Should The Redskins & Giants Consider Drafting Tua Tagovailoa?

In the 2019 NFL Draft, the Arizona Cardinals did something very rare: they used a 1st round pick in back to back drafts on quarterbacks–and in their case, two picks in the top ten. After drafting Josh Rosen 10th overall in 2018, they drafted Kyler Murray 1st overall in 2019. This has only happened two other times–one of them we’ll get to later, but the other had extremely unusual circumstances: 1982 draftee Art Schlichter was suspended for gambling, leading to the Baltimore Colts following up that selection with the (in)famous drafting of John Elway in 1983.

While nowhere near as extreme, the circumstances in Glendale may not have been strictly related to quarterback play. Steve Wilks was fired after only one season as head coach, and was replaced with Kliff Kingsbury, he of the Air Raid fame. The change of the offensive system led the Cardinals to bring in Murray, someone Kingsbury was familiar with in the Big 12 back in his Texas Tech coaching days, and to ship off Rosen to the Miami Dolphins for a 2nd round pick. So far, this rare move has turned out better for the Cardinals: Murray was Offensive Rookie of the Year, while Rosen, coming off arguably the worst rookie season in at least 35 years, failed to hold off Ryan Fitzpatrick from the starting job in Miami in 2019.

Intuitively, the rarity of back to back 1st round quarterbacks by the same team seems straightforward: entering the NFL is a tough task, and teams want to give a quarterback the benefit of the doubt in his rookie season, hoping that he will significantly improve in his second season. However, after taking a glance at the excellent DYAR and DVOA statistics from Football Outsiders, this may be wishful thinking. Looking at its history of quarterback ratings going back to 1985, results like Rosen’s may be much closer to the rule than the exception; thus, perhaps drafting someone like Murray should the opportunity arise also should be more the rule than the exception.

And if that’s the case, as we approach the 2020 NFL Draft, it should leave two teams in a potentially similar situation–the Washington Redskins and the New York Giants–seriously considering drafting someone like Tua Tagovailoa.

The rarity of “false negatives”


In the 2019 NFL Draft, the Giants drafted Daniel Jones 6th overall, while the Redskins drafted Dwayne Haskins 15th overall. By DYAR and DVOA, both quarterbacks had very poor rookie seasons. Haskins was dead last in both measures among quarterbacks with at least 200 passes, at -443 and -42.0%. Jones wasn’t much better: at -256 and -19.2% he was respectively fourth worst and fifth worst.

This leads to the question as to how many “false negatives” at quarterback come out of the 1st round, where a quarterback who had a poor rookie season nonetheless was able to put together a good NFL career. What are the odds that Haskins and Jones can consistently bounce back from that rough start?

The table below shows all quarterbacks taken in the 1st round since 1985 that had either DYAR or DVOA that was worse than Jones’s 2019 numbers in the first year that they threw at least 200 passes, as well as their DYAR and DVOA in the subsequent three seasons, for a total of four seasons. Haskins and Jones are highlighted in teal. All blank cells indicate that the quarterback did not throw 200 or more passes in that season, with exceptions highlighted in yellow: Andre Ware and Dan McGwire never threw for 200 or more passes in any season, so their under 200 pass seasons are included.

PlayerDraft YearFirst SeasonSeason 1Season 2Season 3Season 4
DYARDVOADYARDVOADYARDVOADYARDVOA
Josh Rosen20182018-1145-53.7%TBDTBDTBDTBD
David Carr20022002-1130-47.4%83-7.0%258-3.2%-565-29.2%
Blaine Gabbert20112011-1009-46.5%-268-25.3%
Blake Bortles20142014-955-40.7%54-9.9%52-10.0%4080.3%
Jared Goff*20162016-881-74.8%112524.0%111417.0%5522.0%
Kelly Stouffer19871992-837-72.7%
Akili Smith19992000-700-51.4%
Ryan Leaf19981998-661-51.8%-539-35.5%
Matt Stafford*20092009-653-36.6%117014.9%116012.2%
Donovan McNabb*19991999-629-51.6%389-1.4%251-3.7%267-0.8%
Trent Dilfer19941995-559-31.0%-5-11.3%4495.2%-103-14.7%
Josh Allen20182018-534-35.9%-21-11.8%TBDTBDTBDTBD
Tim Couch19991999-478-28.4%-54-15.1%-421-24.7%98-7.9%
JP Losman20042005-451-41.5%65-9.0%
Dwayne Haskins20192019-443-42.0%TBDTBDTBDTBDTBDTBD
Christian Ponder20112011-404-31.5%173-6.1%-42-13.5%
Josh Freeman20092009-392-31.1%81613.9%-96-13.7%118-8.0%
Mark Sanchez20092009-382-26.5%212-4.3%-53-12.5%-593-29.4%
Kerry Collins19951995-369-23.8%69917.5%-393-26.0%-253-22.0%
Troy Aikman*19891989-299-26.7%-251-20.5%84122.5%124928.1%
Brandon Weeden20122012-291-19.4%-443-36.1%
Joey Harrington20022002-279-20.9%-250-18.2%41-9.9%-93-15.2%
Jake Locker20112012-265-23.6%69-5.7%-171-27.8%
Jamarcus Russell20072008-265-21.6%-834-62.0%
Daniel Jones20192019-256-19.2%TBDTBDTBDTBDTBDTBD
Tim Tebow20102011-221-22.7%
Kyle Boller20032003-220-26.0%-108-14.6%34-9.3%
Jeff George19901990-211-20.3%-581-28.6%-358-28.3%5368.5%
Brady Quinn20072009-207-22.8%-440-43.8%
Eli Manning*20042004-191-25.4%6326.0%5294.1%-190-16.4%
EJ Manuel20132013-190-19.9%-53-17.1%
Dan McGwire19911992-182-98.8%-287-50.9%
Vinny Testaverde19871987-153-24.4%-202-17.8%153-6.5%-16-11.8%
Steve Walsh19891989-138-20.6%110-5.9%40314.3%
Andre Ware19901990-54-36.5%-146-33.6%-138-53.7%

