Last week I posted the Realizable Cap Space and True Cap Space of each team in order to show the degree to which each team has already truly committed its 2016 salary cap space. Today I will examine an updated Commitment Index to show the degree to which each team has committed salary cap space to players on its current roster for 2017 and beyond. As a reminder, Commitment Index measures future salary cap commitments – prorated signing bonus amounts and guaranteed base salaries – net of current salary cap space, measured relative to the average net future salary cap commitments of all teams. The premise is that a team can only “mortgage its future” by committing future salary cap space to the extent that it does so to a greater degree than the other teams in the league (thereby leaving it in a disadvantaged position in terms of the ability to use cap space in the future). Scoring highly in Commitment Index is not necessary a bad thing; it depends on the strength of the roster to which the team has committed.
A few notes on this Commitment Index update:
- Cap space is shown as a negative number, and negative cap space is shown as a positive number. This is done to emphasize that cap space nets out against future commitments, as it can be carried forward to nullify future cap commitments. The cap space amounts incorporate unused cap room carried forward from 2015 to 2016.
- The Commitment Index numbers are much more extreme at this point in the league year than at any other time. This is because the average Net Commitment ($17,276,357) for 2017+ is at its lowest possible point, 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.
- The teams with the lowest Commitment Index scores tend to also have the most amount of cap space, so we can expect those teams to incur additional 2017+ cap commitments while eating into currently listed cap space, as they likely will not release many players to gain additional cap space. Conversely, the teams with the highest Commitment Index scores tend to also have the least amount of cap space, so we can expect those teams to release players currently under contract to gain additional cap space before incurring 2017+ cap commitments. As a result, the average Net Commitment will increase, but the team-by-team increases in Net Commitment will tend to skew toward the teams with the lowest Commitment Index scores. The change in Commitment Index score for each team will depend on the specific set of transactions it executes throughout the offseason.
- As the average Net Commitment increases but individual Net Commitment increases skew toward the teams with the Lowest Commitment Index scores, the range of Commitment Index scores will flatten out and more closely resemble the range of Commitment Index scores from previous points in time (such as May 2015, July 2015 and October 2015). This will occur after certain players are released and others are signed during free agency.
- For teams with high Commitment Index scores, there are generally two strategies to rectify the situation and fall back to the pack. The quickest – but most painful – strategy is to dedicate one league year to cleaning up the salary cap balance sheet pursuant to some combination of refraining from spending heavily in free agency, avoiding large extensions, and terminating contracts for which large chunks of cap room can be recovered (and ultimately rolled forward). The downside to this strategy is that improving the roster would be a very difficult task under such parameters. So unless the given team begins with a strong roster, this strategy may result in a punted season. The preferable – but more difficult and drawn out – strategy is to draft more successfully than would typically be expected over the course of several seasons. Teams with a greater number of productive players on rookie contracts have less of a need to sign free agents, and the salary cap consequences of that situation will trickle onward for a number of years.
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