George Kittle and the 49ers Contract “Stalemate” Thoughts

Yesterday Mike Silver gave an update on the status of the contract negotiations between the 49ers and George Kittle and the update was one that 49ers fans were probably not happy to hear.

These things always sound ominous but for the most part this is just normal business. So let’s take a look at Kittle’s situation right now with the team.

The important part of Silver’s report is the quote from Kittle’s agent, Jack Bechta, which is bringing to light the issue that some like myself have mentioned in the past- it is very hard in the NFL to break out of the pack when it comes to contracts. In this case the wording is very similar to what happened to Jimmy Graham years ago when he was a member of the New Orleans Saints and tried to paint a case that he was a wide receiver trapped in a tight end designation. Ultimately the Saints won out on that one and Graham signed a contract that was more or less a 10% increase at the top of the tight end market, but way under what a top receiver would earn.

I briefly talked about this on the podcast last night but one of the biggest changes in the NFL over the last 10 years has been the power of the NFL to hold down top line players from truly signing top line contracts. In the past the big name players and in turn their agents, held a lot of power, often signing record setting contracts that would withstand some test of time.

In the modern NFL the teams and their negotiators have flipped the script. One of the things we track in some of our offseason work is positional salary growth by contract ranking. The facts are that the NFL is more than willing to bump prices on the low end of the salary spectrum but hold off on doing the same for the top end players in the league. Most positions at the top don’t even come close to keeping up with the growth in the salary cap and tight end has been a position that is very typical of this.

Using 2013 as our starting point you can see how the contracts that are the top 20 in the NFL have basically failed to keep up with salary cap growth over the last 7 years. In the meantime the bottom of the market has outpaced the growth of the cap. The top 10 players are basically showing a flatness over time which means there has been little to no change at all. Even as a new contract comes in an old one is dropping out.

Few players in the NFL have been able to “break the system” and become a market buster. A market buster is a player whose contract far outshines any current player at the position and in many cases will actually maintain a top contract status for some time. That second part doesn’t always happen (i.e. Todd Gurley) because sometimes the contract is the shot in the arm the position needs, but few get there. Instead the NFL has pinned nearly every player into a small positional box with very small incremental gains.

If we look at each position these would be the closest that any had to a market buster since 2014

PositionPlayerYear SignedAnnual ValueTop Market CompIncrease
RBTodd Gurley2018$14,375,000$8,250,00074.2%
RTLane Johnson2016$11,250,000$8,000,00040.6%
LBCJ Mosley2019$17,000,000$12,500,00036.0%
LTLaremy Tunsil2020$22,000,000$16,500,00033.3%
GKelechi Osemele2016$11,700,000$9,500,00023.2%
EdgeKhalil Mack2018$23,500,000$19,083,33323.1%
IDLAaron Donald2018$22,500,000$19,062,50018.0%
WRJulio Jones2019$22,000,000$19,250,00014.3%
QBAaron Rodgers2018$33,500,000$30,000,00011.7%
TEJimmy Graham2014$10,000,000$9,000,00011.1%
CBrandon Linder2017$10,340,600$9,400,00010.0%
CBByron Jones2020$16,500,000$15,050,0009.6%
SLandon Collins2019$14,000,000$13,000,0007.7%

Hopefully we did not miss anyone here (im not including Revis’ inflated Patriots deal in 2014) and there are probably a few you could argue with in particular Gurley and Johnson. The argument against Gurley is that they already were valuing him as a transcendent player and the true comparable for that was Adrian Peterson whose contract was long gone but could have been used as a basis. Lane Johnson was paid what he was paid because the expectation was that he would be signed as a left tackle if he made it to free agency. Some might also put Osemele in the same class. Those are three of the biggest numbers here and Gurley and Johnson really skew the averages going from 18% to 24%.

If we apply each of the percentages to Kittle using the current top market contract of $10.5 million per year we come up with the following list of outcomes.

PositionIncreaseImplied Salary
Avergae (w/o Gurley/Johnson)18.0%$12,391,000

The next question is where does he belong on this list. Using the stats from our friends over at PFF here is how Kittle’s last two seasons compared with the other players in the NFL in terms of percent of overall offensive use in a few key categories. I adjusted Kittles stats for the trade of Sanders but did not do the same if other trades occurred for other teams like that.