A quick, subjective look at that list of 35 quarterbacks does…not look good–including the observation that Rosen had the worst rookie quarterback DYAR ever. Among that list, there are five quarterbacks that a reasonable consensus could agree had at least decent NFL careers Those five, highlighted in green and marked with an asterisk, are as follows, in descending order from most to least recent:

  • Jared Goff, who had to suffer through Jeff Fisher’s last stand in the Rams’ return to Los Angeles before quickly logging four digit DYAR in his next two seasons upon the arrival of Sean McVay.
  • Matt Stafford, who suffered a rough rookie season in the year after the 0-16 Lions, and then had an injury filled second season before taking off considerably in Seasons 3 and 4.
  • Eli Manning, whose career was a roller coaster as a matter of DYAR and DVOA, but at least logged above average and above replacement in Seasons 2 and 3, and did of course win two Super Bowls.
  • Donovan McNabb, who hovered below average but at least above replacement after a rough rookie season before really taking off for three seasons, starting with his Super Bowl appearance season of 2004.
  • And finally, Troy Aikman, the only Hall of Famer on this list. But it’s at this moment that the final rarity of first round quarterbacks taken in consecutive drafts by a team shall be mentioned. In fact, Jimmy Johnson didn’t even bother seeing one down of Aikman’s rookie season before using the Cowboys’ 1990 1st round pick in the 1989 supplemental draft on Steve Walsh–who also is on this list. Therefore, among these quarterbacks, the only one whose team immediately used a 1st round pick on a competitor was the only one that made the Hall of Fame.

Pitting those five quarterbacks against the 30 others on the list that came before Haskins and Jones (although there is still some time to determine the ultimate fates of the likes of Rosen and Josh Allen), it translates into a 1 in 7 chance for the careers of Haskins and Jones to come out as good as the quarterbacks mentioned above–and a 1 in 35 chance of ascending all the way to Aikman’s level.

Where the Redskins and Giants are at

This leads us to the predicament the Redskins and Giants find themselves in for the 2020 NFL Draft. Both teams had terrible 2019 seasons–bottom six in overall DVOA, and bottom ten in offensive DVOA–contributing to records of 3-13 and 4-12, and being given the 2nd and 4th overall picks. That puts them in the position where highly regarded quarterbacks are considered.

Assuming for the sake of argument that the Bengals take Joe Burrow 1st overall, the consensus next best available quarterback, one that has been mentioned as such well before any 2019 action in football, was Tua Tagovailoa. Now, just like any other quarterback entering the NFL from college, there is no guarantee on how he’ll perform, and you should not be drafting a quarterback that high if he’s deemed to not meet that value. And with Tagovailoa in particular, there is the added risk factor of his serious hip injury from last season. Furthermore, it would be painful to pass up on a highly regarded prospect at another position–like Chase Young, who, in the Redskins’ case, could easily go to a division rival in the Giants should they take a quarterback at 2nd overall.

However, if, after weighing all factors and coming to the determination that Tagovailoa has a very good chance to be a successful NFL quarterback, given the importance of the position it may behoove both the Redskins and Giants to at least consider indemnifying what they have now with Haskins and Jones with a prospect like Tagovailoa.

Are Receivers Headed for a Market Correction?

With free agency essentially over this is a good time to begin to recap some of the more notable stories of free agency and the first thing I wanted to look at was wide receiver, which probably the position to land with the biggest thud of all of them. Even though this was not considered a huge crop of free agents it was still surprising to see players like Robby Anderson fail to land a big contract so where may things go from here?

The realization that this might be more difficult time for wide receivers probably began when Amari Cooper went back to the Dallas Cowboys on a $20 million per year contract with $40 million in true guarantees and injury protection up to $60 million. While the $20 million number was one of the few eye popping numbers in free agency this year a closer look at the contract painted a different picture. The cash flow numbers in the early stages of the contract trailed most of the top players at the position and his three year number matches Odell Beckham while trailing Michael Thomas. The vesting schedule on his $20 million in injury protection was generally team friendly. Dallas was taken to the woodshed by many for their handling of the Cooper contract, but in the end its hard to really see them having lost much here.

While Cooper came in exactly at the projection we had I did not expect that structure at all. The projection was also based on the fact that I thought Cooper was going to be transitioned tagged which might scare people off. I figured as a pure free agent with no strings attached Cooper might get $23 million a year. I mean this was a market that just two years earlier paid Sammy Watkins $16 million a season with $30 million in true guarantees.  The alarms for everyone else should have gone off at that point and strategies changed.

Emmanuel Sanders I believe was the next to take a deal. The third contract market for productive older receivers had pretty much been set around $9-10 million and Sanders should have compared favorably to Golden Tate. Instead it was a two year deal for $8 million a year.

Anderson was expected to be the second highest paid receiver this offseason. I had him pegged around $13 million a year building off the Tyrell Williams contract from a year earlier with a boost based on the fact that not many others would be available. He sat and sat and sat before signing for two years and an effective guarantee of $12 million. It was just $500,000 a year more than former teammate Jamison Crowder received last year in free agency and less guarantees than Albert Wilson received as a free agent from Miami a few years ago.

Breshard Perriman was next at $6 million for a year. This was slightly under the $7 million number I had him at but there were people projecting far more I guess in part because last year Devin Funchess landed a one year $10 million contract from the Colts.

