Kwon Alexander Traded to the Saints

The Saints made a pretty interesting acquisition today, making a move for 49ers linebacker Kwon Alexander for Kiko Alonso and a conditional fifth round draft pick. Alexander was one of the prize free agent signings of the 49ers in 2019, signing a very stunning (at least to me), four year, $54 million contract. Just a season and a half later and he is now a Saint.

I really like this move for New Orleans who is clearly all in on this season. The team is facing an absolute salary cap nightmare for 2021 and may have no quarterback on the roster other than Taysom Hill to boot so doing anything in their power to get better makes sense. Alexander has Pro Bowl talent if healthy which is always a big if when it comes to Alexander.

The Saints will not pick up much salary with the move. Alexander has $2.64 million in base salary remaining on his contract in 2020 and another $420K in potential roster bonuses that he can earn. So if things work out the team will only owe $3.06 million for what they hope will be a Super Bowl run. By trading Alonso, who has been on PUP all season, they also shed $900,000 in salary cap space making this at most a $2.2 million risk. We estimated that the Saints had $7.4 million in cap space before this trade so there is still room to add more if they can find a player they want.

Alexander has no guarantees in his contract for 2021 (there is a vesting injury guarantee which basically offers no protection) so the $13.4 million cost that this will have for 2021 is meaningless since they can walk away with no issue. If he plays great they could look to recover the 5th round pick, but most likely this will be a player who is released come March. There is $0 dead money for the Saints if cut.

For San Francisco this is more about fixing a mistake and getting some cap relief at the same time. This contract really surprised me when it came down because Alexander was hurt all the time. He had only played 12 games in 2015, 11 games in 2017 and 6 games in 2018 and that kind of history should never lead to a $13.5M a year contract for a linebacker. Not surprisingly Alexander only appeared in 8 games last season and then just 5 games this year. The 49ers wound up paying Alexander $23.562 million for just 13 games across 1 1/2 seasons, an uncharacteristically big blunder for one of the best front offices in the NFL.

The team had tinkered with the contract last year for cap relief so there is a good deal of dead money affiliated with the contract. Alexander will count for $4.86 million in cap charges this year and $6.91 million in dead money next year. By making the trade they will save the $2.2 million in net cap costs mentioned above when discussing the Saints.

Prior to the trade we estimated that the 49ers would be right at the salary cap limit for 2021 if the salary cap winds up being $176 million so now they should be at $10.3 million in effective cap space. The 49ers can save close to $30 million next year if they bail on Jimmy Garoppolo and Dee Ford next season and begin to retool the team around their more productive core players.

Given where each team stands for this year and next I like this for both teams. The 49ers get a little cap relief and maybe a draft pick for a player who was going to be cut while the Saints dont take on too much salary for a player who may help the defense in crunch time.

Yannick Ngakoue Headed to the Vikings

The Yannick Ngakoue saga appears to be over with the Vikings agreeing to send a 2nd round pick and another conditional pick to Jacksonville for the star pass rusher.

The landing spot here was a major surprise. Minnesota had spent most of the offseason getting their salary cap a bit more under control and seemed to have an eye on the future. This move will completely change that dynamic.

We estimate the Vikings to have just $12.5 million in cap space, which is not enough to fit Ngakoue’s one year contract which is worth $17.788 million. This is all assuming that the Jaguars are not eating any salary as part of the trade. When the Texans, in a similar situation with Jadeveon Clowney, moved their star they paid half the deal to facilitate a trade. I would think that is unlikely in this case but it would make this much more appealing from the Vikings perspective for what sure seems like a out of nowhere decision from the team.

If the Jaguars are not picking up salary, then that means to just execute the trade the Vikings will need to create over $5 million in cap room. They will also need room to function once the regular season starts so most likely they will need to create $8 million in space. Ngakoue’s number is locked in for the year unless he agreed to a paycut which would seem very unlikely.

