The Potential of a Kirk Cousins Extension in Minnesota

My friend Andy Carlson had me on his Purple FTW! Podcast to discuss the potential for a Kirk Cousins extension with Minnesota. I go into detail regarding his performance this year, the quarterback market, and the way his three-year guaranteed contract structure could re-shape the way quarterback deals are negotiated.

Andy and I will be working together moving forward to craft more YouTube videos of this kind of quality thanks to Andy’s terrific editing and production skills.

If you want to listen on iTunes, you can click through here. SoundCloud here.

Cousins’ signed for $28 million per year with his 2018 contract and the market is now at $35 million per year with Russell Wilson’s deal that was signed just 13 months later.

Rather than being on a traditional five-year contract that would have him asking for an extension after three years, he’s in a position to demand whatever he pleases.

My perspective is that, considering the Vikings are currently projected to be $10 million over the 2020 salary cap with three or four free agent defensive backs they will have to make decisions on re-signing, he could agree to an extension for $35 million per year guaranteed starting in 2021.

The contract would be a simple extension tacked on to the last year of his previous contract, but guarantee him $105 million more, which would benefit the Vikings in terms of securing him below the $40 million or more that he might demand in free agency in 2021 after Dak Prescott, Patrick Mahomes, and/or Deshaun Watson agree to new terms and push the market even higher.

As Jason Fitzgerald pointed out, the benefit of waiting to make it to 2021 could be substantial for Cousins. As many as 14 or 15 teams could need quarterbacks.

Another factor in this decision for Cousins is what is important to him. He has played in a bad organization before with the team from Washington DC and has expressed his desire to win. Minnesota is a strong organization from the front office to the coaching staff that can be relied on to put him and his team in position to succeed.

By the conclusion of the 2020 season, Cousins will have made $130.5 million in on field earnings. It’s up to him to decide what he wants next.

Zack Moore is a certified NFL agent, a writer for OverTheCap.com and OnnitGymMMA.com, as well as the author of “Caponomics: Building Super Bowl Champions,” a book that breaks down how Super Bowl champions are built in the NFL’s salary cap era and discusses how NFL front offices can best allocate resources to create successful teams.

You can follow him on Twitter at @ZackMooreNFL. You can subscribe to The Zack Moore Show podcast here. You can subscribe on YouTube here.

Using the OTC Valuation to Look at 2020 Free Agency

With the end of the regular season quickly approaching many of us are already looking at free agency next season as an avenue to fix our favorite teams. Usually we turn to cap space and see “team X has X amount of cap space” and immediately identify them as a team that is going to be active on free agents, but sometimes cap room can be very misleading and it can just be tied to the fact that a team has a lot of work to do with their current roster. To put some of it in better perspective I wanted to turn to our OTC Valuation model to see what quality of free agents teams really have in 2020.

It’s important to note that the OTC valuation is not a free agent estimate. In some cases numbers may wind up being close, but the calculations are based on spending within the NFL, which includes rookies who make peanuts yet often provide the most production, not what production equates to as a free agent. So please don’t read this as OTC says Dallas needs $112M to sign all their free agents. It may but that’s not what the valuation measures.

It does give us an idea of the general quality of the free agent class for each team, however, with probably a safe assumption that Dallas will likely have the most expensive group of free agents in the NFL. For example Amari Cooper will get paid far more than $14 million and change as a free agent but his valuation is around $5 million more than the next closest free agent receiver so this gives a good relative gauge of the strength of a free agent group. For every Cooper there will also likely be a player with a high valuation that ends up millions less than his valuation for a number of reasons as well.

The other main negative for the valuation tool is that injured players like an AJ Green will count as $0. Green will earn a pretty penny as a free agent even after missing the entire season. Likewise Drew Brees missed significant time which drives his number way down below any expected value. So certainly this isn’t a perfect model but I think it should do a better job of helping understand free agent expectations and decisions than just looking at cap space or snaps.

Here is how each team stacks up in 2020. The X axis shows a team’s projected 2020 salary cap space (this is not adjusted to 51 players so it only counts players under contract in 2020) while the Y axis has the OTC value of all unrestricted free agents currently on a NFL roster.

2020 NFL Free agent values

The top right quadrant shows the teams with above average cap space but either a lot of free agents to re-sign or at the least a few big dollar free agents to re-sign. Essentially this means that the teams cap space is likely a bit of a mirage if they want to keep some of the team intact. For many the cap space will vanish with pre-free agency extensions or franchise tags. If these teams want to make big changes it also will mean having to step away from some of the current members of the team in free agency.

The two standout teams here are the Cowboys and Buccaneers. Dallas’ season is on life support while the Bucs has pretty much been over for a month. For Dallas they have major decisions. Dak Prescott, Cooper, Byron Jones, Jason Witten, Maliek Collins, Robert Quinn, Randall Cobb, Michael Bennett, Sean Lee, etc…Its going to cost a lot to keep the team together if they opt to go in that direction but you have to consider what is the ceiling with the group as well. Screams like a situation where a new coach may need to come in. Tampa has the big decision with Jameis Winston as well as if they want to continue relationships with Ndamukong Suh and Shaq Barrett among others. Similar questions as Dallas except there is no coaching change possible. Perhaps the players simply are not the right mix even if they are individually talented.