Somewhere in all of this the Texans completely missed the message being cast by the 31 other teams and signed Randall Cobb to a $9 million per year contract that looked bad upon signing and in hindsight has to be one of the worst contracts in all of free agency. Cobb’s contract is the only one that could be placed in the bin of somewhat crazy contracts signed in free agency in the past and this may have been the craziest outside of the Watkins contract.

So what happened here? Here are a few thoughts.

At the top of the list is that team’s learn from the past and adjust accordingly. Now when I saw learning from the past it generally means they learn from the short term past and the short term is the explosion of contracts for Watkins, Brandin Cooks, Alshon Jeffery, Tyrell Williams, Funchess, and so on…which didn’t make a ton of sense when they occurred and generally turned out to be terrible investments. We saw this same kind of scenario happen back around the time OTC was born when Mike Wallace, Percy Harvin and a few others nailed down these crazy contracts in a market that basically capped itself at just a few million more when the actual stars signed contracts a short time later.

The failures of those players had a direct impact on the receiver market the following year or two as players who were generally bigger stat guys but probably only hitting those numbers because of the offense they were in saw their market decrease in the ballpark of $3 to $4 million a year. While I think this may be a factor that explains Anderson and Sanders it does not resonate with Cooper who is a legit star.

The bigger thing is perhaps we are really seeing a leaguewide market correction. While the above scenario is usually more of a short term gut reaction scenario this is one that could have longer term consequences. In recent years the receiver market has gotten all bunched up due to a few contracts. There was a time when the true superstar receivers did receive superstar contracts that dwarfed those of other players. We don’t have that now. While Julio Jones has a stated annual contract value that comes close to the contracts of yesteryear that’s not really a legit contract and everyone know it. Basically its just a whole bunch of players between $15 and $18 million a year and then another group or two right below that all jammed together. Its not that different than how QB has been.

There are two ways to correct dysfunctional markets. One is to increase the pay at the top while stagnating the second tier players. That’s where I thought things were headed with Cooper and clearly that did not happen. The second is to see a giant market correction. This is what happened with running backs back in 2013/2014. It happened with corners around 2010 or 2011. Corners are probably more applicable to this situation than running backs.  

What occurred back then is you had a number of players that made a run at big contracts. Inflated for todays salary cap between 2009 and 2012 you had the following players sign contracts

PlayerTeamYear Signed2020 Inflated APY
Nnamdi AsomughaRaiders2009$23,036,000
Nnamdi AsomughaEagles2011$19,758,000
Darrelle RevisJets2010$17,823,000
Champ BaileyBroncos2011$17,700,000
Brent GrimesFalcons2012$16,896,000
Brandon CarrCowboys2012$16,467,000
Cortland FinneganRams2012$16,434,000
Leon HallBengals2011$16,054,000
Johnathan JosephTexans2011$16,054,000
Brandon FlowersChiefs2011$16,054,000
Dunta RobinsonTexans2009$16,045,000
Charles WoodsonPackers2010$14,950,000
Dunta RobinsonFalcons2010$14,596,000
DeAngelo HallRedskins2009$14,502,000
Dunta RobinsonFalcons2012$14,175,000
Jason McCourtyTitans2012$14,147,000

Some of those players were good but most were not. The Carr/Finnegan deals were probably the straw that broke the camels back. Eventually there was a big correction and the cornerback position never recovered.

Part of that is I think more and more teams not only realized the variance in the performance of the corner especially as they got older but that investing too much in one player simply was not getting the job done in a league where teams feature multiple targets in the passing game. Perhaps teams are realizing the same about receivers.

The dominant receiver I think can make the great QB like a Patrick Mahomes close to unstoppable, but ultimately it’s the QB that defines the result. There are players like a Kirk Cousins that likely benefit the most from having “good” receivers that might make life a little easier on him and don’t make too many mistakes but the majority of QBs at the moment are unproven at best and Im not sure they benefit.

Part of the ramp up in the receiver market has been the idea that the young QB in the NFL needs a “name” receiver to make things easier. Has it really worked though?  Did Jared Goff become a superstar because he had Cooks?  Did Wentz develop more because of Jeffery? Did any of the JAGs that DeAndre Hopkins played with before Watson magically become good QBs? Why cant Jameis Winston get a job despite playing with multiple high end wide outs? Allen Robinson is a great receiver but he can only do so much for a QB that throws the ball 10 feet over his head or hits him in the feet like they are playing dodgeball. Mahomes was going to be great regardless of who his receivers were. Trubisky was going to be bad regardless of who his receiver was. Sure you want those unproven QBs to have as many tools at their disposal but at what cost? Maybe the whole market will start to drop with the exception of the few stars.

There has been some chatter that a deep draft class at receiver plays a role too and its probably accurate for all but Cooper. While I think you can argue with how the position overall has been valued in terms of contracts the NFL is pretty good at paying players who produce at the position.

I turned to our OTC valuation metric to see where we valued players when grouped by their actual contract annual value. For those who are not familiar with it, our valuation metric attempts to redistribute the salaries at a position based on performance. In the case of receivers it is tied to playing time, PFF grades, raw receiving stats, and production over average expectation.

Salary RangeAvg. OTC ValuationPlayer Count
$15M+$10,497,80010
$10 to $15M$8,527,28614
$7 to $10M$4,812,46213
$4 to $7M$4,952,73315
$2.5 to $4M$3,908,20015
$1.5 to $2.5M$3,249,58817
$1 to $1.5M$4,712,53813
$750K to $1M$3,704,78323
Under $750K$1,784,40040

In general, the market is more or less efficient at the top with the real overvaluation coming in the $7 to $10M range. Essentially you can get similar performance from lower salary ranges most of which are occupied by draft picks. Expecting to draft a better, cheaper Anderson, Perriman, Sanders, etc.. is probably a viable route to take. It is not a route to take to find a better Cooper. Maybe you luck into it but the odds are against it.

