Patriots and Cardinals Make Big Trade

While there have been many trade rumors this offseason, today was our first one where the Patriots sent star defensive end Chandler Jones to the Arizona Cardinals in exchange for a 2nd round pick and guard Jonathan Cooper.

While many are going to point to Jones’ off the field issues this past year, Jones’ fate with the Patriots was likely sealed when they saw the contracts come in for Malik Jackson and Olivier Vernon in free agency. Jackson landed a $14.25 million contract off a 5.5 sack season while Vernon, who was generally the second pass rusher in Miami, scored $17 million a year. If those players are worth that it means Jones is worth close to $20 million a year. Continue reading Patriots and Cardinals Make Big Trade »

Eagles to Trade for Sam Bradford

The NFL is rapidly becoming a trading league today as the Eagles intend to trade Nick Foles to the Rams in exchange for Sam Bradford. Bradford is a former number 1 overall draft pick, but has been consistently injured during most of his career. Foles was injured last season and has yet to start a full slate of games, though he was the catalyst for an Eagles playoff run in 2013.

The Eagles will take on the final remaining year of Bradford’s contract which is currently valued at $12.985 million. The Eagles could extend him or renegotiate that figure down to be more in line with his more recent production. Considering they just traded for him I would imagine a short term extension is more likely than a pay cut unless Bradford is just looking for a change of scenery and was willing to take a cut to make the deal happen.

The Rams will carry $3.595 million in cap charges for Bradford, but that will represent a savings of $12.985 million. Foles costs next to nothing this year, just $1.542 million. Foles is also in the final year of his contract and could be extended if the Rams view him as their long term solution. Extending Foles now, if they believe strongly in him, will result in a better contract for the Rams if he were to play out his deal and succeed.

The Eagles will now have two highly drafted, but largely considered “bust”, quarterbacks on their roster in Bradford Mark Sanchez. Both are considered somthing of reclamation projects and both have been considered poorly coached throughout much of their careers. Sanchez just signed a $4.5 million contract yesterday with the team with a few million in incentives tied to playing time. Given Bradford’s injury history he may have a better chance at earning them.

Saints and Seahawks Working on Blockbuster Trade for Jimmy Graham

With free agency about to begin word leaked that the Seattle Seahawks are going to trade for star tight end Jimmy Graham from the New Orleans Saints. In return the Saints will get back center Max Unger and a first round draft pick.

From the Saints perspective this is a shocking move. They just signed Graham last season to a $10 million a year contract in which they paid him $13 million, most of which came in the form of a large signing bonus. Graham was generally considered the second best tight end in the NFL, behind only Rob Gronkowski of the Patriots.

While the salary cap is always a concern for the Saints this is not a cap related move. Graham will now count for $9 million against the Saints cap due to that large bonus, a gain of just $2 million in space. Unger will bring back with him a salary of $4.5 million, a net loss on the move.

My feeling is that the trade is more about a fear on Graham’s future and his less than expected play than anything else. While cash flows can be an issue they will likely break even on the move. They avoid $8 million in salary for Graham this season but will pick up $4.5 million for Unger and another $3.8 million in payments to their first round draft pick. I believe the team felt it was best to strike now before there is limited value later. This will solve some future cap problems as Graham’s $12 million cap hit in 2016 will now vanish from the books.

For Seattle this is a good fit of a player for their offense. Graham is a big play guy and that is what the Seahawks will look for in their downfield passing attack. While he may not put up the big numbers he put up in New Orleans I would expect his contributions to be significant when they target him.

From their financial perspective they will take on an $8 million cap hit for Graham this season, $9 million in 2016, and $10 million in 2017. None of the money after this season is guaranteed so they can cut Graham at any time if things did not work out. They will carry a $2.2 million dead charge for Unger and gain $3.4 million by trading him. That works out to a net cap loss of $7.6 million, and about $6.4 million once you factor the draft pick in.

Seattle has seemingly moved away from the model that they constructued their team with as this is their second major trade in three years to try to improve their receiver spot. The move for Percy Harvin ended up being one of the worst trades in recent memory and he was traded just one and a half years into his tenure. Seattle will hope this one pays off much more.

