


  • LTBE = Likely To Be Earned
  • NLTBE = Not Likely To Be Earned
  • Def Snap = Player Defensive Snaps
  • Off Snap = Player Offensive Snaps
  • PT = Playing Time

Incentives can effect the player and team salary cap in various ways, and impact the cash spending for the team. Incentives can be used in practically any contract, including rookie contracts. However they are primarily used in non-rookie contracts. Referencing the above link to the CBA section on Incentives, there is a specific list of available incentives that may be negotiated into a contract.

Incentives that are considered to be LTBE will impact the cap charge for the current year. For an incentive to be LTBE, the league will reference the player’s performance in that category from the previous year. For example, if a player has a playing time incentive of 55% of defensive snaps worth $250,000 for the 2021 season. If the player played in 62% of the defensive snaps (no matter what team) then the $250,000 is considered LTBE and would count towards the player’s 2021 salary cap charge.

Conversely, using the same example, if the player played in 48% of the defensive snaps in 2020 then the $250,000 would be considered NTLBE and would not impact the 2021 salary cap.

After the conclusion of the regular season the teams will calculate all the incentives for players to determine the amount of cash earned through incentives on top of the player’s base salary.

If a NLTBE incentive is earned in 2021, and the same incentive is in place for 2022 then the incentive becomes LTBE and will be charged to the 2022 salary cap for that player. The team will also receive a debit towards the 2022 salary cap through the annual adjustment. Conversely, if a player has a LTBE incentive in 2021 that is not earned, then the team will receive a cap credit in 2022 annual adjustment for the corresponding amount and the incentive becomes NLTBE in 2022.

Teams can utilize incentives to manipulate cap space in the immediate year. Looking at David Johnson in the table below, the first tier of his Total Yards incentive is 1,006 yards. David Johnson had 1,005 total yards in 2020. Therefore this makes the incentive NLTBE and does not count towards the 2021 salary cap.

2021 Incentive Tracker

Sounds more confusing that it is. Below is a table for the Houston Texans players that have incentives and where they stand heading into Week 18 of the regular season. The amounts in Bold & Italics are considered LTBE for 2021. Everything else is considered to be NLTBE for 2021. The dollar amounts stack as each tier is achieved. The incentives listed as Yes Achieved, that is based on projection heading into the last game of the season.

Taylor, Tyrod $   6,500,000 60% Off Snap $  1,000,000 No
70% Off Snap $  1,000,000 No
80% Off Snap $  1,000,000 No
90% Off Snap $  1,000,000 No
60% + Playoff $  1,000,000 No
70% + Playoff $  1,000,000 No
Pro Bowl $      500,000 No
Britt, Justin $   1,800,000 55% Off Snap $      450,000 Yes
65% Off Snap $      450,000 Approaching
75% Off Snap $      450,000 No
85% Off Snap $      450,000 No
Kirksey, Christian $   1,500,000 55% Def Snap $      250,000 Yes
65% Def Snap $      250,000 Yes
75% Def Snap $      500,000 Approaching
85% Def Snap $      500,000 No
Johnson, David $   1,000,000 57% Off Snap $      250,000 No
65% Off Snap $      250,000 No
1006 Total Yards $      250,000 No
1200 Total Yards $      250,000 No
Collins, Maliek $   1,000,000 50% Def Snap $      250,000 Yes
60% Def Snap $      250,000 Approaching
70% Def Snap $      250,000 No
80% Def Snap $      250,000 No
Cannon, Marcus $       750,000 80% Off Snap $      800,000 No
90% Off Snap $      850,000 No
Grugier-Hill, Kamu $       750,000 30% Def Snap $      125,000 Yes
40% Def Snap $      125,000 Yes
50% Def Snap $      250,000 Yes
60% Def Snap $      250,000 Yes
McCray, Justin $       750,000 35% Off Snap $      187,500 Yes
45% Off Snap $      187,500 Yes
55% Off Snap $      187,500 Approaching
65% Off Snap $      187,500 No
Murray, Eric $       750,000 60% Def Snap $      250,000 Yes
70% Def Snap $      250,000 Approaching
80% Def Snap $      250,000 No
Amendola, Danny $       700,000 45% Off Snap $      140,000 No
55% Off Snap $      140,000 No
50 receptions $      140,000 No
60 receptions $      140,000 No
70 receptions $      140,000 No
Brown, Pharaoh $       600,000 30% Off Snap $      150,000 Yes
40% Off Snap $      150,000 Yes
50% Off Snap $      150,000 Yes
60% Off Snap $      150,000 Approaching
Taylor, Vincent $       500,000 20% Def Snap $      100,000 No
30% Def Snap $      100,000 No
40% Def Snap $      100,000 No
50% Def Snap $      100,000 No
60% Def Snap $      100,000 No
Pierre-Louis, Kevin $       500,000 60% Def Snap $      250,000 No
70% Def Snap $      250,000 No
Mitchell, Terrance $       500,000 80% Def Snap $      500,000 No
King, Desmond $       500,000 60% Def Snap $      250,000 Yes
70% Def Snap $      250,000 Yes
Conley, Chris $       500,000 45% Off Snap $      100,000 Yes
55% Off Snap $      100,000 Yes
45 Receptions $      100,000 No
55 Receptions $      100,000 No
65 Receptions $      100,000 No
Wilson, Eric $       500,000 70% + Improvement $      125,000 No
80% + Improvement $      125,000 No
90% + Improvement $      250,000 No
Burkhead, Rex $       500,000 30% Off Snap $      125,000 Approaching
40% Off Snap $      125,000 No
500 Total Yards $      125,000 Yes
650 Total Yards $      125,000 Approaching
Hewitt, Neville $       300,000 50% Def Snap $      150,000 No
70% Def Snap $      150,000 No
Brooks, Terrence $       250,000 40% Def Snap $      125,000 No
50% Def Snap $      125,000 No
Davis, Tae $       150,000 15% Def Snap $         50,000 No
20% Def Snap $         50,000 No
25% Def Snap $         50,000 No