So this year may be a blip and mean nothing but I think its worth watching closely to see if there is a move to just keep a few receivers at a higher number and start to drop players at most salary ranges by a few million to better reflect the return on investment teams are seeing.

New CBA Approved, Cap Set at $198.2 Million

The new CBA was officially ratified by the slimmest of margins (reportedly by 60 votes) and the NFL immediately announced the new salary cap for the year at $198.2 million for the year. With the CBA drama behind us we now have a new set of rules in front of us and obviously a lot of work to do at OTC. So here are a few quick notes on what the new CBA means for the season.

The biggest change in my opinion is that minimum salaries will raise now by either $90,000 or $100,000 for 2020. This is a massive shift in salary which should mean that teams will now use up an extra $3 to $3.5 million in cap space and their budget for players already under contract. So for teams that are flush with cap room like the Dolphins it does not matter but for teams like the Jaguars operating close to the salary cap it’s a big hit. For teams that often have tighter budgets than most in the NFL (think Colts and Texans) this is an added expense that will likely take money away from use in free agency even if the cap space is not a concern for them. For us at OTC this is a big change as well to many deals so we will be doing our best to reflect these changes shortly. There may be some bumps along the way but we will do our best to make the necessary corrections where I realize that I may have messed up a number.

Similarly rosters will now expand in size for the practice squad and active rosters which are also going to mean added costs for teams. Two minimum salary players in the move from 53 to 55 will be an added $1.2M to a teams budget. PS salaries and squad size also increased but that will be a lesser number. It is important to note that teams wont be able to do the PS raises we often see so that should create a few bucks for some teams.

The new CBA will bring back the option of the post June 1 cut designation. So for teams like the Jets that have made it clear that they are releasing Trumaine Johnson but have not done so officially this was probably the reason for the delay. Players like Johnson can now be designated a post June 1 on the first day of the league year to open up millions of dollars in cap room in June for signing rookies. We will bring back our June 1 options to the cap pages and calculators to reflect the ability to do this.

The 30% rule will be eliminated until 2030 so that will make things much easier on teams to do conversions of salary to bonuses for cap purposes. Previously the 30% rule was going to make that difficult if not impossible and was going to be a burden on some teams.  In addition teams can now structure contracts again that allow for a huge difference in cap hit between year one and year two, giving teams the chance to defer money to the future and “buy on credit”. This is likely why some announced extensions like Austin Ekeler of the Chargers had not yet been officially sent to the NFL and why extension talk in general has been so quiet. This should make it much easier for teams like the Saints.

Void years for cap purposes on 1 year contracts will benefit teams again.  The way the rules stood the ability to do a one year contract with 4 dummy years for cap purposes was severely compromised. Now its back again. For the Saints and Drew Brees this should make life much easier.

Teams only can use one tag, either the franchise or transition, in 2020. This is big news for Amari Cooper and to a lesser extent Ryan Tannehill/Derrick Henry and Shaq Barrett/Jameis Winston. Unless the league delays the franchise period again teams have until the 16th to make a decision. So unless the Cowboys rapidly come to an agreement with Dak Prescott to free up the tag for Cooper, Cooper will likely become the most sought after free agency since Ndamukong Suh in 2015. In an open market there is no reason for Cooper to get less than $23M a year. If he does get tagged he will likely lose out on millions.

Incentives will count as normal this year. Prior to the new CBA teams were going to have to account for all incentives in 2020 rather than just getting an adjustment in 2021. Most likely that would mean teams would hold back an extra $7.5 million in cap room this year so it is more cap space that they can work with.

We will need to update our draft numbers on OTC but quite frankly those are low on the priority list since they will not impact the current cap situation. I have to go over those calculations to best estimate any changes that may exist from what we have online right now.

Teams should now be able to get a cap credit on certain long term players for up to $1.25 million. This may give teams a chance to retain their one or two of their low salary range free agents and not have it hurt their salary cap.

The NFL cap surprisingly was set at just $198.2M which is about $2M less than where we thought it would be when the players were under what was, on paper, a worse CBA. My projection is that it should have grown by $5 million. My only assumption is that the benefits side of the equation went up significantly in 2020 and that hurt the cap portion of the equation. We have adjusted the cap on the pages to reflect the new cap number and will add very rough estimates for 2021 onward soon.

I would think we will have some clarity on whether or not free agency will start as planned on the 18th. Im of the mindset it should be pushed back but I think we will know by tomorrow morning at the latest if it will be pushed back.

Thanks for reading and we will hopefully get these adjustments done in short order. Feel free to point out any changes or mistakes via email or twitter.

2021 Compensatory Picks Potential and Preview

The 2020 league year in the NFL may officially start on Wednesday, March 18, with the “legal tampering” period of free agency commencing two days before on Monday, March 16, the time when we would typically get first knowledge of the largest contracts to be signed. With those contracts signed come the generation of compensatory picks for the 2021 NFL Draft, thus it’s time to take a look at what comp pick potential teams might be looking at.

However, this will be one of the most unusual times of the year, for three reasons:

  1. This league year could either start with either the current collective bargaining agreement, or a brand new CBA. We will learn the fate of that question when voting by the NFLPA’s members concludes at the end of Saturday, March 14.
  2. With a new CBA comes new rules, and one of the most sweeping changes comes to the compensatory pick formula. These may be coming even if the proposed CBA is rejected by the NFLPA.
  3. Finally, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic could throw all kinds of unknown wrenches into the start of the new league year, up to and including a delay to its start.

