Jets Trade for Texans Edge Shaq Lawson

The Jets were in desperate need for a pass rusher following the injury to Carl Lawson and found one in Shaq Lawson, acquiring him from the Texans for a 6th round draft pick. This is the second time this year that Lawson has been traded making his journey and contract to be one of the oddest in recent memory in the NFL. The trade will again bring into the spotlight the way the Texans have run their organization this offseason with seemingly seat of your pants decision making that has cost millions along the way.

Lawson signed a surprising three year, $30 million contract with the Dolphins in March of 2020 that had $21 million in guaranteed salary. The Dolphins, who also seemed to have a short term focus on their free agent signings in 2020, turned around and traded Lawson to the Texans after paying Lawson $13 million of the contract in 2020.

The Texans acquired Lawson and a 6th round pick in March of 2021 by trading away veteran linebacker Benardrick McKinney and a 7th round pick . The move was essentially a salary dump for the Dolphins who were able to get out of $8 million in guaranteed salary for Lawson by taking on McKinney’s non-guaranteed contract which the Dolphins negotiated down to $3 million after the trade. The Texans could have cut McKinney for the same amount on the cap as in a trade and not taken on the Lawson contract.

The Texans continued to be bullish on the Lawson deal by renegotiating the contract for salary cap relief soon after they made the trade. The team prepaid $7.01 million of Lawson’s salary for the year and added two void years to the contract to reduce the cap hit from $8.6 million to $3.25 million. The Texans also would pay Lawson a $100,000 workout bonus this year.

While converting salary to a bonus to facilitate a trade is common it usually is part of the negotiation of the trade. By being so bullish on the player they already took care of that for the Jets and still only received a 6th round pick in return for that $7 million. Had the team focused on using another player for cap relief and kept Lawson’s contract as is they may not have had to pay anything on the trade and certainly no more than $3.5 million.

For the Jets this is a big win. They get a player who was seen as a $10 million a year player just one year ago for a base value of $990,000 in 2021. Lawson can earn up to $2 million in additional incentives this through sacks. $500,000 count on the cap this year since Lawson had 4 sacks last season. Per a league source he triggers an additional $750,000 if he has 8 sacks and another $750,000 if he has 12 sacks. His cap number for the Jets this year will be $1.49 million. In 2022 Lawson has a $9 million salary, none of which is guaranteed. Releasing him would cost nothing.

The Lawson payment breakdown will wind up being $13.5 million from the Dolphins for one season of play in 2020 and $7.11 million from the Texans for taking part in their offseason program and training camp while the Jets just pay him $990,000. Lawson will count for $2.67 million in dead money for Miami in 2021, $1.85 million in dead money for Houston in 2021, and $5.28 million in dead money for Houston in 2022.

Robby Anderson Extension Creates $3.2M in Cap Space

Robby Anderson signed a two year extension worth $29.5 million to remain with the Carolina Panthers and the contract will create just under $3.2 million in cap room for the Panthers this season. Per a league source with knowledge of the contract, Anderson’s cap number will drop from $12 million to $8.82 million in 2021, giving them the third most cap space in the NFL this season which can either be used for extensions or carried over to help offset a more difficult cap position next year.

The contract is a solid deal for Anderson who locks in a nice guarantee on another short term deal. Anderson will earn an additional $4.5 million this year than he would have under his prior contract as part of the extension. Anderson’s base salary this year will be $990,000 while receiving an $11.51 million signing bonus.

In 2022 Anderson will have a $10 million salary of which $8 million is fully guaranteed. In addition there is a $2.8 million roster bonus. Given the large $8 million guarantee that other $4.8 million in non-guaranteed compensation is virtually guaranteed unless Anderson was to completely fall apart this year. His cap number in 2022 will be $16.8 million and the cost to cut $15.6 million, basically making the June 1 the option if things went way south.

Nothing is guaranteed in 2023 and Anderson will carry a $15.8 million cap charge that year.