PlayerPositionTeam TargetsTeam RecTeam YardsTeam TDsAvg. Offensive Impact
Michael ThomasWR30.9%33.9%35.9%25.7%31.6%
DeAndre HopkinsWR29.9%30.0%31.7%32.6%31.1%
Davante AdamsWR26.0%25.9%27.7%34.6%28.5%
Terry McLaurinWR20.5%19.5%28.8%38.9%26.9%
Julio JonesWR27.0%24.8%31.7%21.8%26.3%
Kenny GolladayWR22.4%19.7%29.8%32.1%26.0%
Keenan AllenWR26.8%27.4%27.1%21.9%25.8%
Courtland SuttonWR21.9%18.9%27.9%33.9%25.6%
Tyler BoydWR22.7%24.1%27.5%26.9%25.3%
George KittleTE24.9%26.0%29.2%18.5%24.7%
Stefon DiggsWR23.3%21.8%27.0%26.5%24.7%
Jarvis LandryWR26.2%24.8%26.8%20.8%24.6%
Christian McCaffreyRB22.9%29.1%22.9%22.9%24.4%
Larry FitzgeraldWR21.5%22.1%22.8%30.0%24.1%
Allen Robinson IIWR23.6%21.5%26.2%24.6%24.0%
Tyler LockettWR19.7%22.1%26.7%27.2%23.9%
Zach ErtzTE24.0%24.1%23.3%23.6%23.8%
Amari CooperWR20.4%20.5%24.6%28.6%23.5%
Odell Beckham Jr.WR23.9%21.7%25.4%22.1%23.3%
Travis KelceTE24.0%25.5%25.3%18.1%23.2%
John BrownWR21.3%18.3%24.8%28.2%23.1%
A.J. BrownWR20.0%17.5%26.6%27.6%22.9%
Robby AndersonWR19.2%16.6%23.0%31.9%22.7%
Julian EdelmanWR22.6%22.6%23.0%22.0%22.5%
Mike EvansWR21.1%19.3%25.5%23.2%22.3%

The big takeaway here is that Kittle has been the top performing tight end, just clearing the top 10 at the position. The negative is that the list also has two other tight ends on it- Zach Ertz and Travis Kelce, both of whom are currently signed to “tight end market” contracts.

From a historical standpoint there have been other tight ends to have offensive impact comparable to Kittle’s  though the names to pay attention to here are the ones that pulled it off multiple times in back to back kind of seasons. Here are the top 30 tight end seasons using the same impact percentages.

PlayerYearTeam TargetsTeam RecTeam YardsTeam TDsAvg. Offensive Impact
Vernon Davis201322.8%22.5%27.5%61.9%33.7%
Gary Barnidge201521.3%21.6%25.2%45.0%28.3%
Rob Gronkowski201120.6%22.4%25.2%43.6%27.9%
Greg Olsen201425.1%27.5%27.8%27.3%26.9%
Vernon Davis201122.4%24.3%24.9%35.3%26.7%
Jimmy Graham201322.2%19.3%23.5%41.0%26.5%
George Kittle201827.1%26.7%32.5%19.2%26.4%
Delanie Walker201525.3%27.8%28.3%24.0%26.4%
Rob Gronkowski201422.0%20.9%26.3%35.3%26.1%
Kyle Rudolph201219.1%17.7%16.9%50.0%25.9%
Jordan Reed201521.1%22.5%22.2%36.7%25.6%
Jack Doyle201722.8%27.7%21.1%30.8%25.6%
Travis Kelce201723.7%23.2%24.2%30.8%25.5%
Greg Olsen201524.9%25.7%28.5%20.0%24.8%
Mark Andrews201923.6%22.1%25.4%27.0%24.5%
Kyle Rudolph201622.1%20.3%20.6%35.0%24.5%
Greg Olsen201323.7%25.0%24.1%25.0%24.5%
Zach Ertz201824.3%25.0%23.2%25.0%24.4%
Jared Cook201820.5%18.9%23.7%33.3%24.1%
Travis Kelce201522.4%23.2%25.1%25.0%23.9%
Travis Kelce201621.9%23.2%28.7%21.1%23.7%
Antonio Gates201418.2%18.1%19.1%38.7%23.5%
Greg Olsen201221.5%24.3%21.5%26.3%23.4%
Travis Kelce201924.4%25.7%26.2%16.7%23.3%
Travis Kelce201823.6%25.2%24.4%19.6%23.2%
Zach Ertz201923.6%23.3%23.4%22.2%23.1%
Rob Gronkowski201519.6%17.9%24.5%30.6%23.1%
George Kittle201922.6%25.4%25.9%17.9%23.0%
Greg Olsen201623.8%26.1%27.1%14.3%22.8%
Jimmy Graham201122.8%20.8%23.7%23.9%22.8%

