Thoughts on Joey Bosa’s $135M Contract

The official numbers are in for Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa per Mike Florio at PFT and the numbers on the deal are indeed real at $135 million in new money over 5 years. Bosa will have $78 million guaranteed at signing and $102 million virtually guaranteed over the life of the contract. Now that we have the numbers let’s break things down.

The contract itself is a good example as to how many contracts work in the NFL and the way that teams can keep some semblance of normalcy within a contract even by obliterating the market in terms of annual value. Bosa’s contract will average $3.5 million more per year than Khalil Mack of the Bears (he will be $2 million more than Myles Garrett but I have been unable to track those down so if anyone has any info send it over so we can analyze that too) but at closer inspection the contract is not that much different on the front end. Here are the cash flow comparisons of the two deals.

YearJoey BosaKhalil MackDifferenceDifference Per Year

The raises themselves are moderate in the extension year and Mack actually earns slightly more than Bosa in the first year of the deal. The real turn in contract value come in year three when the gap grows from $3.786 million to $10.54 million, which averages out to $3.5M per year, which the expected gap between the two contracts. That actually grows even higher in year four and five. Bosa also has the benefit of only having a five year contract versus Mack’s 6 year contract.

This is a technique that we see often in contracts. Basically you are willing to do a deal that is a market or slightly above market deal on the front end but are willing by the third year to explode past it. Bosa’s salary in the third year is virtually guaranteed so he will actually earn it though in many cases that would not be the case. This is a much better model for the team than the contract that just blows away the market from day one.

The contract also is a good example of the kind of raise that we should expect to see for true elite level talent. Had the Chargers gone the franchise tag game Bosa would have earned $17.2 million in 2021 and $37.9 million through 2022. Instead he will earn over $63 million in new money, a gigantic 66% premium. It is hard to project what a third franchise tag would cost that far into the game, but it would be cheaper than what they are paying him for the rights to the last two years of the contract and to avoid a holdout. When you have players of this caliber there is no reason to not shoot for the moon and they got that here.

The $78 million in guarantees at signing put Bosa firmly in quarterback territory. Still it’s not something where you can compare the contracts which is a trap that many will fall into. Bosa will earn $42.4M in new money by the end of his first new year- Matt Ryan earned nearly $55 million and Russell Wilson earned $70 million. These are still apples to oranges comparisons for now.

I think the Chargers salary cap structure is interesting. Bosa’s cap number does not change much this year (unless they truly fully guaranteed a roster bonus) moving from $14.36 to $15 million. They had room to make it higher but my guess is this was their tolerance for salary increases this year and they prefer to carry the money over to next season. He will also have a very manageable $20.75M cap hit next year which is important for a year in which the cap is expected to dramatically fall.

I also see that lower number as keeping the door open to bring back Tyrod Taylor on a more expensive contract if he has a very good season that lands the team in the playoffs. The tag would be in the mid 20’s next year and this now opens the tag and the cap required if they go that route. If they don’t need it they have plenty of cap room to sign a few players.

The big spikes in cap charges come in 2022, 2023, and 2024. His numbers spike to $28.25M, $31(!)M, and $29M those three years. Those are the three years that should coincide, no matter what happens, with the rookie years of Justin Herbert. Herbet will cost just $7.3M and $8.5M on the cap in 2022 and 2023 and will either have a manageable cap number on an extension in 2024 or be off the team and they will start anew with another young player. The final contract year which would coincide, if things go well, for a monster QB contract extension will have a cap of just $25.36M.

There is no real negative for Bosa in this at all. Bosa also receives bonuses in the offseason of the last two contract years which is a mechanism to give him a partial guarantee those years. If the Chargers feel a cap pinch in that $31M cap year they will restructure which just opens up more virtually locked in salary in 2024. It’s a blow away contract for him with zero downside. By every metric it’s a game changer and it will serve as a model for plenty of players who should view themselves as more than a basic franchise player.

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Vic Beasley Fails to Report to Titans Camp

Edge rusher Vic Beasley was one of the big offseason acquisition by the Titans, signing a one year, fully guaranteed $9.5 million contract, but two days into camp he is still a no show with the Titans placing him on the teams reserve/did not report list. According to ESPN’s Turron Davenport general manager Jon Robinson said he has been in contact with Beasley and he will report soon, but the hold out could get expensive if this drags on for a few more days.

The new CBA agreement, in an effort to avoid holdouts, placed mandatory fines, compared to the old system of voluntary fines, on veteran players for late reporting. Beasley fits in the category of a UFA signing so he should lose $50,000 per day that he remains away from training camp.

In addition Beasley, if he misses 6 days of training camp, can trigger a breach that can allow the Titans to begin the process of recovering part of his $6 million signing bonus. This is not mandatory but can be as high as 15% for the initial breach and 25% for the entire preseason. That would add up to $900,000 for the first breach and $60,000 per day thereafter up to $2.25M over the course of camp.

