Commitment Index: Eve of Free Agency

As a reminder, Commitment Index measures net future salary cap commitments (prorated signing bonus amounts and guaranteed base salaries net of current salary cap space) relative to the average net future cap commitments of all teams. The three primary concepts are (1) only actual commitments are relevant to evaluating future spending capacity, not scheduled salary cap numbers of existing contracts, (2) committing future salary cap space is only potentially detrimental to the extent the team does not possess at least an equal amount of current salary cap space available to be carried forward to future years to negate the future cap commitments and (3) net future salary cap commitments should be measured on a relative basis because a team only disadvantages itself in terms of future spending capacity to the extent it makes more net future cap commitments than the other teams in the league (if every team “mortgages its future” to the same degree, then no team has really “mortgaged its future” at all).

  • Scoring highly in Commitment Index is not necessary a “bad” situation to be in; it depends in part on the strength of the roster to which the team has committed. The rankings of the teams will change as some teams spend heavily in free agency and others do not. A team with a high Commitment Index Score can rapidly improve its situation relative to the league by deciding not to sign any sizeable free agent contacts. The downside is the opportunity cost of not adding free agent talent.  It will be interesting to observe which teams move up or down the rankings based on free agent signings.
  • These numbers are based on what is included on Over The Cap as of about 11:30 PM on Tuesday March 8. At this point the numbers reflect most of the moves that can be officially executed (cuts, extensions, re-signings, retirements, franchise tags, restricted free agent tenders) but not the moves that cannot yet be officially executed (trades, unrestricted free agent signings of players who have not been cut).
  • Cap space is shown as a negative number. This is done to emphasize that cap space nets out against future commitments, as it can be carried forward to nullify future cap amounts. Teams with a negative Net Commitment have more current salary cap space than total future salary cap commitments.
  • The Commitment Index scores are much more extreme at this point in the league year than at any other time. This is because the average Net Commitment ($19,212,598) for 2017+ is at its lowest possible point (cap space has been created through releases, but future cap commitments have not yet been incurred on free agents), so any deviation above or below the average is much more pronounced from a relative perspective. For the sake of comparison, the average Net Commitment for 2016+ as of October 2015 was $78,079,278. As teams spend in free agency, the average Net Commitment will increase and the Commitment Index scores will compress on both extremes. As a result, at this point the Net Commitment may be more relevant to refer to than the Commitment Index score.
    • I have included a comparison to the Commitment Index scores from January. Teams that have made large movements up or down have done so because either (i) they created salary cap space by releasing players, (ii) they signed players to extensions involving future salary cap commitments or (iii) players already under contract had future salary guarantees vest. Every team saw its score change at least a little bit because every transaction executed by any team in the league effects the relative position of every team in the league.
    TeamProrationGuaranteesCap SpaceNet CommitmentIndexJan.
    BAL95,687,6922,844,759(3,912,844) 94,619,607 492%358%
    PHI61,217,68335,173,488(15,906,440) 80,484,731 419%65%
    DAL70,400,57516,476,625(8,381,213) 78,495,987 409%388%
    BUF63,568,91116,138,491(9,028,849) 70,678,553 368%385%
    MIA56,322,22718,396,267(17,224,938) 57,493,556 299%321%
    PIT58,889,8444,092,128(10,125,226) 52,856,746 275%306%
    KC54,512,5729,798,220(18,174,124) 46,136,668 240%122%
    CAR65,974,6911,235,794(21,928,631) 45,281,854 236%265%
    NO43,225,3135,378,913(8,514,419) 40,089,807 209%310%
    ATL37,580,14818,324,756(24,031,814) 31,873,090 166%186%
    WAS45,888,3266,191,735(21,139,187) 30,940,874 161%250%
    ARI44,669,6751,245,192(15,685,151) 30,229,716 157%149%
    GB47,518,8891,933,146(19,292,706) 30,159,329 157%110%
    SEA45,741,148(17,246,519) 28,494,629 148%110%
    NYJ21,721,05212,692,007(6,663,256) 27,749,803 144%133%
    NE37,938,5181,127,112(11,677,299) 27,388,331 143%207%
    DEN28,423,99810,763,990(18,471,446) 20,716,542 108%33%
    SD39,800,1666,294,945(32,076,366) 14,018,745 73%155%
    HOU33,545,21917,111,182(41,088,102) 9,568,299 50%69%
    IND25,863,1431,174,582(18,797,793) 8,239,932 43%21%
    MIN21,271,0135,969,662(30,153,826) (2,913,151)-15%29%
    DET28,125,6353,302,633(34,500,489) (3,072,221)-16%104%
    CLE28,522,81510,007,725(43,923,387) (5,392,847)-28%34%
    CIN29,296,0702,392,790(38,051,207) (6,362,347)-33%-28%
    TEN29,780,5718,359,313(47,789,705) (9,649,821)-50%-3%
    NYG38,896,3966,579,872(55,996,325) (10,520,057)-55%37%
    LA16,745,3989,136,257(44,065,924) (18,184,269)-95%-29%
    TB14,613,15722,776,265(55,607,221) (18,217,799)-95%-137%
    CHI15,647,2156,375,284(46,017,856) (23,995,357)-125%-160%
    SF33,315,6213,106,960(61,688,487) (25,265,906)-132%-83%
    OAK16,776,1229,378,528(59,444,722) (33,290,072)-173%-259%
    JAX18,382,8359,445,255(81,677,893) (53,849,803)-280%-248%

    Bryce Johnston is the creator of Commitment Index and the co-creator of Expected Contract Value.  Bryce earned his Juris Doctor, magna cum laude, from Georgetown University Law Center in May 2014, and currently works as a corporate associate in the New York City office of an AmLaw 50 law firm. Before becoming a contributor to, Bryce operated for 10 NFL offseasons, appearing multiple times on 610 WIP Sports Radio in Philadelphia as an NFL salary cap expert. Bryce can be contacted via e-mail at or via Twitter @NFLCapAnalytics.