In many ways the contract basically works out to a nearly guaranteed one year extension worth $17.5 million, which is the number of the franchise tag in 2022. While Anderson has been a good player most would not put him on the franchise tier. For the Panthers to gain value they need him to finish out the entire contract to get the $14.75 million average which is more in line with Anderson’s market.

Anderson struggled in his run in free agency in 2020, signing a two year contract worth $20 million. The gamble on himself paid off for Anderson who effectively wound up on a four year deal worth $49.5 million with $30.5 million guaranteed and $37.5 million in earnings from 2020 to 2022. That puts him a bit over what Corey Davis earned in free agency this past year.

Many players opt for the one year prove it contract but this two year strategy may also prove effective for players who are not considered elite talents like Anderson. Of free agent receivers this year only Kenny Golladay received a stronger deal than Anderson so it would be hard to imagine a better outcome had he gone the one year route in 2020.

Carolina has about $19 million in projected cap space in 2022 but with such a large carryover number should wind up close to $40 million which would put them in the top third of the league. That number should help them continue their rebuilding process which at the moment is tied to Sam Darnold who will look for an extension in the offseason if he has a good season as the Panthers QB.

Jamal Adams Agrees to $70 Million Extension with Seattle

After much back and forth the past few weeks, Jamal Adams and the Seattle Seahawks have agreed to a four year contract worth $70 million in new money that will tie Adams to Seattle through 2025. The contract has a maximum value of $72 million and $38 million in guarantees.

The $17.5 million annual value on the contract is a raise of 14.7% over the Justin Simmons contract signed earlier this year. As we had discussed earlier this type of raise would be somewhat in line with some of the more traditional market movers at various positions and represents a pretty fair value for Adams either on an extension or as a free agent. Adams $38 million in guarantees will also be a record for safety, surpassing the $35 million guarantee for Simmons by $3 million.

This was about as high as the Seahawks could go on an offer within the current framework of their team and the league. This was a much better move for Adams than playing the franchise tag game and then hoping at 29 there would be a massive market for him in free agency. The only question is why this took this long as a deal like this should have been finalized long ago.

I would expect this contract to help pull the safety market up with Jessie Bates of the Bengals likely the top player to immediately benefit, I would also anticipate that Tyrann Mathieu of the Chiefs will now have a target price of $18 million a year on a new contract. As we get more details of the contract we will update Adams cap figures.

Jamal Adams to Challenge Position if Tagged?

Just a few days ago the Seahawks and Jamal Adams were reportedly somewhat close to a deal, but according to Mike Florio of PFT is sounds as if the two sides are back to square one with the Seahawks threatening two franchise tags and Adams supposedly saying he won’t be tagged as a safety.

The Seahawks have very real leverage when it comes to the contract talks with safety Jamal Adams. Barring a long-term deal, they can pay him $9.86 million and then apply the franchise tag twice. With long-term talks bogged down, that’s what they currently plan to do.
Adams, we’re told, has a strategy of his own to deploy if that happens. Per a league source, Adams would file a grievance arguing that he’s a linebacker not a safety for franchise tag purposes.

This is a bit of an interesting wrinkle but one that comes with a great deal of risk. My personal estimate (it differs from the OTC page) is that the safety tag will cost $12.438 million in 2022 which would put a second tag at $14.926 million. The linebacker number is much higher since it primarily is based on the salaries of edge rushers. The linebacker tag is in the ballpark of $18 million in 2022 which would lead to a tag of $21.6 million in 2023.

The salary differential is gigantic as the safety tag is likely well under what Seattle is offering in new money from 2021 to 2023 while the linebacker tag is probably similar to or a bit more than what Seattle is currently offering in money to Adams. But can Adams successfully challenge the designation?