Arizona is the third in this group but they are more about volume than a few high projected players. Their top free agent is likely DJ Humphries with old veterans Larry Fitzgerald and Terrell Suggs as the next two. Arizona may go year to year with the veterans but Id anticipate them as a team more likely to turn over volume and go younger for depth.

The bottom right quadrant has the teams with a few key free agents but not much cap space to re-sign them. That either means some type of changes or finding a way to keep first year cap charges really low. That may be more difficult next year if no CBA is in place. The Panthers, Rams, and Saints are teams to look at here. The Rams have Dante Fowler, Michael Brockers, and Andrew Whitworth as some pretty expensive players to make decisions about. For the Panthers the list will include Gerald McCoy, Tre Boston, Mario Addison, and James Bradberry. The Saints are basically all about the QB position. For the Rams and Panthers who will likely be on the outside looking in they will probably have to pick just one or two to keep while letting others walk.

The bottom left quadrant are the teams without much cap space but not too many decisions to make this year. Most of these teams have either one or two valuable free agents to consider or a few depth players. For teams out of contention these are likely easier decisions to let a player walk like a Vic Beasley in Atlanta and for those in contention they will have to decide if its worth keeping that one player or adding a few other parts in free agency. For teams out of contention this is the most likely group to probably make cuts where one of the prime reasons is cap relief. For teams in contention this may be the group that kicks the can on more players than they should.

The top left quadrant are the teams that one would expect to be the most active in free agency. They have tons and tons of cap room and few on the current roster worth spending it on. For teams like the Colts, Bills, Raiders, and even Ravens this presents a great opportunity to not only add to a playoff contender but to likely be able to structure contracts in free agency that leave little dead money after just one or two seasons. For teams like the Giants and Dolphins (and Bengals if they ever spent) it’s a potential avenue to quickly add short term solutions to a team in desperate need of roster help.

For those interested in a table form of the data the following table includes the value of the free agents, value per player, projected cap space and a ratio of the cap to value. For premium members who want to break down into values for individual free agents you can filter our season long valuations by 2020 cash which will allow you to quickly scroll through a teams potential free agents.

Team UFAs 2019 Valuation Value per Player Projected Cap Space Cap to Value Ratio
Cowboys 22 $112,146,000 $5,097,545 $87,836,022 0.78
Patriots 16 $102,116,000 $6,382,250 $49,017,540 0.48
Buccaneers 19 $82,024,000 $4,317,053 $90,948,813 1.11
Panthers 14 $74,134,000 $5,295,286 $42,204,270 0.57
Cardinals 25 $69,907,000 $2,796,280 $74,343,047 1.06
Rams 11 $61,934,000 $5,630,364 $26,041,744 0.42
Jets 22 $55,662,000 $2,530,091 $62,121,439 1.12
Titans 16 $53,323,000 $3,332,688 $48,683,683 0.91
Seahawks 16 $53,014,000 $3,313,375 $66,020,838 1.25
Broncos 13 $51,522,000 $3,963,231 $67,536,620 1.31
Chargers 16 $51,298,000 $3,206,125 $58,810,928 1.15
Saints 15 $50,638,000 $3,375,867 $23,019,762 0.45
Texans 20 $50,088,000 $2,504,400 $75,023,651 1.50
Ravens 16 $47,330,000 $2,958,125 $56,147,155 1.19
Chiefs 17 $46,120,000 $2,712,941 $21,788,974 0.47
Falcons 20 $43,475,000 $2,173,750 ($956,802) -0.02
Giants 16 $42,259,000 $2,641,188 $63,759,654 1.51
Bears 16 $42,244,000 $2,640,250 $13,931,529 0.33
Raiders 22 $41,091,000 $1,867,773 $73,105,496 1.78
Packers 12 $40,174,000 $3,347,833 $26,871,008 0.67
Colts 12 $39,589,000 $3,299,083 $108,838,649 2.75
Vikings 16 $37,290,000 $2,330,625 ($1,525,991) -0.04
Redskins 13 $34,633,000 $2,664,077 $50,006,253 1.44
Eagles 15 $34,256,000 $2,283,733 $42,217,338 1.23
Lions 14 $33,853,000 $2,418,071 $47,069,415 1.39
49ers 11 $33,543,000 $3,049,364 $16,116,234 0.48
Steelers 9 $33,438,000 $3,715,333 $4,970,081 0.15
Bengals 12 $33,269,000 $2,772,417 $64,068,262 1.93
Bills 12 $30,931,000 $2,577,583 $88,531,260 2.86
Browns 7 $27,060,000 $3,865,714 $50,193,215 1.85
Jaguars 15 $24,915,000 $1,661,000 $2,177,217 0.09
Dolphins 11 $18,993,000 $1,726,636 $102,852,083 5.42

