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.

Teddy Bridgewater Traded to Denver

The Denver Broncos have made a trade with the Carolina Panthers for QB Teddy Bridgewater, who was going to be replaced by Sam Darnold this season. In order to facilitate the trade it sounds as if Bridgewater will agree to a reduced salary and that the Panthers will eat most of the cost.

With such a low salary and draft compensation I would expect the Broncos to continue to look at QB’s as Schefter mentioned. This is basically the money that you would pay a backup and it should give the Broncos some insurance if Drew Lock fails to improve this offseason. While Bridgewater has limited upside he has proven to be capable of managing a good offense and the Broncos certainly have talent on that side of the football.

For the Panthers this is another in a long list of bad deals over the past few years. They grossly overpaid Bridgewater in free agency at $21 million a year with $33 million guaranteed at signing. This is the type of free agent that is generally a disaster signing and Bridgewater joins the list of names like Nick Foles who cashed in off limited games and desperate franchises.

Bridgewater will end up pocketing $31 million from the Panthers for 15 starts and 4 wins. The team will carry $17 million in dead money this year and his release will create about $6 million in cap space for Carolina in 2022. The reason that Bridgewater agreed to a reduced salary is because he had $10 million of his salary guaranteed this year. The guarantee had offsets so he was locked into a $10 million salary no matter what. By only paying $7 million the Panthers will save $2 million more than if they had cut him and allowed him to sign for the minimum with another team.

Carolina’s depth chart at the QB position takes a hit with the trade and Darnold has never played 16 games in his three year career so a backup could be important. That said there is no way they could justify the cost for Bridgewater. Whether they are content with PJ Walker and Will Grier for next season or look for a cheap veteran remains to be seen. I still think that if the right QB fell in the draft that they could possibly pick someone and maybe they hope that this prevents the Broncos from making a trade ahead of them in the draft.

Dolphins Trade Ereck Flowers to Washington

The Miami Dolphins continued their purge of 2020 free agent signings with a trade of Ereck Flowers to Washington in exchange for a swapping of late draft picks. The trade made little sense for Washington when announced given that Flowers was set to earn $9 million in salary until ESPN’s Adam Schefter shared this little nugget:

With Miami picking up all but $3 million of Flowers’ salary for the year the trade makes far more sense for the Football Team than before. At $3 million Flowers will be at the salary of a backup player and likely in a competition for a guard position. Given that the team already has $18 million tied up in franchise player Brandon Scherff it made little sense to spend $27 million on the position but this is basically a no risk signing. The $3 million salary is about equal to what Washington paid Flowers when they signed him in 2019 ($3.25 million) as a free agent so the salary and trade makes complete sense from their perspective.

Miami will have $8 million in dead money for Flowers- $6 million from this years restructure and $2 million remaining from last years signing bonus. Flowers was going to count for $10 million on the cap for the Dolphins so it will be about $2 million in savings this year on the cap and $3 million in cash. This move now gives the Dolphins the extra cap room needed to sign their rookie class this summer.

It has been a very interesting offseason for the Dolphins. The team made three pretty bold signings last year- Flowers at $10 million a year, Shaq Lawson at $10 million a year, and Kyle Van Noy at $12.75 million a year- and all three are now gone with Van Noy being cut and the other two traded. All three were questionable numbers but Miami had cap space to spare and a need to attract players.

That said they frontloaded the Lawson and Van Noy deals and with the money spent to get out of the Flowers deal they blew a ton of cap room on players they ultimately did not need. All told the Dolphins spent $45.525 million for one season apiece on those three players. The players are now playing for $7 million (Van Noy), $3 million (Flowers) and $8 million (Lawson) in 2021 for other teams, about $27.5 million less than what Miami paid them for their one season. They will carry $14.79 million on the cap in dead money for those three players in 2021. That’s a terrible ROI.

On the other hand you have to really like the Dolphins approach to admitting a mistake and finding a way to move on. $6 million on Flowers is better than $9 million for a player you do not want on the team. More often than not teams chase the sunk costs on these mistake signings and wind up spending even more on the cap by hoping things improve in the second year. In the studies we ran in the OTC Free Agency Guide it is usually year one that sees the best results for most players with declining production from that point forward so Miami is ahead of the curve with their strategy. That should be encouraging for Dolphins fans.

Miami was much less aggressive in free agency this year signing only one players to a $10M+ contract and that was Will Fuller on a one year deal which means there is no frontloading or future dead money. So everyone this time around is either on a one year contract or a low dollar figure deal that won’t require any significant future cap charges if things do not work out.