John Franklin-Myers Signs $55 Million Extension with the Jets

Jets standout defensive lineman will be a Jet for the foreseeable future after he signed a four year, $55 million contract to remain in New York as a fixture for the Jets defense. Per a source with knowledge of the contract here is a breakdown of the deal.

This year Franklin-Myers salary will remain the same and he will also receive a $2 million signing bonus. The balance of his salary (about $715K) for the year is officially guaranteed as part of the extension. His cap hit increases by $400,000 due to the signing bonus.

In 2022 He will earn a guaranteed roster bonus in March worth $10 million while also earning a guaranteed salary of $1.5 million. He has $600,000 in per game bonuses and offseason bonuses which are also guaranteed if he was to be released. His cap number will be $12.5 million.

In 2023 he will earn an $11.4 million in salary along with the same $600,000 in bonuses. This is all guaranteed for injury with $6 million becoming guaranteed in 2022 and the other $6 million in 2023. His cap figure will be $12.4 million.

In 2024 there is a $13.3 million salary along with the same bonus structure. $3.18 million is guaranteed with $1.125 million becoming fully guaranteed in 2023. He will carry a $14.3 million cap hit.

In 2025 there is a P5 of $14.35 million and $650,000 in bonuses. None of this year is guaranteed and his cap charge is $15.4 million.

In total it works out to $55 million in new money with $14.815 million guaranteed at signing and $30 million guaranteed for injury . Given the early vesting date of his 2023 salary the effective full guarantee is $20.8 million. Another $4 million in performance escalators are also available to bring the max total to $59 million. The contract essentially mimics the recent Josh Sweat contract with the Eagles except this contract is four years in length versus three years for Sweat. It is the fourth year that bumps the annual value over Sweat’s.

I believe that Franklin-Myers will now hold the record for the largest contract ever signing by a draft pick who was cut from his original team in a non-option year. He was originally on the Rams and was claimed by the Jets in 2019 in what has to be one of the best personnel decisions the Jets have made in the last few years.

Running Back Performance Following a Contract Extension

Last night, Christian McCaffrey of the Panthers was injured on a pretty routine run during the Panthers and Texans game. Hopefully the injury is not too serious but McCaffrey missed nearly all of last season with various injuries and last year also happened to be the season when McCaffrey signed a massive contract extension making him the highest paid running back in the league. While I have spoken a lot about free agent running back signings in the free agent guide I wanted to look at extensions where, for the most part, we have about the most controlled environment possible for a player since he will be playing with a roster and staff he is familiar with.

An extension is a type of contract where a team opts to sign a player for extra years even though the team controlled the players rights through his rookie contract for one or two more seasons. Generally this means the player is younger than a typical free agent and should be more productive. It also generally means the player will be more expensive as players who sign extensions often get the largest annual contract values and guaranteed salaries.

I looked at every player who signed an extension since 2014 that was worth at least $2 million a season and then looked at their total offensive productivity (yards rushing and receiving as recorded by Pro Football Focus) in the year prior to signing an extension. For extensions I included long term contracts signed as a restricted free agent, unless he switched teams. Franchise players were not included. I then wanted to compare the numbers to what occurred in the year they signed the contract and the year afterwards.