I think this is where the numbers become a little more difficult for Kittle. His two years certainly rank with the best of the players but there is nothing that would push him significantly over names like Graham, Gronkowski, or Kelce. On top of that Kittle does not have the kind of sillier stuff to fall back on like draft status, having a team trade up for him, etc…That probably makes the argument much more difficult from his perspective, especially when negotiating against one of the most prepared contract guys in the NFL, that he should bust the position the way others have.

With that in mind I think I would say its unlikely that he hits the high points of the market buster charts. He next question is what should be the top market growth that we should expect. The Graham contract probably adds in some context with an 11.1% growth over the prior high water mark. This should be the floor as they are very comparable players. Based on the chart that would put a fair offer to be just at $11.7 million a season.

The only other big mover at the position has been Gronkowski. His 2012 contract was about a 22% increase over the top market at the time. That would put Kittle at $12.8 million on a year. That is probably a realistic ceiling and would be an average “market buster” type of raise.

How can you split the difference of those numbers?  That probably comes down to a few factors. Gronkowski pretty much handed his career away to the Patriots when he signed that contract. His ultimate contract locked him in at 2012 prices through 2019. Even after being traded this year his 2012 contract is more or less the contract that is valid for the Buccaneers. His percent of guarantee was around 34% of the total contract value.

Graham on the other hand took a four year contract that allowed him another free agency opportunity early on. He would receive a 52% guarantee on the contract. Graham wound up earning $62 million from 2014 to 2019. In contrast Gronkowski, assuming he plays this year, will earn around $59 million and he only reached that number because they were able to maneuver some incentives into his contract at a later date. He was locked into that $54 million if not for that.

The 49ers of course will always have the leverage of the franchise tag as well. This year the number is only $10.6 million and with the pandemic possibly stunting cap growth it could actually fall next year. Even if there is little impact how much would it be?  $11 million or so probably. That would put his second tag at $12.1 million. Often those numbers are used to begin baseline negotiations and cash expectations and these fall right into the numbers we discuss above using Graham and Gronkowski as comps.

This isn’t to say that Kittle cant break into the “WR Tier” which is around $16 million a season as unforeseen things always happen in the NFL but this is definitely an uphill battle to see that kind of raise at any position let alone tight end.

How Would Previous Draft Picks Have Changed With The Proposed Rooney Rule Expansion?

On Friday, Jim Trotter of the NFL Network reported that the NFL is proposing an expansion to the Rooney Rule in an effort to improve upon the league’s sclerotic efforts in hiring racial minority to executive, head coach, and coordinator positions. One half of the rule, which would abolish anti-tampering rules for assistant coaches interviewing for coordinator positions, would be very important and significant, if also a straightforward rule change.

The other half, one that has received some skepticism from voices like Mike Florio, Michael Rosenberg, and Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn, would radically alter several aspects of the NFL Draft. This article will focus on that portion of the proposal, by taking an objective look at what changes would have happened in previous drafts dating back to 2003, when the Rooney Rule was first established, with the goal of helping observers form an opinion on this part of the proposal.

Continue reading How Would Previous Draft Picks Have Changed With The Proposed Rooney Rule Expansion? »

Introducing The Collective Bargaining Agreement On Over The Cap

The Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the owners of the NFL and the NFL Players Association is the most important document in the league, as it is the foundation for its entire operations. Knowledge of the CBA is key to understanding the intricacies of those operations–including, but not limited to, contracts and the salary cap.

That’s why, with the ratification of the 2020 CBA, we at Over The Cap have now published the entire document on our website.