The question that I would have is if Beasley’s absence has anything to do with the Covid pandemic. The original rules that were sent out seemed to indicate that reporting to camp was mandatory unless you inform the team that you are opting out of the season. This seems entirely unfair given that the NFL and NFLPA have not even finalized the rules and I think you would want to see all the rules and safety protocols in place before reporting to camp and/or making an opt out decision. Perhaps they will be able to make an exception in this case if Beasley indicated to the Titans that the decision is related to that. If not this could get quite expensive in a few more days.

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Previewing a New Feature On Roster Trends

One of the many important responsibilities of an NFL agent includes identifying a list of potential teams for their free agent and undrafted clients. For high end free agents, suitors can be identified through a combination of teams making calls and the agent fielding offers. However, for lower end free agents and undrafted free agents, identifying landing spots can be more challenging and agents must take a more strategic approach in determining which teams would be a good fit for their client. One way is by studying what teams like in terms of body type and a team’s preference towards depth across different positions. A new feature for Overthecap that I have built will serve as a valuable tool in this area.

The first part of this new feature will calculate the average height and weight of players by each position on each team and can be benchmarked against league averages. The chart below is a preview of the new feature.    

Red cells indicate teams that have the top 20% of heaviest players, on average, at a position. Green cells indicate teams that have the bottom 20% of lightest players at a position. One observation that can be made is that the Packers like heavier WRs. This is consistent with what Head Coach, Matt LeFleur, has said in the past about having big physical WRs who can block.  Another conclusion that can be drawn is the Seahawks preference for tall cornerbacks. Although the team’s cornerbacks are not the top 20% tallest in the league, they are still taller than league averages. From an agent’s perspective, if a client is a big-body WR who excelled as a blocker in college or an undrafted cornerback that is over 6 feet, a team like the Packers and Seahawks would be worth calling respectively to gauge their interest. As a supplement to the height & weight chart, I also ran standard deviations on the height and weight of players from each positional group to illustrate the greatest variability in both categories.

Looking at weight variability, DL is the position with the highest standard deviation. This can be attributed to the size difference between 43 DL and 34 DL. WRs have the greatest variability for height.  

The second part of the new OTC feature is a roster count table with a preview shown below.   

The chart illustrates the number of players on a team by position, average age, and 2021 FAs. One takeaway from the chart is seeing teams that prefer to have more players at certain positions. For example, the Browns currently have 6 TEs on their roster. While these figures are inflated due to off-season rosters, it is still a good indicator for where teams prefer more depth. New Browns’ Head Coach, Kevin Stefanski, had called the most tightend sets when he was Vikings’ Offensive Coordinator last year. Early indications show he will continue that theme in Cleveland and another example of how agents can leverage this information when identifying potential fits for their UDFA or low-tier SFA clients. The chart also illustrates average age by position and number of 2021 FAs which is especially useful when determining where a team may have a need in the future. While this new tool is certainly not a be all end all, it is a good starting point when determining which teams to reach out to on behalf of UDFA and low tier SFA clients.

Jets Trade Jamal Adams to the Seahawks

After months of asking to be traded the Jets finally pulled the trigger on trading away star safety Jamal Adams and boy did they get a haul for Adams from the Seahawks. Per Brian Costello the Jets will receive two first round draft picks, a third round draft pick and safety Bradley McDougald from Seattle. While this looks like a wild mortgaging of the future for the Seahawks I will try to make some sense of this and put a positive spin on it and create the overused “win-win” scenario.

A Great Move for the Jets

From a pure standpoint of expected returns and increased cap space it is hard to envision how anyone could see the Jets as anything but a massive winner in this trade. Adams tenure with the Jets has led to a grand total of 16 wins in three seasons. This is by no means a knock on him just the reality of the situation that a safety is not the difference between being a winner and a loser.

One of the ways that you can evaluate this trade is by utilizing the Fitzgerald-Spielberger draft chart (shameless plug you can buy your copy on Amazon if you have not already) to come up with an idea of outcomes for the draft picks and then combine that with some of the salary cap space gained or lost by the trades in the team.

The Seahawks have made the playoffs in 7 of the last 8 seasons so while normally I would assign a middle of the round selection to an unknown draft pick I have no issues here in using the 26th pick in the draft as the expected return in 2021. The 26th pick in the draft would be worth a value that is equal to 44.2% of the top 5 player salary average at a given position. The 26th pick in the third round would be worth 23.6%.  Given how far out 2022 is I would not automatically give Seattle a playoff seed so lets call that the 19th pick which is 49.4%.

None of these players are obviously expected to be as good as Jamal Adams but on average would fit into the situational starter category. What does that mean? Well if we picked another safety with one of those picks the expected return would be a player worth in the ballpark of $6.5M a year so someone like Tre Boston, Quandre Diggs, Bobby McCain, etc…Good but not necessarily great players.

Here are the metrics on the picks using our data.

