NFL Efficiency Ratings, Week 5

With all the teams having now played at least four games I thought it was a good time to dust off the NFL Efficiency rankings and see who gets the most bang for the buck this year. The efficiency ratings are a simple metric that measure the percentage above or below the average a team is scoring and preventing from scoring against their specific schedule. So for example the Chiefs this year are scoring 51.6% more points than expected while holding teams to 17% below their expectations for a total efficiency of 68.6%. Continue reading NFL Efficiency Ratings, Week 5 »

2018 Compensatory Picks Projection Update (9/19/2017)

Now that all 32 teams have played at least one game, giving all players a chance to log snap counts in 2017, it’s a good opportunity to take an update on where OTC’s projection of the 2018 compensatory picks stand.

As is typical, a few compensatory free agents (CFAs) were cut as part of the process to narrowing rosters down to 53 per team. There were two such cuts that were relevant to the projection:

  • The Cardinals cut Jarvis Jones. This caused the Steelers to lose a 5th or 6th round comp pick for Lawrence Timmons (whose own future is complicated at the moment) due to Pittsburgh no longer having a net loss of CFAs. And while this transaction did open up a possible 6th round comp pick to the Cardinals for losing Kevin Minter, Arizona will not get that pick because they are already projected to receive the maximum of 4 comp picks from other CFAs lost.
  • The Vikings released Datone Jones with an injury settlement. This transaction opened up a 6th round comp pick to the Vikings for Cordarrelle Patterson. It also reduced the net loss of CFAs to the Packers, but once again they were already projected to receive the maximum of 4 comp picks from other CFAs lost, so removing Jones from the equation does not hurt Green Bay.

There has also been a rare transaction: a CFA has been traded. After the Bucs signed TJ Ward as a street free agent after being cut by the Broncos, they made room for Ward by trading CFA signee JJ Wilcox to the Steelers.  It is clear from previous comp pick history that Pittsburgh will be charged with a CFA gained by acquiring Wilcox. Precedent for this comes in 2007 when Kansas City failed to get a comp pick due to trading for Michael Bennett, and in 2009 the Seahawks lost a comp pick by trading for Keary Colbert. Combining this with the cut of Jones, the Steelers and their fans should not be expecting any compensatory picks for 2018.

What is not clear is whether the team that traded the CFA away will be relieved of the charge of a CFA gained. In the prior two cases, this could not be determined because the teams that traded away the CFA (New Orleans in 2007 and Denver in 2009) weren’t eligible to get comp picks of their own either way. But this year it will be relevant, as Tampa Bay is a team with a net loss of CFAs that might result in the team getting a 7th round comp pick for Bradley McDougald. Unfortunately, I have no choice to guess, and I will guess that Wilcox will still count against the Bucs, as they have already got compensation for Wilcox via the act of trading him to the Steelers. But if I’m wrong, Tampa Bay will be eligible for an additional 7th round comp pick for Akeem Spence.

* * * *

After taking a closer look at early snap count results from the first two weeks of the 2017 regular season, here are a few observations that I have been able to make:

  • The question of whether Denver will be able to get a 3rd round comp pick for Russell Okung, or likely nothing at all, will be very close throughout the regular season, and likely won’t be known for sure until it’s over. It all comes down to whether the formula judges Ronald Leary as a 3rd or 4th round comp pick. Amazingly, the difference could come down to the handful of snaps Leary missed in Week 1 due to suffering a concussion. In doing some simulations, if Leary plays all of the remaining snaps of the season, he should still fall below the 3rd/4th cutoff, and allow the Broncos to get that 3rd round comp pick. But that is just a guess at this point, and there are many factors at play before a firm projection can be made on that front. (In addition, if Leary is valued as a 3rd, the Cowboys would get a 3rd round comp pick for him instead of a 4th.)
  • Barry Church and Martellus Bennett are both hovering closely around the 4th/5th round cutoff point, meaning that the Cowboys and Patriots could see a 5th round comp pick upgraded to a 4th depending on their final snap counts. (The Packers’ comp picks in this regard will also not change regardless of whether Bennett is valued as a 4th or 5th.)
  • Latavius Murray has received minimal snaps to start off the season, only 6.9% thus far, while Dalvin Cook and Jerick McKinnon are getting far more playtime. If the Vikings feel that they can go forward without Murray, they could pick up an additional 6th round comp pick for Rhett Ellison if they cut Murray before Week 10. If that does happen, in addition the Raiders would see their 6th round comp pick for Murray demoted to a 7th rounder for Andre Holmes that might not make the 32 pick limit.
  • Another running back that is getting little playtime is Eddie Lacy. He was a healthy scratch for the Seahawks last week, and it appears that Thomas Rawls and Chris Carson are definitely the primary rushing options in Seattle now. Unlike the Vikings, the Seahawks have no comp pick reason to cut Lacy as they are not projected to get any comp picks even if they did cut him. Furthermore, Seattle has no reason to cut him when the only money they could save is on per game active roster bonuses. They could save that money just the same by continuing to make him inactive. But if Seattle were to cut him before Week 10, the Packers would lose a 6th round comp pick for Julius Peppers.