Vikings Trade Matt Cassel to the Bills

The Bills makeover continues. Just one day after agreeing to a trade with the Eagles for running back LeSean McCoy they are back in the trade market, this time acquiring quarterback Matt Cassel from the Minnesota Vikings.

Cassel will carry a $4.75 million cap charge for the Bills this season. He is due a $500,000 roster bonus on March 17 and can earn up to $1.25 million in incentives. Unlike what I speculated about McCoy, I do not believe the Bills would even consider extending Cassel.

Cassel is kind of an odd choice for the Bills, but I guess it indicates that they did not see a better option in free agency where they would have likely taken a run at either Mark Sanchez or Matt Moore.  The last time Cassel started more than 9 games in a season was 2010, so it is hard to picture Cassel lasting in a starting role for the Bills either. The Bills had looked at Josh McCown, but he selected the Browns, who offered a three year contract.

Given the trade for McCoy and money the team will likely need to spend on the offensive line the Bills may have decided that a lower cost, one year contract was better than having to get into a two or three year one with those players mentioned above.

Minnesota, who I believe is a darkhorse team to be surprisingly active in free agency, creates an additional $4.75M in space with the trade. They have a lot more money they can free up by working with the deals of Chad Greenway, Greg Jennings, and Adrian Peterson.

McCoy for Alonso has Chip Kelly Singing Sister Hazel to Marcus Mariota

I was shocked to see that LeSean McCoy was traded to Buffalo for former Oregon Duck Kiko Alonso, but it’s a move that I think makes sense for both sides.

As Jason states in his article regarding this trade, this move is a major win for the Eagles in the sense that McCoy was set to have a cap hit of $11.95 million this year and if the cap is $143 million, that means that McCoy would have taken up 8.36% of their cap, which is about what Reggie Bush made in 2009 for the Saints as the second highest paid Super Bowl champion running back of the cap era, 8.61% of the $123 million cap that year. The highest paid Super Bowl champion running back was Emmitt Smith in 1995 with a salary of $3,400,600, 9.17% of that year’s cap of $37.1 million.

Due to Darren Sproles being on the books for $4.1 million in 2015, the Eagles had $20 million committed to the running back position group, which is 13.99% of the cap. That 1995 Dallas Cowboys backfield is the only Super Bowl backfield that cost more at $5,553,700, which was 14.97% of the 1995 salary cap.

The 1990s were a different era completely with Daryl “Moose”Johnston as their seventh highest cap charge at $1,402,900, which was 3.78% of the 1995 cap. Although Johnston was an extremely productive fullback with 359 total yards and three touchdowns, it’s a position that the Eagles don’t even have on their roster and production that they easily make up with tight ends and receivers. So comparatively, the Cowboys halfbacks cost 11.19% of the cap compared to the 13.99% that the 2015 Eagles were slated to spend.

But considering that Johnston was productive and had only ten less catches than Sproles had in 2014, let’s include him in this discussion. The Eagles 2015 backfield would have cost 93.45% of what the 1995 Cowboys backfield cost, so for arguments sake, all things being equal the Eagles would have had to produce 93.45% of what the Cowboys backfield produced. This doesn’t take into account that Michael Irvin and Troy Aikman, two Hall of Famers, had the best seasons of their careers in 1995. Nor does it take into account the defense that ranked third in the NFL in points allowed led by Hall of Famers Deion Sanders and Charles Haley.

Figure 1: 1995 Cowboys vs. 2015 Eagles (Click on the figures to enlarge them)

1995 Cowboys vs. 2015 Eagles RBs

Now, McCoy would have cost the Eagles 91.17% of what Smith cost the Cowboys, so I put together this figure to show what 2015 McCoy would have to produce to be at 91.17% of Smith’s stats that year. I also show what he did in 2014 and 2013, which was the best season of his career and resulted in only two less total yards than Smith’s 1995 season.

Figure 2: Emmitt Smith vs. LeSean McCoy

Smith vs. McCoy

Considering that Nick Foles, Marcus Mariota, Bryce Petty or whoever starts for Philadelphia isn’t going to be Troy Aikman, I think that the Eagles backfield of 2015 would have had to be better than the 93.45% that I stated above. I think that McCoy would have to be more like 2013 LeSean McCoy, which is similar to the 1995 Emmitt Smith outside of his insane touchdown production, but I don’t know if he can do that for a few reasons.