To create that space the team would likely look to restructure some deals to push cap into the future. There are only two cuts they can make with notable savings, left tackle Riley Reiff ($11M savings), and safety Harrison Smith ($8.9M savings), neither of whom would seem likely given they should be starting for the Vikings this season.

The Vikings don’t have a ton of spots to create big cap space with the most likely candidates for a restructure are Anthony Barr and Kirk Cousins. Restructuring Barr’s contract would allow them to create just under $7 million while Cousins would free up $5.6 million. Both could be a bit higher if they added void seasons to the contracts. Other options would be to extend Smith or double down and push some money into next season for Reiff and Smith.

In any case all this does is push money into the future for the Vikings where they were already on a tight cap. They currently have the 9th least projected cap space in the NFL in 2021 and now have two franchise players to make a decision on. Tagging Ngakoue a second time would cost $21.345 million while tagging Anthony Harris a second time would cost $13.7 million. Minnesota does have roster flexibility in terms of being able to release veterans or restructure veteran deals next year.

The trade of Ngakoue pretty much finalizes the complete tear down of a Jaguars defense that for one year fooled the league and the team that they were good enough to carry the team from a perennial cellar dweller into a title contender. Things fell apart for a number of reasons in Jacksonville and Ngakoue refused to play for them this year. To get a 2nd round pick and a conditional second pick is pretty fair for the team at this stage. They may have had better options in the offseason but the two sides seemed to be butting heads at that point and the Jaguars were reportedly dug in on some things that they were not going to get.

The Jaguars cap space this year will rise to around $33 million and they will now project to be 2nd in the NFL in cap room next year. In a normal year that would be around $105 million but with the cap expected to fall dramatically it will be closer to $65 million. In any event it will be enough to retool the team in free agency either next year or in the future.

Ngakoue just wanted out from the Jaguars so I think he would be okay with this trade. Is it the most ideal landing spot? Probably not. While playing alongside Danielle Hunter may open up a lot of opportunities, Hunter has had 14.5 sacks in each of the last two years and is going to be looked at as the star if he is healthy. Ngakoue ideally would have been in a better spot on a team where he would stand out alone, so he will need a monster season here to do that.

Ngakoue will look for a deal next season that pays over $20 million a year. That puts Minnesota in a difficult spot for an extension since they had signed Hunter to one of the most team friendly contracts in the NFL at just $14.4 million a year. Hunter still has four years to go on that deal but one would think if they find a way to make a long term deal with Ngakoue then they will need to give their homegrown player a massive raise even though there will be three years left. The Vikings historically will rework deals with two years remaining.

Next year will certainly be some offseason for the Vikings. Ngakoue and Harris are both coming off franchise tenders. Only one can get tagged again. Dalvin Cook is a free agent and would have been a franchise tag candidate as well. Now there are two in front of him. The team also will have decisions to make on a number of veteran players as they figure out how to navigate their salary cap and the Covid impact on that cap number.

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Valuing the Seahawks Trade For Jamal Adams

While we have been over the trade value of Jamal Adams most of our analysis has all been somewhat in a vacuum as Adams vs x draft picks. After thinking about it some more I’m not sure if that is entirely the right way to look at it when evaluating specifically from the Seahawks perspective. So I wanted to work through the two scenarios the Seahawks should have considered when making this trade when really coming up with whether or not this is a good move for them.

For the scenarios I wanted to make a few assumptions. One we have to assume that the team is going to extend the player because not doing that seems nonsensical. Two we have to assume they were desperate for help at the position meaning that they would, the following year, enter into free agency and sign the best available at the position. This is not a discussion of the value of spending on a safety vs a corner this is more about the comparison of wanting a star player now vs waiting a year.