Few players have been successful in getting a position changed in the NFL. The most notable case was between Jimmy Graham and the Saints when Graham argued that he plays wide receiver in the Saints offense. The argument at the time was that he spent a majority of the time split out wide and wasn’t really used as an in-line blocker the way a traditional tight end was. As far as arguments go it was a decent one but one he lost with the nod being given to the Saints having used the tight end designation since day one.

There have been many grievances filed at linebacker with players looking to be designated a defensive end rather than a linebacker because in the past the DE was paid more than a linebacker. More often than not close calls there were settled between the team and the player with a tweener salary being paid with the two sides splitting the tag value of the two positions on a one year contract. Last year Shaq Barrett did seem to win a grievance contesting the designation, though I dont know if that was a grievance decision or the Bucs stopping their challenge. There have been others who have successfully been recognized as DEs after being designated at interior d-line for the option years.

Adams situation is more reminiscent of the Graham situation than the others, in my opinion. He has basically always been a safety and Seattle’s argument is that this is how we deploy a safety in the defense. I think this is far more subjective, like the tight end, than the LB/Edge situation where rushing the passer at the LOS lined up wide is often the role of the DE.

I think if Adams is going to challenge the designation and go to war with the Seahawks over it, it would make sense for him to challenge his option designation as a safety. To accept the safety designation in 2021 while fighting against it in 2022 is a harder one to accept. Players like Leonard Williams for example always challenged their positional designation even as a rookie. To me that at least sets a precedent for how you view yourself and probably opens up the window to gathering more information as to how you can better challenge it the following year.

The strategy itself is risky for Adams. If Adams fails to win a grievance in 2022 he could be looking at giving up three years of his career before getting a chance at a big money deal. Adams would be 29 at that point and probably will no longer be considered an elite talent in free agency. The market will have increased by then as well but the question is by how much?

I question how much Adams would actually earn as a free agent. Most, but not all, big free agent spenders are bad football teams. Given Adams’ exit from New York I think those teams would stay away in free agency. Even if he has no intention of signing with one of those teams it would eliminate him from using them as a negotiating ploy when trying to do a deal with a team like the Chiefs.

The safety market has also been very hit or miss in free agency. It has been minor growth with Landon Collins 7.7% market increase being the big jump in the last few years. That would equate to a deal for Adams in the ballpark of $16.5M a year, or about $1M a year less than the Seahawks are currently offering. Adams may be able to sell himself as a special player ala CJ Mosley a few years ago but even then you would be looking at a contract around $18.5M a season, give or take a bit. Waiting two years for that kind of deal while playing 2022 and 2023 for $27 million is a big risk for not much reward. It is a different calculation if he wins a grievance and earns nearly $40M on the tag across two years.

Some will say the Seahawks lost this the minute they traded for him without an extension. It was clearly a mistake on their part to not do an extension at that time and I think overall the trade is a clear failure since they did not do any better with him on the roster last year than they did without him on the roster the year before. That said Seattle would have the ability, if they can designate him as a safety, to keep Adams for four seasons at a cost of around $41 million from 2020 to 2023. That is not a bad outcome.

The bad outcomes are when the tag provisions are so big that it becomes difficult to tag a player. The Rams may have had a hard time tagging Ramsey two times. The Texans may have had a hard time tagging Tunsil two times. Seattle would have no such problem tagging Adams two times and I would think it is a high probability they would win a grievance against him. I would also think that if they did not want to deal with Adams on the tag they could probably trade him for a late 1 or 2, which would offset a lot of the loss in the trade.

To turn around and pay Adams $20 million a season as the next great linebacker would, in my opinion, make that trade far worse than the other options even if the optics of the extension and a happy player are much better than the alternative of sniping between the two sides for the next three seasons. I have to think that is what the Seahawks are thinking here and with a front office that has been there for ages they probably can deal with the “no extension” fall out better than most would be able to in their position.