Picks AcquiredPoints% of Top 5 APYLong Term Rate4 Year RateBust Rate

For a team as devoid of talent as the Jets you can not pass these kind of numbers up. Each pick carries over a 50% chance that they will be with the team for at least four years when you knew Adams wanted out. The odds are very small (around 4%) that you won’t get 4 years out of any of the three draft picks. When it comes to evaluating high end potential there is a 50/50 chance that at least one of these players winds up a Tier 1 player like Adams. So essentially you have a 50% chance of replacing Adams and around a 28% chance that you wind up with at least two good players.

The Jets will also give up a 19.5% 4th round pick who will have about a 5% chance of being an elite player along with Adams who we would value at the same level as the top pick in the draft. Overall the points on that would be very similar for both parties.

Then you get into the cap aspect of the move. Let’s look at the Jets break down where the options are to either keep Adams and try to salvage the situation or trade him away.

PlayerCap Charge
Adams 20-$3,590,292
Adams 21-$9,860,000
Adams Extension-$64,000,000
1st Round Pick$12,400,000
1st Round Pick$13,500,000
3rd Round Pick$4,600,000
4th round pick-$4,100,000
Total Charges-$46,950,292

For the year the Jets will actually lose cap room with the trade because McDougald will likely earn more than Adams. These numbers are assuming the trade is done now and not after the roster bonus due date in which case the cap this year is even more lopsided for the Seahawks. This is one of those things that is going to reflect bad on the Jets for those really upset with the trade but you have to take a long view here.

The Jets free up $9.86M next year and avoid an extension that costs at least $64M. For the draft picks I looked at the four year contract totals in 2020 that Jets will acquire and just rounded them up slightly since we are expecting a pretty flat cap in 21 and probably 22. If they are higher it won’t be by much.  All in all the Jets will save about $47 million in cap space for one year of McDougald and 12 combined years of draft selections versus six years of Adams and four years of a 4th round pick.

How can one criticize Joe Douglas for this trade when you see these numbers?  I get that Adams has been popular but the trade from the Jets perspective is a 50/50 chance at getting another elite player with one of their draft picks and a good chance that at least two players are above average players. They can also add a free agent who would cost around $10M a season. You tell me which situation will have the Jets win more than 5.3 games a year?

It also gives the Jets a ton of ammunition to move up in a draft and select a QB if Sam Darnold simply does not develop. I know my fellow Jets fans hate when I bring that up but through two years he has been barely average and was not a JD selection. This move certainly does little for the current Jets and is going to be spun as not giving Darnold enough to win while cheap but if Darnold is the guy he will pick up the team. If he isn’t they have to look for a new guy. Extra first rounders gives them the chance to do just that especially if Seattle happened to have a bad year because of a QB injury.

To me this is a no brainer. It gives the Jets two added picks in 2021 while Darnold is still cheap, more money to spend on free agents, draft capital if Darnold has to be replaced, and no more headaches from a player that would rip the team any chance he got.

Now here is the thing I would say regarding the trade for the future. The Jets have to spend the picks they received on premium positions. To do something like drafting a safety, running back and linebacker with their draft picks does nothing to make the team better. Even if you draft an elite talent at those spots to replace Adams it does not make the team any better than keeping Adams. You have to use the picks on players you can not buy and players that may make more of a difference. If this was the last general manager I would have zero faith in him doing that but hopefully this is different for New York.

Why Did Seattle Do This?

Seattle is in a very different spot from the Jets. While Jamal Adams was maybe the difference between 4 and 5 wins for the Jets perhaps he could be the difference between 11 and 12 or 11 and 13 wins for a really good team like Seattle. Super Bowl quality teams should take risks and with a 32 year old QB who is under contract for four more seasons you have to make moves that can get you to the big game.

Adams is going to receive a contract extension at some point worth anywhere from $15 to $17 million and is a lock unlike the draft picks which are dart throws. This is basically the return you would expect for a 1st pick in the draft as it is a superstar at a given position. The 4th round pick is a throw in but has some value. It is also important for Seattle to have a player that likely impacts 2020 and 2021 whereas the draft picks will most likely be players in 2022 and 2023 the final two years of Wilson’s current contract.

If we flip the money chart around for Seattle we can also see why they made this trade. Assuming of course that they extend Adams here are the Seahawks financials.

PlayerCap Charge
Adams 20$3,590,292
Adams 21$9,860,000
Adams Extension$64,000,000
4th Round Pick$4,100,000
1st Round Pick-$12,400,000
1st Round Pick-$13,500,000
3rd Round Pick-$4,600,000
Total Charges$46,950,292

While there is definitely an opportunity cost given up with all those draft picks when you pull their salaries out of the equation the net impact will be around $7.8M for six years of Jamal Adams. So while their contract charts are one day going to read that they are paying $16M or $17M for a safety they are going to look at this as getting him for a net cost that is much cheaper. Even if you want to say that this is too rosy a view lets call Adams the Seahawks first rounder next year. That’s about $10.85M in net costs for Adams. I think you can make a case for this being a reasonable use of financial resources as it’s the cheapest way to get a star player if money is the bottom line.