Given those caveats, let’s proceed.

Reviewing the changes to the compensatory formula

At some point, I highly recommend reading Appendix V (as in the letter vee, not the number 5) of the proposed CBA, which for the first time publicly publishes the heart of the compensatory formula. Here are the important highlights to keep in mind:

UFAs must be valued within the top 35% instead of the top 50% to qualify as compensatory free agents (CFAs).

In my opinion, this will be by far the most consequential change to the compensatory formula. This will result in far few players becoming CFAs due to a low Average Per Year (APY) or low snap counts. If this 35% rule was applied to the 2020 comp picks, contracts would have needed to have an APY of about $2.3 million (instead of about $1 million for the 50% threshold). Therefore, for 2021 I would guess that the APY cutoff qualification would be something around $2.5 million, give or take some range in both directions for snap count adjustments. That will give teams much more flexibility in signing UFAs without the risk of them becoming CFAs that would otherwise cancel out their higher valued CFAs lost.

Teams may unilaterally designate some signings to be as an “Excluded UFA” that would disqualify a player to become a CBA.

The requirements for Excluded UFA designation would be that the player would have to sign a one year contract for a maximum of $1.75 million (an amount that will very lightly rise in later years of the CBA) that cannot be renegotiated until the conclusion of that team’s season.

While I expect teams to experiment with the Excluded UFA designation, as I read the entirety of Appendix V, in my opinion this new tool will be mooted by the 35% rule explained above, since contracts with an APY of $1.75 million or less will be well below the estimated $2.5 million cutoff of the 35% rule.

Players who sign Veteran (formerly Minimum) Salary Benefit (VSB) Deals will not become CFAs.

Again, I also expect this provision to be mooted by the 35% rule, as these contracts will have a value well below the approximate $2.5 million cutoff explained above.

Players who became UFAs due to declined options will no longer become CFAs.

OTC has been aware of this change for quite some time, and it was also codified in Appendix V.

The “Alan Faneca rule” does not apply to quarterbacks.

This refers to when the Steelers were taken by surprise when they got only a 5th round comp pick as a maximum for losing Alan Faneca instead of an expected 3rd, due to having ten or more accrued seasons. However, Appendix V says this rule, for whatever reason, does not apply to quarterbacks.

This exception to this rule will prove to be very consequential for this offseason, as there are quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, and (very hypothetically) Drew Brees well over ten accrued seasons that could still sign very large deals elsewhere.

Even excepting quarterbacks, there are still a handful of other players subject to the Alan Faneca rule this offseason. They include Jason Peters, Jason Witten, Andrew Whitworth, Emmanuel Sanders, Demaryius Thomas, Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy, and Jason Pierre-Paul.

Workout bonuses, performance incentives, and salary escalators will now count in the compensatory formula.

These devices were sometimes used to circumvent the compensatory formula by artificially lowering a player’s APY, and abuse of this circumvention like what the Eagles recently did may have resulted in this rule change.

According to Appendix V, the types of these payments that will count will be those “that are earned by the player in the first League Year of the contract, or that are considered “likely to be earned,” either upon execution of the contract, or as the result of the year-end netting of incentives”. Since Not Likely To Be Earned incentives might still not count, and make up the grand majority of such possible payments, there may still be some leeway for teams to manipulate APY, but they will be limited.

How OTC’s 2021 compensatory pick projection will operate

  • If the proposed CBA is approved, the program will unquestionably run on all new rules in Appendix V, most critically disqualifying UFAs from becoming CFAs that are not in the top 35% of leaguewide players.
  • If the proposed CBA is rejected, the program will still run on the Appendix V rules, but will make a special note of UFAs in the 35% to 50% range, as well as VSB contracts, indicating that they may be possible CFAs.
  • Workout bonuses and LTBE incentives will be included, and adjustments will be made near the end of the regular season for any salary escalators or NTLBE incentives that were earned. Since this is a new provision, the margin of error here will be greater than usual.

Now that you know about the many changes that lie ahead, let’s take a look at each of the 32 teams.

2021 Compensatory Pick Potential

Buffalo Bills

With Quinton Spain recently extended and Jordan Phillips the only other one of their 12 pending UFAs logging more than half of the snaps, they should expect very little action that would generate possible comp picks. Potential: Very Low

Miami Dolphins

Their roster was stripped down to the studs last season, and it shows with only 7 pending UFAs, the most notable being Aqib Talib, who they acquired as a salary dump. No team should expect less here than Miami. Potential: Very Low

New England Patriots

Where Tom Brady plays in 2020 has been the hottest question approaching this offseason. If it’s not in New England, Brady will be a prime 3rd round compensatory pick candidate for the Patriots despite playing accruing well over ten seasons, due to being a quarterback. But it doesn’t end there: Joe Thuney, Devin McCourty, Ted Karras, Jamie Collins, Kyle Van Noy, and Phillip Dorsett are all other pending UFAs who could get CFA-caliber contracts. The Patriots have received multiple 3rd round comp picks and the max of four comp picks in the past two seasons, and that could easily become three in a row. Potential: Very High

New York Jets

Robby Anderson will be the leading candidate here, although there is word that he has interest in staying with the Jets. Three starters from the 2019 offensive line–Kelvin Beachum, Alex Lewis, and Brandon Shell–are also among their high number of 21 pending UFAs, along with edge rusher Jordan Jenkins. However, with high cap space they could easily sign as much or more as they lose, especially if they retain Anderson. Potential: Low

Baltimore Ravens

Matt Judon appears to be a likely franchise tag candidate, so beyond him, the Ravens would have to look at Michael Pierce, Patrick Onwuasor, Jimmy Smith, or Josh Bynes to continue their comp pick collecting habits. Few of them stand out, so while their reputation says they’ll be mindful of their ledger, it also wouldn’t be the worst time for them to take a momentary pause from comp picks and sign some external CFAs if the above players do not sign for much elsewhere. Potential: Moderate

