Comparing Contracts: How Dolphins can Land Suh over Raiders

Thursday night during my weekly salary cap Q&A on Twitter I started getting a great deal of questions about the rumors about Ndamukong Suh signing with the Dolphins. The basic questions centered around how could a team like the Dolphins, who are cap strapped, compete with a team like the Raiders who will have $70 million in cap room by the time free agency begins. So let’s expand on this and show the ways Miami can create a stronger contract for Suh to consider.

Now for this exercise I will base everything on a 6 year $100M deal for Suh.  The cash flows would closely mimic those of JJ Watt with slightly more going to Suh over the first three years than Watt received.

The major difference between the two organizations at the moment is their approach to contract structuring, something the Dolphins will try to exploit. The Dolphins are now run by Mike Tannenbaum who will be willing to use both the signing bonus and option bonus mechanisms to work a player into the salary cap as evidenced by his time on the Jets.

The Raider’s Reggie McKenzie has been essentially opposed to using any prorated contract mechanisms. The only value player last year where the team prorated significant money was for tackle/guard Austin Howard and that was most likely caused by a clerical error than being intentional.  This is something the Dolphins will try to exploit.

In my proposed contract with the Dolphins Suh will receive a $32 million signing bonus and $1 million base salary for a first year salary of $33 million. In year two Suh would receive a $6 million option bonus and $5 million salary. The first two years would be fully guaranteed and figure year 3 is injury guaranteed. Here is how the contract would look:

YearBaseSBOBCapDeadSavingsRun. Cash

Our contract gives the Dolphins two years of virtual cap relief on the contract with just $20 million to be accounted for in 2015 and 2016. This gives the Dolphins time to get their roster in order, dead weight off the books, and be helped by a rising salary cap before Suh’s contract becomes a burden.

The Raiders would be unable to match the first years cash flow using their traditional model, due a small rule known as the 50% rule that will cause large differentials in first and second year salary to be treated as a signing bonus. Without moving off their preferred structure, Oakland would need to offer more money to Suh in the first two years of his contract than Miami (nearly $50 million total) which would seem excessive for any player. Here is how the Raiders would be able to most closely match the cash flow of the contract:

YearBaseSBOBCapDeadSavingsRun. Cash

Oakland would essentially eat up half their cap in one year on Suh, which isn’t unreasonable. The Raiders simply have to convince Suh that the one year less in upfront cash is fair. The team can combat this a bit by turning a majority of his 2016 base into a roster bonus paid in March  to try to improve on the timing of payments compared to Miami’s.

But in looking at the two contract’s the important thing to consider is what happens for Suh after the guarantees in the contract run out? We can turn to the Expected Contract Value metric to try to put the two offers more in context:


In this valuation the Dolphins offer would be expected to earn the player about $2.5M more than the Raiders one. This is mainly due to the likelihood of Suh seeing the 3rd and 4th contract years being greater with Miami (89% and 65.8%) than Oakland (77.3% and 58.1%).

That outcome should also change even more in the Dolphins favor if they either give him a larger option bonus but smaller base in year 2 or restructure his contract in 2017 for further cap relief. Neither of those, specifically the restructure, is remotely likely in Oakland.

What this means is that if Oakland doesn’t come off their standard contract they will likely need to beat the Dolphins four year cash offer by somewhere between $3 and 4 million to actually have the earning power of the player remain the same. If we begin to factor in things like state taxes it may be even more.

None of this means the Raiders don’t have a shot unless they change their contract approach and we are certainly making many assumptions on contract structure, but this illustrates the why and how a team with such limited cap space can compete on equal footing in a competitive market with a team with huge cap room.  We’ll see how things play out next week but Miami will need to employ a very player favorable structure to make this work in their favor.

  • buk

    13% California state tax vs 0% in South Beach. If i’m Suh and the money is close I chose Miami over Jags or Raiders.

    • Dan Kunze


    • Mikey NYK


    • McGeorge

      But buk, the Jags and Raiders are such good franchises

      I’d rather play for Miami too!

      I’m ok with Suh playing for the Dolphins provided they don’t make the playoffs :-)

      • King Booba Jooba

        Raiders have more Super Bowl wins then both those teams combined. I’d say the Raiders are the better franchise

        • Lucas Daniel Uribe

          Exactly, you think Reggie & Mark invite former Raiders ie, Howie Long? We are a few years away from Super Bowl contention IMO. #SuhToOakland

        • The Goat

          Really? You’re gonna try to play that game? Because the Raiders have three SB wins and the Dolphins have two? Nice way to put an expansion team in there to make it look more interesting. Let’s try it this way: The Dolphins have more Super Bowl appearances than the Raiders, Texans, Jaguars, Lions, and Browns combined.