Contract Lessons Learned From Myles Garrett’s Suspension

The big NFL news of the day centered around a crazy ending in Thursday night’s football game where a brawl broke out in the final seconds when Browns defensive end Myles Garrett hit Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph with Rudolph’s football helmet. Garrett was suspended for a minimum of 6 games and it is a costly suspension- $1,139,912 to be exact- and possibly more if the Browns also go after $1.787 million in bonus money, though I highly doubt the Browns will do that. It was as dirty a play as I can recall and certainly right up there with Albert Haynesworth’s head stomp of Andre Gurode back in 2008. While Garrett deserves the max penalties here this is a good learning example for those looking to work as a sports agent or negotiate contracts on the team end because the structure of Garrett’s contract will ultimately cost him more money because of the suspension.

NFL contracts are made up of various components. You can read all about those in Crunching Numbers (on sale on Amazon, yes I know a shameless plug) but for 1st round rookies the majority of contracts come down to three elements- Paragraph 5 salary (base salary as we call it on OTC), an August roster bonus, and a signing bonus. The total amount isn’t in question but the way that the deals are divided up generally in and in particular the split between roster bonuses and P5 salary.

Many rookies in the NFL are able to negotiate contracts that typically break down as follows- a large signing bonus that is dictated by the CBA’s slotted salary system, minimum P5 salaries each season, and a larger roster bonus in the final three contract years that is earned in August to reach the maximum year over year raise allowed by the CBA. Though the contracts are going to be worth the same amount of money no matter how it is broken down there is one important consideration.

When a player is suspended by the NFL or the team every week’s salary is forfeited for games missed. Roster bonuses are not. That forfeiture calculation is entirely different and it is also not mandatory except in the case of a PED violation where typically they are. The difference can be costly. Lets look at how Garrett would have fared had he negotiated a more favorable contract structure.

Component Salary Max forfeiture Min Forfeiture
Paragraph 5 $645,000 $227,647 $227,647
Roster Bonus $2,584,750 $456,132 $0
TOTALS $3,229,750 $683,779 $227,647

So at a minimum Garrett’s contract structure cost him $456,133 and more likely $912,265.  Again none of this is to condone Garrett’s actions just that when people look at rookie contracts as a nothing issue sometimes they don’t fully protect the player as well as they could be protected.

So how uncommon is Garrett’s structure?  Well we can go back and look at the data to see. This contract structure more or less was invented in 2012 in what I called “the Tannehill compromise” so let’s use 2013 as a starting point and see how many top 5 and top 10 picks used the “Tannehill compromise” structure rather than the standard one Garrett used.

Year Top 5 Top 10
2013 60.0% 70.0%
2014 60.0% 50.0%
2015 80.0% 50.0%
2016 40.0% 50.0%
2017 40.0% 50.0%
2018 100.0% 100.0%
2019 80.0% 60.0%
AVG 65.7% 61.4%

While not incredibly uncommon Garrett certainly was in the minority here. It is also worth noting that a larger portion of top 5 players did get the more player friendly structure in the first three years of their contract but not the fourth.

Garrett is also only the second first overall selection since 2013 to not get the favorable structure. I would imagine that this happened because the prior year Jared Goff also took a less favorable structure from the Rams. The reason for this was because the majority of the considerations here really deal with offsets on guarantees and the Rams always give their top picks a “no offset” clause on all guarantees. So I would imagine the Browns leaned on that with Garrett but did not have the same luck the next year with Baker Mayfield.

I heard on ESPN radio this morning the hosts (I cant recall who but I think it was Mike and Mike Jr on the discussion) kind of focusing on voiding of guarantees but who cares about that. If Garrett was a bad player that would be an issue. He isn’t and guarantees mean nothing for good players because they are not getting cut.  For them its just words on a piece of paper and they don’t get to have those words there any more. So yes he will lose his guarantee in 2020 but it’s meaningless.

So in the end it’s a small thing but small things can be costly. And this should not just be something heeded by people representing top draft picks. There has been a movement in recent years to raise P5s very high while reducing signing bonuses and to a lesser extent offseason roster bonuses. For players the less you have in the P5 the less risk you have from situations like this. Get as much money as you can in up front bonuses- either signing or roster- and you should be more protected.

Spending vs Performance: QB, WR, & RB

The other day I posted something on Twitter comparing the performance of the top 5 running backs vs numbers 30 to 35 and a few people were curious about how QBs stacked up in the same category. Since the secondary selection for running backs was pretty random I thought I’d just do a post looking at every grouping for running backs, quarterbacks, and receivers to see if there are any patterns at all for this year.

