Introducing Commitment Index – Part 3

Introducing Commitment Index

Part 3:  Measuring the Mortgage

Part 1: The “Mortgaging the Future” Assertion

Part 2: The Trough Model and the Folly of “Matching Cash With Cap”

In Part 1, I explained that the concept of a team “mortgaging its future” only matters to the degree that the team has mortgaged its future relative to the other teams in the league. As a result, the Mortgaging the Future Assertion should not be used in a vacuum with respect to a given transaction, but rather within the context of the position on the mortgage continuum on which every team in the league sits at that point in time.

In Part 2, I explained that the trough-like nature of the NFL salary cap dictates that the most common way in which teams supposedly mortgage their future – by incurring cap debt upon the proration of signing bonuses – does not actually lead to any mortgaging of the future if the team has enough cap space in the present year to avoid cap debt by earmarking cap space to be rolled forward. However, a team may consciously decide to incur cap debt, and therefore mortgage its future relative to the other teams in the league, for entirely rational reasons. Today, I will identify the degree to which each team has decided to do that relative to all of the other teams in the league.

In order to “measure the mortgage” for each team, I first calculated the total amount of future signing bonus proration that each team is accountable for in all future years (i.e. 2016 and beyond). For all of the reasons I have previously enumerated, I then subtracted from that number the amount of cap space that each team currently has in 2015. The resulting number for each team represents that team’s cap debt.  The following numbers are recorded as of immediately following the draft (excluding any draft pick contracts), but include the transactions related to Whitney Mercilus, James Jones, Kamerion Wimbley, and Ryan Tannehill.

 Team Mortgage Cap Space Cap Debt Jacksonville Jaguars \$19,138,150 \$(39,128,154) \$(19,990,004) Tampa Bay Buccaneers \$11,289,128 \$(25,910,618) \$(14,621,490) Oakland Raiders \$15,941,027 \$(23,623,642) \$(7,682,615) Indianapolis Colts \$18,121,876 \$(10,425,210) \$7,696,666 Cincinnati Bengals \$29,558,544 \$(19,278,949) \$10,279,595 Chicago Bears \$23,424,038 \$(11,115,272) \$12,308,766 Cleveland Browns \$40,023,224 \$(26,309,148) \$13,714,076 Minnesota Vikings \$25,888,916 \$(11,726,492) \$14,162,424 New York Jets \$28,605,898 \$(10,355,039) \$18,250,859 St. Louis Rams \$27,167,705 \$(8,755,206) \$18,412,499 San Diego Chargers \$35,729,586 \$(15,700,332) \$20,029,254 Tennessee Titans \$45,036,701 \$(24,227,273) \$20,809,428 Washington Redskins \$30,803,378 \$(6,505,142) \$24,298,236 Seattle Seahawks \$35,223,040 \$(10,854,278) \$24,368,762 Denver Broncos \$31,980,264 \$(7,060,118) \$24,920,146 Philadelphia Eagles \$37,233,597 \$(9,633,625) \$27,599,972 New York Giants \$36,614,385 \$(6,972,313) \$29,642,072 Carolina Panthers \$44,204,313 \$(9,124,248) \$35,080,065 Detroit Lions \$47,853,136 \$(4,725,692) \$43,127,444 Atlanta Falcons \$62,748,313 \$(19,587,565) \$43,160,748 San Francisco 49ers \$50,374,020 \$(6,313,247) \$44,060,773 Houston Texans \$55,601,570 \$(9,144,849) \$46,456,721 Green Bay Packers \$63,259,134 \$(16,528,182) \$46,730,952 Kansas City Chiefs \$50,705,952 \$(2,487,991) \$48,217,961 New England Patriots \$59,273,415 \$(5,910,487) \$53,362,928 Miami Dolphins \$65,400,713 \$(9,272,862) \$56,127,851 Arizona Cardinals \$71,232,951 \$(9,112,981) \$62,119,970 Pittsburgh Steelers \$74,676,667 \$(9,183,051) \$65,493,616 New Orleans Saints \$69,967,987 \$(3,904,372) \$66,063,615 Buffalo Bills \$74,511,837 \$(6,924,045) \$67,587,792 Dallas Cowboys \$81,964,436 \$(12,290,324) \$69,674,112 Baltimore Ravens \$82,802,900 \$(10,443,490) \$72,359,410

