Amari Cooper Traded to the Browns

The trades just keep coming in the NFL with the Browns pulling off the latest trade as they have agreed to a trade for Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper for just a 5th round pick.

Cooper signed a five year, $100 million contract with the Cowboys in 2020 that was always structured with a glass half empty approach to it. The signing bonus was low and the guarantee structure weak enough to allow the Cowboys to walk away after two seasons with minimal pain on their salary cap. The news that he was going to be cut leaked out a few days ago and that seemed to create enough of a buzz to get a 5th round pick rather than nothing for him.

Cooper was going to count for $22 million on the Cowboys salary cap this season and will now count for just $6 million in dead money, a savings of $16 million in cap space. The Cowboys are expected to re-sign Michael Gallup and use some of that newfound salary cap space on him. Dallas should have around $20 million in cap space right now.

The Browns have been desperate for wide receivers and decided to opt into Cooper’s $20 million salary for this season rather than chance losing him in free agency to another team. It is an interesting discussion about value in the NFL. On one hand the only risk they have with Cooper is the $20 million for this year, but that $20 million is the 4th highest salary for a receiver in the NFL at this time. If he plays well enough then they will need to pay $20 million next season, currently the highest salary for WR’s in 2023.

Had they signed him in free agency they certainly would have guaranteed him more money, maybe as much as $40 million, but a two year salary in the range of $32 to $35 million rather than $40. Given that Dallas was willing to do a deal for a 5th rounder also should have been an indication to Cleveland that there was a very limited market for him at this price.

Of course nothing prevents them from trying to negotiate a better contract with him. In fact I would not be surprised if they did something along those lines by guaranteeing him his 2023 salary in return for a salary reduction. If Cooper is not a top flight receiver they can always work on a cheaper contract in 2023.

Cooper will carry a $20 million salary cap charge in 2022, 2023, and 2024. Only this year’s salary carries any guarantee. The Browns will need to clear cap space to execute the trade as Cooper $20 million cap hit would put them about $3 million over the cap. The most logical move is to either release Jarvis Landry or to attempt to get him to take a pay cut. Landry counts for $16.4 million on the salary cap and they would free up $14.9 million with his release.

The Cost of Trading For Deshaun Watson

Deshaun Watson will not face criminal charges for his alleged sexual misconduct and with the most serious aspect of the charges not behind him attention is going to turn to his football career, primarily his trade market and how much it would cost to fit him on a roster.

On the field there are few better QB’s than Watson. He is a dynamic player who helped lead the Texans to multiple playoff appearances. The trade cost for a player of Watson’s stature should be astronomical. We just saw a soon to be 34 year old Russell Wilson traded for two 1st round picks and two second round picks, Noah Fant and a few other pieces. Wilson had two years remaining under contract for $51 million and would then be eligible for a new contract likely in the $40 to $45 million per year range if all goes well.

Watson will be just 27 this season and is under contract for the next four years at a total of $136 million. So not only is he a more attractive player than Wilson but the contract over the four year period should favor Watson over Wilson as well even if it will not look that way in the short term. Given that the majority of uncertainty regarding Watson will now be gone I would guess you could be looking at three first round and three second round picks along with potentially a decent young player as part of a trade in light of the Seahawks haul for Wilson.

For a team to acquire Watson this year they would need to have $35 million to acquire the contract. Right now the only teams who would be capable of doing that are the Colts, Seahawks, Jets, Dolphins, and Jaguars. Plenty of teams can get there including the Lions, Steelers, Raiders, Bucs, Eagles, and possibly the Panthers. A team can restructure Watson’s contract for cap relief after the fact but would need the room, unless Houston picked up some of the cost, to execute the trade.

As it stands right now Watson’s contract has salaries of $35 million in 2022, $37 million in 2023, and $32 million in 2024 and 2025. Those would also be the salary cap charges associated with a team who trades for him. A simple restructure would allow Watson’s 2022 cap hit to be as low as $9.53 million following a trade. Watson’s 2022 and 2023 salaries are more or less guaranteed already, but a guarantee shouldn’t be of any concern for a team making this type of trade commitment as the expectation is to have a relationship well beyond the term of this contract.

Watson, like Wilson, has a no trade clause in his contract so he will likely have a number of teams he can select from to see if they can come to an agreement with the Texans on a compensation package. Given the level of QB play currently in the AFC, if I were in Watson’s shoes I would lean toward playing in the NFC where the path looks much easier to a Super Bowl appearance. I would guess Houston would prefer that as well, though I would not care where he was going if the best offer came from the Colts. The goal should be to get better not worry about how often you have to face him.