First up is the performance in the year of signing. The x-axis shows the yards the player produced in the year of signing while the y-axis shows the change in yards, either positive or negative, in the year the extension was signed. The size of the bubble represents how large the contract was that the player signed.

Certainly not a good start for our group. Our average production change was about -210 total yards. The median was -242. This is more or less a 20% drop in production for the average player. Remember had they not signed an extension they would have still been under contract meaning the price in most cases would have gone down had the team waited.

Only 10 of 30 players improved. Two of those players, David Johnson and Dion Lewis, basically did not play the year before and had nowhere to go but up. Kareem Hunt was suspended 8 games in the year prior to signing and Raheem Mostert only played half the year. Of those who played significantly only 6 improved- Alvin Kamara, Dalvin Cook. Damien Williams, Chris Thompson, and Darren Sproles, who did it twice.

What about the year after they sign? Some of the players would still be under rookie contract (Zeke, Gurley, etc…) though most would have been free agents. So in a sense this is the year you were really paying for by signing the extension. Here is how the performance of the eligible players broke down.

8 players improved from prior to signing a new contract. Three of those were the Johnson, Mostert, Lewis group while Taiwan Jones was also in that 8 games or less group. That leaves James White, Damien Williams. CJ Anderson, and Danny Woodhead. The average change was -293 yards with a median change of -307.

I know we all say “it wont happen to our guy” when he gets signed, but thus far there have been few instances where waiting to sign a player would have cost a team anything other than the headache of dealing with a contract issue. Maybe Kamara, Cook, and Nick Chubb will be the players to break the cycle, but thus far there is little reason to think the extension is in any way a good idea.

Breaking Down Mark Andrews $56 Million Contract Extension

The Ravens and tight end Mark Andrews agreed to a four year, $56 million contract extension Monday night which will make him, on paper, the third highest paid tight end in the NFL bit in reality the second highest paid tight end in the league. Per a league source with knowledge of the contract the breakdown is as follows.

In 2021, Andrews will receive a $10.163 million signing bonus along with a $920,000 salary, which is fully guaranteed. This is a raise of $7.5 million over Andrews’ prior $3.58 million salary (this includes a 17th game check Andrews would have earned). Andrews cap number should be $3.16 million.

In 2022, Andrews will receive a $15.5 million option bonus and a $3.5 million salary. Both are fully guaranteed at signing. The cap number in 2022 will be $9.4 million.

In 2023, Andrews will earn a salary of $7.5 million. The salary is guaranteed for injury and will be fully guaranteed in 2022. The cap number is $13.4M.

In 2024 and 2025, Andrews will earn $11 million in each season, split up between $7 million salaries and $4 million in roster bonuses. The roster bonuses will force a team to make an early decision on releasing  the player once the guarantees in a contract run out. In both years Andrews’ cap number will be $16.9 million.

Overall, it works out to $30.08 million guaranteed at signing and $37.8 million virtually guaranteed at signing due to the early vesting date on the 2023 salary. The full guarantee ranks third at the position behind Kyle Pitts and Jonnu Smith and the injury guarantee is second to only George Kittle. The four year length is stronger for Andrews than it is for Kittle.

While many are going to point to the guarantee as the big deal with the contract the real strength of this contract is in the cash flow schedule. Andrews will blow away the position when it comes to up front cash that is earned. Here is the cash flow schedule of the top tight end contracts in the NFL.

PlayerYear 0Year 1Year 2Year 3Year 4Year 5
George Kittle$18,000,000$21,700,000$33,750,000$46,000,000$60,000,000$75,000,000
Mark Andrews$7,500,000$26,500,000$34,000,000$45,000,000$56,000,000FA
Travis Kelce$4,250,000$11,750,000$25,000,000$40,000,000$57,250,000FA
Hunter Henry$17,000,000$27,000,000$37,500,000FAFA
Jonnu Smith$17,000,000$27,000,000$38,000,000$50,000,000FA

Andrews $26.5 million earned in the first new year of the contract is 22% higher than George Kittle’s which is a major jump. Even through year two Andrews will out-earn Kittle and will earn 36% more than Kelce which is why Andrews deal is far stronger than Kelce’s even if technically the annual value ranks below.

The first turn for the Ravens comes in year three when Andrews will drop slightly below Kittle and the gap between he and Kelce begins to shrink. He will fall a full $1M per year under Kittle if both make it to the fourth season and Andrews would have a chance in free agency or on an extension to catch up to or make out better than Kittle over the long term.

The Ravens have done contracts like this in the past where they commit very big amounts up front and in return do not set a new market high for a player. Here are a few examples of the way have utilized this concept.