Does that mean I would have done this if I was Seattle? Absolutely not because I can not believe the Jets had any market like this. It is no secret the Jets shopped Adams last year and it is no secret that the highest the bidding went is a 1 and a 3. How do you go from a 1 and a 3 to two 1’s and a pick swap? Especially after the player criticized every single person in the organization in the local newspaper. Not only that but he had a $2.8M roster bonus coming up in a few days (again assuming the Jets are not paying this) which means time was on Seattle’s side.

Seattle has been down this road before with Percy Harvin and Jimmy Graham neither of whom lived up to the billing in Seattle and maybe they just can’t help themselves. Sometimes teams get excited and do things they should not do. I wonder how Houston must feel realizing that the Jets just fleeced the Seahawks for Adams when they traded away Jadeveon Clowney to the same team for a bag of peanuts last year.

The other negative for Seattle is the fact that they did this deal with no extension. This is exactly the same mistake Houston made last year when trading for Laremy Tunsil and the Rams made when trading for Jalen Ramsey. It gives so much leverage to the player in contract negotiations and the Texans paid dearly for it when they signed Tunsil to a $22M a year extension. While Adams will be happy to be out of NY this year I am not sure that he will be happy to play next year with no extension and giving up all that draft capital for just two years of Adams if they don’t want to extend him makes no sense at all. This are all things that teams need to do prior to a trade.

The other issue with the trade for Seattle and this goes kind of to what I mentioned about the Jets above with how to approach the draft is that this is a position that you can address in free agency. In the last few years there have been a few big trades for multiple 1s but only one player (Khalil Mack) was the type of player you would never see in free agency. You see great safeties in free agency. You see great corners in free agency. You see great left tackles in free agency. I get that those two rookie years on a contract are valuable but these positions have an alternate route if you are patient and plan well.

So I can understand why Seattle wanted to get Jamal Adams and can say that he will have an impact on the team this year but there was a different path for them here that could have been realized by being a bit more patient. Under no circumstance should two 1s be traded for a safety especially an unhappy one. We can make a strong case for why they did it but a far stronger case for a better way to do it.

Adams and NFL Players Are Also Big Winners

Adams use of social media and most recently traditional media to his advantage was perfect. He wanted out and got out. Antonio Brown did the same thing twice last year. Ramsey did it though not to the same degree last season. While it does not always work (Yannick Ngakoue cant shake free of the Jaguars) it is becoming something that more and more teams need to be aware of. Everyone is starved for content and I think is fascinated by what players are thinking about the teams they play for. Players have a voice and can use it for many things and this one of them.

If Adams never took to Instagram or made his beefs with the Jets public we probably are not sitting here today talking about an Adams trade. More and more players are going to follow this model when they land with a bad team in the draft. I don’t know how teams evaluate this when they make a pick but they need to figure out better ways for damage control when it happens. Adams absolutely dragged the Jets down and while this trade haul will make it easier with the fanbase my guess is the majority of fans are upset with the team right now because the Jets caused this situation to spiral out of control. Luckily they found a trade partner who was willing to part with a haul but that never should have happened. It is definitely an interesting way for players to exert leverage.

NFL Snaps Gained and Lost in 2020

Earlier today former NFL executive and current ESPN analyst Mike Tannenbaum put out a list of the teams with the most returning snaps this year with the important thought of how this is extremely important this year compared to most because of the lack of normal OTAs and training camp work this season. Usually every year we do a few looks at this same data and while the numbers may differ slightly between outlets they should be relatively close. So first let’s look at the amount of offensive and defensive snaps returning this year per team, broken down by unit

Football Team64.1%77.6%71.5%
NFL Avg78.3%72.6%75.5%

The numbers on offense I think are the most interesting because that is really the driver for success these days. At the top are the Bills and Raiders pretty much bringing everyone back this year. While you can argue how effective those two teams offenses are they should show great continuity. The Colts rank third but that is a bit misleading since their starting QB is heading to the bench and being replaced by Philip Rivers so that is a major new part. The Rams still rank very high which should be helpful as they try to retool the team, followed closely by the Eagles, Jaguars, and Chiefs. The Jaguars were pretty bad last year so in their case I’m not sure continuity will be a good thing but much will depend on their QB development.

The Panthers will have a totally different look as the only team with under 60% returning snaps on offense as they have basically blown up the team. With a new QB this could be a slow start. The Jets will be getting a major offensive facelift as well with a ton of new offensive linemen and wide receiver. They can not afford a slow start so they have to figure a way through this. Washington has just 64% returning while the Patriots and Seahawks are around 66%. The Seahawks are pretty much all offensive linemen and some may say that the team is better for that. Overall the league will bring back about 78% of their snaps per team.