          None of the Dolphins, Raiders or Jaguars are elite teams right now, but lets start looking at the fact that the Raiders have finished with an average of just over FOUR WINS A YEAR for the past twelve years before we start doing the “the Raiders are the better franchise” than any team in the NFL. Geez. At least the Fins have been competing for the playoffs the past couple years.

          • King Booba Jooba

            The Raiders have been to 5 Super Bowls you dumb tuna fan, that’s the same amount as the dolphins have except the difference is the Raiders have a winning record in the Super Bowl while the tuna fish have a losing record. Raiders also have more players in the HOF. And the Dolphins need to at least make a Super Bowl sometime this century, last time they were relevant Regan was in office LMAO.

          • Guest

            Oh! Right. I forgot about Super Bpwl ii, and the beating the Raiders took from Green Bay. My apologies. It still doesn’t change the nonsense that you tried to pass off as a convincing argument, Here we go: “The Dolphins have AS MANY Super Bowl appearances as the Raiders, Texans, Jaguars, Lions, and Browns combined.”

          • The Goat

            Oh! Right. I forgot about Super Bowl II, and the beating the Raiders took from Green Bay. My apologies. It still doesn’t change the nonsense that you tried to pass off as a convincing argument, Here we go: “The Dolphins have AS MANY Super Bowl appearances as the Raiders, Texans, Jaguars, Lions, and Browns combined.” And since you brought up ANOTHER weird point, the Hall of Famers, let’s look at that 12 to 9? Well gosh, Pirate Boy, I’m just not going to lose any sleep about only NINE Hall of Famers. Most of whom, by the way, were on the one thing this franchise has that none other has, including your beloved Raiders…perfection. Let’s also look at franchise winning percentages: The Fins are fourth all-time in winning percentage. The Raiders USED to be way up there, didn’t they? But that “20th century relevance” has them plummeting. What are they now, Eighth? Ninth? Tenth? To think that the Raiders is “a lot better” franchise isn’t just laughable…it’s sad. They dropped like a rock since their 2002 postseason “appearance” in the Super Bowl. And…let’s talk about that. You want to talk about something being “taken away?” The most memorable thing about that team is that the another group of pirates, the Bucs, stole YOUR OWN COACH from you, and then flat embarrassed your team with him. Congratulations on that bit of “relevance.” Al Davis may have been crazy, but he at least kept the team interesting. Well…to be fair…I guess we could call the JaMarcus Russell train wreck “interesting.” So, sorry about the Suh signing; now you can turn around and say that the Fins overpaid, or whatever. Congratulations on the Roy Helu signing. At least someone still believes.

          • King Booba Jooba

            It wasn’t nearly as bad as the beating the niners gave the tuna fish in 85 lol & the dolphins were favored to win that game, the Raiders lost to the Packers who everybody expected to win so you fail. Whats funny is i’m not even a Raiders fan i’m a Dolphin hater & oh congratulations on getting a player for 114 mill who is gonna get you more 15 yard penalties then wins, and put you in cap hell for the next 5 years lol. And since you want to talk all time winning percentage yea the Raiders have been losing the last decade & in all that time they have been losing what have the dolphins done? Yea that’s right NOTHING the fish still have not even came close to a Super Bowl lol. Unless you count the movie Ace Ventura as a Super Bowl appearance lol. And you want to bring up players lmao lets take a look at Sticky Icky Ricky who would rather smoke then be a millionaire & play for the dolphins, or Mike Wallace who wanted out so bad he quit on you losers lol. But hey you always have that old perfect record to brag about even though nobody respects it

    • David Powell

      State tax for professional athletes isn’t that cut and dry. They must file in every state where they play a game.

  • jtr

    Great post, this is another one of those subtle cap things that you don’t hear about other places. If I were Suh I would be looking carefully at that “Savings” column and think about what that means for staying under contract. On the Dolphins model, Suh is totally uncuttable until 2018, and even then, Miami will stick with him so long as they think they can get $2.7M worth of production out of him that season, which seems like a certainty unless he goes full Haynesworth.
    Meanwhile, in the Oakland contract, he isn’t protected by dead money at all after 2016, so starting 2017, Oakland can decide year-by-year if he’s going to be worth his whole salary that season. So in 2017, they need to think Suh will be worth $10.5M to hang on to him and in 2018 they need to think he’ll be worth $11.5M. Already, in the third year of the deal, they can think about cutting him or pressuring him to take a pay cut.
    So in Miami, Suh would essentially be guaranteed 4 of the 6 years of the contract, whereas Oakland would be year-by-year after the second season. Seems like a no-brainer to go with the Dolphins in that case.

    Then again, this whole thing is assuming the Raiders will refuse to give a signing bonus. It could just be that McKenzie has been avoiding future commitments during the rebuild in order to maintain flexibility to land a big fish like this one. Sure looks like they can’t compete for Suh without offering serious guarantees.