However, cap debt is not the only type of future cap commitment that can mortgage a team’s future. The other type is future fully guaranteed base salary (or roster bonus, used here interchangeably). As was identified in Part 1, commitment of future cap dollars may lead to decreased roster talent if the players receiving the guarantees turn out to be unproductive, as the team will have less flexibility to make changes. As a result, the next step is to add future fully guaranteed base salary to cap debt. The results are as follows:

 Team Cap Debt Guarantees Commitments Tampa Bay Buccaneers \$(14,621,490) \$10,165,342 \$(4,456,148) Oakland Raiders \$(7,682,615) \$12,443,728 \$4,761,113 Cincinnati Bengals \$10,279,595 \$1,910,764 \$12,190,359 Indianapolis Colts \$7,696,666 \$5,500,000 \$13,196,666 Jacksonville Jaguars \$(19,990,004) \$34,080,402 \$14,090,398 Seattle Seahawks \$24,368,762 \$0 \$24,368,762 Minnesota Vikings \$14,162,424 \$10,428,952 \$24,591,376 Tennessee Titans \$20,809,428 \$5,125,230 \$25,934,658 Denver Broncos \$24,920,146 \$1,052,048 \$25,972,194 Cleveland Browns \$13,714,076 \$13,391,385 \$27,105,461 Chicago Bears \$12,308,766 \$17,541,590 \$29,850,356 Washington Redskins \$24,298,236 \$8,000,000 \$32,298,236 St. Louis Rams \$18,412,499 \$14,639,060 \$33,051,559 San Diego Chargers \$20,029,254 \$16,347,067 \$36,376,321 New York Giants \$29,642,072 \$7,012,352 \$36,654,424 Carolina Panthers \$35,080,065 \$2,831,454 \$37,911,519 San Francisco 49ers \$44,060,773 \$2,628,061 \$46,688,834 Atlanta Falcons \$43,160,748 \$4,873,977 \$48,034,725 Green Bay Packers \$46,730,952 \$1,956,580 \$48,687,532 Detroit Lions \$43,127,444 \$6,564,510 \$49,691,954 Philadelphia Eagles \$27,599,972 \$27,629,010 \$55,228,982 New England Patriots \$53,362,928 \$5,583,959 \$58,946,887 Houston Texans \$46,456,721 \$19,419,872 \$65,876,593 New York Jets \$18,250,859 \$49,237,195 \$67,488,054 Pittsburgh Steelers \$65,493,616 \$4,592,845 \$70,086,461 Dallas Cowboys \$69,674,112 \$3,358,135 \$73,032,247 Arizona Cardinals \$62,119,970 \$12,795,836 \$74,915,806 New Orleans Saints \$66,063,615 \$9,522,313 \$75,585,928 Kansas City Chiefs \$48,217,961 \$27,686,700 \$75,904,661 Baltimore Ravens \$72,359,410 \$9,837,275 \$82,196,685 Buffalo Bills \$67,587,792 \$18,487,451 \$86,075,243 Miami Dolphins \$56,127,851 \$45,565,545 \$101,693,396

In order to arrive at Commitment Index, I then found the average Commitments across the 32 teams, and then divided each team’s individual Commitments by this average. The resulting output displays each team’s degree of future cap commitment as a percentage of the average of all teams. Displaying the outcome as an index is appropriate because it emphasizes that the important consideration is where each team stands in terms of future cap commitment relative to all of the other teams in the league. The results are as follows:

 Team Commitment Index Tampa Bay Buccaneers No Commitment Oakland Raiders 10% Cincinnati Bengals 27% Jacksonville Jaguars 28% Indianapolis Colts 29% Denver Broncos 52% Seattle Seahawks 54% Minnesota Vikings 54% Tennessee Titans 57% Cleveland Browns 60% Chicago Bears 66% Washington Redskins 71% St. Louis Rams 73% San Diego Chargers 81% New York Giants 81% Carolina Panthers 84% San Francisco 49ers 103% Green Bay Packers 107% Atlanta Falcons 111% Detroit Lions 115% Philadelphia Eagles 119% New England Patriots 125% Houston Texans 145% New York Jets 149% Pittsburgh Steelers 154% Dallas Cowboys 160% Arizona Cardinals 165% New Orleans Saints 167% Kansas City Chiefs 167% Baltimore Ravens 181% Buffalo Bills 190% Miami Dolphins 224%

In other words, the Miami Dolphins have committed more than twice as much of their future cap space as the average team, and the Cincinnati Bengals have only committed approximately one quarter as much of their future cap space as the average team.