Running Backs

For the running backs I decided to look at the top 65 players. To calculate performance I used essentially a net yardage calculation where a running back was awarded a point for every rushing and receiving yard and 20 points for a touchdown. You can argue the worth of a rushing TD as well as if there should also be anything added for first downs, but for a quick calculation I think this is fair. Each point on the chart represents the average salary and performance of five players. The highest would be players 1 to 5, then 2 to 6, 3 to 7, etc… with the last being the average of 61 to 65.

spending on running backs

The numbers are a bit all over the place for the running backs. Generally speaking the high cost runner is not really providing a major benefit and in general teams should probably avoid any player for more than $5 million or so a year with $3 million likely being the better range. The spikes in the cheaper zones look to fall into the late first round/early second round area of the draft, proving some good bang for the buck.  But overall I think it’s fair to say that currently spending/drafting high doesn’t equate much with performance.

Wide Receiver

For receiver we have the top 100 players and like with running backs a net yardage based on receiving yards and touchdowns. Again first downs are important as is use in an offense but for a basic, quick look I felt this was sufficient. Again each chart represents the average annual salary of five players along with the average net yards for each grouping (1 to 5, 2 to 6, etc…)

Wide receiver spending

I found this one very interesting. Clearly there is far more correlation (at least in the 2019 season) between spending on wide receivers and the performance of the group.  For the most part highly paid receivers are giving you a premium to justify the investment. I see two clear takeaways here. One is that if you notice you will see a dip starting around point 7. Partly that is due to an injury to AJ Green but it also includes a group of players in that range (Brandin Cooks, Sammy Watkins, Jarvis Landry, etc…) who were all overpaid relative to their performance. Essentially these were players who should be paid as number 2’s that landed as 1’s as free agency approached.

The second is the giant dip you see in the $10 million range. This is really the “reach” zone of the NFL where teams go overboard signing the Albert Wilson’s and Quincy Enunwa’s of the world to expensive contracts because they are the best of a bad bunch that is either going to be a free agent or available in  free agency. This is also the range of the “prove it” contract guys who more often than not don’t prove it and either fail to perform or continue to get injured. If it’s a one year gamble I guess its ok, but there is more value being found on number 3s with upside or simply turning to the draft. Maybe if there is some interest I can further break this part up into rookies vs veterans to see if there is more of a trend among rookies vs the lower level vets.

Quarterback

For QB’s I looked at the top 40 players and used adjusted net passing yardage as the performance metric. I did not include rushing stats for QBs in that calculation.

Quarterback spending

There is certainly more correlation between the spending on a QB than on a RB though like with receiver this probably merits more of a rookie vs veteran breakdown. The numbers in the lower part of the chart typically encompasses first round draft picks but unlike with receivers also includes some QBs that were never expected to play (Chase Daniel, Tyrod Taylor)  and simply signed as insurance policies. That said rookies are high risk and for every Mahomes there is a Trubisky to balance things out as well.

The one thing I do feel confident in saying is that the idea of signing a “cheap but expensive” QB (those guys who get $20M or so a year just because that is what a starting QB gets) is probably a bad one. It makes more sense for teams to move to a low cost starter like a Ryan Fitzpatrick and pair him with a mid level draft pick than waste cap room on Eli Manning or Joe Flacco.

Bad Teams Should Use the Season to Challenge Conventional Wisdom

Not a salary cap post today just a general post on football and maybe trying to find something useful out of what is effectively garbage time football for many NFL teams as we move down the stretch of the season. Last night was pretty much a complete debacle in Dallas with extremely conservative decision making during the 4th quarter, poor clock management, and a general lack of awareness of the flow of that game. Everyone watched it unfold and realized it but I can’t say that it’s that unconventional of an approach even if this was perhaps to a much larger extreme. While there is certainly a very group of people that call for more aggressiveness it doesn’t happen in most game situations because while its one thing to have the math support things being in your favor for looking at something like 3rd and 6 as a pretty makeable down and distance if we plan it as a two play approach the fact is in practice there is nothing to base things on and just like with the salary cap and contracts usually it takes a few people to put things on the table before others “buy in”. Why don’t those teams exist late in the year?

Watching a surprisingly high scoring and somewhat disjointed Giants/Jets game many referred to as the “toilet bowl” we saw both the good and bad. When stuck in no mans land at the Jets 39 the Giants opted to go for it on 4th and 4 and ended up scoring a touchdown on the play when a Jets defender slipped and the defense didn’t have much in the way of deeper support to prevent a big play. Im sure the coaches logic here was that the odds were they would only pick up 19 yards on a punt or miss a field goal so they had nothing to lose by taking a shot at it since the end result for the Jets starting point on the drive was pretty much set in stone and there was tons of game time.

Yet later in the game the coach defers on a 4th and 2 while down 4 and time running shorter. The difference here was a non-conversion could kill you because you were on your own 44 and you could flip field position with a punt. IMO the Giants lost the game with that decision because the Jets ended up marching down the field, killing around 5 minutes and scoring a field goal to go up 7. Most likely had the Giants gone for it on 4th and not converted that would have been the same result except the Jets would have not taken nearly as much time off the clock to get their field goal attempt. Again you can get math to back it all up but you wont find many games to prove it. The Jets could have iced a game with a 4th and 1 a bit later but opted for a punt instead but for the most part the worst outcome there was a tie and overtime.