The cost on the Texans salary cap if they trade Watson will be $16.2 million on the cap, allowing them to open up $24.2 million in cap space this season while removing his $40M+ cap charge completely from the books in 2023. Since the relationship with Watson is beyond repair trading him clearly gives them the best path to rebuilding the team which was gutted to acquire a few players in 2019 and 2020 with no real thought for the future.

It should be noted that Watson can still be suspended by the NFL. My guess is, given the reporting on the allegations, that he will be. Over a decade ago Ben Roethlisberger was suspended for six games (it was downgraded to four) after accusations of rape. IIRC his suspension was handed down about a week to two weeks after it was determined no criminal charges would be filed. The NFL didn’t act last year on the allegations I can only assume because of the potential criminal charges that would come his way and not wanting to look as if they gave too weak of a punishment in the event his case did go to court. With civil charges still pending and the widespread reporting on the allegations one would think this would have a similar outcome.

While no team is going to want to trade for Watson and lose four to six games this year, that is a very different calculation than the potential of losing Watson for a season or to jail for his career. You could always peg some type of compensation to time played this year as part of the trade if necessary. I don’t think it will in any way get in the way of trading for him let’s put it that way.

I would expect the market to heat up very quickly and the rumor mill to be kicked into high gear starting tonight about how many teams are inquiring about his status.

Bears and Chargers Discussing Trade of Khalil Mack

In 2018 the Bears made a huge splash trading for edge rusher Khalil Mack and making him the highest paid defensive player in NFL history. After four seasons in Chicago it looks as if Mack’s time may be coming to an end according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.

Schefter later indicated that the trade would be for a 2nd and 6th round draft pick.

I love this move for the Chargers. The great thing about trades for players is that it generally gives you access to a star player at a salary cap charge that is affordable relative to the actual size of the player’s contract. It also often carries no baggage beyond the first year of the trade.

If the Chargers make this trade they would get Mack on the salary cap for $17.75M in 2022, $22.9M in 2023, and $23.25 million in 2024. There is nothing guaranteed in the contract anymore so if things go really bad this year and Mack struggled to stay healthy or play well its as close as you can get to a “no harm, no foul” kind of move for a superstar in the NFL. Mack should not only give the team a dominating pass rush if healthy but also provide insurance in the event Joey Bosa was to go down for any extended period of time. Given where the team stands with their young QB and salary cap space these types of moves make all the sense in the world.

The decision matrix for Chicago is very different. Mack was set to count on the salary cap for $30.15 million in 2022 and $28.5 million in 2023. The Bears are currently trying to dig out of a salary cap mess that was left behind by the decisions of their prior general manager. Finding ways to clear out as much cap room as possible for the future while adding draft picks in the process gives Chicago the best chance to create a window similar to what the Chargers have with Justin Herbert. The low cost of Justin Fields will extend into the 2023 and 2024 years so clearing the books for those years makes far more sense than the perceived value of the trade being “just” a 2nd and 6th round pick while also racking up a massive amount of dead money.

As pointed out by Brad Spielberger, the dead money for Mack will be the highest in NFL history for a non-QB at $24 million. It will create $6.15 million in cap room for Chicago but the the real savings are where we look at the future. If the Bears do not do this trade and instead wait until next year they will wind up spending $41.75 million in cap on Mack (the $30.15M charge this year and $11.6M dead in 2023). Now it just costs the $24M giving the team a net positive of $17.75 million for 2023, cap space that can go a long way toward improving the team.

The trade can not be official before the start of the league year so the Bears will need to account for the $30.15 million salary cap charge during the first day of free agency. Mack has a roster bonus due on the 3rd day of the league year so expect the trade to be official between the 1st and 3rd day. We will process the move on the website once it is more or less confirmed as a done deal.

Carson Wentz Traded to Washington

A day after it was revealed that the Commanders were turned down as a destination for Russell Wilson, Washington finalized a trade for their backup plan…Carson Wentz. Washington will trade away their 3rd round pick in 2022 and 2023 with the 2023 pick potentially escalating to a 2nd round pick based on playing time. The Colts and Commanders will also swap 2nd round picks this year. Apparently, Washington will take on Wentz’ entire contract which totals $28.29 million this year.