On defense the Bucs are the one team bringing back over 90% of their defense. If a year together makes that group better and the Brady led offense is less mistake prone while still being productive they could be in very good shape. San Francisco will be returning most of their top rated defense as will the Steelers. The Steelers are the team overall that will show the most balance between offense and defense. The Jets defense played well last year and is relatively unchanged as is the Dolphins defense.

The Panthers are just a total gut job on defense returning under 40% of their snaps from last year. The Rams who will return a lot on offense are in a totally different phase with the defense with just 58% of a return. Detroit, Dallas, and Minnesota make up the bottom five though there are plenty of other teams close to them.

Breaking Down Veteran and Rookie Reliance

Here we can look at how many new snaps were brought in by team in free agency, trade, etc…and how much those snaps would have equated to based on last years team snaps. The second column looks at how much of a shortage of snaps there is between veteran player losses and experienced player additions and looks at how much reliance the team will likely require of rookies. Two things to note here. If the numbers are negative it means that a team has acquired more snaps than they needed based on last years totals. Those teams can slice and dice the roster as they see fit and change roles to fit snaps. The second note is that while I am labelling the 2nd number to be exclusive to rookies it could be overstating that if the team signed a veteran who was injured last year and is expecting a big uptick in snaps. First the offense.

TeamNew Experienced AdditionsNo Experience Reliance
Football Team32.8%3.1%
NFL Average14.4%7.3%

The Jets, Panthers and Football Team are more or less going with a big veteran approach with a lot of signings to bridge the gap while they develop rookies. The Bears and Seahawks also both had major free agent changes to the team. The teams on the high end will expect fast results and if they don’t get them will likely be set up for a bad year or two. On the other end of the spectrum the Rams basically used no resources on free agent adds on offense nor did the Titans, Eagles, Bengals, Vikings, or 49ers.

The Patriots numbers are skewed by having some QBs with experience that were hurt last year but overall they are going to need rookie type players to do something this year on offense. The Bengals will hope to get AJ Green back on the year but still will need rookie help. The 49ers, Titans, Bucs, and Giants will be the ones that look more at rookies to potentially help this year. The Raiders, Bills, and Bears are the teams that added a lot in free agency and they are the ones that will have the least need to rely on rookie contributors. My thought is when you have a good deal of need to rely on rookies you could be a surprise offense if players develop quickly and exceed expectations or you could be completely on the other end of the spectrum and be terrible.

Here are how things shake out on defense

TeamNew Experienced AdditionsNo Experience Reliance
Football Team16.7%5.7%
NFL Average18.5%8.9%

The team that stands out on defense as being all in and then some on veteran additions is the Raiders. They brought in players that could make up 47% of their snaps on defense last year, way more than they lost to free agency. Seeing how they are bringing back their offense and added so many experienced players to the defense this has to be an all of nothing kind of year with some big changes to the veterans on the roster if they don’t make the playoffs. The Lions continue rebuilding with more veteran players on defense adding in nearly 37% of last years defensive snaps. The Bengals going real young on offense went in the other direction on defense trying to use veterans to fill the gaps. The Jaguars added veterans as well which is a surprise as a team that bad should be turned over more IMO. The Bucs added no notable vets nor did the Packers, Chiefs, Steelers, and Vikings.

The Panthers are going need rookies to account for nearly 40% of their defensive snaps this year. That is a huge number. In general their whole defense is new faces but the roster turnover on this side is really something different. This has potential to be a mess with no practice time. I’ve talked all year about how Minnesota may have seen themselves getting a little long in the tooth and they will be looking to use their rookies to reset the clock on the team and the Rams are doing something similar as they build a defense in a whole new vision. Both may need to win shootout style games if the defenses don’t gel quickly. The Packers, Bears, and Patriots will also need potential contributions from younger players.

Some Thoughts on Contracts, the Cap, and the Pandemic

The NFL and the NFLPA are still negotiating the economics of the covid impacted season and there are many different opinions on certain issues within the CBA and the impact on the players and league so I figured I may as well offer my opinion on some of the topics that should be discussed right now regarding contracts and the cap.

How to handle payouts on a short season?

As things stand right now the players should make 100% of their P5 salary if one and only one game is played. Any change to this would need to be negotiated with the league and the union. This is a tricky topic. While no players are going to want to lose out on the year, much like with the recent CBA negotiation this is a plan that could have a dramatic impact on star players who make big salaries while having a less meaningful impact on others. When the league proposed some type of salary deferral it worked out to be something along the lines of 50% of the salary held by the owners would be paid by just 12% of the NFL.

Because NFL contracts are not standard it would also put an unfair burden on some players while not on others. Players who recently signed a contract and received a large signing bonus would not lose much since the signing bonus in theory should be untouched. Others in the second or third year of a deal would not be so lucky. There might be some players, depending on the structure of their deal that would rather see the hits be this year while they are locked into a roster spot rather than next year where they could be cut if the cap cuts dramatically. Some people have brought up guaranteed salaries as being held in a different regard than other salaries but that should not be the case. Guaranteed salary protects players from termination. It should not be technically treated any different otherwise unless they negotiate it that way.

