Over the last few weeks I have made note more than a few times about taking things that I work on and passing it off without credit. Obviously it was something I was pretty upset about. I just want to explain the situation a bit clearer.
First of all I am what you would call an “amateur capologist”. I’ve learned the ins and outs of the salary cap over the last 5 or 6 years to where I have gotten very good at being able to understand the different mechanisms of the cap whether it is basic bonus prorations, more exotic incentive laden per game bonuses, NLTBEs, or in-season restructurings leading to proration of in season bonuses. I do a pretty good job with it , as most of my readers of nyjetscap.com would attest to, and not to toot my own horn but I could go and have a discussion on cap with an NFL team and not come out looking like a complete idiot. Trust me Im not the only one either as there are a great group of guys out there who, like me, enjoy working on sorting and figuring out contracts. Many have websites and many just post on message boards for their favorite teams.
Over the years I have been able to make some great relationships with people who work in the NFL, both covering the sport and working within the sport. I don’t need to name names but I think those people know who they are and know how gracious I have been whenever they can help me fill in some details on a contract that I have been unable to determine or confirm estimates that I have made. I’m not perfect when it comes to gathering data or trying to connect the dots on a contract, but I have always tried to be as accurate as someone can be that is not connected 24-7 to salary databases and contract documents. For first time readers of my cap work I think that immediately stood out when I actually took the site “public” a few days following the Super Bowl.
The amount of work that it takes to do this in a relatively accurate manner is extremely high. I often spend just as much time tracking down an article/source about a local kid getting a $1,000 bonus as I would a guarantee structure for a 1st round draft pick. Can I find as many as I would like? Not really but its not for lack of effort. Our database was created from scratch and contains over 2000 NFL contracts. It took me a little over 3 months to accomplish. Many very accurate and some pretty accurate but by no means perfect. At the least the numbers for most of the teams present a solid ballpark estimate and can be used for a more thorough understanding and analysis of a teams’ salary cap. We do a lot of that on the site when blogging and I know plenty of others do it outside the site using the data to play fantasy GM.
Most people are aware that there is another site, a much bigger site, which tracks contract data, Spotrac.com. Spotrac was probably the first site to attempt to cover the entire NFL as well as all the major sports. It’s a difficult task to do especially with all the nuances of the NFL cap system. I wanted to take a deeper look at everything with a more comprehensive breakdown of each team/player in terms of dead money, salary breakdowns, and cash flows, similar to what I did on my other website. I wanted to offer some different looks that I would use if I was going to play fantasy GM and try to craft a contract. This was a feature they did not offer, at least in their free portion of the website, so I didnt see any reason why my site would be looked at as a carbon copy. I knew I had different contract information, different analytics, and a blog that was really just devoted to the cap. They had other features like salary ranks within a division, conference, team, etc… transaction histories and some personal data that I did not and wasn’t going to have anytime soon if at all.
Unfortunately I found that my entire website was being used to update Spotrac’s database almost as soon as it launched. I kept quiet about the issue until it continued and continued and continued at which point I got fed up, especially when I began to be accused of ripping numbers from the larger site or when people would be referred to my site only to comment “it’s the same as the other one” or “hey do you use Spotrac”.
I was emailed yesterday by Mike, who runs Spotrac, concerning the fact that he knew I was not happy with what was going on:
Spotrac is a *point of reference* for contracts, salaries, and transactions for the sports we offer. We don’t claim ownership of any of it. We don’t claim to “break” any of these details, and we do our best to give credit to those who do provide us with our information, when they do. We credit our community through Twitter on a daily basis, and permanently on our website at our Sources & Affiliates page.”
We discussed the situation a bit further and I think Mike understands much better the issues I had with what was being done. Trust me I know how difficult it is to source the material when it comes from reports and I always do my best to try whether through re-tweets, blog postings with links, or even just a thank you email. It was just such a massive level of grabbing all the way down to errors I made in estimates, calculations, or just downright math stupidity and being placed on a much larger site with more reach leaving me almost no way to build an audience beyond those who have grown to respect what I do on the other website. I just felt this went far beyond the need to take a few deals here and there that he was drawing blanks on.
I understand Mike’s point of view as well about what they are trying to do with Spotrac and keeping their data as accurate as possible. I had those same issues with working out the kinks on nyjetscap and getting better and better information. Once you put this stuff out there for public consumption it is what it is(that’s me saying that not Mike) and maybe if the website made a dime I wouldn’t care so much, but in a growth stage it really rubbed me the wrong way. Rightly or wrongly I don’t think they gave consideration to the fact that OTC was in some ways competing for the same audience, instead looking at it as just another source of data.
On Spotrac’s end their link pages have now been updated to include my site as a source of contract data. They also said they will look into a feature that will contain links from their pages to OTC if data is taken directly from OTC that is more or less only listed on my site in its entirety. I wouldn’t, nor would I want, expect any links where there are multiple reports of a contract from various news outlets. I know that feature takes time to implement but I think that is at least a fair solution for all involved.
I have no issues if someone prefers Spotrac to OTC or the way data is presented there compared to here. There is certainly room for two or three or more to do similar work but with their own takes on data. But I want it known that what I do here is not taken from Spotrac, much is original, I work hard to gather information and I’ll continue to try to give as much credit as possible to everyone who works so hard to get this information and help me keep this site as accurate as it can be. Though I will break some restructures here and there I’ve never been a news breaker or news site and dont profess to be one. Both sites provide an invaluable resource to fans and those who cover the teams as a quick and handy reference tool to cross check information, analyze positional strategies, or get an idea of what a team might be thinking in terms of long term vs short term planning. Perfect? No. Pretty good? I think so.
I consider the matter closed and I appreciate the time everyone has taken to read this. I’ll get back to work on updating as many of the new transactions as I can in the next week. Off the top of my head the teams with excessive contracts missing are the Jaguars and Titans as I’m trying to get accurate portrayals of a few deals before putting them online. The Panthers are also off from a recently published report by Pat Yasinskas but I have no idea where my errors are on that team. I know of at least one NLTBE that may have been earned (and I find it hard to believe it was) but even that would not account for the discrepancy. Hopefully I’ll pick up more on the blog aspect sooner rather than later. I’m working on (what I think will be) an interesting look at draft salary vs performance and analyzing bang for the buck and how good a player needs to be to justify the initial investment in the player.
As always if anyone out there has any contract tips or hints feel free to email me so we can keep the information as accurate as possible.
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.