From Washington’s standpoint this is a hard trade to wrap my head around if the reports of them taking on the contract as is are accurate. This is the second time in two years that Wentz has been traded and it seemed clear that the Colts were likely going to release him to avoid having to pay him his full salary. To give up picks and relieve the Colts of a $15 million obligation for a QB who is probably worth $10 million on the open market is crazy.

If they are taking on his full salary they will need to restructure the contract or make other moves to create cap room. At a $28.3 million cap hit the Commanders would have approximately $6 million in cap room which isn’t enough to function for the year. There were certainly more economical options for the team including the option of just waiting for the Colts to release Wentz, but I guess this gives them some certainty for next year.

This is basically a heist for the Colts who more or less admitted that they made a mistake by trading for Wentz last February. The Colts gave up a lot for a bad contract and then doubled down on the trade when it looked like the team would make the playoffs. By continuing to play Wentz down the stretch of the season they wound up trading a 1st round pick rather than a 2nd round pick for their one year of Wentz.

The Colts saved $15 million in dead money and created $28.3 million in cap room for the year. They now sit around $70 million in cap space for the year which is nearly $20 million more than the next closest team. The Colts are no stranger to having a lot of cap room and more often than not spend it on short term one year mid range contracts.

In hindsight the Wentz deal wound up a disaster for the team. They pulled the trigger early on the trade and then watched as potential quarterbacks fell in the draft. They could have traded away the same package last year and walked away with a Justin Fields or Mac Jones in the draft. While neither may prove to be a great QB, they at least gave the team a cheap opportunity to get a long term solution at QB. Now the team is back to square one with their QB hunt.

When people talk about QB hell there should be a picture of the Colts. They have been unable to find a solution to the position since Andrew Luck unexpectedly retired in 2019. Since then this is what the Colts have done with the position:

PlayerYearsSalary Cap SpentRecord
Andrew Luck0$24,800,0000-0
Jacoby Brissett1$29,837,5007-8
Phillip Rivers1$25,000,00011-5
Carson Wentz1$21,305,8829-8
Brian Hoyer0$7,000,0000-0
Total3$107,943,38227-21

Three years, $107.943 million with one playoff appearance. It is the most salary cap space used on QBs in the NFL over that time frame and 4th in cash spent (they trail Dallas, Seattle, and potentially Tampa). They also do not have a 1st round pick because of the year spent on Wentz. Perhaps this year they will have better luck at better return at the position.

Paying for NFL Draft Picks via Trades

A lot has been made of the concept of paying to acquire draft picks in the NFL and it became a big discussion point again when the Denver Broncos traded Von Miller to the Rams, but not before picking up $9 million of Miller’s salary in order to receive a big haul in return of a 2nd and 3rd round draft pick for an expiring contract. With the help of Troy Chapman who has been tracking some of these cash for pick type trades, I decided to see if we can actually place a cost on a draft pick in the NFL since we are seeing more and more of these trades each year.

Many people seem to think that this concept of trading cash for picks is something that began in 2017 in a highly publicized trade when the Browns agreed to take on the entire $16 million guaranteed salary of Brock Osweiler in return for a 2nd round draft pick. While that may have been the first time an acquiring team paid the bill, so to speak, for a draft pick, the concept of prepaying a contract to finalize a trade package has been in place for quite some time, at least as early as 2011. 2011 was when the Seahawks ate a few million to move Aaron Curry to the Raiders for a few picks, essentially paying for some draft picks to move a player they had no reason to keep any longer.

Troy and I went back and tried to piece together trades that saw a team pick up a large portion of the cost during the OTC era (2013 onward) and in return be awarded draft picks. We did not include trades that had players as a centerpiece (i.e. the recent Matt Stafford trade) and I made no attempt to untangle the worth of the player in a straight trade had the salary not been paid prior to a trade.

For each player I calculated the salary paid to execute the trade and then determined the draft compensation. For draft compensation I used the Fitzgerald-Spielberger trade values to determine how many points were acquired in a trade. Unless a pick was known at the time of the trade I valued each pick as a mid round selection. For rounds 1-3 that was simple but for rounds 4 to 7 I used what was the average mid point from 2019 to 2021 to take into account compensatory picks causing fluctuation in draft order. The only exception here was the recent Rams trade since they are clearly going to be a playoff team so I downgraded that to a mid 20s return.