Thinking about all of this I wondered why don’t some teams now take some of those risks. Not the Garrett’s of the world in a playoff chase but the Gases and Shurmurs of the world. The NFL is filled with awful teams this year. The Bengals, Redskins, Dolphins, Jets, Giants, Falcons, Browns, Broncos, etc… are all going nowhere other than the top of the draft. While some of those coaches, even first year ones, are fighting for a job just doing the status quo isn’t going to help them. Why not use this time to get some actual game data on doing more “unconventional” things and actually getting something positive out of a bad 2019 season that you can bring to 2020.

While some may argue that bad teams doing this isn’t going to exactly be a good look since these teams are among the worst offenses in the league shouldn’t it be eye opening if it does allow them to be more competitive down the stretch or upset more than a team every 5 weeks?  Many of them also happen to play each other so the ineptitude on offense and defense of these teams should balance it all out.

Its always kind of amazing to me that there is little to gain for these bad teams at the end of the season. They talk about “evaluating young players” down the stretch but 90% of the time those are evaluations of players who quite frankly are not going to mean much to a rebuild if it even happens. But finding out ways to be different, especially with a bad roster, is actually something that could be meaningful. That doesn’t mean limiting it to just decision making options on 3rd and 4th downs and evaluating real world outcomes. It could be the type of offense you run. The play selections. Gambling more on defense or maybe loading the field with defensive backs. Use this time to help you change things up in 2020 rather than selling the focus of the team on seeing if a 7th round draft pick may or may not be able to be a 5th or 6th linebacker in 2020.

I think its important to remember that one of the “innovations” of the last 15 years came in garbage time years ago. The Carolina Panthers in late 2006 started using their running backs in a direct snap formation in what was pretty much a lost year where they were down, I believe, to their 3rd string QB. Panthers offensive coordinator, Dan Henning, was at least sold enough on that idea from 2006 to further implement a package that came from the college ranks in his Miami offense in 2008 which turned into the “Wildcat” that took the NFL by storm for a few years. While nobody really had success with the package once teams figured out how to play against it Miami was able to ride that set of plays into an unlikely playoff season simply because they had practiced enough of it in the summer and it caught everyone off guard.

Now the wildcat was more or less a gimmick but the ability to gather useful game data late in the year should be more than just a gimmick with more long term impact but also similar short term results if analyzed properly to devise meaningful game plans in 2020 that would also just as likely catch teams off guard at first before the general math behind it takes over as teams adjust to new strategies. But to just waste these next games doing the status quo week after week, year after year, just seems foolish and helps nobody in the long run.  The Giants had a great opportunity to play against the norm of punting yesterday and learn something, but instead fell into the trap of just doing the norm because that’s what everyone does, put the lesser of their two units back on the field to try to stop the Jets in 3 plays, and ultimately lost another game without learning anything in the process. There is no reason for that when you have nothing to lose in the first place given how the season has gone this year.

NFL 2019 Snap-shot: 2020 UFA usage through 9 Weeks

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We are now halfway through the 2019 NFL season and the trade deadline is officially in the rear view mirror. Most rosters are pretty set at this point, though there will of course always be minor roster shuffling throughout the season.

I wanted to update the previous snaps article (read here) and add some new data into the fold.

Using the new OTC Valuation Metric, I compiled the Current APYs of each team’s UFAs. Next, I have the Positional Value for each player as determined by the new OTC Valuation Metric. Finally, there is the Value Over Current APY.

I wanted to add our new valuation component because, as I mentioned in the original article, not all snaps are created equal. The valuation metric puts a dollar amount on the players that are headed out the door after 2019. We can see which teams are paying more than they need to for certain players based on their production halfway through the season, and if they shouldn’t be too worried about replacing them in free agency at the right price. On the flip side, we can see which teams are getting quality production out of a currently cheap asset that will soon cost much more. The proprietary OTC Valuation metric was created by OTC in partnership with Pro Football Focus).

First, here are updated tables for offense, defense and overall snaps attributed to 2020 UFAs for each team (% Change from Weeks 1-4):

Overall Snaps (Offense + Defense) by 2020 UFAs Weeks 1-9
Offense Snaps by 2020 UFAs Weeks 1-9
Defense Snaps by 2020 UFAs Weeks 1-9

Next, I broke each team’s UFAs down according to the OTC Valuation Metric following the first nine weeks of the season (there have been 135 of the 256 total NFL regular season games played thus far).

“Total Value of UFA” is the sum of all of the UFAs “Positional Values” (no special teams) through nine weeks of the regular season.

“Current APY of UFA” is the sum of the current average per year of each of the UFAs contracts.

“Value Over APY of UFA” is the Total Value of UFA less the Current APY of UFA

A positive Value Over APY means the team is currently paying less (on a per-year basis) to their pending 2020 UFAs than our OTC Valuation Metric believes the players are worth (based on their play in the current season). These are players that are contributing quality snaps at their position and the team may look to re-sign.