This is a tricky spot for the players. The owners clearly want something here as a potential way to have an immediate return for losses. Players are certainly not obligated to do so either but what if owners tell their GMs to start gutting the rosters?  Players with guarantees are safe and rookies are safe but others wont be. There is no requirement to spend on the cap and most teams are already way above the spending thresholds and could easily get somewhat cut happy in the next week if no deal is reached. If that happened the player side would lose jobs and not have a way to negotiate an equal offset on next years salary cap.

I think asking for a complete prorated loss of salary is not a fair ask by the NFL. Maybe break the season down into stages so that once you begin a stage of the year that salary is locked even if games are cancelled. In return the league should be more than willing to do a longer term massaging of the future cap to make up for any other shortfalls in revenue. The union should ask for a cap on future losses as well if they agree to anything for this season.

To comply with the current spending rules there would likely need to be a reduction to the cap for salaries that were unpaid in 2020. Since the NFL cap is also based on revenues this adjustment would be necessary to make sure that the players are getting a revenue credit here. Some teams wont be for this as not all teams will benefit equally depending on their salary structures.

How to handle per game bonuses?

This is another one that gets impacted because all contracts are not universal. Some teams use language that specifically states how much per game is earned and cap it off at the ultimate total while others just state a lump sum to be divided by the number of games. In the case of the former the team is protected from paying anything more than a prorated amount. In the latter they may be on the hook for all of the bonus in the event just a few games are played. This will most likely lead to a compromise of a blanket adjustment that all per game bonuses are paid on a 1/16th basis for the year.

What to do with incentives and escalators?

While the percentage of incentives and escalators earned is not incredibly big there are still many players who have these clauses. For players whose incentives are based on yards, sacks, interceptions, etc… they would have no way to earn them in a season that is significantly shortened. That certainly is not fair for the players. It also may not be fair to the league if the NFL plays one game and ends up paying out a large number of playtime bonuses. The is also the question of the Pro Bowl. The Pro Bowl is now a deciding factor in salary raises for rookies in addition to veteran incentives. How many games do you need to name a Pro Bowl team?  Will you name a Pro Bowl team if there is no Pro Bowl to be played?

For most incentives I think the fair thing is to prorate them for games played but with a minimum threshold of half the year. If less then 8 games are played no player should earn an incentive unless he actually makes it over the full number stated in the contract. Unfortunately for the rookies I think the Pro Bowl will need to follow the same structure.

Do Contracts Toll in a Short Year?

There is nothing in the CBA that would indicate that contract should toll in the event of a shortened year. The only parts of the CBA that deal with tolling are players on the PUP or NFI list in the final year of their contract or if they leave the team for some reason. The NFL has reportedly asked for 6 games to be played to avoid tolling. That number is in line with what is needed to gain an accrued season for free agency and what is typically used for the cutoff of a player holding out for the year but that doesn’t seem very fair.

That said there are players who may want their contract to toll. While that sounds strange since the goal is always free agency again the contract structure for a player comes into play here. Its not uncommon to see contracts that contain a very high salary in the 1st year, a lower salary in the 2nd year, and even lower salary in the 3rd year, and so on. Some players may want to have the contract toll if it means another year at a high salary especially if guarantees and other terms carry over. If the players also give up salary for games lost and the contracts do not toll you may have given up a lot to opt into a lower cost year.

What about accrued seasons?

This is very important for rookies. Right now the CBA calls for players to have 6 weeks to earn a year toward free agency. I guess the phrase “should have been on full pay status” could be interpreted that cancelled games should count but it is probably better to have that figured out ahead of time. If its not then rookies, even if the contracts don’t toll, will wind up RFAs if they are draft picks and ERFAs if they are undrafteds when their contracts expire. I think as long as the year has some games every player on the roster should get a year toward free agency.

What about credited seasons?

A credited season is one in which a player is active for at least 3 games. This is what allows a player to get a raise from one year to the next. Mainly this impacts rookie level players. If for whatever reason the NFL can not play 3 games then everyone should just get a credited season.

Can players opt out?

I think if a player has a health concern or an immediate family member in their household that has a health concern the answer here should be yes. The player should have the option whether or not to toll their contract with the exception of players in the final contract year in which case the contract should toll (this is how the rules work on NFI). These players should all receive some type of compensation just as a player would when on a non football injury list. I would argue at a minimum it should be the split salary for a rookie.

For those without an underlying health condition there should be no payments and automatic tolling of the contract. There should be no fines or forfeiture however for any player that chooses to opt out.

Can players opt back in?

In all cases I think the players should have the right to come back up through the 10th week of the season this way if conditions change they can play again. There is so much uncertainty with this pandemic that it should not be a given that the players must sit the full year.