2017 NFL Roster Textures

Jason gave an excellent breakdown of NFL rosters last night as we prepare for the beginning of the 2017 NFL season. In turn, as a complement I thought I’d give a quick overview of OTC’s texture page, and provide a quick list of 32 observations, one for each team. You are encouraged to make your own observations by directly viewing the texture page.

As always, texture breaks down NFL contracts into five categories, determined by 2017 cap number.  As a brief review, those categories are as follows:

  • Elite: veteran contracts whose cap hits are in the top 32 leaguewide (top 1 per team; $15.075 million or higher for 2017).
  • High: veteran contracts whose cap hits are in the top 33-160 leaguewide, (top 2-5 per team; $7.5-$15 million for 2017).
  • Middle: veteran contracts whose cap hits are in the top 161-320 leaguewide, (top 6-10 per team; $4.06-$7.5 million for 2017).
  • Low: veteran contracts whose cap hits are  below the top 320 leaguewide, ($4 million or less for 2017).
  • Rookie: all contracts signed by players as rookies or by players with three or fewer accrued seasons.

Dead money and cap space are also visualized.  Keep these categories in mind as you read through the observations for each team. Continue reading 2017 NFL Roster Textures »

Thoughts on Jets and Seahawks Trade Involving Sheldon Richardson

After trying for over a year to trade defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson, the Jets finally found a trade partner in the often aggressive Seattle Seahawks. Though the Jets will not receive the first rounder plus more that they wanted last year they will receive wide receiver Jermaine Kearse and a conditional 2nd/3rd round pick. Seattle picks up a tremendous defensive line who can be one of the best in the NFL when he is motivated to play. Continue reading Thoughts on Jets and Seahawks Trade Involving Sheldon Richardson »

Roster Turnover in 2017: Number 20-11

20. Saints

Snaps LostQuality Snaps LostQuality ST LostAvg. APY LostAvg. Rank

The Saints are almost always making lateral moves and this is more or less the same for them getting rid of a few key guys who are good enough to play in the NFL but not at a high level. The Saints are, because of their management of the salary cap, always in a position where situational players are given bigger roles which shows itself in the low APY of players lost. Now that number is a little lower than it should be because it includes the trade of Brandin Cooks on a rookie contract but the chart more or less summarizes why the team is stuck in neutral most years. If they had taken one year where they accepted a down season with bigger turnover they would probably be a lock as a playoff team instead of a 0.500 team.

19. Bears

Snaps LostQuality Snaps LostQuality ST LostAvg. APY LostAvg. Rank

This has to qualify as one of the oddest offseasons of all time.  The Bears were relatively average in their turnover despite having a terrible team last season and went out and signed an expensive free agent quarterback and drafted a top QB but sold off their best receiver.  This has all the makings of a front office giving a head coach enough rope to hang himself so that their hands are clean when they fire him next season. When final rosters are set and we revisit the snaps gained and lost I expect everything to cancel out except for Glennon. If Glennon fails expect wholesale changes in 2018 with Fox being the fall guy for 2017. I don’t know if that’s the way to run the team or not.

18. Titans

Snaps LostQuality Snaps LostQuality ST LostAvg. APY LostAvg. Rank

Following the salary cap on a league wide basis for over 5 years now, the Titans being average shouldn’t surprise me but for whatever reason it did. I really expected Tennessee to be active this year and they really weren’t.  They cut some so-so talent and replace it with so-so talent. I feel like this is a team that could have made a big leap but their refusal to really spend will cost them in the long run.

17. Patriots

Snaps LostQuality Snaps LostQuality ST LostAvg. APY LostAvg. Rank

How can you not be impressed with the Patriots?  They are the only team in the league that saw every snap they lost be signed by another team in the NFL. Not just that but at the 5th highest average salary to boot. It’s not like the Patriots had no free agents like a team like the Chiefs. They simply saw all their guys signed. It’s a big difference between the Patriots and the Falcons, who saw few of their players signed. For those wondering New England, from a salary perspective, replaced just about everyone so as long as they get similar performance they should be perfectly fine in 2017.

16. Texans

Snaps LostQuality Snaps LostQuality ST LostAvg. APY LostAvg. Rank

In terms of contract value nobody lost more than the Texans who sent off a big time contract in Brock Osweiler and lost AJ Bouye to free agency. Still even with all that they are only losing 14% of their quality snaps to free agency which is slightly below average. The question is can they overcome the loss of Bouye (we all know Osweiler was terrible) or will that have a major impact on the team. If they can do so expect another trip to the playoffs at 9-7, but if not expect a coaching change for failing to get back to the playoffs with a flawed team.