As you can see in the subsequent links of this sentence as examples, each article, section, subsection, and appendix is directly linkable, allowing readers to quickly jump to a particular location of the CBA without having to scroll through a massive PDF. In future articles, you may see OTC make citations to relevant clauses to the CBA via these links.

The legalese of the CBA can be overwhelming at times, so over the course of the 2020 CBA’s duration, OTC will gradually add some “Plain English” paragraphs to portions of the CBA that will help to better explain what they mean, and why they are important. We hope that this project can continue to further knowledge of the NFL to our viewers.

You can get started at viewing the CBA on the web via OTC right here at its root, at the table of contents.

2021 Compensatory Draft Picks Update (4/29/2020)

In the new CBA, the deadline for unrestricted free agents to be able to qualify as compensatory free agents (CFAs) was moved up again, now to the first Monday after the draft. This year, that’s April 27. Now that that date has passed, let’s take a look at where OTC’s projection for the 2021 compensatory picks stand. If you have any questions about how this list is generated, please take a look at the cancellation charts for all 32 teams here.

Continue reading 2021 Compensatory Draft Picks Update (4/29/2020) »

Compensatory Draft Period Nears Its End

For weeks many notable free agents have sat on the sidelines waiting for an opportunity and that opportunity may present itself now that the draft is complete. For one the completion of the draft now let’s teams know what positions they failed to land a potential starter or backup at and where they will need veteran help in 2020. More importantly now that the draft is over that means the compensatory draft process nears an end and opens up opportunities for teams that were avoiding free agents to protect potential draft picks in 2021.

For those unaware of the compensatory draft process you can do a search of articles on OTC by Nick that really spells it out but the short version is that the NFL awards 32 additional draft selections to the teams that lose more unrestricted free agents than they sign during the unrestricted free agency signing period. Losing a big salaried player may reward a team with a draft pick as high as a third round draft pick while losing a lower salaried one may result in a 7th round pick.

As the dust clears in free agency teams get a clearer picture of what draft picks that they will likely be awarded the following year either using their own models or using Nicks here at OTC. They then begin to become very cautious to protect those draft picks as best they can by not signing players from other teams that may impact those compensatory draft selection. When the compensatory period ends then they can freely sign those players without it hurting their draft selections.  

The timeframe that the NFL considers for the compensatory process is now tied to the NFL Draft. This Monday at 4PM is the final deadline. Here is the relevant text from the CBA regarding the deadline.

“a Compensatory Free Agent (“CFA”) shall be defined as an Unrestricted Free Agent (“UFA”) who: (i) signed with a new Club during the prior free agency signing period (with the 2020 free agency period being the first such “prior free agency signing period” under this appendix) prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, on the Monday following the NFL Draft for that League Year…”

There is a little more to this which will we discuss in a second but for almost every free agent they will no longer count in the compensatory process provided they do not sign a contract by 4PM on April 27. Using the Saints as an example to illustrate the difference they are currently projected to receive a 3rd round pick for losing Teddy Bridgewater and a 6th round pick for losing AJ Klein. They are reportedly looking to sign Jameis Winston to a contract. If they sign Jameis Winston tomorrow they will lose one of those two picks depending on Winston’s ultimate salary ($14M+ they lose for Bridgewater otherwise they lose for Klein). If they wait until April 28 to make the signing official they keep both draft picks regardless of who they sign. By waiting until the 28th it also blocks a division rival from possibly being awarded a compensatory draft pick for the loss of their player.

Now this is where the “little more to it” comes into play. Continuing that part from the CBA is the following

“…or whose rights were retained by the prior Club by sending the player the Unrestricted Free Agent tender prior to such time and date;”

This is one of these small rules in the CBA that most are unaware of and its rarely used, but what this refers to is that teams can still retain the rights to their players by extending a tender for 110% of their salary from the prior year. This doesn’t block the player from free agency right now it just means they still count in the compensatory process. This tender has to be extended by this Monday if it is going to be used.

Usually this is just a formality and nobody applies the tender. The last player I can think of who was tendered was LeGarrette Blount by the Patriots in 2017. He promptly signed with the Eagles who did a contract that was too low by design to count in the compensatory process. Had he not signed with the Eagles or any other team by July 22 he would have only been able to negotiate with New England from that point forward for the rest of the season.