Scenario 1- Status Quo With Big 2021 Free Agent Signing

In this scenario the Seahawks keep their roster for this year and spend $4.1M on in season salary for Bradley McDougald. They would retain their 1st round pick in 2021 and 2022 as well as their 3rd round pick in 2021. For the sake of the analysis I am assuming the team will draft 26th in 2021 and 19th in 2022, but you can slot any pick you want. Safeties are almost always available in free agency and the going rate will likely be $15 million per year for four years for a Justin Simmons type player. So our five year outlook from 2020-2024 for Seattle is as follows.

2021 1st round Pick2021-2024$12,400,000
2022 1st round pick2022-2024$11,000,000
2021 3rd round pick2021-2024$4,600,000
FA Safety Signing2021-2024$60,000,000

In this scenario we will spend $92.1M to wind up with 16 years of service, an average of $5.756M per year.

Scenario 2- Make the Trade for Adams

Here we have to look at the cost for Adams where the Seahawks will get the benefit of two rookie contract years plus the first three years of an extension. For the sake of argument I assumed that he would earn $51M in the first three years of the extension, an average of $17M a season.

Adams Rookie2020$3,590,292
Adams Option2021$9,860,000
Adams Extension2022-2024$51,000,000
4th Round Pick2021-2024$4,100,000

Under this scenario we receive 9 years of service at an average cost of $7.616 million per year.

The Money Differential

This is where we sometimes miss things when we start getting into finances in trades. Because Adams is going to command a big salary down the line everyone just looks at this as giving away two cheaper rookies for Adams when they could have simply signed someone else next year. Still despite the cost being high on a per year basis there is a pretty big differential in the Seahawks favor between scenario 1 and scenario 2- $23,549,708. That really should be factored into the trade.

How to value that saved money?

This is a tricky question because there is entirely up them to pick and choose how to use it. In scenario 1 the Seahawks receive 16 players years compared to just 9 in scenario 2. So they have 7 player years to replace, an average of $3.364M per player-year. One way to look at this is that the team will just sign two veterans in 2021 to a $3.3M contract. While the value of that $3.3M is dependent on what position is signed for the sake of argument I would say that the value, based on the research Brad and I did, likely equates to having two 3rd round draft picks.

A second option would be to buy three “cheap” veteran years where the cost would average around $1.1 million per year and then have all the remaining years to spend on a pricier veteran. That would work out to be around $5 million per year. Again the value of that free agent will depend on the position he plays, but in general the $5M number would be the equivalent of what would be the expected return on a mid 2nd round pick and the $1.1M would be a 7th rounder.

So how should we look at the trade?

I think the first step is to use those draft values I mentioned above and rewrite it as follows.

Seattle gave up a year of McDougald, 4 years of a Justin Simmons type free agent, 4 years of a late 1st round pick, 3 years of another 1st round pick, and 4 years of a 3rd round pick and in return will receive 5 years of Jamal Adams, 4 years of a 4th round pick, and either two 3rd round selections or a 2nd round selection and a 7th round selection. That doesn’t sound good but not horrific.

Let’s put these into value terms. First we start with the easier situation with is scenario 2 since these are basically all vet signings.

PlayerYearsExpected ReturnActual Cost
Jamal Adams5$85,000,000$64,450,000
Pick 115 (2021)4$11,600,000$4,100,000
Vet FA (2021)4$20,000,000$20,000,000
Vet FA (2022)3$3,300,000$3,300,000
Total Return16$119,900,000$91,850,000

Seattle’s big benefit in the trade is $85M in value for Jamal Adams at a cost of $64.45M. It’s a return of about $1.3 for every dollar spent.