Cincinnati Bengals

With AJ Green as another likely franchise tag candidate, there is little beyond him: perhaps Andrew Billings, Tyler Eifert, Darqueze Dennard, or Nick Vigil. The Bengals’ modus operandi of free agency generally allows them to naturally collect comp picks, but coming off a league worst record in 2019 the interest may be colder than typical. Potential: Low

Cleveland Browns

Among only six practical pending UFAs, Joe Schobert is the only one expected to land a big deal elsewhere. If Schobert is the only CFA they end up losing, they’d have to abstain from signing CFAs from elsewhere, and that seems unlikely in their position. Potential: Very Low

Pittsburgh Steelers

Bud Dupree leads another short list of 8 pending UFAs, and he’s one that could also be tagged. Beyond that, Javon Hargrave may be the only other notable name there. Artie Burns and Sean Davis have not lived up to their draft status, and Tyler Matakevich is a strict special teamer that will likely not sign a contract large enough to qualify as a CFA under the new rules. If the Steelers let Dupree walk they could try to hold back to ensure a high comp pick for him, like they did for Le’Veon Bell last offseason, but otherwise they could be another team suited to take a break and pursue external CFAs. Potential: Low

Houston Texans

DJ Reader has been getting much buzz as a high priority UFA that should be a high CFA candidate as well. Bradley Roby will try to improve on his one year, prove it deal that he signed with Houston last offseason. With 14 pending UFAs in total they could get some padding elsewhere from others signing small CFA-caliber deals. The primary goal for Houston may be to preserve just a high comp pick for Reader if he leaves. Potential: Moderate

Indianapolis Colts

Anthony Castonzo is the leading name here, and while he’ll be coming back for another season, it appears more likely that’ll he’ll be re-signed by the Colts. After Castonzo, there are similarly older candidates like Jabaal Sheard, Dontrelle Inman, and (of course) Adam Vinatieri, and younger talent in transition such as Eric Ebron, Clayton Geathers, and Chester Rogers. Overshadowing all of this, however, is a very high amount of cap space and a need at quarterback at the Colts that may drown out all of this. Potential: Low

Jacksonville Jaguars

Yannick Ngakoue is the only notable CFA candidate among the Jaguars, and he’s a likely franchise tag candidate. Add that to a franchise that has struggled since their 2017 AFC Championship appearance, and it’s likely that they’ll have more work to do in unrestricted free agency than on the comp pick front. Potential: Very Low

Tennessee Titans

They can’t tag all of Ryan Tannehill, Jack Conklin, and Derrick Henry, and whoever of them is able to hit the open market should generate high comp pick worthy deals. So should Marcus Mariota even on a backup QB deal. Logan Ryan playing 99% of the snaps in 2019 could also draw interest, as well as Tajae Sharpe. The Titans are well poised to strive for comp picks if they so choose. Potential: Very High

Denver Broncos

Justin Simmons will likely get extended or franchise tagged, but beyond him the Broncos have plenty of CFA worthy candidates to consider. Lead among them is Chris Harris Jr., a likely departure after trading for AJ Bouye. So too are defensive linemen Derek Wolfe and Shelby Harris, center Connor McGovern, and backup safety Will Parks can’t be counted out for a possible starter level contract elsewhere. While the Broncos aren’t shy about participating in unrestricted free agency when needed–and it likely will be if they lose the above players–they also are sharp at making sure comp picks are not neglected at the same time. Potential: High

Kansas City Chiefs

Chris Jones will likely be tagged, but beyond him the Chiefs still have 18 pending UFAs to work with. Among them are cornerbacks Kendall Fuller and Bashaud Breeland, edge rusher Emmanuel Ogbah, and wide receiver Demarcus Robinson. The Chiefs may not generate a high quality of comp picks if they retain, or tag and trade, Jones, but as Super Bowl champions they could also possibly see some of their UFAs overpaid on the market. Potential: Moderate

Las Vegas Raiders

They have a high quantity of pending UFAs at 17, but the quality is low. Daryl Worley and Karl Joseph are the only ones that played more than 50% of the snaps in 2019, and they were part of a defensive backfield that struggled mightily. As a franchise that generally doesn’t care much about comp picks, I don’t see that changing much this offseason: Potential: Very Low

Los Angeles Chargers

With the Chargers announcing that Philip Rivers will enter free agency, that will position them to garner a likely 3rd round comp pick due to the revelation that all quarterbacks, even those with more than ten accrued seasons, can garner one. Melvin Gordon will also be looking for the big payday he’s struggled to gain as a running back. Even if the Chargers tag Hunter Henry, other players that could be CFA candidates are Adrian Phillips, Damion Square, and Michael Schofield. The comp picks are there for the taking for the Chargers if they want them. Potential: High

Dallas Cowboys

More well known than the Titans’ situation, the Cowboys have their own three trio of top tier players in Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, and Byron Jones that they cannot tag all three of. Whoever of them is allowed to hit the open market will put the Cowboys in prime position for comp pick returns. Combine this with other players like Jason Witten, Maliek Collins, and Jeff Heath among a very long list of 24 pending UFAs, and Dallas is situated quite well in this department. Potential: Very High

New York Giants

The Giants traded for Leonard Williams despite his status of being on the final year of his contract. Should they not work out an extension, a tag could be in play for him. Markus Golden, who logged 10 sacks on a one year deal in New York, could also get interest around the league. With Eli Manning retired, the remainder of the Giants’ pending UFAs might not be in CFA territory, but there is enough for them to work with if they so choose. Potential: Moderate