    • Kyle Ferguson

      Ya that seems crazy that a proposed contract would have 4 out of the 6 years with 0 dead money. The Dolphins contract is an easy. Then again, Suh isn’t just ANY free agent, so McKenzie would probably give him some type of signing or option bonus.

      • moore2come

        …unless that bonus is playing for his position coach Jim Washburn he ain’t leaving Detroit for the same money elsewhere.

  • King Booba Jooba

    You mean the same mike tannenbaum who got ran out of New York lol

  • Frank Fowler

    I’m not sure who will sign Suh.But I do know after it is all said and done the Raiders will be made fun of no matter how it turns out.If they sign him, they overpaid, if they don’t, they missed out on a legend.It is always damned if you do, damned if you don’t with the Raiders.

    These contracts look great and pretty close, and I think your right about how each team will write up the contracts.But ultimately it is a question of how much is Suh really worth to each team?Last year we didn’t see the Raiders go after the big names cause honestly there wasn’t a Suh amoung them.I highly doubt the Raiders will go crazy with the contract, but rarely does a player like Suh hit the open market.So overpaying now to get him is better than losing out on someone who will change your defense greatly.

  • Nick Marchese

    If I’m Suh, the Dolphins have a competitive team that took his beloved Lions to the wire WITHOUT HIM. The Raiders flat out stink and most that sign there are never heard from again. They are not on a path of success, the Raiders are another coach, decade, and a few number one picks from being relevant. Between the talent, the beach, the taxes, and which way the arrow is pointing…Miami is the best spot for Suh to land…and maybe some free agents that want to win will go to Miami as well…

    • moore2come

      …If coach Washburn were in the deal Suh wouldn’t hesitate to follow him to Miami. But he isn’t. Jim Washburn is the best DL coach in the NFL. He’s Suh’s ticket to the HOF and that’s good for his brand for the long-term. None of this is lost on Suh or Jimmy Sexton.

      • Nick Marchese

        Every D line coach is the best in the league with Suh on it. Miami has a really good line, so I will assume their D line coach is pretty good at what he does as well. Let’s just get Suh to declare he is going to Miami so the speculation can end and Miami can get on with other signings they need to make.

    • King Booba Jooba

      And the fish are relevant? Lol according to who? What have the dolphins done the last decade besides become the Patriots bitches

      • Nick Marchese

        Hmmm let’s see clueless…the Dolphins are the only other team other than the Patriots to win the AFC East in the past decade…get back to me after you Google clueless one…smh…

        • King Booba Jooba

          Ohh they won the AFC East one time & yet they still haven’t won a playoff game lol what greatness. Hell even the Jets have won more playoff games then the tuna fish have lol, get back to me when your team is relevant again loser.

          • Nick Marchese

            I’m sorry, did you order the EatADick sandwich? You just got schooled son…go play with someone that doesn’t have a clue…you’re in over your head here.

          • King Booba Jooba

            I’m in over my head yet i just owned you with facts lol, it’s ok if you need to cry i hear it helps the pain, & you failed when you said EatADick sandwich nobody wants nor cares to hear about your disturbing fantasies. Leave that for your boyfriend ;)

          • Nick Marchese

            Obviously you have trouble accepting when you’ve been beaten like a red headed step child with actual facts and not the proclamation of them…google that while I drop the mic and leave the stage…#EatABagOfDicksYouLonelyLoser

          • King Booba Jooba

            Lol i mean you can keep telling yourself that if it helps you feel better about your miserable life & helps you sleep better at night. Fact is i owned you because you have yet to say anything relevant to the facts i presented you with. It’s obviously because you know i’m right & the truth hurts lil guys like you lol. And again more of your disturbing fantasies about dicks lol is there something you need to tell us lil nicky? And did you really say “drops mic”? HAHAHAHA you’re such a white inbred failure typical dolphin fan

  • Deion Higginbotham

    I think people forgetting suh wants to play close to home he will take the money but he does want to be closer to home. And come on now Miami soft ass team with coach philbin or raiders up and coming with Del Rio and Kahlil mack

    • moore2come

      …most of you are unaware that he loves playing for Jim Washburn more than any other reason you can come up with…and yes, even an extra million or two a year won’t make him walk away from his ticket to the HOF. No coach can get more out of Suh than coach Wash. No coach could make it more enjoyable and fun for him. Suh is the first to admit that.

  • moore2come

    …don’t underestimate Suh’s relationship with his position coach, Jim Washburn…Rogers is to Cobb as Washburn is to Suh. Detroit will match anything Miami can dream up. Suh will stick with coach Wash to guarantee his place in the HOF. Plus, the Lions are much closer to making a deep run in the playoffs than the Phins. I can’t imagine Suh choosing Miami over Detroit. But it’s OK to dream big Phins phans.