What gets harder with the draft selections is positional valuation. There cost is the same regardless of what position you draft but the return is far greater for an edge rusher than a running back. In the first scenario lets say they spend them on a position that averages $15M a year. Here is that return

PlayerYearsExpected ReturnCost
FA Safety4$60,000,000$60,000,000
Pick 26 (2021)4$26,400,000$12,400,000
Pick 19 (2022)3$22,200,000$11,000,000
Pick 90 (2021)4$14,000,000$4,600,000
Total Return16$127,100,000$92,100,000

Our return here is only slightly worse than keeping the picks and going the free agency route. If you get into the time value of the draft pick contributions, not having a top tier safety in 2020, and wanting to be risk averse with veterans vs rookies I think you can easily argue this is a fair trade from the Seahawk perspective. Maybe a little more in favor of not doing the trade but not so bad that you don’t do it at all especially because the value differential in 2020 is gigantic ($17M in expected value for Adams vs $4.5M for McDougald). The head coach is old, the QB is in his prime, etc…its worth it to have more value in 20 and 21 than 20 through 24.

But what if those picks are spent on what are more premier positions in the NFL?  Lets bump the average to $20M a year and spend them on pass rushers, left tackles, etc… instead of the lower cost spots.

PlayerYearsExpected ReturnCost
FA Safety4$60,000,000$60,000,000
Pick 26 (2021)4$35,200,000$12,400,000
Pick 19 (2022)3$29,400,000$11,000,000
Pick 90 (2021)4$14,000,000$4,600,000
Total Return16$143,100,000$92,100,000

This becomes lopsided in favor of not making the trade. You will gain over $23M more in value with that strategy and I think that far outweighs the $13M perceived benefit of Adams over McDougald for a year. This is also one of the reasons why if you are the New York Jets it is very important to use your draft picks on important positions and not replaceable ones because if you don’t you lose a big advantage of the trade. Maybe Seattle’s draft history would not make them consider the scenario like this but it should be a factor for most teams.


The only justification we can make for the trade is that Adams is so much better than McDougald that for Adams makes the difference between being a wildcard team and being a division winner who makes it to the at least the NFC title game in 2020. After that it would be a big loser especially for a solid organization making optimum draft decisions. The return post 2020 is really lopsided unless you feel that a player like Simmons will be grossly overpaid and Adams underpaid (even at $17M a year) to claim a better end result. It is the classic case of how much do you discount the performance of future picks on your team but it would have to be a lot to say this is the best path for the team.

It is important to note that the trade might look different if safeties were not available in free agency. Adams is better than Simmons, Anthony Harris and so on. But the difference is nowhere near as big, IMO, of Khalil Mack vs Trey Flowers, players who play a position where there are not many free agents available. That difference in performance gap between two players like that would bring the expected numbers, even with an optimized draft strategy, closer.

Looking at the Browns Past QB Trades That Built The Roster They Have Now

Next week I will be appearing on my friend Jack Duffin‘s podcast titled, “The Paul Brown Show,” so I’m looking over some of his questions for the upcoming episode to prepare. I hope you’ll be able to listen, I love talking about the Browns and the process they’ve gone through over the last few years; I’ll post a link on my Twitter when it’s up. 

Continue reading Looking at the Browns Past QB Trades That Built The Roster They Have Now »

Grading the NFL Trades

Chiefs trade Alex Smith to Redskins for Kendall Fuller and 3rd round draft pick

There were some people who I think believed that the Chiefs could get more for a starting QB, but when you factor in the fact they it was likely that he would be released and is in his mid 30s I’m not sure how anyone could have expected more. They bring back a 3rd rounder and a decent corner with upside. Washington really should not have had to give up a corner in the trade especially considering they will need to sign Smith to a new contract as well. The Redskins bungled the Kirk Cousins situation and were likely fearful that they would downgrade in free agency. Smith should at worst be a lateral move and more within the Redskins budget.

Chiefs Grade: B+; Redskins Grade: C

Chiefs trade Marcus Peters and 6th round pick to Rams for 4th round pick and 2019 2nd round pick

This may have been the most surprising trade of the offseason. Peters is just 25 years old, has 19 interceptions in three seasons, and has been named to the Pro Bowl twice and has also been an All Pro.  He has two cheap years remaining on his rookie contract and is in line to be the highest paid corner in the NFL when he receives an extension. Those are not players that you trade especially for nothing notable until a year later. This had to be a no brainer for the Rams. He is far better than anyone they could expect to get with that pick in 2019 and they have him for a few seasons on the cheap first.