The reason nobody applies the tender is the potential cost. Blount was cheap. A player like Winston, if tendered, is not. Winston would count for $23 million and generally the tender requires terms to carry over which should mean his contract would be guaranteed. Since nobody is signing Winston to a $23M contract the Bucs would be foolish to extend the tender because he may sign it and that would create chaos for Tampa who has no desire to employ him anyway.

The main one that maybe could get tendered is Jadeveon Clowney though his tender would seem to be much more than Seattle is willing to pay him as a free agent. So while that would protect their compensatory rights I think they may pass on that. The more interesting one is Melvin Gordon of the Chargers. Gordon agreed to a contract with the Denver Broncos but it is the one outstanding contract this offseason as they have yet to officially process it with the NFL.

Due to the Covid-19 outbreak there have been large delays on contracts but most of those outstanding contracts were cleared up this past Friday with the Rams and Jets processing their remaining UFA signings. It’s possible the NFL has already made an exception due to this for contracts agreed to in principle that have not been formally backed out of or signed that they will count in the compensatory process. If however that is not the case then Denver would potentially open up a path to gain an extra comp pick while the Chargers could lose one. The Chargers could block any chance of that by issuing a tender knowing that he has a more lucrative contract in front of him with Denver that is being delayed for whatever reason. So while this may be nothing it may be worth at least keeping an eye on.

As for teams with salary cap space to add free agents the teams right now with the most should be the Browns, Redskins, Lions, Colts, Eagles, Chargers, Titans, Bills, and Dolphins. Of those teams the Eagles, Chargers, and Titans would have reasons to wait until now. A few of the others may have a reason for a little more protection though not much. Per the cancellation charts teams that are likely protecting picks would be the Patriots, Ravens, Steelers, Chiefs, Cowboys, Bears, Packers, Vikings, Falcons, Saints, Rams, and 49ers.

You can check out our latest group of free agents on the free agency page but here are top 50 most expensive (based on last contract) players whose status will change this week if they go untendered

PlayerPos.2019 TeamTypeSnapsAge
Jadeveon Clowney34OLBSeahawksUFA57.00%27
Logan RyanCBTitansUFA99.00%29
Aqib TalibCBDolphinsUFA30.50%34
Ezekiel Ansah43DESeahawksUFA31.70%31
Jabaal Sheard43DEColtsUFA55.20%31
Mike Daniels43DTLionsUFA17.90%31
Kelvin BeachumLTJetsUFA78.80%31
Terrell Suggs34OLBChiefsUFA61.30%38
Lamar MillerRBTexansUFA0.00%29
Greg RobinsonLTBrownsUFA82.20%28
Jameis WinstonQBBuccaneersUFA99.10%26
Johnathan JosephCBTexansUFA57.80%36
Jason PetersLTEaglesUFA74.70%38
Demar DotsonRTBuccaneersUFA91.90%35
Tramon WilliamsCBPackersUFA49.00%37
Vernon DavisTERedskinsUFA20.30%36
Darqueze DennardCBBengalsUFA45.90%29
Mychal Kendricks43OLBSeahawksUFA60.70%30
Adam VinatieriKColtsUFA12.50%48
Wesley WoodyardILBTitansUFA29.20%34
Eli AppleCBSaintsUFA88.10%25
Lorenzo Alexander43OLBBillsUFA47.60%37
Markus Golden34OLBGiantsUFA82.70%27
Ted GinnWRSaintsUFA57.20%35
Chris ThompsonRBRedskinsUFA33.00%30
Jared VeldheerRTPackersUFA3.20%33
Ross CockrellCBPanthersUFA65.90%29
Drew StantonQBBrownsUFA0.00%36
Michael Bennett43DECowboysUFA52.30%35
Chester RogersWRColtsUFA37.90%26
Daryl WorleyCBRaidersUFA90.40%25
Demaryius ThomasWRJetsUFA45.30%33
LeSean McCoyRBChiefsUFA28.20%32
Matt BosherPFalconsUFA5.60%33
Carlos HydeRBTexansUFA49.10%29
Clayton GeathersSColtsUFA51.00%27
Darron Lee43OLBChiefsUFA14.40%26
Xavier Williams43DTChiefsUFA10.70%28
Theo RiddickRBBroncosUFA0.00%29
Michael SchofieldRGChargersUFA100.00%30
Garrett CelekTE49ersUFA5.80%32
Vinny Curry43DEEaglesUFA38.40%32
Donald PennLTRedskinsUFA94.30%37
Josh GordonWRSeahawksUFA40.30%29
Rashard HigginsWRBrownsUFA16.50%26
Charles ClayTECardinalsUFA37.80%31
Josh McCownQBEaglesUFA1.30%41
Frank GoreRBBillsUFA34.90%37
Vontaze BurfictILBRaidersUFA18.50%30
Morris ClaiborneCBChiefsUFA17.70%30

