Free Agency AfterMath: Running Backs

The chart below compares the Expected Contract Value with the stated contract value for each contract of $10 million or more signed during the 2016 offseason. Expected Contract Value 1.1 is applied at the time of signing. Expected Contract Value 1.1 takes into account the nature and timing of contract amounts, the resulting relationship between dead money and APY in each year of the contract, the length of the contract, and the position and age of the player. Expected Contract Value 1.1 is therefore a performance-neutral measurement of expected contract earnings. As a result, the primary way a player can exceed or fall short of his Expected Contract Value is to perform better or worse than the performance expectations implied by his contract.

PlayerTeamStated Contract ValueLengthExpected Contract Value% Expected to be Earned
Doug MartinTB$35,750,0005$23,333,57965%
Lamar MillerHOU$26,000,0004$20,284,37278%
Chris IvoryJAX$32,000,0005$18,741,48559%
DeMarco MurrayTEN$25,500,0004$17,339,37368%
C.J. AndersonDEN$18,000,0004$12,618,53176%
Matt ForteNYJ$12,000,0003$9,316,21378%
Bilal PowellNYJ$11,250,0003$7,961,73671%
Total$160,500,000 $109,595,28968%

Prior to being traded, DeMarco Murray was scheduled to earn $31 million over the next four seasons, including $9 million in fully guaranteed money. After renegotiating his contract, Murray is now scheduled to earn $25.5 million over the next four seasons, including $12 million in fully guaranteed money. Expected Contract Value forecasts that Murray now has a slightly higher probability of remaining under contract for 2017 and 2018 than he did with the Eagles prior to the trade, but this improved probability is more than offset by the amount of money removed from the contract. Expected Contract Value forecasts that Murray is still in a worse position than if he had been traded without restructuring his contract (leaving the contract amounts alone but removing some of the dead money protection).   His ECV prior to the trade was $18.588 million, and his ECV if the trade had taken place without the restructure would have been $18.381 million.

Both Doug Martin and Lamar Miller received two fully guaranteed contract seasons ($15 million in the case of Martin, $14 million in the case of Miller), followed by multiple team options (three in the case of Martin, two in the case of Miller). Under these contract structures, the teams possess all of the optionality, none of the risk, and any potential surplus value beyond the amounts of the base salaries. The players correspondingly possess no optionality, all of the risk, and no upside beyond the amounts of the base salaries. In order to secure the value associated with this favorable position beyond 2017, the teams presumably had to pay for it in 2016-2017. In order to determine the price the teams paid, we must ask the following question: If either player had instead requested a contract of only two contract seasons in length, but still fully guaranteed for those two contract seasons, how much less would the teams have been willing to offer for 2016-2017? It would be interesting to know if either player approached the contract negotiation with these considerations in mind.

Matt Forte should have theoretically had less negotiating leverage than Martin or Miller, given his age and generally declining production. Yet somehow Forte only surrendered one team option season following his two fully guaranteed contract seasons, as compared to three for Martin and two for Miller. Forte received $9 million fully guaranteed, as compared to $15 million for Martin and $14 million for Miller. If all three players were considered equally talented and likely to provide value going forward, we might say that Tamp Bay paid $6 million for its team options in 2018-2019 and that Houston paid $5 million for its team option in 2018. But considering that Martin and Miller were considered more valuable free agents, it seems probable that most of that difference in money for 2016-2017 is attributable to on-field value. It seems to me that either Martin/Miller casually agreed to unnecessary team option years, or that the Jets failed to demand the appropriate number of team option years from Forte. More likely, both possibilities are true to at least some extent.

Doug Martin
Stated Value: $35,750,000
YearSalaryExpected OutcomeExpected ValueGuaranteed
Expected Contract Value:$23,333,579 (65%)
Lamar Miller
Stated Value: $26,000,000
YearSalaryExpected OutcomeExpected ValueGuaranteed
Expected Contract Value:$20,284,372 (78%)
Chris Ivory
Stated Value: $32,000,000
YearSalaryExpected OutcomeExpected ValueGuaranteed
Expected Contract Value:$18,741,485 (59%)
DeMarco Murray
Stated Value: $25,500,000
YearSalaryExpected OutcomeExpected ValueGuaranteed
Expected Contract Value:$17,339,373 (68%)
C.J. Anderson
Stated Value: $18,000,000
YearSalaryExpected OutcomeExpected ValueGuaranteed
Expected Contract Value:$13,618,531
Matt Forte
Stated Value: $12,000,000
YearSalaryExpected OutcomeExpected ValueGuaranteed
Expected Contract Value:$9,316,213 (78%)
Bilal Powell
Stated Value: $11,250,000
YearSalaryExpected OutcomeExpected ValueGuaranteed
Expected Contract Value:$7,961,736 (71%)

Expected Contract Value was created by Bryce Johnston and Nick Barton.

Bryce Johnston earned his Juris Doctor from Georgetown University Law Center in May 2014, and currently works as a corporate M&A 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.

Nick Barton is  a junior at the McDonough School Business at  Georgetown University.  He is majoring in Finance and Operations and Information Management. Nick currently interns with an NFL team . His prior work experience includes interning with CollegeSplits and Dynamic Sports Solutions, and working as a research assistant for the Center of Applied Research of the Apostolate.