Should the Falcons Trade Julio Jones?

In this morning’s FMIA Peter King passed along that he would not be surprised if Julio Jones was traded with a note that the trade likely would not be finalized until June 2 which would allow the Falcons some much needed salary cap relief. Since then others have said there has been interest in a trade for Jones around the NFL. The Falcons are currently navigating their way through one of the worst salary cap situations in the NFL not just this year but also next year which should lead a lot of credence to these rumors.

It was really a tale of two very different contracts with Jones. The Falcons negotiated a strong contract in 2015 that averaged $14.25 million per season which was quickly surpassed in the market by inferior players. By 2019 Jones indicated he wanted a new contract despite having two years remaining on the old deal. Whether they misread the Falcons misread the market or were really just trying to make a star wide receiver happy they ended up signing him to a massive $22 million per year extension which has stood out as a bit of an outlier for the last two years.

Jones received $36 million in prorated money and a $27.6 million raise over the original terms of his 2015 contract that ran through 2020. The Falcons guaranteed $64 million dollars with full guarantees that would virtually run through the 2021 season. The contract made Jones un-cuttable through 2021- it would leave the Falcons with a $40.55 million cap charge- and virtually untradeable given their cap situation- his $23.25 million in dead money would be the same as keeping him on the team.

That leaves the June 2 as the only real option for the Falcons. By delaying  a trade until that time Atlanta can split that $23.25 million across two seasons. They would be charged $7.75 million on the cap this year, saving the team $15.3 million in cap space, and $15.5 million next year, which is about $3.7 million in savings for 2022.

When I discussed the Falcons on the podcast this offseason my thought was that the Falcons could not really support both Jones and Matt Ryan on the team for much longer. When the Falcons were desperate for cap savings this year it was notable that they restructured Ryan’s deal despite the future cap pain that would be incurred but they did not touch the contracts of Jones or defensive lineman Grady Jarrett. Not touching those contracts would always leave the team with a chance of a trade this year with an ability to create cap space in the summer if they did not trade the players.

While some may argue that given all the dead money in Jones’ deal that it makes more sense to hold onto him especially if no compensation will come until 2022, I think it makes far more sense to move on if they find the right package. Jones will be 32 this year and is coming off his worst season since 2013 as he dealt with injuries. His name value is still incredibly high and the contract so affordable for another team that they should be able to get a decent return. The fact that they would likely delay draft compensation until 2022 should only make the package stronger as teams will look at this as a “no payment, all reward” trade. You can’t guarantee any of that next year.

While Jones is certainly a legend in Atlanta they need to turn the page on this roster in the next year. Calvin Ridley is coming off a near 1,400 yard season as he took over the top duties in the passing game and is just 27. He will be looking for a lucrative extension and if you have to choose between the two players you need to choose the younger player especially if he grows with a young QB in the future.

The Falcons are also a team that does not have the cap space needed to sign their rookie class this year. They will be in the ballpark of $6 million over after rookie signings. That does not even account for the need for more money come September when the cap expands to the full roster and practice squad. Basically the team is $8-9 million in the hole right now. If the Falcons move Jones it fixes the issue for this year and helps them retain more flexibility for 2022. Restructuring his deal or that of another veteran does opposite for their long term health. Deferring any rookie costs to 2022 is also a help along with Jones’ split cap charges.

As for a team looking to acquire Jones it is very affordable. It is $15.3 million this year and $11.513 million in each of the next two years. Just $17.3 million is guaranteed so if things went really bad a team could walk away but at an average of $12.8 million a year even a diminished Jones would be reasonable value at that cost.

One of the lessons that I think we should be learning with some of these contracts is that the extension with two years remaining on a contract , especially for an older player or one at a position that breaks down, is often a mistake. If the Falcons trade Jones they will have paid him that extra $27.6 million just to complete his prior contract and not have him play a down for the team in the “new” contract years. Teams really need to weigh out the pros and cons of these mega deals and probably should really put in place policies of no negotiations until one year out for all players. It just makes it easier and avoids situations like this one.

Chiefs and Ravens Agree on Trade for Orlando Brown

The Chiefs continue a massive overhaul of their offensive line following last year’s Super Bowl loss where the offensive line came under all kinds of criticism this time making a move for Ravens right tackle Orlando Brown who will move to the left side of the line in Kansas City. Brown is in the final year of his contract and should be in line for a big pay day now that he has been traded.