First, McCoy only cost the Eagles 4.01% of the salary cap in 2013, which, if that was the case in 2015, would allow the Eagles to build a stronger team around him. Second, with Darren Sproles taking up 2.87% of the cap, they’re expecting him to produce, thus taking away from McCoy’s production and because of this among his decline in play last season, I feel like Jason’s right when he mentions that he probably would have been asked to take a pay cut if they didn’t make this trade.

While the Eagles did have a lot of issues on the offensive line this season, they did have some strong players on the line. Their best line combination was Peters at left tackle, Evan Mathis at left guard, Jason Kelce at center, Andrew Gardner at right guard, and Johnson at right tackle. Mathis missed Weeks 2-9 and Kelce missed Weeks 4-9 with injuries, while Johnson missed Weeks 1-4 with a suspension for PEDs.

According to Pro Football Focus, Kelce had a 7.5 rating at center, Gardner had a 1.2 as a guard, Johnson was the second best right tackle in the NFL, Peters was the best left tackle, and Mathis was the best left guard. From Week 10 on, McCoy had all five of his best linemen and he performed well with 87 yards a game at a 4.56 average and four touchdowns. With Sproles bringing in 20 catches for 143 yards over the last eight games, McCoy only had eight catches for 61, which illustrates his reduced role in the passing game with Sproles.

A huge indicator for me is that he went from the best rated running back in football in 2013 according to PFF, to the third worst rated back in 2014. This was indicative of what I saw when I watched him, he didn’t look like the same player as the guy in 2013 and he didn’t look comfortable in the offense this year, always seeming to look for home runs rather than taking what he was given. While I think he can rebound in 2014, he was nowhere near worth 8.36% of the Eagles cap, when they have other needs to fill and could easily replace him with this deep running back draft.

I think a change of scenery will do him well and that cap number will be better utilized in Buffalo with Rex Ryan. While McCoy excelled in Chip Kelly’s offense in 2013, I think the Ryan’s ground and pound style that utilizes the fullback will better suit McCoy’s style. McCoy was drafted by the previous regime and Andy Reid uses the fullback. According to PFF, going back to 2009, the starting fullback for the Jets played 355 snaps a season, while the starting fullback for Reid’s teams played 313 snaps a year. McCoy will be back in his comfort zone as this is also more similar to the offense he ran at Pittsburgh in college.

In 2009, Thomas Jones had over 1402 yards and 14 touchdowns, which are numbers I could see McCoy eclipsing. Brandon Spikes played well last year with Alonso out and Nigel Bradham and Preston Brown played well on the outside. The Bills were fourth in the NFL in points allowed and yards allowed and they did it without Alonso. I think that Rex decided to ensure he had a top-flight runner for the first time in his career as a head coach. If Shonn Greene can run for 1000-yards twice in Ryan’s ground-and-pound offense, what can McCoy do?

Like Jason said, McCoy will now take up one-third of the Bills projected cap room and should rework his contract for more cap relief as he’ll be 27 at the start of this season. Since none of the money in 2016-17 is guaranteed for McCoy and he’ll be 30 the next time he’s projected to hit free agency, it’s in his best interest to rework a deal with another year or two on the back end.

On the Eagles side, my first thought was that I’d really like to see them take Melvin Gordon in the first round, but was is everything that they’re doing right now posturing to set themselves up for Mariota…?

Could they trade the Jets something along the lines of Nick Foles, this year’s first rounder, next year’s first rounder and a second rounder to get him?

Considering how well Mariota knows the offense and his talents, I think it’d be a good move for the Eagles and Mariota as we can at least project him better in Philly than anywhere else and he will hit the ground running as he won’t have to learn a new offense.

With all the cap space the Eagles have and the solid team they have right now, I think the writing is on the wall for a deal like the one I just threw out there. The biggest thing for the Eagles right now is ensuring that Mariota will be available where they’re looking to deal.