A negative Value Over APY means the team is currently paying more (per-year) to their pending 2020 UFAs than our OTC Valuation Metric believes the players are worth (based on 2019 production). These are players that are contributing snaps, but not to the caliber of their contract, or those who have been unable to register many snaps to generate value.

To put the team tables (below) into perspective, first here are some leaguewide numbers for Value Over APY (“Overall,” “Offense,” and “Defense” list the # of players):

Overall:

Overall Team Value Over APY

The average Value Over APY for a full NFL roster is $10,824,088, with an average of 12.28 UFAs per team.

The average Value Over APY for offenses is $4,966,000.56, with an average of 5.47 UFAs per team.

The average Value Over APY for defenses is $5,790,450.72, with an average of 6.81 UFAs per team.

Based on the OTC Valuation metric, Dallas has production from UFAs worth $44 million more than the average NFL team. They have a lot of quality players they need to re-sign. On the other end of the spectrum, Indianapolis is paying more to their pending 2020 UFAs than their production dictates they are worth, so they will probably have no issue letting some of those players walk.

Offense:

Offense Value Over APY

Defense:

Defense Value Over APY

Here is each team broken down by division. The Rows are the team overall, then the offense (# of UFAs on Offense), and the defense (# of UFAs on Defense). :

AFC East
AFC North
AFC South
AFC West
NFC East
NFC North
NFC South
NFC West

Finally, I took a look at our projected 2020 Cap Space for each team as compared to their 2020 UFA Value Over APY:

This demonstrates how much cap space would remain if the team signed all of their UFAs to contracts worth what the OTC Valuation Metric has deemed the players’ true worth. No team will do this, but it gives you a better idea of each team’s situation as they approach free agency. For example, Tampa Bay and Arizona have 16 and 19 UFAs respectively. The UFA groups on each team are outperforming their contracts by about $30 million collectively in 2019. However, Tampa Bay has $82.5 million and Arizona has $79.4 million in projected 2020 cap space. So, if they were to sign all of their UFAs to contracts in accordance with the OTC Valuation Metric, they would still have $53.4 million and $45.7 million respectively.

On the other hand, teams like the Giants and Colts will likely be letting the majority of their 2020 UFAs walk, and are more likely to benefit from replacing those players on the roster with others.

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Thoughts on the Jets Implosion

Every time you think the Jets hit the lowest point they prove everyone wrong and sink even lower, this week hitting what seems like rock bottom in a loss against a Dolphins team that has actively tried to lose games all season long. Life as a Jets fan is just brutal right now. We have not been to the playoffs in 9 years now. The last time the Jets were in the middle of a drought this long the Empire Strikes Back was a new release. The team will not have a winning record for 4 straight seasons, the second time this decade that this has happened. It’s basically the same type of run that the team experienced in the late 80s and early 90s when the team churned through head coaches and fans showed up to games with brown bags over their heads.

There is no way to sugarcoat this mess. It’s a complete and utter sh*tshow. Ownership should be embarrassed. The front office should be embarrassed. The players should be embarrassed. The fans should be embarrassed. Any sponsor of the team should be embarrassed. Hell anyone even trying to scalp a ticked on route 17 before a game should be embarrassed to charge someone a penny to watch this team play a game.

The blame for this mess needs to fall squarely on ownership for not having any vision of how to run a franchise. The problems date all the way back to the day they fired general manager Mike Tannenbaum in early 2013.  Tannenbaum had built the Jets best teams since the late 1990’s under Bill Parcells, but was also a victim of his own success, getting far too aggressive with trades and signings that blew up in his face and saw his team fall from contenders to an 8 and 6 win team. Letting Mike go was understandable but you need a plan when you make such a move and ownership had none.

Whether ownership was simply looking for a fall guy or identified the contracts on the team as a reason to let Tannenbaum go they stuck with a head coach, Rex Ryan, who they wanted to be the face of the franchise. Thus started this strange cycle that the Jets owners would hire, with the input of consulting agencies and old NFL executives, a coach and a GM independent of one another, assume they would all hold hands with each other, execute the same vision, and deliver the Jets back to relevance.

It was a disaster from day one. No candidate of note wanted to work with the Jets power structure featuring Ryan as top dog and pushing agendas on the team. That led to the team hiring Seattle’s salary cap guy, John Idzik, who was probably the team’s 4th or 5th choice at the start to replace Tannenbaum. Idzik wasn’t Tannenbaum though and didn’t have the personality to handle New York or anything else about the situation.

He and Ryan more or less actively worked to undermine each other hoping one would outlast the other. Idzik pretty much alienated everyone in the Jets front office, micromanaging every aspect of the team, and firing good people within the organization. His plan, which was not that dis-similar from the Dolphins current strategy- of tearing down the old and bring in new talent was derailed when Ryan somehow got the team to 8 wins with rookie Geno Smith.