What happens to the cap in 2021 if no deals are made?

Right now all shortfalls in revenue would hit the 2021 salary cap, but I don’t think that means that the sides still could not work out a way to massage those numbers after the season. Right now the two sides are basically negotiating because the NFL knows there will be a massive change to revenues and as per the CBA are informing the NFLPA of this. While the owners are going to threaten that if nothing is done now it will all hit next season things are always negotiable and I don’t think the owners want to chance having on year that is so rough that it significantly impacts play.

The NFLPA wants a 10 year adjustment right now which I don’t think is reasonable but a three to five year one should be. The earlier you do it the more time teams will have to plan but as long as you come to an agreement shortly after the Super Bowl I think you can have a reasonable 2021 season.

Your Questions on Prescott and the Cowboys

At first I wasn’t going to write about the Prescott contract decision by the Cowboys and just save some thoughts for the podcast but I wound up with a number of questions on Twitter about the contract and thought it made sense to touch on them in a post as well. Most of what Ill be writing is based on a reported offer of $70 million over two years with a $50 million signing bonus and $110 million in guarantees by Dallas on a deal that averages between $33 and $35 million a year.

Why Did You Call This A Lowball Offer?

The leaked numbers, which I’ll assume came from Dallas, are designed to get a quick reaction out of people. “He turned down $70 million over two years?  What is he thinking?”. Its not as bad as when Washington basically came out with a team statement but they are numbers thrown out there to make a team look better and put more of the blame on a deal not getting done squarely on the shoulders of the player.

The first thing to consider when talking about a franchise tagged player is what is the cost if the team goes tag to tag when starting the discussion of the framework of a contract. In Prescott’s case he was guaranteed to earn $31.409 million this season and would earn $37.691 million on a second tag. The total salary would be $69.1 million over two years.

For a team to make a reasonable offer they need to not be well above the two year tag number. As I’ve mentioned before I consider somewhere around a 10% raise to be reasonable for a standard franchise player. That would put a reasonable offer at $76 million over two years. You can argue that because Prescott is an exclusive franchise player (barred from free agency) he should be worth more than that but at a minimum that has to be the number.

The $76 million number would also be within the framework of the high end QB contracts in the NFL. Matt Ryan earned $75.2 million, Carson Wentz $77 million, Jared Goff $83 million, and Russell Wilson $90 million. A $70 million offer signals that the Cowboys view Prescott as less than a top level QB. It basically splits the difference between the true franchise QB and the Ryan Tannehill and Jimmy Garoppolo segment of the market (they both earn around $62 million).

The use of the tag tells me one thing while the offer says something completely different. For an extra $1 million there is no way to accept that deal. It’s simply not what you do with a franchise talent nor in line with the market either.

What About the Guarantee?

While I am not a big guarantee guy especially for this position, there are still things with the guarantee that can tell us about the offer. The first thing I would do with this contract is look at the fact that this is a five year deal versus the other players signing a four year contract. As a tradeoff for that extra year the player should get more security for the added season. The easiest way to do that is to look at the guarantee per year on the rest of the market contracts and prorate it out for five years though that also can bring about differences in ways to compare the deals.

For whatever reason guarantees in contracts are never reported as “new guarantees” (most likely because they would make the contract sound worse). We track them that way in our premium section comp modules but most just look at the total number which makes it hard to compare. For example if we use the total guarantee on a contract we have Goff at $137.5M, Wentz at $134.8M, Wilson at $133.8M, Tannehill at $113.8M and Ryan at $100M. That makes a giant gap between the players but those first three players had millions in salary on existing contracts. If we pull that out to compare apples to apples the way we compare cash flows you get Tannehill at $113.75M, Wilson at $112.5M, Goff at $103.75M, and Wentz at $101.25M. In that respect $110M is probably not a lowball number but you can not expect a number to come in under Tannehill’s.

Another point that someone pretty well versed in contracts brought up with this approach is that Prescott really had an existing guarantee since he was tagged already. I had talked before about valuing Prescott’s contract as a two in one contract before (1 + 4 year extension) so it would make sense to see what we are getting as a guarantee over those four years. Here Wilson is at $90M, Goff at $83M, and Wentz at $81M while Prescott would be at $78.6M.

Looking at it those two ways the Cowboys probably needed to up that number to $116M to get things more in line.

Can’t Dak Lose Out By Not Taking the Deal

Not really. Obviously you can not account for a catastrophic injury but at this position those are very rare occurrences so I think you go into this knowing that Prescott is going to be viewed as a starting QB in the NFL and a desirable player. While we don’t know the three year offer Ill assume based on the two year offer that it was around $100-$105M.

To reach the two year number the breakeven point for Prescott is to earn $38.591 million in 2021 and around $35 million in 2022. Any QB that earns $30 million a year would hit both of those contract metrics. So at the very least he should break even while having more upside on a new contract since the third year salary in that deal would be greater than the 4th year salary in this contract offer from the Cowboys.