There were two questions that we needed to deal with. The first was a discount rate. If a pick was more than a year out I did discount the value but not by a full round the way most people do. The point value I used here was the average between the last pick of the round that the pick will fall into and the first pick of the next round (i.e. the value of a 2nd rounder one year out would be the average value of the 64th and 65th pick).

The second was the alternative consideration of compensatory value. For a player with an expiring contract the team might be in line to receive a compensatory pick for the player. For the few players this applied to, I estimated what I thought their compensatory level would be. This was then discounted as the average between that pick and a compensatory pick two rounds later. The reason I dropped it this much is because of the uncertainty that lies in the compensatory process. It can be hard to protect a compensatory draft pick in free agency which might mean that the pick is really worth nothing. This number is subtracted from the points calculated above to determine the net value of the trade.

While we may be missing a few trades (I purposely did not include the recent Mark Ingram trade since the number was so small and basically done to help the Saints rather than for a pick)

YearPlayerTeamCash PaidCash SavedPicksAlternativeNet Point GainCost/Point
2013Eugene MonroeJaguars$2,359,118$546,7654th rnd, 5th rnd4th rnd (1Y)628$3,757
2020Leonard WilliamsJets$4,019,500$2,019,5003rd rnd, conditional 4th rnd (1Y)3rd rnd (1Y)756$5,317
2021Von MillerBroncos$9,000,000$722,2222nd rnd, 3rd rnd5th rnd (1Y)1,392$6,466
2021Bradley RobyTexans$7,500,000$03rd rnd, conditional 6th rnd (1Y)1,058$7,089
2021Randall CobbTexans$3,000,000$5,250,0006th rnd330$9,091
2021Joe SchobertJaguars$3,650,000$3,650,0006th rnd330$11,061
2019Ryan TannehillDolphins$5,000,000$04th rnd (1Y), 7th rnd; loss 6th390$12,821
2013Levi BrownCardinals$3,085,588$546,765Conditional 7th (not met)190$16,240
2019Aqib TalibDolphins*$4,235,294$05th rnd; loss 7th rnd (2Y)244$17,358
2019Jadeveon ClowneyTexans$7,000,000$03rd rnd4th rnd (1Y)399$17,544
2021Teddy BridgewaterPanthers$7,062,500$3,000,0006th rnd330$21,402
2017Brock OsweilerBrowns*$16,000,000$02nd rnd (1Y), 6th rnd, loss 4th rd746$21,448
2019Case KeenumBroncos$4,000,000$3,000,0006th rnd(1Y); loss 7th rnd(1Y)89$44,944
2015Dashon GoldsonBuccaneers$4,000,000$4,000,0006th rnd(1Y); loss 7th rnd(1Y)89$44,944
2021Ereck FlowersDolphins$6,000,000$3,000,0007th rnd; loss 7th rnd24$250,000

Here are some thoughts on each trade going from the worst to the best.

15. Dolphins Trade Ereck Flowers for a swap of 7th round picks- $250,000/point

This was a wild one. Flowers was part of the Dolphins purge this year where the Dolphins quickly changed course and moved almost every 2020 signing off the team. In order to get someone to take Flowers, the Dolphins paid $6 million of the contract and received almost no value. The impetus for this trade simply had to be saving cash for Miami since they had already guaranteed Flowers $9 million for the season. So really they paid $6 million to save $3 million and just included the picks because the NFL requires that. That being said I think its important to include this trade only to point out how many different opportunities should have existed for Miami here because the return here was absurdly bad even for a player like Flowers.

13. Bucs trade Dashon Goldson for a 6th/7th pick swap- $44,944/point

Goldson was a big signing for the Buccaneers back in 2013 but he had quickly fallen by 2015 to the point where the Bucs were just looking to get anything in return as a justification for trading away a player they invested so much in the prior two seasons. They found a trade partner in Washington who got the Bucs to eat $4 million of the cost- the remaining guarantee on the contract. In return Washington would give them a 6th round pick the following season as long as they gave them a 7th rounder. Clearly nowhere near as bad as the Flowers deal but certainly not an attempt to exploit the system either.

13. Broncos trade Case Keenum for a 6th/7th pick swap- $44,944/point

Essentially the same trade as above and again featuring Washington as the beneficiary. The Broncos saved themselves $3 million by executing this trade which was probably the main reason for doing the deal rather than the draft picks. As you look at these three “bad” deals you can see just how much teams do value actually saving cash if possible even if it means getting taken in a trade by a team that may have some use for the players.