Chiefs Grade: F; Rams Grade: A

Rams trade Robert Quinn to Dolphins for 4th round pick

Quinn was an elite pass rusher at one point in his career but he’s been injured a lot the last few seasons and was a potential release with his $12.4 million salary cap charge. What Miami was looking at here is questionable. They bring on $11.4 million for the year on a team that has salary cap problems and isn’t a player away from being competitive. Quinn by no means is old at just 28 and they can rework the contract to extend him, but this just comes off as a move for the sake of making a move. That said the compensation is reasonable for a pass rusher.

Rams Grade: B+; Dolphins Grade: C

Rams trade Alec Ogletree and 7th round pick to the Giants for 4th and 6th round pick

Ogletree just missed my cutoff for worst contracts signed in 2017. He isn’t an elite player yet he is paid elite money at a position that is generally reasonable from a salary perspective. The Giants will pick up a $10 million salary for this season and gave away more than the Dolphins did to acquire Quinn. Rams shed $5.2 million in cap space for the year with the cut.

Rams Grade: B+; Giants Grade: D

Bills trade Tyrod Taylor to the Browns for a 3rd round pick

This is a trade that makes a lot of sense for both sides. The Browns will likely draft a quarterback with one of their first two draft picks but could use a veteran QB to hold down the fort for a year and try to make the team somewhat competitive this season. Taylor isn’t a great QB but he won’t make a ton of mistakes and can push the ball a bit. The Browns take on $16 million for the year and will potentially get a draft pick back for him down the line when he leaves in free agency. The Bills have been trying to get rid of Taylor for over a year and to get anything back for him is a win since just about everyone in the league knew he was going to get cut. From a football standpoint they don’t have a better option right now but they are playing the long game and will save $10.44 million in cap space with the trade.

Browns Grade: A; Bills Grade: A

Eagles trade Torrey Smith to Panthers for Daryl Worley

This is a trade nobody saw coming. Smith should have had no value in a trade. Its been years since hes been a good player and with a $5 million salary everyone knew he was going to be cut. Worley hasn’t had a good career thus far but he is young, cheap, and has experience. To get that upside for essentially nothing is a great move. The only logic I can see in the trade for the Panthers is that they are bringing in a player with no guarantees which would not have happened if they had to sign him or any other player in free agency. Moving Worley was likely a new GM getting rid of an old GMs picks.

Eagles Grade: A; Panther Grade: F

Dolphins trade Jarvis Landry to the Browns for a 4th round pick and a 7th rounder in 2019

The Dolphins took a very big gamble that they could get something for Jarvis Landry and to their credit they did. Still I don’t know how you risk $16 million for what amounts to the compensatory pick they likely would have received if they let him walk. Maybe they felt they would be boxed in with free agency if they had to worry about protecting a comp pick. The Browns didn’t give up much and they get a player who may not have gone to their organization if free agency was clear.

Dolphins Grade: C; Browns Grade: C+

Seahawks trade Michael Bennett and 7th round pick to Eagles for Marcus Johnson and a 5th round pick

I love this trade for the Eagles. Bennett is cheap this season, costing the Eagles under $5.7 million. He is a significant improvement over Vinny Curry who should be released. The Eagles are in a win now mode and have a few years where they can take some risks while they have a QB under a rookie contract. It should be a perfect fit. Seattle I think grew tired of some things with Bennett and also needed to retool as they are in a different phase than the Eagles. Extending Bennett when they did was a mistake but this is probably close to the return they would have gotten as a comp pick so in that respect they got ok value back.