15. Browns

Snaps LostQuality Snaps LostQuality ST LostAvg. APY LostAvg. Rank

Not surprisingly the Browns differential between total snaps and quality snaps is very large (its 4th in the NFL) but unlike the Jets they were able to find some homes for a few of their players at a reasonable $2.5 million per year. The fact that Cleveland was able to find some homes for their players probably speaks to the mish mosh of talent they have collected from a multitude of general managers for a number of different systems. They can’t really be any worse than they were last season, but I guess in theory they can be if the additions, mainly coming via the draft, fail to even live up to replacement level standards.

14. Redskins

Snaps LostQuality Snaps LostQuality ST LostAvg. APY LostAvg. Rank

In what was a big surprise (for me at least) the Redskins let not just one but both their top receivers walk. Both signed pretty strong contracts, especially considering their age, which puts the Redskins in the top 5 for salary lost. Washington was willing to undergo a facelift as a contender which many teams won’t do. Im not sure if this done because they still do not know whether or not their quarterback for the long term is on the roster or because they simply saw those two as overpaid, but all three seem to show a team without a focus as Cousins and one of the other two could have been extended last year and early this winter.

13. Raiders

Snaps LostQuality Snaps LostQuality ST LostAvg. APY LostAvg. Rank

With a number of important extensions coming up, including the recent $25 million per year contract for Derek Carr, the Raiders were not in a position to really keep anyone that was somewhat expensive, but not vital to the long term future. So out the door go Latavius Murray, Malcolm Smith, Menelik Watson, and Andre Holmes, among others. They also gutted their special teams, likely opening the way for a number of low draft picks and UDFAs to make the team. I was actually surprised to see how much money some of the Raiders free agents went for but teams valued some of these players pretty highly.

12. Panthers

Snaps LostQuality Snaps LostQuality ST LostAvg. APY LostAvg. Rank

I think at this point Carolina is now able to make moves where finances are not the driving force as their salary cap is finally in order after 3 or 4 seasons of being in a real bind. While they did have a few key guys leave- Mike Remmers, AJ Klein, and Ted Ginn- the team was finally able to use free agency to try to improve on a disappointing year. My guess is when we factor in additions in the September version of this article, they may be one of the teams with the biggest expected changes, having added Matt Kalil, Captain Munnerlyn, Julius Peppers, Russell Shepard, and Mike Adams to the mix.

11. Lions

Snaps LostQuality Snaps LostQuality ST LostAvg. APY LostAvg. Rank

There was a lot of shifting by the Lions, who were a playoff team last year. They moved out Riley Reiff and Larry Warford, but paid big for Ricky Wagner and TJ Lang. The differential between the Lions snaps lost and quality snaps lost ranked 8th, which is pretty high for a playoff team and was second to the Falcons. The Lions in an attempt to upgrade the roster did sign a number of $3Mish type talents as they battle their own cap and contractual issues down the line.

Why The Patriots Would Use The May 9 Tender On LeGarrette Blount For Compensatory Pick Purposes

Jason has filled you on the news that the Patriots have placed a May 9 tender on LeGarrette Blount, and what that means.  As he points out, one aspect of doing so is to keep the Patriots’ option open for adding Blount to their compensatory free agents (CFAs) lost.  This reason was also cited by Jeff Howe, who first reported on the news of the Blount’s tender.  Here’s a look at what why the Patriots would do this, and how other teams should respond.

For the Patriots, it’s less about gaining a new compensatory pick and more about insuring against their other two.

Here is the Patriots’ current cancellation chart for 2018 compensatory picks:

New England Patriots
CFAs Lost: 5CFAs Gained: 3
Logan Ryan3$10,000,00078Stephon Gilmore3$13,000,00043
Jabaal Sheard4$8,500,000122
Martellus Bennett5$6,750,000202
Barkevious Mingo7$2,500,000580Lawrence Guy6$3,350,000442
Chris Long7$2,250,000611Rex Burkhead6$3,150,000463

Ryan and Gilmore, both 3rd round values, obviously cancel each other out.  CFAs gained are never allowed to cancel out higher round CFAs lost unless there is no one left to cancel out. So Guy and Burkhead, both 6th rounders, cancel out Mingo and Long, both 7th rounders.  However, should there be a third 7th rounder (Blount), Guy and Burkhead would cancel out the highest valued 7th rounders first.  That last aspect is critical to understanding the minimal gains for the Patriots.