The Packers Options with Aaron Rodgers

While the draft did not bring about many surprises last night it closed with a shocker when the Green Bay Packers traded up a few slots to select QB Jordan Love as the heir apparent to Aaron Rodgers. This of course has driven a ton of speculation about Rodgers future with the team so let’s break down the scenarios from a salary cap perspective of what can and can not happen with Rodger.

Scenario 1: Trading Rodgers in 2020

This is the most unlikely of all scenarios. First of all the Packers signed a good number of free agents in 2019 and teams don’t sign those kind of free agents, go 13-3, make the NFC Championship game and then blow it up. It would make no sense whatsoever. The Packers have also already committed to Rodgers almost his entire salary for the year due to a late 2019 restructure that was proactively negotiated in the event a new CBA was not signed by the start of the new League Year. Rodgers salary for the year is just under $21.1M and he has already been paid all but $2.05 million of that salary so there would be zero financial benefit. The salary cap cost would be astronomical, $51.1 million, a loss of over $24M in cap room. Green Bay does not even have the cap space to do that move. In theory they could wait until after June 1 to make a trade which would split that as $19.592 million this year and $31.556 million next season. Still it makes no sense for the organization.

Scenario 2: Trading/Cutting Rodgers in early 2021

Things get a little more interesting next season. Rodgers counts for $36.35 million on the salary cap while playing on a $22 million salary. Rodgers also has a $6.8 million roster bonus that is due by the third day of free agency so any move would need to be made before that. It basically gives them an official two day window to execute a trade. This is still not a cheap option. Both moves would cost the team $31.556 million in cap dollars though that would free up around $4.8 million in cap space. If they wait until after the roster bonus is paid however the dead money jumps by $6.8M meaning he will remain on the team.  If the NFL is seriously impacted by the Covid-19 outbreak there may be some logic in freeing up cap room and bailing on a high salary for the year, though you would think QB would be the last position teams look at for that.  Provided teams do not get into a cost protection mode next year Rodgers would definitely have big trade value because his salary average is currently at $24.3M for the three years. This is likely the optimum trade year for the Packers but the cost is high so they would need to be blown away by an offer.

Scenario 3: Cutting Rodgers as a Post June 1 Designation in 2021

This would be the most financially beneficial of the early options. To make this worthwhile Rodgers would have to be cut on one of the first two days of free agency to avoid triggering the roster bonus mentioned above. The Packers, who rank around 22nd in projected 2021 cap room, would have to carry Rodgers at his full $36.35 million cap number until June 2, even if he is on another team at the time, but would then get a salary cap windfall on June 2, picking up $22 million in cap room, which would be huge especially if the salary cap shrinks. In this scenario Rodgers would count for $14.352 million dead in 2021 and $17.204 million dead in 2022. I did not include a trade option here because no team is waiting until June 2 to execute a trade nor are the Packers paying a roster bonus to just trade him.

Scenario 4: Cutting/Trading Rodgers in 2022

If Scenario 3 does not play out then this is pretty likely. If this does not happen it means either Rodgers recaptured his MVP form or Love is a total flop. You don’t draft a QB to sit him for three seasons unless there are extenuating circumstances. Ideally this is also the best time from a cap standpoint to make the transition because it would likely block Love from earning a high end option escalator which is going to be based on Pro Bowl selections and block him from the third highest 5th year tender which is going to require either 75% playtime from 2020 to 2023 or 50% playtime in each of his first three years which he cant reach by riding the bench for two seasons. Rodgers has a $39.852 million cap charge in 2022 and the cost to cut Rodgers would be equal to just $17.204 million, a savings of $22.7 million. There is almost no difference between this and June 1 designation so the June 1 would make zero sense in 2022. A team acquiring Rodgers via trade would pick up a contract worth $25.5M in base value over the two seasons. That is the current going rate for the old QB so its probably a perfect match if he can still play.