When things fell apart the following year all attention turned to Ryan and he would be the guy fired except Idzik didn’t know how to let things work out on their own. Rather than finding ways to privately kill Ryan he continued to be non-accessible to most and then gave a bizarre statement on the state of the Jets that transferred all the ire of the fanbase from Ryan to him. Both were fired after that season.

You would think the Jets would have learned from that mistake but they went into round two of the independent coach/GM search this time hiring Todd Bowles and Mike Maccagnan within days of each other with each reporting to ownership on their own. While they may have had different visions they at least did not publically snipe at one another. Both, however, were in way over their heads.

Maccagnan in part got the position because of his scouting background and the fact that he seemingly agreed with the ownerships idea that fixing the team meant bringing back some old faces like Darrelle Revis to make people forget that the Idzik years ever happened. For one year it worked as the Jets nearly made the playoffs before midnight struck and the organization turned into a pumpkin.

Maccagnan was arguably the worst general manager to get so many years to fix the Jets since at least the early 90s. He constantly missed on draft picks. He constantly fell back on his “best player available” philosophy rather than taking high valued players at positions you simply don’t find in free agency. His run in free agency was terrible. The team was unprepared and either missed out on players or paid through the nose because they had no feel for the marketplace. Maccagnan was good, however, at working the media and selling his side of the story, a trait that completely escaped Idzik. That saved him for some time even as he and the organization fired coaches and front office staff.

Ownership was apparently blind to all of it when they made the biggest blunder of all- retaining Maccagnan in 2019. While the Jets were a disaster in 2018 there were bright spots. They had another top draft pick. They had a salary cap war chest at their disposal in free agency. They drafted a young quarterback with the third pick. It was the perfect time for a new beginning except ownership made the decision that Bowles would be the fall guy and this Mike would stick it out.

This was just another Jets mess. They began a coaching search that identified Matt Rhule as their top candidate. All things sounded great except Mike and ownership had visions of building a coaching staff independent of Rhule. Rhule backed out and pretty much called out the Jets for blowing it. The Jets and Maccagnan, who was involved with the coaching search, then turned to Adam Gase.

There was no logical reason in the world to hire Gase, whose resume was being the offensive coordinator for Peyton Manning in Denver and then being a one time playoff coach in Miami. The truth was if Gase never matched up against Bowles, who he often beat, and had a fluke win against the Patriots the Jets likely never even considered him. Gase got the job because Manning gave him a ringing endorsement and Manning, like other “consultants” ownership loves, like Charley Casserly and Bill Polian, have their own personal attachments to guys they like. Jets ownership seems blind to it despite every hire being a failure.

That began what was the biggest case of mismanagement if not in NFL history than certainly Jets history. The Jets allowed Maccagnan to spend more money on free agents than anyone else in the NFL and to select a player at the top of the NFL draft. During this time Gase reportedly quietly worked to undermine Maccagnan since the team had the same independent structure. In free agency they signed Maccagnan guys like Henry Anderson and Le’veon Bell while getting Gase guys in CJ Mosley and Jamison Crowder. Still it was an unhappy marriage and they fired Maccagnan letting it officially become Gase’s team. It was quite a rise for Gase, one that probably matched that of formed Jets coach Eric Mangini who went from being fired to running an organization before getting fired again.

Gase has run the organization into the ground. There is nobody on this planet that can watch any Jets game this season and say that Sam Darnold has progressed under Gase. He looks worse than he did as a rookie with Bowles and quite frankly looks like the second worst quarterback in the first round of that draft, ahead of only Josh Rosen. He makes awful decisions with the football and just seems overwhelmed. Maybe Darnold simply doesn’t have it but Gase has done him no favors with his coaching and putting Darnold in a position to succeed. It’s far worse than Ryan’s attempts to develop Mark Sanchez, the Jets last “franchise QB”. Darnold, like Sanchez, doesn’t have a ton of college experience and is incredibly young. Mentally this can be draining and they are breaking him.

Gase had an opportunity with a young QB in Miami and flopped. That was Ryan Tannehill where injury excuses became the norm. Of course he then brought in his guy- Jay Cutler- and shocker of all shockers, he flopped. They brought in players he wanted like Kenny Stills and amazingly the team went nowhere. More often then not they got blown out and were not competitive. He alienated players along the way which seems to be the same thing happening in New York. Yet the Jets hired him anyway.

Injury excuses have crept up everywhere. The Jets injury report this week had like 25 guys on it. The same phrase came out in so many places describing the injuries that it was clearly a leak by the Jets to get sympathy for their plight. The fact is the Jets were not even in the top 10 in salary on injured reserve. The Steelers lost Ben Roethlisberger and are 4-4. The Chiefs won a game without Patrick Mahomes and have missed offensive linemen and receivers at times. The 49ers are undefeated with numerous guys on the shelf. How often do the Patriots do it with guys down?

Yes the Jets are missing a bunch of linebackers. Yes they are down one of their wide receivers. But the facts are so are most teams in the NFL. You learn to deal with these injuries. Is anyone giving the Falcons a pass for injuries?  Are the Redskins getting a pass because Alex Smith suffered a gruesome injury in 2019?  Those coaches were or are going to get fired because they cant work with what they have on the field.