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles have an eclectic mix of pending UFAs: the longtime vets in Josh McCown, Jason Peters, and Vinny Curry, and younger transitional talent Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Timmy Jernigan, and Nelson Agholor. With compensation for losing Peters capped at the fifth round, there may not be much top level quality here, but good mid level quantity that could keep Philadelphia’s reputation as being a comp pick heavy team going. Potential: High

Washington Redskins

Brandon Scherff is the leading candidate but could get extended or tagged. If that happens, then Case Keenum might be the only remaining potential CFA, as even as backups quarterbacks can get CFA caliber contracts. The Redskins have shown a little recent interest in comp picks, but traditionally that has not been the case for them, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they reverted to tradition this offseason. Potential: Low

Chicago Bears

With Danny Trevathan extended, the focus shifts to fellow linebacker Nick Kwiatkowski, who has reportedly been drawing interest leaguewide. But much like the Redskins, beyond him the only potential CFA may be backup quarterback Chase Daniel, and they are also another team that historically does not care for comp picks, even if they went out of character last year by cutting Mike Davis to get a 4th round comp pick. Potential: Low

Detroit Lions

A’Shawn Robinson is a young interior defensive lineman that could get some attention, as well as center Graham Glasgow. Lingering veterans like Rashaan Melvin or Tavon Wilson could still find homes in the league, too. The question is whether Detroit will stand pat with their own players instead of pursuing external CFAs after coming off a bad season. Potential: Low

Green Bay Packers

Blake Martinez is another linebacker that’s rumored to have leaguewide interest. Longtime right tackle Bryan Bulaga is the type of player that the Packers of the past would clearly let walk for a comp pick. Peripheral players like Geronimo Allison or Kyler Fackrell could also be in play as CFAs. Under Ted Thompson, the Packers would have been determined to get comp picks for all of them, but Brian Gutekunst has shown no need to hold back in free agency just for that reason. We’ll see which way Gutekunst decides to lean in 2020. Potential: Moderate

Minnesota Vikings

Safety Anthony Harris leads a group of possible CFA candidates in the defensive backfield that also includes cornerbacks Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander. With 17 total pending UFAs on a team strapped for cap space, the Vikings could be comp pick recipients just on that basis alone. Potential: High

Atlanta Falcons

Austin Hooper will be a prime CFA candidate if he is allowed to hit the open market. Behind him are players like De’Vondre Campbell and Vic Beasley that will try to find good vested veteran contracts, and older veterans like Jack Crawford or Adrian Clayborn that could catch on elsewhere. Much like the Vikings, the Falcons are tight for cap space, and those combinations could put them on the comp pick board. Potential: High

Carolina Panthers

Tre Boston and James Bradberry are high snap level defensive backs that could draw attention. Daryl Williams will try to recover his stock after coming back from injury. Older vet Gerald McCoy could see another good contract due to his draft pedigree. The big question surrounding the Panthers is that this is a team in transition after moving from Ron Rivera to Matt Rhule. That could indicate either a build through the draft that generates comp picks, or a build through unrestricted free agency that doesn’t. Potential: Moderate

New Orleans Saints

Drew Brees would be the leading CFA candidate here by far if he left New Orleans, but no one thinks that he will. But even putting Brees aside, there is his backup in Teddy Bridgewater that will hope he can finally get that starter level, 3rd round comp pick valued contract elsewhere. There are three defensive backs in Vonn Bell, PJ Williams, and Eli Apple all hitting the market. There is first round pick Andrus Peat could could get a good deal based on that reputation. And there are a total of 17 pending UFAs, putting Brees aside. No team cares less about comp picks than the Saints, but if any year could break their drought, this would be the one. Potential: Very High

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

It appears unlikely that the Bucs will let one of the best stories of the NFL in Shaq Barrett hit the open market. First overall pick Jameis Winston, however, could be another story, and if he’s allowed to leave he stands to possibly generate a 3rd round comp pick valued contract even on a one year prove it deal. The tradeoff, of course, is that the Bucs would have to replace Winston, and they may very well do so by signing a quarterback of their own to a 3rd round comp pick contract. Thus, if Barrett and Winston are out of the picture one way or another, the Bucs would need to rely on the likes of Ndamukong Suh, Jason Pierre-Paul, Carl Nassib, and Peyton Barber to get them by. Definitely plenty to work with there if the Bucs so choose. Potential: Moderate

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals have a high quantity of pending UFAs at 21, but thanks to the DJ Humphries extension that quality is low. With the new 35% qualification rule, the Cardinals may see few of those players qualify as CFAs even if they do get attention from the rest of the league. Potential: Low

Los Angeles Rams

The Rams’ pending number of UFAs are low at 10, but they have notable names among that small group. Cory Littleton and Dante Fowler, Jr. will be the young players leading the way, while older players like Andrew Whitworth, Michael Brockers, and Greg Zuerlein can’t be counted out. The Rams have shown mindfulness with going after comp picks, and cramped cap space due to previous large contract could push them in that direction. Potential: High

San Francisco 49ers

Arik Armstead is by far the leading candidate here, but he could be a likely tag candidate for that reason. Beyond him, they’re looking at players like Jimmie Ward or Emmanuel Sanders as possible CFAs. Their cap space is also on the low end so they could be in play for a comp pick or two even if the quality and quantity doesn’t end up comparing to some other teams. Potential: Moderate

Seattle Seahawks

First overall pick Jadeveon Clowney leads the way among a bevy of defensive linemen hitting unrestricted free agency that also includes Jarran Reed and Quinton Jefferson. Opposite from them on the line, Germain Ifedi and George Fant will try to find decent vested veteran deals elsewhere. Those players front a group of 19 pending UFAs that will likely keep Seattle’s reputation as a leading comp pick garnering team going. Potential: High

Announcing the Drafting Stage: Creating a Marketplace for NFL Draft Picks

I would like to officially announce the pre-release of The Drafting Stage: Creating a Marketplace for NFL Draft Picks, a Kindle book that I co-authored alongside Brad over the past year. The concept behind the book came out of a post on OTC where we utilized 2nd contract salary data to better re-assess the actual value of every NFL draft pick and we greatly expanded on the concept in our book.