The terms of the trade according to Adam Schefter will see the Chiefs send over this years 31st, 94th, and 136th overall picks as well as a 2022 5th rounder for Brown, the 58th pick in the draft and a 6th round pick in 2022. This is a pretty big price to pay for an expiring contract, basically the value of a mid first round pick.

The biggest winner in all of this should be Brown who had made it know he wanted to be a left tackle and this trade opens up a massive payday for him. The Chiefs committed $16 million a year to guard Joe Thuney in free agency, about $2 million a year more than the next highest paid guard in the NFL. The average differential between top guard and top left tackle salary is around $4 million so I would say at a minimum Brown should be looking at $20 million a season, which is more than his teammate Ronnie Stanley earned from the Ravens.

Recent players traded for big returns have also earned record setting contracts which should make Brown more bullish on his prospects for a big pay day. Laremy Tunsil set a record with a $22 million contract extension in Houston and Jalen Ramsey landed the first ever $20 million per year contract for a cornerback. Neither signed a contract immediately upon trade and only saw their value increase because of it.

The money puts the Chiefs in an interesting spot with the potential for over $35 million a year committed to just two positions on their offensive line. The current NFL average for average spend on left tackle and top paid guard is around $17 million. The 49ers are the top team in the NFL at $28.15 million which is a big gap to $35+ million.

Most teams go with a strategy of draft one, pay one if they look for a top 1-2 punch at the two positions. Only five teams in the NFL have both a left tackle and a guard both at more than $10 million a season. Those teams are the Broncos, Titans, Buccaneers, Cowboys, and Saints. So this will be a somewhat unique situation.

I guess the question is did the Chiefs always intend to spend on this position or was this a change in focus when Brown became available to them. While I can throw all these numbers out there that will paint the Chiefs as an outlier the fact was their former left tackle, Eric Fisher, was going to be a free agent after this season. While Fisher was not looked at as a Bakhtiari type I would imagine that he was going to sign for around $17 million a season.

If we make that assumption I would guess that the Chiefs had budgeted around $80 million over the next five years for Fisher (Fisher was set to earn $12 million this year). Because Brown will only cost the team $3.384 million this year that would put the money at around $85.3 million on a $20 million a year contract (Fisher should qualify for injury protection of $2 million this year which is why the number is higher). Brown is much younger than Fisher and the ultimate cost is pretty similar if we look at it that way.

So if the plan before his injury was to make a run at one of the two big guards in free agency and re-sign Fisher then they will wind up right on track with the original plans. If that was never the intention, well this is a big expense that they will need to consider. They will have the right to tag Brown next year in the ballpark of $17 million as well which can factor into the equation as well.

Brown will join a revamped line that includes Thuney, an un-retired Kyle Long, and the returning Mike Remmers. There were rumors that the Chiefs could also be interested in bringing back Mitchell Schwartz as well.

While risky for the Chiefs it is clear that they are in a window of opportunity right now and taking these risks are often best done during these times. They will walk away down only one player since they will obtain two draft picks and Brown for their four picks so they should still be able to add depth to the team in the draft even if the probabilities of landing better cheap players falls  with the moves down the draft.

We estimate the Chiefs to be around $7 million in net cap space in 2022 which will become a very interesting year for them. In addition to Brown being a free agent they will also have a new contract for Tyrann Mathieu to decide on. Tyreek Hill will enter the final year of his contract and could also very well be looking for an extension.

As for the Ravens they have to be thrilled with the trade. Brown was not going to be happy there this year and was certainly not going to factor into their long term plans. The Ravens are a very draft centric team and this gives them more ammunition this year to add to the group around Lamar Jackson as they try to take that next step and get to the level the Chiefs are at.

Really that last line is the most intriguing part of the trade for me. While the Bills were certainly in the mix last season and may be as well this season I think the Chiefs and Ravens had established themselves as 1 and 2 in the conference. To see the two teams ranked like that make this kind of trade is rare. In my mind you have to really think that the trade either really widens or narrows the gap to make the trade so both probably have pretty different viewpoints and the value here.

If I had to guess the Ravens probably look at this more like I did above and believe they are getting the value of the 1st round pick in the trade. The Chiefs perhaps are looking at it more from a volume perspective where they are just down 1 player in total and given their needs can fill most of the depth they need through those later picks. We will need to wait until the regular season though to see which of the two teams comes out ahead.