The Top NFL Street Free Agents of 2021

With the main slate of preseason games about to get underway and teams begin looking at their strengths and weaknesses I wanted to take a quick look at the top players who were released this offseason and signed to another team. More often than not street free agents do not make the big impact that some expect but it is always a fun “what if” game to see which teams may have made the biggest mistakes for their decision to cut the players.

Here is the list of the top 15 players who were cut and then signed with another team.

NamePositionPrior TeamCap SavedNew TeamYearsNew APY
J.J. WattDETexans$17,500,000Cardinals2$14,000,000
Adoree’ JacksonCBTitans$10,244,000Giants3$13,000,000
Kyle FullerCBBears$11,000,000Broncos1$9,500,000
Eric FisherLTChiefs$11,968,750Colts1$8,380,000
Kevin ZeitlerRGGiants$12,000,000Ravens3$7,500,000
Riley ReiffLTVikings$14,950,000Bengals1$7,500,000
Janoris JenkinsCBSaints$7,000,000Titans2$7,500,000
Kyle Van NoyEDGEDolphins$9,775,000Patriots2$6,000,000
Emmanuel SandersWRSaints$5,900,000Bills1$6,000,000
Kyle RudolphTEVikings$6,487,500Giants2$6,000,000
Jarran ReedDTSeahawks$8,975,000Chiefs1$5,500,000
DeSean JacksonWREagles$4,857,000Rams1$4,500,000
Tyrell WilliamsWRRaiders$10,600,000Lions1$4,000,000
Charles Leno Jr.LTBears$9,300,000Football Team1$4,000,000
John BrownWRBills$7,931,250Raiders1$3,750,000

Of all the names on the list Adoree’ Jackson might be the most interesting, but mainly from the Giants perspective. Usually, the contract value for a SFA is considered a “bargain” but here it clearly was not with the Giants seeing Jackson as a cornerstone player. If he plays well and the Titans struggle in the secondary it will look bad for them but this is the one name that is more about the signing team than cutting team.

The Bears cut Kyle Fuller and Charles Leno due to cap concerns and these may be two of the most watched players for this year. Chicago is expected to compete for the playoffs and made the decision to purge these two key positions in order to keep cap compliant. Their cap was constrained by using the franchise tag on Allen Robinson and one would think at least one of the two would be on the team if they had extended Robinson.

Minnesota also had two players on the list with the primary name being Riley Reiff. Reiff had a good season last year for Minnesota, but they had pretty much made the decision last summer to move on from Reiff when they strong armed him into a pay cut in the summer so they could trade for Yannick Ngakoue. Ngakoue only lasted a few weeks before being traded out but this put a relationship with Reiff at a bad point where extending him even if they wanted to was likely not an option, so they needed to cut him.

The Saints have needs at both corner and wide receiver but had to cut Janoris Jenkins and Emmanuel Sanders because of salary cap issues. Both players had some guaranteed salary in their contracts but the amount of that was minor compared to the salary cap savings.

Thoughts on the Contract Situations of Jamal Adams and Duane Brown

The “hold in” drama in Seattle continues with the team dealing with contract disputes with starting left tackle Duane Brown and starting safety Jamal Adams.  Both players are in the final year of their contracts and looking for extensions and not looking to take the field until their contracts are taken care of. I thought it would be worth a look at both players who are getting a ton of attention right now as the hold in moves into the preseason.

Brown likely falls victim to his age as he will be 36 this season and 37 when a new contract begins. Since 2013 there have been few players Brown’s age to continue playing. Not including Brown, only three players have been that old and continued to play. Andrew Whitworth has played from age 36 through 40 and will play this year at 41. Jason Peters played left tackle through the age of 38 and then played guard at the age of 39. Donald Penn played at the age of 36. That’s it, so there is not much history to really work off of.

Whitworth signed for $11.25 million on a three year contract which guaranteed him $15 million. Peters signed a contract with $15.5 million in guarantees worth a little above $9 million a season at the age of 37.  Penn was a lesser regarded player by the time he was 36 and would not be relevant to any discussion.