Their four biggest needs are at cornerback, safety, outside linebacker and now running back. Since they keep going down to Houston to sign away Texans, I could see them getting Kareem Jackson to play corner and/or Brooks Reed to play outside linebacker. It’s a pretty deep outside linebacker group and considering the amount of money they’ll have to spend, they have their pick of a group that includes the Ravens Pernell McPhee, who was the second best 3-4 OLB according to PFF, Jason Worilds and Arthur Moats from Pittsburgh, and the brother of Eagles’ linebacker Emmanuel Acho, Sam.

The big get this offseason for safeties is Devin McCourty and the Eagles would be wise to go after him with the cap space they have. At corner, I would go after Jackson like I said above and Bryon Maxwell would be a great pick up. I could go on and on with predictions, but the real story is that the Eagles now have $40 million in cap space and they could get $6.9 million more by releasing DeMeco Ryans after this deal as they now have Mychal Kendricks (the sixth best ILB in the NFL last year by PFF), Kiko Alonso (the ninth best in 2013), Brad Jones is a great back up and they could resign Casey Matthews at a reasonable price.

So this deal for Alonso could allow them to open up around $18 million worth of cap space when it’s all said and done. That’s what great organizations do.

Mark my words…Chip Kelly is going to get the quarterback that he calls the best he’s ever coached. The quarterback position is too important for the Eagles not to get Mariota now that they’ve set themselves up as well as they have. If you can trade away a quarterback your staff isn’t confident in, two first rounders and a second rounder for the pick that will secure the player you see as the face of your franchise for the next 15 years, you do that. And from the Jets standpoint, with everything they need, it’s a good deal for them. Nick Foles is a good quarterback and I think he’ll fit well with what they’re trying to do offensively.

So with that…take it away Sister Hazel!

I hope you enjoyed some of the Super Bowl stats and analysis that I started the article off with. I’ve been working with Jason to put together our First Annual Caponomics book that will be done in May where we analyze the 21 Super Bowl winners of the salary cap era and create theories based off of the data provided. We then use that data to analyze what teams did right and wrong in 2014 and will do that on an annual basis. If you’re interested in purchasing this book when it comes out or pre-ordering it once we get the link ready, please e-mail me at zackamoore@gmail.com. Let me know if you have any questions if you’re interested.

It’s been a lot of fun to research and write, plus everyone I’ve spoken to about it has been intrigued, so I really think we’re onto something and I’m confident that it’s something all you CapHeads will enjoy. Feeling very good about it and look forward to sharing the things I learn through the process on Twitter and here as we launch this book.

@ZackMooreNFL

RGIII Benched…Whats Next for the Redskins QB?

The Washington Redskins have benched Robert Griffin III, which likely indicates the end of the road for Griffin with the Redskins organization. Let’s look at the financials of his contract, what might happen in the future with him, and what a mess it was that got them to this point.

Releasing Griffin is not going to be a popular option for Washington next season due to the guarantees in his contract. Griffin was lucky enough to be drafted in the 2012 season when the concept of “no offsets” became a big clause in highly drafted rookie contracts. What that means is if the Redskins were to release Griffin, he would collect money from the Redskins and whatever other team in the NFL sign him. His fully guaranteed salary is  $3,269,877 in 2015. That makes the Redskins preferred option is the trade of Griffin where the guaranteed salary will transfer to the new team and thus save the Redskins a $3 million charge.

Finding a trade partner might not be the easiest thing for Washington. It is already a given they will not get value for RGIII. Not only does he look like a broken QB, but he only has one more season under contract. A team can exercise an option for 2016, but the cost of that option is the cost of the 2015 Transition tag for QBs, which will likely be in excess of $15 million. A team only has until May 3 of 2015 to exercise the option and while it is only initially guaranteed for injury, Griffin’s injury history will likely make the price too steep.

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So any team trading for him will almost certainly look at this as a one year marriage and not pick up the option. That means you need to have the confidence that your organization can spend the time “fixing” him and signing him long term to a reasonable contract if you do fix him. When Mark Sanchez was released by the Jets this season he found lukewarm interest in free agency, eventually settling for a low guarantee/cost contract from the Eagles who were willing to take that chance due to his potential upside. His most likely destination would be to a team with no quarterback that may not have the potential to draft one this season. Teams like the Jets, Rams, and Texans would be the most likely fits to take a one year flier on him. You might throw the Vikings and even Eagles into that mix, though I cant see another Washington/Philadelphia trade occuring.