12. Browns trade for Brock Osweiler a 2nd and 6th for a 4th– $21,448/point

The first real trade on the list to not involve savings as a motivating factor for the team to make the trade. Here we had the Browns taking on a bad contract, in full, from the Texans and for the most part it was a gross overpayment. The Browns actually lost value in the year of the trade losing a 4th and gaining a 6th and had to wait the full year for that 2nd round draft pick. Perhaps that was by design based on that years draft prospects, but it certainly was not, on paper, a great use of $16 million in cash. The blunder by the Browns here was probably overvaluing Osweiler’s worth. I think the Browns thought after executing this trade they could flip Osweiler for more picks if they picked up a chunk of the cost. That never materialized and they ate nearly $16 million.

11. Panthers trade Teddy Bridgewater for a 6th round pick- $21,402/point

This was a clear “we want him off the team” kind of trade as the Panthers picked up slightly more than $7 million in costs and only received a 6th in return. The Panthers did save $3 million by trading Bridgewater rather than cutting him, but they should have gotten more for picking up that much of the price. The Broncos were in need of a QB and Bridgewater was going to compete for a starting job, a job he eventually won. Had they held out a little longer I think they could have gotten more but they probably rushed this and wound up handing Denver a dirt cheap QB.

10. Texans trade Jadeveon Clowney for a 3rd round pick- $17,544/point

This was an interesting trade that perhaps showed the disfunction of the Texans front office. Clowney was designated as the franchise player for Houston but as time went on it seemed clear that regretted that decision and probably wish they never made it. The Texans could have walked away and not owed a penny since Clowney did not sign the tender but by failing to allow him to reach free agency they eliminated their chance to earn a comp pick which could have been a 3rd that year. Seemingly they admitted defeat and paid for the same 3rd rounder by picking up $7 million of Clowney’s salary and sending him to Seattle. Just a very poor strategy that was not thought out. Houston fans would probably disagree with one part of my assessment here and that is that Clowney would have netted at least a 4th as an alternative. To reach that 4th they would have had to pay him over $15 million for the season which is an even worse use of their money. That is a fair argument and maybe the fair value of this is somewhere in the middle where this value encompasses the overall bad decision making by the team.

9. Dolphins trade for Aqib Talib and a 5th round pick for a future 7th– $17,358/point

Miami traded for Talib when he was on IR knowing he had no chance to play for them that season. The trade saw them pick up a bit over $4.2 million in salary that was owed to Talib by the Rams and in return the Rams would give Miami a 5th round draft pick. The Rams got a 7th coming their way two years later. If you apply a deeper discount to that pick this skews more in Miami’s favor but they probably should have had a 7th pick swap in there to make the trade official rather than just giving their away.

8. Cardinals trade Levi Brown for a conditional 7th– $16,240 per point

Arizona was moving on from a mistake they made signing Brown and they opted to pay nearly $3.1 million of his salary to trade him to Pittsburgh. The Cardinals never actually received anything for Brown as the condition was not met (he had a certain amount of games to play and I believe he got hurt after the trade) which really makes this arguably the worst trade, but at the time they made the trade fully believing he would reach that number, but it was certainly foolish to not just get a 7th round pick.

7. Dolphins trade Ryan Tannehill and 6th round pick for 7th round pick and future 4th– $12,821/point

In hindsight this looks bad since Tannehill has made a career in Tennessee, but that was probably never going to happen for him in Miami. Tannehill’s run in Miami was marred by injury and ineffective play on a hefty contract extension which was a gamble by Miami the minute it was signed. Still they made the best of a bad situation by paying $5 million for the picks rather than releasing Tannehill outright and watching him thrive on another team.

6. Jaguars trade Joe Schobert for a 6th round pick- $11,061/point

A nice trade for the Jaguars who not only picked up a 6th rounder but cut their obligation for Schobert in half to help alleviate a bad contract decision made the prior offseason. Jacksonville and the Steelers agreed to split the salary of Schobert at $3.65 million apiece. The savings here were significant for the Jaguars.