Both of those contracts were signed in 2017 at a time when the market was much lower. Whitworth’s contract ranked 8th in the NFL while Peters was 12th. My guess is this is the disconnect here. Seattle, if they are interested in doing a new contract, probably views a deal similar to Whitworth’s as fair. Brown’s argument should be that the market has changed.

The current top 10 players in the NFL now average $18.392 million per year compared to just $11.87 million in 2017, an increase of nearly 55%. Applying that type of inflation would put the fair market value between $14 and $17.5 million a year. Those numbers are a major jump from the older numbers.

Brown has dug in on a holdout before, refusing to play with Houston which eventually saw him traded to Seattle. Seattle’s contract offer represented a 29% raise on a yearly basis from what he was making as a Texan. The same raise would put him around $15 million a season.

Working against Brown is that there is a question as to how much he would get in free agency. Whitworth was coming off back to back Pro Bowls and was one year removed from being an All Pro. Brown hasn’t been selected to a Pro Bowl since 2017 and his All Pro year came in 2012. So the situations may not be all that comparable.

My gut feeling is that the $15M a year number would be fair. Brown is set to earn $11 million this year so I think the real trick for Seattle is to get the guarantee to be in the $20 million range. Guarantees have also increased since 2017 but if they are already prepared to pay him $11M this year it would only be an additional risk of $9-11 million to guarantee him that number. That would offer them more protection than playing out the year and re-signing him anyway and gets them away from the animosity of the franchise tag if things got there.

Adams’ situation is more complicated.  This was something that was likely always going to be a mess from the day they traded for Adams. Adams had already become a bit of a malcontent from the Jets and the contract asks had already started at a high level. The Seahawks inexplicably traded two first round picks for Adams without doing a contract extension ahead of time. At the time of the trade the Bears and Texans had already set big standards for money that would paid following a trade and Jalen Ramsey followed suit. Each player earned a contract worth at least $20 million a season which if I had to guess is what Adams is looking for.

The safety market is different than the other positions in that it is lagging and has been lagging for quite some time. The top safety in the NFL earns $15.25 million per year and a jump from $15 to $20 million would be outrageous at 31%. Mack was a 23.1% raise from the top edge mark at the time while Ramsey was a 16% increase. Tunsil did earn a 33% raise and CJ Mosley a few years ago had a 36% increase over market.

In modern times no safety has been considered such a market changer that they have ever received that kind of raise. I tend to think it is because there are so many good safeties in the league that a drop from a great to a good safety is not a major difference. In modern times the biggest market increase was just 7.7%, which was earned by Landon Collins in 2019. If we look at top defensive players we can get a few baseline values for Adams.

PlayerMkt IncreaseSafety Value
Mosley33.3%$20,328,250
Mack23.1%$18,772,750
Donald18.0%$17,995,000
Ramsey15.9%$17,674,750
Collins7.7%$16,424,250
Average19.6%$18,239,000

This basically can give you a range of fair values for a “market mover” on defense with a low value around $16.5M a year and a high value of $20.5M a year. The average of $18.2M would probably be a reasonable number.

Of course reasonable may not be at play here. I would guess Adams views himself as a jack of all trades who transcends the safety position. A coverage type linebacker recently earned a contract extension worth $19.7 million a season. Adams can rush the passer and edge rushers earn $20 million a year. So he is much more than a safety.

I rarely agree with those arguments which in my mind are similar to running backs and tight ends who claim to be wide receivers. Most of the NFL won’t pay up for a safety that can rush a passer. It is a nice quality to have but isn’t something teams looks for as often the opportunities are not that big and many will not tailor a defense to utilize that. I’m also not sure if Adams is considered a great coverage player. In the last two years he ranks tied for 32nd among safeties for pass break ups per PFF and his 1 interception ranks 68th.  That doesn’t mean he won’t get paid in free agency just that he would not be looked at as a transcendent player.