The Jets just have a bad team. They have a bad team because ownership elected to let a guy set the table who had no business being on the team in January and because they hired a coach that needed to go back to being a coordinator to re-assess how to be a head coach in this NFL.

There is no bright spot for the Jets team. The QB looks blah. The high priced running back looks blah because they have no offensive line. They cant cover anyone in the secondary. They have nobody that can rush a passer. They need an entirely new offensive line. Yes all five guys. Its one of the worst rosters in the NFL featuring a few overpriced players and a QB on an affordable contract for two more years.

Older fans like myself often reference the Kotite era when talking about the Jets. Kotite was an inept coach who was a bizarre hire coming off a failure with the Eagles. It was only a two year run in New York but it left such a lasting impact people to this day still talk about it. For younger fans who could not really grasp 1995 and 1996 or were simply not alive then you are now getting your Kotite. Adam Gase is Rich Kotite. It’s playing itself out on the field before your eyes. You have earned your green badge of honor suffering through this kind of season. If you were not here before welcome to Jets hell. You officially get what it means now to be a Jets fan.

It is a near impossible spot for new general manager, Joe Douglas, who got the job in early June. Douglas is the only person within the organization that should be free of most of the blame for this mainly because he had little to do with it. He made a bad decision to sign Ryan Kalil to be the team’s center and may have had a role in the Osemele mess, but otherwise this is on ownership for keeping Maccagnan.

Everything I have heard about Douglas from people I know has been pretty glowing. Would it be nice to have seen him in front of some of this mess the last few weeks?  Yes it would have been, but at the same time I’m not sure what he could say that doesn’t come across as bashing the last GM for the team that he inherited.

Douglas’ biggest challenge is what to do with Gase. Gase and Douglas share the same representation and that was supposedly a big reason why Douglas got the job. This would be an opportunity to have two guys on a similar page for the first time in a decade. Except Gase stinks and has to go. You can’t let Gase go full on Kotite and hit 96. That won’t help Douglas either and hell get a really short least with the fanbase if Gase is here next year and doesn’t start at least 4-3. If he fires Gase ownership has to let him pick his guy not another arranged marriage by the Johnsons.

Challenge number two is going to be what to do in the draft. Douglas did not pick Darnold, though those two also share the same agent. Right now the Jets are slotted for the second overall pick and will have every opportunity to earn the number 1 pick. Do you encourage competition and take a QB if you are bad enough to finish with the top overall pick?  That is probably a fair question. If you are set on Darnold can you turn that high pick into multiple firsts to fix the team?

The team has cap room next year at $62 million and change which will rank 12th in the NFL, but that wont go so far with so many holes on the roster. They also have backed themselves into a corner with the way they have handled this Kelechi Osemele situation when it comes to free agency. Between that and how bad the team is they are going to have to continue to overpay pretty significantly to get people to come to the organization. They have a bad reputation and that doesn’t work in the NFL.

They let their trade talks become public and now have an issue with Jamal Adams that is going to have to be addressed next year. Most likely he will be traded. Adams shares his thoughts on social media and clearly is unhappy with the team. My guess is it will reach a point where they simply have to move him. They reportedly asked for a lot- two first rounder’s was the initial report and now it’s grown into first rounder’s plus established offensive linemen. I don’t think they will get either next year if he begins to ask for a trade.

The Jets have to find a way to fix this mess and fast. You can’t keep selling the fans on no playoffs somehow being a success simply because you stunk so bad the year before that incremental improvement is fine. Going from 4 to 6 wins is not improvement. Douglas is inheriting a mess but by 2021 this has to be a contender. If you stick with Gase it better be in 2020 because what else is he bringing to the team otherwise?

The quickest way for this team to be relevant is to get a new coach who hires his own staff and answers to Douglas that can maybe catch the NFL by surprise. Turn the high draft picks, unless you are taking a QB, into multiple assets and build a real core not of safeties, linebackers, and run stuffing tackles, but of offensive linemen, pass rushers, and cornerbacks. Use whatever cap room you have to put some short term solutions on the field and then be ready to fly by 2021.

The goals for ownership has to be the playoffs sooner rather than later and they have to communicate this with the fans. If they cant get there by 2021 they need a new front office. It doesn’t take that long anymore to be competitive. Whether he sticks with Gase or not or sticks with Darnold or not these are now his decisions. He’s locked into Mosley, Crowder, Bell, Enunwa, and maybe one or two others. Everyone else is on him. But he has to show major improvements to the team in the next two years and ownership has to stay out of his way. Nothing else is acceptable.

It’s a nightmare and it stinks to say that most likely we have to wait to 2021 to see a quality team put on the field but the Jets cant just keep their fingers crossed about 2020 and continue to do more of the same. Its failed all of us for 8 or 9 years now. Nobody deserves another 8 or 9 years of this.