5. Texans trade Randall Cobb for a 6th round pick- $9,091/point

This was a really nice deal for Houston who benefitted from the conflict in Green Bay between Aaron Rodgers and management. The Packers basically threw Rodgers a bone by going out and getting back one of his former receivers which put them at a big disadvantage here. They did get the Texans to pick up $3 million of the contract but this not only got the Texans a pick but saved them millions and got them out of one of the worst contracts in the NFL. While I didn’t try to take into account the value of money saved this is a rare one where it was meaningful and probably the value of another 6th round pick and a 7th round pick. So overall this is one of the best trades made by a team.

4. Texans trade Bradley Roby for a 3rd round pick and conditional 6th round pick- $7,089/point

This value is based on the Texans getting a 6th but I don’t know those conditions and if it was something that should have been considered likely or not, so that is a guess on my part. Still a solid trade even if we take that out as $7.5 million for a 3rd is far better than the Panthers trade of $7 million for a 6th. It is not an apples to apples comparison of course since Bridgewater had no value to the Panthers and the Texans could claim that they valued Roby even though they probably had zero intention of ever playing him this year.

3. Broncos trade Von Miller for a 2nd and 3rd round pick- $6,466/point

This was a no brainer by the Broncos who paid $9 million of Miller’s remaining salary to get back a massive haul of draft picks from the Rams. I think the return on this was pretty eye opening around the NFL and probably gave some general managers new hope that they could get something big in return for expensive declining players that have tremendous name value if they opt to keep them during the year rather than cut them.  The alternative for the Broncos was to pay Miller’s salary for the year anyway and hope that they got a 5th round compensatory pick in return in 2023.  That’s not to say that this was bad for the Rams who are clearly looking to win this year but it was a great trade for Denver any way you slice it.

2. Jets trade Leonard Williams for a 3rd and conditional 4th round pick- $5,317/point

One of the great steals of recent times, the Jets pulled off a really surprising trade here. Williams was set to be a free agent and was not likely to be brought back. One would assume they would have traded him to a contending team for a 4th but the woeful Giants stepped in and offered a 3rd and 4th for Williams provided the Jets picked up about $4 million of Williams’ salary. Had Williams played things out for the Jets they probably would have gotten a 3rd round pick two years later if they could have avoided free agency that year. Instead they saved themselves $2 million, locked in a 3rd rounder that year, and had an exceptional shot at a 4th rounder the following season. A great trade.  

1. Jaguars trade Eugene Monroe for a 3rd and 4th round pick- $3,757/point

One of the earlier trades using this model, the Jaguars prepaid Monroe $2.36 million and shipped him off to the Ravens who needed help along the offensive line in 2013. Monroe was going to be a free agent the following year and his time in Jacksonville was at an end. I estimated his compensatory value to be a 4th round pick which would have come the following season so they got that and more up front by making this trade. The Ravens were only 2-2 at the time of the trade but were coming off a Super Bowl win the prior year and thought this would help, which it did not. The Ravens finished 8-8 and re-signed Monroe who only lasted two more seasons before he was cut. A great decision for the Jaguars to pay so little relative to everyone else.  

Some Other Thoughts

I think one of the important things we do need to consider in the future is the cash component of these trades. It is such a small sample size that its hard to isolate the trades with meaningless cash savings and make much of it, but it clearly is a driver of the worst trades on this list. As a rough estimate maybe something like $3 million in savings should be looked at as a 7th round pick? The best trades here were all more or less in-season deals that seemed to come from finding a team with designs on winning and then robbing them in the trade. Monroe was four games in to the defending champs, Miller was 8 games in to a team that looks as if they could be the best in the NFL, Roby was week 1 to a team desperate for corner help, and the Williams trade seemed to be finding a team with a glass half full outlook that wanted to lock a player up that they liked prior to free agency.  Even the next few deals came on the eve of camp/season.

In that respect unless there is some type of additional offseason payment or other guarantee that locks in it would seem to make the most sense for teams to wait at least until the summer to make these trades if the intention is to pay off the salary anyway as part of the trade. The Flowers, Bridgewater, Goldson, Keenum, etc… tier were all teams that reeked of desperation and arguably made a trade too quickly. Those returns perhaps could have been maximized by holding onto the players rights and then waiting to see what would open up. I’m not saying that the Panthers could have held onto Bridgewater through the season since his salary would have been higher, but imagine a scenario where Jameis Winston got hurt in the preseason rather than regular season. What return would the Panthers have gotten for eating $7 million?  That team paid a 3rd and 6th for a corner and here you may have been able to give them a QB. Patience makes more sense. You should be able to find the same trades even if you wait until the summer and nothing materializes since you will be picking up so much of the cost.