What if Dallas goes tag to tag?  You still are no worse off. Because the offer was a lowball offer the team was only giving an extra $1 million for the second year. So you are breaking even right away there. If they go the third tag route, Prescott’s three year earnings would be between $114.3M(a transition tag) and $123.4M(a franchise tag). If they don’t go the tag route and Dak becomes a free agent he will earn his $69M on two tags plus a new contract, blowing away any three year metric in the current offer. This is the reason that Kirk Cousins has been the highest paid QB in the NFL since he was tagged in 2016 and quite honestly the best case scenario for Prescott’s side.

There are also two other things to consider here in Prescott’s favor. The NFL will likely have more clarity on a 16 or 17 game season in 2021 or 2022. Thus far there has been almost no contract movement to take into account an added game but once its official expect players to want contract values increased accordingly to take into account the added game. Prescott is represented by a very large firm and a group that will likely need to be in front of this push.

Free agency should also be very viable for Prescott. This past year was an odd year where teams really were not looking for QBs because they are still keeping their fingers crossed that the players they drafted in 2017 and 2018 are going to be good or that their old QBs don’t break down. By next year there will be plenty of openings so don’t expect a situation like with Jameis Winston where nothing opened up. If anything there will be bidding wars for a few players.

What about the Coronavirus Impact?

What about it?  QBs are going to be Covid proof because of their importance to the game. It’s a concern for other positional players. It won’t be for QBs.

Can Dallas Afford a Franchise Tag Next Year?

That’s a good question. I would lean toward yes. Teams can always open up cap room and while this is something that the virus may impact I would trust Dallas to be able to make it work on the cap. They wont have room to add much talent outside of Prescott but they should not be so pinched on the cap that they can not keep him unless the cap markdown is gigantic.

What Does this Say About Dak’s Future With the Cowboys?

That is a very good question. I was surprised this deal did not get done because I assumed that Prescott was that important to the franchise. Last year the team did the big contract for Ezekiel Elliott. They have made multiple offensive linemen the top paid player at the position. They did right by La’El Collins and essentially found a way to help him make up money from his lost draft status. They worked a deal out with Amari Cooper and DeMarcus Lawrence. You would think for the most important position on the field that this would be an easy one to finalize.

There is really no benefit to Dallas playing the tag game if they see any long term future. The only players I can think of where the tag was used to hold the rights was for Drew Brees back with the Chargers and then the two with Kirk Cousins in Washington. Brees’ tag had more to do with circumstance while Cousins first tag was due to a surprise season and the second was just bad management. Neither was a factor in the long term.

Dallas’ roster is basically in the middle of a two year window. In 2022 they can, if things go bad, begin the process of ripping apart a pretty expensive football team. Maybe they have judged that they don’t believe that Prescott is the type of QB that can succeed without the talent pool around him. Tag to tag may be the most cost effective short and long term option for Dallas and they did not want to get tied down unless it was on a bargain contract. Dallas does get a bad rep for contract management which really isn’t warranted and this may be a case where they decided to be cautious because of the costs involved.

When Should Dallas Have Locked Up Prescott?

Hindsight is always 20/20 but the time would have been in early 2019. I believe Dallas made an offer at that point but it was more of an exploratory offer than really trying to nail the contract down. In 2019 the market had not shifted to 4 year contracts nor were the prices driven up by the Wentz and Goff deals. At the time Prescott was coming off a very good season but one which really took a turn after the acquisition of Cooper. Perhaps there was enough uncertainty there plus labor uncertainty to have worked in the Cowboys favor. Things just spiraled out of control for Dallas not because of the prices of the contracts but I think because of the years on them.

The Cowboys Really Screwed This Up Didn’t They?

That seems to be the prevailing thought these days in most articles but I think it’s a situation where you take a wait and see approach. If Dallas turns around next year and signs Prescott to a four year, $40 million contract they certainly lost out. If they can’t tag him because of the cap they lost out. If they let him walk to go cheap veteran rather than high draft pick they probably lost out. In most expected NFL scenarios I think Dallas will be the loser here while Dak at worst is going to break even.

That said how many times do I read about how much of a mistake the Rams made giving Jared Goff the contract they gave him. How many times do I read about how the Vikings cant win with Kirk Cousins?  How many times did I write that the Ravens made an awful mistake with Joe Flacco’s contract? Many of these contracts are perfectly fine within the NFL framework that a starter gets paid big money simply because he starts, yet we constantly criticize them after the fact because the players are not true difference makers like Patrick Mahomes and how there was a better path.

Isn’t the “better path” what the Cowboys are doing here? It’s a risky path but perhaps they see a need for a young draft pick to develop. Maybe they think there could be better value in the market next year or the year after.  I like Prescott, think he is pretty good and would be very happy if the team I cheer for were to sign him, but I also don’t put him in that megastar category that houses only a few players. I think this is a case where you have to give things a bit more time to analyze how much they did screw up here.