Washington has come under a great deal of scrutiny for this decision. A number of people believe you should make him play through this and force him to learn while others realize he wasn’t playing at an NFL level and needed to be benched. The Redskins needed to make this move for the future of their team, as crazy as it sounds. They have 52 other players on that team to consider and the way Griffin acted at times after these games he likely alienated every one of them.  It is one thing to believe in a young, potential superstar, but its another to have a failing player bring down a whole organization.

Playing him at this point was not going to help or hurt his trade value, but the threat of injury was real and that would destroy any trade value which made this move a must in my opinion. His lack of awareness was startling last week and there is almost no chance his body would hold up to that beating again. To get anything for him he has to be healthy and this is the only way to accomplish this.

Thats not to say Washington has handled him well. They are the most dysfunctional organization in the NFL and everything they did with him just added to the mess. The Redskins gave him the keys to the kingdom before he really ever took a snap in the NFL. Head coach Mike Shanahan tailored an offense to his skillset in 2012 and Griffin exceeded all expectations as he was clearly the most successful of the top QB’s drafted that season. But success seemed to go to his head and the Redskins protection of him just fed into that. Shanahan had a similar issue with Jay Cutler in Denver where his constant praise just added to an attitude that still follows Cutler to this day.

RGIII was injured and had a falling out with Shanahan that offseason. Washington’s handling of the QB at that point was ridiculous. Because of his shortcomings in running a pro style offense he needed a real offseason of work to continue to grow in 2013. The injury made that impossible, at least from a physical standpoint. They still decided he should be the starter at the opening of the regular season, a decision that seemed to come from the owner. Griffin didn’t look healthy and regressed, falling far behind fellow draft mate Andrew Luck who improved tremendously in year 2. Eventually RGIII got the coach fired.

Under new coach Jay Gruden, RGIII looked even more unprepared than he did under Shanahan. He looked terrible and these last few weeks looked as if he was mentally checking out of the games. His coach undressed him in a press conference after Griffin ripped the effort level of his team, in a bizarre scene that showed how far this rift had gotten. Gruden made a stand and had to have ownerships back at this point to keep the other 52 guys focused on a future that would include the coach but not the QB.

The trade for RGIII will likely go down as one of the worst draft trades in the NFL. Though I do think a fair argument could be made for the Rams not trading away that pick the fact was they fleeced the Redskins in terms of value. The trade illustrates the premium that teams put on the QB position as no other recent trades have come close to that kind of one sided nature.  RGIII has now failed with two coaches, both of whom could not stand him by the end of the season, and rubbed most of his teammates the wrong way. Its a disaster.  In the end the Redskins paid a huge price, got one playoff game, and two years of headaches and drama because of it.

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Buccaneers Trade Barron and Casillas

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While not much was expected at the deadline the Buccaneers made some noise by selling off former first round draft pick saftey Mark Barron to the Rams and linebacker Jonathan Casillas to the Patriots.

The trade of Barron is the interesting one because again it shows how the new CBA allows first round picks to be traded away rather than being forced to keep an unwanted player on the roster. I would expect more of these in the future.

Barron still has two years remaining under contract, both fully guaranteed, as well as an option year that can be picked up for 2016 after this season. The Rams will take on $902,719 in cap charges in 2014 and $2,362,704 in 2015. The Rams released Case Keenum to make make room for Barron which saves them $262,059 against ths salary cap. The Rams only had about $540,000 in cap room as of today so they likely had to restructure a contract to fit Barron on the roster. In the past the player they always go to in these situations is Chris Long so I would not be surprised if his deal was tweaked today as well.

Casillas was signed this year as a free agent and had received $200,000 in an offseason bonus. The Patriots will take on the the balance of his salay, $582,353, for this year.

The Buccaneers will keep a $2,240,273 dead money charge against their 2015 cap for Barron. They will avoid $902,719 in payments this year for Barron and $582,353 for Casillas which will boost their miniscuke $410,000 in cap room that remained following the extension of Gerald McCoy. This should give them the breathing room they need for the rest of the year.

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