I wanted to introduce a new feature at OTC which well be looking to make live in the future called the contract utilization index. The CUI is a simple metric that looks at playing time for a player and uses that playing time to adjust a player’s annual contract value accordingly. While this doesn’t necessarily tell us about the players level of play it does identify if the teams most expensive players are seeing the field or if there are a lot of wasted dollars on the bench. Basically it helps see if teams are getting good or poor basic returns on their investment.
Now wasted dollars doesn’t necessarily mean that the player is playing poorly, in many cases it means a player is injured. For example Aaron Rodgers has missed most of the season and his adjusted APY would be very low. While not his fault the team has received a poor ROI on Rodgers because he was injured. On the other hand someone like Mike Glennon is a poor ROI because he performed poorly and was relegated to the bench despite a massive price tag.
The formula we are using is simple. Multiply a player’s contract APY by his offensive or defensive playtime to gain his basic utilized APY. We do the same for special teams and add 18% of that figure as a “bonus” to get the final utilized APY (the 18% is a rough estimate of the amount of special teams plays for a team). The lone exception to the formula is field goal kickers, punters, and long snappers who are simply assigned their special teams utilization at 100%.
The CUI for a team is then calculated by summing up the entire team utilized APY and dividing it by the entire team’s actual APY. Since this is a snapshot in time it is not taking into account released players so teams constantly churning their roster are going to be more negatively impacted than a team that does not make many in season moves.
So a few highlights
The Steelers topped the list with a 0.702 CUI, which basically means they are using 70% of the team APY which is considerably higher than the NFL average of 0.6. A big reason for this is the fact that they have been relatively healthy and they have their big ticket players (Roethlisberger, Brown, and Bell) always on the field.
The Rams at second surprised me since they have one of the biggest flops in the NFL with Tavon Austin. Austin’s utilization APY is under $2M despite the $10.5M a year contract. Give the Rams credit for admitting a mistake here, but having money invested in positions that traditionally play a lot of snaps has paid off and helped them remedy the mistake.
The Raiders at number three should be alarming considering how disappointing their year has been. It limits the excuses for the season since they are continuously getting their most expensive guys out there. It simply hasn’t worked. The Cardinals would be a similar team though my expectations for them were low.
The lowest team in the league is the 49ers with a CUI of just 0.42. The 49ers have been plagued by injury (Smith, Garcon, Staley) and some bad decisions (an expensive fullback for example).
The Colts were hurt by the loss of Andrew Luck as well as moderate investments in players on defense who are all kind of interchangeable parts when the salaries called for more. They will likely be reworking their entire team next year anyway.
Of the non-IR players Marcell Dareus was the worst investment which is pretty much because he rarely plays. It was one of the worst deals in the NFL and not surprisingly has lived up to the billing. Its about $13M wasted on him. Glennon, who I mentioned above, is about $10M in wasted money while Olivier Vernon, Fletcher Cox, and Tavon Austin are around $8.5M each. Vernon and Cox have played through some injuries.
As for the best bargains this year they are Jake Matthews, Jamar Taylor, DJ Swearinger, James Carpenter, and Austin Howard. These are the players who basically play every snap and contribute to some special teams situations. The Jets Jamaal Adams is the top rookie.
Here is the team by team breakdown:
|Team||Actual APY||Utilized APY||CUI|
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.