I have long held the belief that Seattle can not pay Adams more than Bobby Wagner who is the highest paid player on the defense at $18 million a season. I think they can go up to that number and make him the “co-leader” on the team but I don’t believe there is any way to go over it especially since there was no difference with or without Adams in their ultimate team success.

If Adams won’t budge on a deal in the $16.5 to $18 million a year range then Seattle’s best course of action is to go the franchise tag route. The franchise tag next year projects to be worth about $12.4 million and the cost to tag again would be $14.9 million. Those are going to be way under the cash he would earn on any contract extension and should be a strong reason for Adams to consider whatever offer may be on the table from Seattle. Adams would be difficult to deal with on a tag but they could also look to trade him at that point to a team that would extend him at the price he wants.  

While this will likely be looked at as a negative for Seattle if it happens since they traded so much for him I think the fact that Adams would be on the roster under the tag in 2022 or traded for a 2022 draft pick would likely limit the criticism the front office would face especially if they continue their playoff streak.

As for a date for all of this to conclude?  That is anyone’s guess. Certainly by the regular season the players will need to play or run all kinds of risks for the year. Id guess both could be fined for technically not practicing but I don’t think that will happen if they are trying to negotiate. If there comes a point where the two sides clearly will not make an agreement than I think they will likely be forced back to practice to make sure they have the best chance to up their stock for free agency next year.

The Cost to Trade Michael Thomas

Michael Thomas of the New Orleans Saints sent out a tweet this morning that seemed to indicate further unhappiness with the Saints organization and that has brought about questions concerning his future.

The tweet would seem to be in reference to the Saints likely leaking that Thomas did not keep in contact with the Saints this offseason and then having surgery seemingly late in the process. Rumblings of Thomas’ unhappiness with the Saints started last year so it is natural for people to assume he continues to be upset with the team.

Thomas signed a five year contract extension in 2019 which is worth $19.25 million per year and contained around $60 million in guarantees. Due to the Saints need for salary cap relief they restructured Thomas’ contract this year and have already committed to pay him $11.6 million of his original $12.6 million salary regardless of whether or not they would trade him.

The cost to trade Thomas on the salary cap would be $8.9 million this year ($9.1 million if he earned a workout bonus), a savings of just $1 million for the Saints, and $22.7 million next season, a savings of $2 million off his current salary cap figure. Those are very minimal savings for a cap starved team with no real answers at receiver without Thomas. So I would think they would ask quite a lot for him.

The last time the Saints traded a player in a similar situation was when they traded Jimmy Graham for a late 1st round pick just one year after signing him to a contract that made him the highest paid NFL tight end in history. However they did not prepay his salary prior to the trade. The team did pay Junior Gallette a significant amount of money in the offseason in 2015 and then released him in the summer. That would be a much closer financial situation to their situation with Thomas.

It would be hard to picture the team trading Thomas given his importance when healthy but if they have already decided that the situation in not manageable they will likely be able to get more for him now than next year if the situation blows up similar to the Steelers and Antonio Brown where the Steelers received pennies on the dollar for a talented player.

If a team acquired Thomas they would only be on the hook for $1 million this season. The charges in 2022, 2023, and 2024 would all be affordable- $15.8M, $16.45M, and $19.7M,- assuming he does not look for a new contract. Thomas salary next year is guaranteed for injury and is fully guaranteed on the 3rd day of the league year so in theory you could get Thomas for free this year when he returns and then release him if things do not go well. A team would likely look at this as a three year, $33M investment which is dirt cheap for a player of this caliber.

One option for the Saints in a trade would be to acquire another veteran player with the trade partner paying off most of the salary to help offset the fact that the Saints paid Thomas’ salary already. They would also get a draft pick as well in that scenario.

I doubt any of this happens, but hopefully this clears up the salary cap implications of a trade.