Player% of Contract Paid 1st Year% of 3Y Cash Paid 1st Year
Marcus Peters48.8%48.8%
Mark Andrews47.3%58.9%
Kevin Zeitler44.4%44.4%
Ronnie Stanley42.3%65.5%
Marlon Humphrey39.0%63.1%

The cases are similar to Andrews’. Stanley is the 4th highest paid left tackle but earned the most in the first year. Humphrey is the 2nd highest paid corner but earns far more than the top salaried player by APY in the first year and is tops at the position. Peters is 9th in APY and 8th in 1st year cash while also being a rare player signed to a three year deal.

Andrews cash salary also far outpaces the alternative of the franchise tag. We project the tag to be around $10.7M for tight ends next year. Had he gone year to year Andrews would have been in line to earn $23.5 million by the end of 2023, none of which would have been guaranteed. He will earn more than two tags by the end of 2022 and $11.5M more by the end of 2023. A third tag would never be in play for a tight end.

When you look at the numbers in this manner the Ravens need Andrews to play through at least the 2024 season on the contract and most likely need this to wind up a true four year contract to get strong value out of the deal. That doesn’t make this a bad contract for the Ravens it just makes it a contract one they need to be right about.

For those curious about any outs in the contract if things went sideways the first real out year is 2024 when the dead money drops to $11.8 million. Even a trade the year before that would result in over $17.5 million in dead money. Andrews has $4 million roster bonuses in the 2024 and 2025 “out years” to ensure an early release if the Ravens needed to move on.

Chiefs Create $1.2M in Cap Space

The Chiefs renegotiated the contract of guard Andrew Wylie to guarantee him a roster space for the year and create a much needed $1.2 million in cap space. Wylie, who was a restricted free agent this offseason, agreed to a new contract that will guarantee his $920,000 salary for the 2021 season. Wylie will still be a free agent after the season.

The Chiefs now have in the ballpark of $3 million in salary cap room for the year. That number is inclusive of their Practice Squad additions so this should be enough for them to function during the year without the need for any more contract modifications.

Making Sense of Todays Veteran Player Cuts

Today is the official cutdown to the “final 53” in the NFL and sometimes today’s action brings about a lot of confusion when we see the names of players who are being released. Everson Griffin of the Vikings. Marqui Christian and Artie Burns on the Bears. The Lions carrying zero kickers. And so on and so on. While this will not hold true with all of these players in many cases these are simply procedural moves done to protect roster spots as team get to the real 53 man rosters over the next few days.

When a player who does not have enough service to be considered a veteran the player is subject to waivers. Waivers give all of the other 31 teams in the NFL the ability to claim the player’s contract if you release him. When a veteran has enough years of service they are not subject to waivers and simply become a free agent.

There are two issues that often happen during this timeframe in the NFL. A big one is that teams have plenty of injured players who are not going to be able to play for a few weeks but will be able to play at a later time. The league has a rule that allows players on IR to be reactivated later in the season but with a catch. The player has to be on the 53 man roster at the start of the season, meaning they have to be on the roster after 4PM today before they can be placed on IR tomorrow afternoon and no longer count on the 53 man.

The second issue is protecting players a team want’s for a practice squad. In order to move a player to a practice squad they will need to be released. In most cases this applies to young players who dominate the practice squads. Waiver claims are usually most active in the first day or two following final cuts. Sometimes it is beneficial to hold a player until planning for the regular season opener begins as teams are then focused on their opponents and 53 man roster and are more likely to allow a player to pass through waivers. In this case that probably means holding a player through next Monday.

If a team were to release a younger player who they really like they run the risk of losing him in the waiver process. They do not have that same risk with a veteran since their contract is not open for a claim. So what occurs is that a team will go to the player, tell them they are releasing him from his contract simply to hold a roster spot for a few days for another player. Once they process the move they will re-sign him to the exact same contract. So for example Griffen was on a one year, $1.075 million contract. He will simply be re-signed to another $1.075 million contract. Nothing changes for the veteran it is simply a procedural move. Basically it gives the team the ability to have a 54, 55, 56, etc… man roster to comply with NFL rules.

This is not to be confused with avoiding a full salary guarantee through termination pay. That only happens if the veteran is not re-signed until the second week of the season. That may happen in some cases too but the usual procedure for that is to have the veteran on the team through next Tuesday and then cutting him on Friday or Saturday. This allows the veteran to earn his full salary for the week but not be active for week 1 and thus the team avoids the salary guarantee for the full year (they will still guarantee 35% of the contract when he is re-signed).

But if you see a move that seems like a head scratcher involving a low salaried veteran know that it is probably just a procedural cut and he will be back on the team within the next 72 hours.