Eagles Grade: B+; Seahawks Grade: C+

Packers trade Damarious Randall to the Browns for DeShone Kizer

I thought this was a solid move for the Browns. Randall is a starting quality corner that has some upside to be above average. He can make plays on the football and should upgrade the Browns secondary. They don’t give up much for him since Kizer looks to be the odd man out following the trade for Tyrod Taylor and expected drafting of a first round QB.  Randall also gives them a chance for a compensatory pick in 2020 while Kizer was likely going to be released down the line. I’m not really sure what the Packers are thinking since Randall was likely their top corner and they are simply trading right now for a backup. I guess this means the Packers will be in the mix for a corner in free agency, and this is a deep group at the position. They also much love Kizer, who was terrible last year but is very young. I’m sure the organization got spooked by how bad they looked with Brett Hundley but they must really think they can coach Kizer up. Obviously if they can get some good preseason games out of Kizer they can  up his value and flip him two or three years down the line but that is a big if.

Packers Grade: D; Browns Grade: A

Broncos trade Aqib Talib to Rams for a 5th round pick

This is a clear win-win trade. The Rams get a guys who fits their scheme perfectly and isn’t that expensive at $11 million for the season. If he plays well the prize comes next year when he is under contract for $8 million.  Given where the Rams are as a team using a 5th round pick is perfectly fine. The Broncos have other pressing needs on their team and were likely going to cut Talib. To get anything back for that kind of player is great.

Broncos Grade: A; Rams Grade: A

Browns trade Danny Shelton and 5th round pick to Patriots for 2019 3rd round pick

This I guess qualifies as the Patriots yearly move to acquire a somewhat disappointing former first round pick from another team. This move is nothing but a salary dump from the Browns who were on the hook for $2M this year to Shelton. Shelton can provide some run defense in the middle and is a younger and cheaper option than Alan Branch. Browns were just looking to makeover the roster and jettison some guys. Not sure if they could have gotten more but there was probably more benefit to keeping him considering money is of no concern to the Browns.

Browns Grade: C-; Patriots Grade: B

Bills trade Cordy Glenn, 21st pick, and 5th round pick to Bengals for 12th pick and 6th round pick

The Bills complete the teardown of the big contracts with this trade to essentially move up 9 spots and get the ammunition needed to move into the top 5 in the draft to draft a QB. In a league where left tackles are so expensive regardless of talent level they should have gotten more for Glenn, even with his injuries. The problem for the Bills is they made it too well known that they wanted him off the team which seemed to hurt their leverage. Glenn’s contract averages an affordable $10 million a year for the next three seasons. In a year where there are few left tackles available the Bengals should be happy with a deal that has no guarantees remaining and could still be cheap. The Bengals moving down to 21 should also save them some money as the difference in value is about $4 million.

Bills Grade: C-; Bengals Grade: B+

Browns Forget to Turn in Paperwork for a Trade

I wrote last week about the Cleveland Browns and their front offices approach to building the team. At the trade deadline I think this turned from a reasonable debate to a comedy. In what seemed like a desperation play the Browns agreed with division rival Cincinnati on a trade that would bring Bengals backup QB AJ McCarron to Cleveland, presumably to start. The trade package was borderline absurd based on reports- a 2nd and 3rd round draft pick for a guy who has started 3 games and has a 5th round draft pedigree. It got worse from there as the Browns apparently forgot to get the paperwork into the NFL on time to get the trade approved. The Browns went from looking bad to looking like they don’t belong in the NFL. Continue reading Browns Forget to Turn in Paperwork for a Trade »

Seahawks Trade for Duane Brown

After years of neglecting the offensive line the Seahawks began a shift this year with a few bigger contracts and today may a really big move by trading for disgruntled Texans left tackle Duane Brown. Brown had held out for a new contract until just this week when he made his return to Houston. What was already a damaged relationship likely got much worse when the Texans owner made some statements in a meeting that insinuated that the players in the NFL were prison inmates. Continue reading Seahawks Trade for Duane Brown »