If Blount signs elsewhere for less than $2.25 million APY (i.e., less than Long), the 7th round pick that opens up is for Blount, at whatever APY he gets.  The problem though is that an APY less than $2.25 million is unlikely to make the 32-pick limit.  Looking at the current list, the last pick is going to the Bengals for Margus Hunt at $2.05 million APY. Also remember that running backs generally do not get as many snaps as other players, so Blount may need an even higher salary to account for that.  If Blount were able to get more than $2.25 million APY, he would be canceled out and the 7th round comp pick opened out would be for Long.  But again, on the current list Long would still be the very last pick.

So are the Patriots trying to make a play for the Mr. Irrelevant pick?  If they are thinking about comp picks, what’s more likely on their mind is the worry that Mingo or Long may not make their new teams’ rosters, and in the case of the 32 year old Long, retirement can’t be ruled out either.  If one of Mingo or Long is removed from the chart, the Patriots would lose their 5th round comp pick for Bennett. If both are removed, the Patriots would be completely shut out of comp picks.

As Jason explained, $1.1 million is probably a reasonable salary for someone like Blount at this point in his career.  Extending the tender is a low-cost move that insures against their better comp picks. And from a pure football standpoint, retaining Blount at that salary deepens their depth chart at running back with a player familiar with the system.

The risks for some other teams exist, but can be dealt with.

Half of the league has no reason to hold off on signing Blount since they’re not projected to get comp picks anyway.  Of course, that was true both before and after the May 9 tender, so if any of those teams wanted Blount they could have already had him.

Of the 15 teams with comp picks on the line, the Giants and Ravens are two teams that reports have linked him to.  The Giants hypothetically have some comp pick risk in signing Blount but in looking at their cancellation chart the risk is low:

New York Giants
CFAs Lost: 4CFAs Gained: 1
Johnathan Hankins4$9,000,000107
Robbie Gould7$2,000,000655Rhett Ellison6$4,475,000347
Marshall Newhouse7$1,550,000758
Coty Sensabaugh7$1,300,000821
Non-Qualifying UFAs LostNon-Qualifying UFAs Gained
Shaun Draughn$975,000968
Geno Smith$975,000969
Valentino Blake$855,0001040

It is very important to keep in mind that the two 7th rounders for Newhouse and Sensabaugh are not projected to make the 32-pick limit; they are 36th and 37th in line.  So it’s only their 4th for Hankins that they have to worry about. Regarding the three players they signed that aren’t currently projected to qualify as CFAs, the Giants could always cut them (or Blount) if they feel their contribution isn’t worth giving up a 4th round pick. (And in the case of Draughn, he might be cut as a direct result of signing Blount, as they also drafted Wayne Gallman.)

The Giants could fear that Newhouse and/or Sensabaugh could be cut, and as I noted yesterday in the case of the latter the Steelers could have a large comp pick incentive of their own, as doing so would pick up a 5th rounder for Markus Wheaton.  But even if that happened, again the Giants could cut Blount or any of the bubble CFAs that could interfere later on in the season.

The bottom line as I see it is if the Giants think Blount is worth bringing in on football merits, any risk that they take on against their 4th rounder for Hankins can be mitigated in multiple ways throughout the regular season.

The Ravens’ chart is more straightforward:

Baltimore Ravens
CFAs Lost: 5CFAs Gained: 3
Ricky Wagner3$9,500,00091
Kyle Juszczyk6$5,250,000295Tony Jefferson4$8,500,000125
Lawrence Guy6$3,350,000442Brandon Carr5$5,750,000265
Kamar Aiken7$2,600,000559Danny Woodhead7$2,933,333503
Vladimir Ducasse7$1,166,667868

As of now, the Ravens could afford to sign Blount and only have him cancel out Ducasse, who is also projected to miss the 32-pick limit. However, as with the Steelers and Sensabaugh, the Bills could have an incentive to cut Ducasse if they want to make an effort to recoup a 3rd round comp pick for Stephon Gilmore.  If that happened after signing Blount, the Ravens would lose their 3rd rounder for Ricky Wagner.  Ozzie Newsome, of course, pays keen attention to compensatory picks, so that may not be a risk he’s willing to take.  As with the Giants, should the Bills cut Ducasse the Ravens could also do the same with Blount to reopen the pick for Wagner.

Could a tag-and-trade be an option?

If the Giants or Ravens are interested in Blount but are also very worried about their comp picks, I wonder if they could mitigate that concern by trading for Blount for minimal compensation after he signs his tender.  It’s a move that would be quite typical of Bill Belichick always thinking one step ahead. I don’t know if Blount would qualify as a CFA in that scenario, and I am not aware of any comp pick situation in which a team re-signed one of their own UFAs only to trade him later.  If the Patriots did pose that option to Blount and the Giants or Ravens, a call into the NFL Management Council would be prudent just to see what the rules of the formula say about that.