While I am sure we missed a few trades here and there, hopefully we can track some more of these in the future and see if we can get a better handle on the cost vs draft pick return.  It is definitely a different part of NFL trades and one that I think more teams might be able to utilize as a way to build up their draft capital in a given year.

Rams Trade for Sony Michel

The Rams made a trade this morning per ESPN’s Adam Schefter acquiring running back Sony Michel from the New England Patriots.

The Rams were in a position where they were looking to boost their running back by committee group which was dealt a big blow when last season’s rushing leader, Cam Akers, landed on the shelf with a torn Achilles. Trading for Michel gives them the ability to bring in a potential talented player on the cheap to fill in the role left by Akers.

Michel is a former first round pick of the Patriots in 2018. First round picks on running backs are often controversial and Michel’s run in New England did nothing to end that controversy. He never had a 1,000 yard season though he did lead the team in rushing in two of his three seasons. He seemed to fall out of favor with the team last season with a stint on IR and a more limited roll. The Patriots would decline the fifth year option for Michel.

Moving to the Rams should give Michel a fresh start where the expectations of being a top draft pick are gone and he can focus on having a big year with free agency around the corner in 2022. That can be a motivating factor for a player and he should see a bigger role in the Rams offense as a two down back than he may have in New England where he was likely playing out the string and may not have even made the team.

The Patriots likely look at this as a smart salary dump due to the salary and $555,747 remaining guarantee. The will clear $1,792,731 by trading him and receive some late draft picks in the process which is a big win for a team who probably was probably finished with the player. They will carry $1,270,308 in dead money this year for Michel.

The trade compensation here looks to be a 4th round compensatory pick (Nick projects them to receive that for the loss of John Johnson this offseason) which is a bit of a high price for the Rams to pay for what may just amount to a salary dump for the Patriots. The Rams are in a clear “win-now” window and likely not looking that far in the future to consider the pick impactful enough to pass up the talent in the player who they hope will be motivated by the change of scenery and chance of bigger free agent dollars.

There is next to no chance the Rams will recover a comp pick in 2023 for Michel anywhere near a 4th rounder but if he does leave they can probably recover something in the process which would limit the loss. If he has a normal year and doesn’t scare teams away I would guess he would earn a contract in the 6th round compensatory range. I would guess that the Rams also factored in the fact that they are projected to receive five compensatory picks next year as an offset of losing one of those picks for the hopeful immediate impact.

Before I saw the trade compensation I would have considered this a rare “win-win-win” scenario for the three sides here. It is a clear win for New England and Michel. The Rams will need him to excel in the role to justify the cost.

Joe Schobert Traded to the Steelers

Just one year after signing a five year, $53.75 million contract with the Jaguars, LB Joe Schobert has been traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Schobert was one of the Jaguars prized free agent signings just one year ago, but after cleaning house in the front office and coaching staff the team has a new look this year and may have been happy to simply move the contract to another team. The Jaguars will save $7.3 million in salary by trading Schobert. Schobert started 16 games for the Jaguars last season and recorded 84 solo tackles and had 6 tackles for loss to go along with 3 interceptions.

As far as contract’s go this was a big loss for the Jaguars. The team paid Schobert $15 million, about 28% of the entire contract value, last season. The key to finding value in the contract was to have him a member of the team for the 2020 through 2022 seasons since his salary in 21 and 22 were much more affordable.

The Steelers have been searching for more help at this position and likely saw this as a good cost for the position. Schobert will cost the team up to $7.3 million this season and this is the last year his contract has guaranteed salary. His salary next year is a non-guaranteed $9.25 million bringing the two year average to $8.28 million. The 2023 salary increases to $10.75 million, which is still an affordable figure if he is still on the team at that point.

The Steelers had about $12.2 million in cap room prior to the trade. Schobert’s contract does not really fit the model for the Steelers as it contains workout and per game bonuses so it would not be surprising if they approach him about renegotiating the contract by converting his salary and per game bonus this year into a signing bonus while putting all the future workouts and per gamers into his paragraph 5 salary.

Once the trade becomes official the Jaguars will have a salary cap charge this year of $2.6 million for Schobert. He will also leave the team with $7.2 million in dead money next year. The Jaguars lead the NFL in available cap space this year and should have over $65 million next year including their carryover from this year.