In The Drafting Stage, we go beyond just typical draft pick values and wanted to take  forward looking approach as to what can be expected from a draft pick in the short and long term, the value of positional based drafting, and the role free agency availability may play in decision making.

Ill steal the description from Brad’s original post on the early stages of the book to give you an overview of what you will find in the Drafting Stage

  • Assessing every draft pick trade outcome from 2011 to 2015, by round, to determine who was the ultimate “winner and loser” based on the financial outcomes of the trade 
  • Developing Tiers based on a player’s salary to better identify the probabilities of finding a superstar, starter, backup, or replacement level player in the draft based on the draft round and position played 
  • Creating a system to evaluate contracts fairly and independent of position to better illustrate the value that can be found based on position influenced drafting 
  • Examining the success rates and selection rates by position to provide better information on when to strike on a specific position in the draft 
  • Providing some context to the idea of finding “ten-year starters” in the draft through examining the actual outcomes of every draft pick selected during the draft years that were studied  
  • Identifying the typical range and price of free agent talent available to better plan what positions should perhaps be given additional weight in the draft 

We have gotten very good feedback from those who previewed the book so far and we hope you will find it an informative read as well.

The Drafting Stage is available for pre-order on Amazon for $9.99 and will be officially released on April 1.

Is the Proposed Minimum Salary Growth Enough?

In looking over more of the new CBA proposal information that has come out I wanted to talk more about the minimum salary increases. I said the other day it’s a major win for the players (a $100K raise for about 58% of the NFL is certainly a major bump in pay) but with more numbers being know I thought it made sense to put that in perspective. This is not to say players should vote against it- the raise alone is going to get it to pass- but just to pass along more information.

One of the problems that I think exists with the system is that the minimum P5 salaries are not pegged to the salary cap. All the tenders in the NFL are but P5 levels are not. I understand that unexpected changes in P5s can be difficult to deal with but the new revenue sharing system that started in 2011 has been relatively predictable with cap growth so teams should be able to estimate year to year raises. Even if not you can simply put in a one year delay on the raise levels so teams would have a full year to prepare for the increase in salary. By not pegging to the cap you have a system that simply lags the true growth in the NFL.

If we look at where the cap was in 2011 and where it is projected to be in 2020 you can see just how much players lost over the last 9 years by not pegging minimums to the cap. In addition we can now look at the new salaries for the “core players” of the NFL and see that the NFL isn’t even bringing the player back to 2011 levels with the proposed raises.

Credited Seasons 2011 Level 2020 Cap Inflated Level Proposed 2020 P5 Difference
0 $375,000 $623,053 $610,000 -$13,053
1 $450,000 $747,664 $675,000 -$72,664
2 $525,000 $872,274 $750,000 -$122,274
3 $600,000 $996,885 $825,000 -$171,885
4 to 6 $685,000 $1,138,110 $910,000 -$228,110
7 up $810,000 $1,345,794 $1,050,000 -$295,794

How is this a stronger deal for the players if its not reaching the basic levels of where the players were 10 years ago? Because the last agreement was so poor it has put the NFL in a drivers seat position where they can throw out a big number ($100K/$90K raise per player) and have it sound great even though ultimately the “little guy” still isn’t where he should be relative to the revenues from the league.

This is still going to be a problem in this new CBA as well. The union did a far better job in negotiating raises of $45K per season but will that keep up with the revenue growth”?  Probably not.

The cap currently increases every year in the ballpark of 6.5%. There is talk that it will increase significantly more in a new CBA once the leagues negotiates new TV contracts but lets just call it a conservative 7% growth.

Credited Seasons Proposed 2020 P5 Proposed 2025 P5 7% Cap Inflated 2025 P5 Difference
0 $610,000 $840,000 $855,557 -$15,557
1 $675,000 $960,000 $946,722 $13,278
2 $750,000 $1,030,000 $1,051,914 -$21,914
3 $825,000 $1,100,000 $1,157,105 -$57,105
4 to 6 $910,000 $1,170,000 $1,276,322 -$106,322
7 up $1,050,000 $1,255,000 $1,472,679 -$217,679

All but one level (players with 1 year of experience) make out better by 2025 using the current proposal. If growth is higher than 7% even they would not. By the end of the CBA its even worse.

Credited Seasons Proposed 2020 P5 Proposed 2030 P5 7% Cap Inflated 2030 P5 Difference
0 $610,000 $1,065,000 $1,199,962 -$134,962
1 $675,000 $1,185,000 $1,327,827 -$142,827
2 $750,000 $1,255,000 $1,475,364 -$220,364
3 $825,000 $1,325,000 $1,622,900 -$297,900
4 to 6 $910,000 $1,395,000 $1,790,108 -$395,108
7 up $1,050,000 $1,480,000 $2,065,509 -$585,509

This of course again leads to a bad cycle where come the next labor agreement the NFL simply proposes the same $100K salary increase to entice a vote even though they continue to derive great benefit out of the way they continue to set P5 minimums with no consideration of growth.

There really should have been room for more here for the core players. It certainly is an immediate increase but its important to put things in context of how players were valued years ago and what they have agreed to now. Sometimes those big numbers sound bigger than they are and that may be the case here as well.