It is important to keep in mind what information Commitment Index conveys and what information Commitment Index does not convey. Commitment Index does not declare which teams are in the “best” or “worst” cap situation. Commitment Index does not account for the number or quality of future draft picks that each team currently possesses. Commitment Index does not attempt to quantify the amount of talent, or the average age, of the specific players that each team has signed under contract for future years.

Commitment Index does, however, identify how much flexibility each team has with respect to its salary cap. We cannot predict how well each team will draft in the future. We cannot predict how lucky or unlucky each team will be with respect to injuries in the future. We cannot predict how quickly the players on each team will decline in production in the future, or whether the players will even remain on their current teams as they reach free agency. And we may not even be able to accurately quantify how much talent each team currently possesses. But, we can assume that a team with more flexibility will be better equipped to deal with unfavorable outcomes in the aforementioned categories than a team with less flexibility.

A team with a very high Commitment Index is not necessarily in a bad situation; as long as it chose to commit to the right players and gets some lucky breaks along the way. A team with a very low Commitment Index is not necessarily in a good situation; it might be a sign that the team has no players worth committing to. But if injuries and age and unlucky bounces and draft randomness persistently work to erode competitive advantages and cause all teams to regress to the mean, then a team would be well served by maintaining more flexibility than its competitors to deal with such challenges.

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 overthecap.com, Bryce operated eaglescap.com 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 bryce.l.johnston@gmail.com or via Twitter @NFLCapAnalytics.

• Tyler Ferree

I think it would be interesting to see the results of recalculating the commitment table without Tampa, Oakland, and Miami since they are all so far seperated that i would consider them outlier data points. Tampa and Oakland is due to their refusal to use Signing bonuses while Miami is going out of its way to push charges into the future to keep their current cap managable.

• I just ran the numbers. Given the data used on the charts above excluding Tampa Bay, Oakland and Miami really doesn’t change much.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
-9.6% (No Commitment)

Oakland
Raiders
10.2%

Cincinnati
Bengals
26.1%

Indianapolis
Colts
28.3%

Jacksonville
Jaguars
30.2%

Seattle
Seahawks
52.3%

Minnesota
Vikings
52.7%

Tennessee
Titans
55.6%

Denver
Broncos
55.7%

Cleveland
Browns
58.1%

Chicago
Bears
64.0%

Washington
Redskins
69.3%

St. Louis
Rams
70.9%

San Diego
Chargers
78.0%

New York
Giants
78.6%

Carolina
Panthers
81.3%

San
Francisco 49ers
100.1%

Atlanta
Falcons
103.0%

Green Bay
Packers
104.4%

Detroit
Lions
106.6%

Eagles
118.5%

New
England Patriots
126.4%

Houston
Texans
141.3%

New York
Jets
144.8%

Pittsburgh
Steelers
150.3%

Dallas
Cowboys
156.6%

Arizona
Cardinals
160.7%

New
Orleans Saints
162.1%

Kansas
City Chiefs
162.8%

Baltimore
Ravens
176.3%

Buffalo
Bills
184.6%

Miami
Dolphins
218.1%

This is assuming the correct method of calculation was to take the average minus the outliers and then find the percent of that new average for each team. I also provided a decimal point.

The drop in Miami’s percent also indicates that the teams on the bottom were having more of an effect than Miami did at the top. Which is hidden in the main chart by having Tampa Bay listed as No commitment rather than -10% (-9.8% by my calculation).

• theowl

It is interesting to me where the teams without a quarterback in a second contract are on this table. Not just the Dolphins (Tannehill’s new contract not included) are an extreme, but the Bills as well. Most of the teams with low percentages on the index table have inexpensive quarterbacks, except of course the Bengals and the Broncos with little commitment to Peyton Manning. The Bears are quite flexible despite the Cutler’s contract. We could call this the Yoga Index.