So here are the  scenarios and costs/cap savings in each

TransactionDead Money (Year N)Dead Mone (Year N+1)Cap Savings (Year N)Cap Savings (Year N+1)
Cut/Trade in 2020$51,148,000$0($29,506,000)$36,352,000
Post June 1  in 2020$19,592,000$31,556,000$2,050,000$4,796,000
Cut/Trade in 2021$31,556,000$0$4,796,000$39,852,000
Post June 1 in 2021$14,352,000$17,204,000$22,000,000$22,648,000
Cut/Trade in 2022$17,204,000$0$22,648,000$28,352,000

It’s those last two scenarios that make sense for the Packers.  Either you make the turn in 2021 if the team takes a step back this year or you definitely make it in 2022 to gain the most possible out of Love’s rookie years. If you are not doing that and Rodgers is going strong then you have to turn around and see what you can get for Love in a trade to recover some of the draft capital spent this year.

Gronkowski Traded to the Bucs

The big news of the day is that Rob Gronkowski is going to be traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a 4th round draft pick. Overall I thought this was a pretty fair deal since New England didn’t have much leverage but I received on Twitter multiple questions/comments on that thought (and some others) so I figured it made more sense to post about here than to try to answer in a few words on Twitter.

When Gronkowski retired his contract was effectively put on “pause” by the Patriots. That means that in the event he returned the Patriots would “unfreeze” the contract and he would once again be a member of the Patriots. That certainly sounds like a situation in which the Patriots should have the trade leverage since they can block him from going to any other team in the NFL and would simply force him to honor his contract unless they received big trade value.

The problem for the Patriots is that they planned their entire offseason around Gronkowski being retired. The team has no cap room whatsoever. They have under $1.5 million in space. Once Gronkowski is officially reinstated he would count for at least $9.25M on the salary cap. That would leave New England scrambling to make moves on their salary cap to process his reinstatement. Why would a team whose cap is a bit of a mess this year want to make it even worse for a player who likely will not play for them this season?  Or even if he did play for them would likely not be a difference maker playing with the likes of Brian Hoyer. Basically you are screwing yourself over for little reason by doing that.

If anything they should have looked at this as a gift. They are getting a 4th round draft selection for a retired player that they had no thought of using this year whatsoever. A 4th for a player who as of a few weeks ago was transitioning into working more in the field of pro wrestling rather than pro football. A 4th for someone they may have had to just cut due to cap concerns. Its getting something for nothing to be honest.

As for the Bucs many asked why they didn’t just let him get cut. One there is no guarantee he will be cut. Two they are absorbing a contract with no downside risk. The one year contract is worth $10 million for the season. $250,000 is virtually guaranteed (it’s the workout payment) and $750,000 is tied to per game bonuses. That’s only $1 million more than Jimmy Graham received from the Bears this year but with $5.75 million less in guaranteed salary. There is no guarantee that Gronkowski is going to be good. He wasn’t good in his final year in New England at times looking like a shell of the former player he once was. He may be great, but the odds may be just as good come August that you wonder what you got yourself into.

As for OJ Howard if I were the Bucs I would keep him even if it seems like tight end overkill. Part of the reason is the above about how Gronkowski may not be great and Howard is great insurance at a cheap cost. Secondly who knows if Gronkowski will even play. Jason Witten did last season but we have seen others come out and decide after a few practices that this wasn’t for them anymore. If that occurred and you traded Howard all you are left with is Cameron Brate. Brate is a good player but Howard is a better player.

The final comment I saw a lot of is will more players do this to force a teams hand?  I guess its possible (Damon Harrison threatened retirement at some point this year and got cut, the Favre retirement dramas are legendary), but most teams are not in the salary cap predicament that the Patriots are in. If Gronkowski, for example, was a Brown they could hold onto him because they have so much cap room. So for many players leaving for a year and then coming back won’t put the cap pressure on their teams that Gronkowski could have put on the Patriots.