In This Weeks OTC Podcast:
- Players opting to not play in 2020
- Cam Newton signs with the Patriots
- Chris Jones threatens to sit out
- The Bears contract decisions and salary cap issues
According to a number of different reporters the Jets will be trading a mid round draft pick to acquire Brandon Marshall from the Chicago Bears. My assumption is that the pick will be a 5th rounder since the Jets 4th and 6th round picks will technically be tied up in the Percy Harvin trade from last season through the NFL draft.
Marshall is a very accomplished receiver that had posted seven 1,000 yard seasons in a row before falling to just 721 last season as he struggled with injuries and an ineffective offense. Marshall is 31 years old and should be able to produce for at least two more years at the 1,000 yard level, provided he stays healthy. The Jets will take on $7.7 million in salary for Marshall this year. His 2016 and 2017 salaries of $8.1 and $8.5 million are non-guaranteed, meaning that if the 700 yard season was a sign of things to come he can be released without future salary cap implications. Neither side should push to rework the contract given that Marshall was just signed in 2014.
The Bears had signed Marshall to a contract extension last year that paid him a $7.5 million signing bonus and $7.5 million salary. The team ended up getting just one year for $15 million, essentially as if he was a franchise player, so from that perspective the extension was a disaster for the Bears. The Bears will now carry $5.625 million in dead money for Marshall this season, but that will allow them to create another $3.95 million in cap room. For Chicago this is probably a sign of the lack of faith that the new regime has in the roster that was constructed by former GM Phil Emery and they will be looking to turn over as many veteran pieces as possible.
This move should signal the end of Harvin’s brief tenure with the Jets last season. Harvin was acquired in the middle of the season when then GM John Idzik was getting hammered in the press for not being proactive in his approach to help the team. Harvin was highly overpaid by the Seahawks and had been overvalued for some time around NFL circles. With the Jets already having Eric Decker, Jeremy Kerley and Jace Amaro under contract, Harvin should be the odd man out.
Harvin was set to earn $10.5 million this season and he would need to bring that number down if he wanted to stay. Reports were that he balked at such a move and this trade would seem to indicate that the Jets realized it was time to move on. Marshall is not only more productive but also cheaper. Last season Harvin did not reach 500 receiving yards. He will likely struggle to earn $6 million a year if he is released.
The trade can not be official until March 10, which likely means the Jets would not make a move with Harvin until that date. We will not update any of the cap charts to reflect the trade until it is actually official with the NFL.
Players Under Contract: 48
Pro Bowlers: 1
Unrestricted Free Agents: 18(1 with 50%+ playtime)
Draft Selection: 7
There was little good to say about the Bears defense in 2014, but Stephen Paea had a good season and developed into a nice pass rusher. The one thing about a player like Paea is that it if you re-sign him it needs to be at the right price. His history does not indicate a high price tag and maybe trying to model off the Sen’Derrick Marks contract would be a fair compromise…I was a little surprised that the Bears re-signed Roberto Garza at season’s end and assumed they would have preferred to turn the position over to Brian De la Puente who is scheduled to be a free agent. Chicago had signed De la Puente to a one year deal for $1 above the minimum to keep the possibility of extending him open. He did not get much interest as a free agent last season so if the Bears can convince him he’ll get opportunities they should keep him again on a low cost deal…Outside of bringing back low cost players to minimum deals to be either deep backups or special teamers it is hard to make a compelling case for anyone else to return.
Lance Briggs has been unhappy with his contract seemingly forever and after a poor season where some said he was just going through the motions I can’t imagine any reason to consider his return….Charles Tillman had previously said he wants to return again in 2015, but with a new GM in place it is probably time to move on from the old guard. I would not be surprised if Tillman retired rather than going through what Champ Bailey went through this offseason…DJ Williams will be 33 next season and has only played in 25 games over the last three seasons. The Bears need to rebuild the defense with young players not keep their fingers crossed that older players can last 16 games and be effective in those 16 games.
Chicago should give strong consideration to extending wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. He should be part of the solution for the Bears and those are the kind of players you lock up. I think there is a feeling that he did not have a great season, but he had 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns, which many teams would kill for. His salary is so low in 2015 (just over $1 million) that the Bears should get an injury protection discount that won’t exist in free agency next year…Going into this season I was certain that Matt Forte was a sure fire cut in 2015, but he is their most consistent offensive player and someone that they probably need to lean on in the future. He is set to earn $8.2 million in 2015, which is his final season under contract. While I am not a big fan of extending players at this age if Forte is willing to accept a fair extension they could create a few more dollars of cap room by adding two more years to his contract….Shea McClellan is a bust in every sense of the word but he has $775,000 guaranteed next season and it’s debatable he would get another job that offsets that. His total salary is about $1.5 million and they should negotiate his non-guaranteed bonus out of the contract with a chance to earn it back through performance.
I’ve been a Brandon Marshall fan of sorts since he was a rookie, but last year was the first signs of a decline as his numbers sunk to by far the lowest value since his rookie season. Marshall reportedly had some outbursts in the locker room and I think it’s fair to say he may have already begun to turn his attention to post career opportunities, where he looks like he could be successful. Marshall has the skillset to play for many more years if he desires, but if Chicago can get value for him it may be worth exploring the trade market, especially if they feel the need to shake up the locker room. Marshall’s $7.5 million salary becomes guaranteed on the 3rd day of the 2015 League Year so they have time to consider all options with him. A trade or release creates $3.95 million in cap room…The Bears overpaid to get Lamarr Houston last season and if they were able to release him the day after the Super Bowl they can avoid sinking another $6 million into a player who got paid and turned it off. Unfortunately that salary is guaranteed for injury so they probably can not release him and avoid the payment, but I am sure many fans are wondering about it which is why I’m including him here.
Jay Cutler made a convenient scapegoat for last season but the Bears problems run far deeper than Cutler. Cutler played poorly and his attitude rubs everyone the wrong way, but that’s the way he has always been. The only difference is Cuter this year had a monster contract rather than a moderate one so he came under a microscope.
The problem with the Bears began in 2013 when their general manager refused to commit to a large number of players with expiring contracts or contract situations that gave the team significant leverage. Rather than working existing salaries of players who were guaranteed roster spots in 13 like Cutler, Tim Jennings, and Marshall into early extensions he waited the extra year. What made it even stranger is that, other than maybe Marshall, who was extended with one year left on his original deal, they used no leverage in those deals signing the players to highly guaranteed contracts that exceeded their levels of performance.
2013 also set the stage for what turned out to be a bad run at free agency in 2014. Lovie Smith is a popular figure in the NFL and when the team failed to have the same record in 2013 as they had in 2012 under Smith, but looked better on offense, I think it drove some bad decision making. They overpaid on Houston, who is more of a run stopper than pass rusher, and made a very short sighted decision to sign Jared Allen after their basic spending was done. The roster became a wasteland of haves and have not’s with a few high priced players and a boatload of one year minimum contracts. When the high priced players failed the rest of the roster was exposed, specifically in the back 7 where they were terribly underinvested.
The Bears are more or less stuck with the core for at least one more season due to heavy guarantees and really need to rebuild from the ground up on the defensive side of the ball. Though they should have around $26 million in cap room and do not have salary cap issues I don’t really see free agency as a viable solution unless they can make a strong offer for a very young free agent, though I think the teams with the big cap space like the Raiders and Jets would make such offers irrelevant. They can compete next season but if they go the free agent route they are probably better off in signing a few moderate cost players than one expensive player and a lot of minimum players, which is how they built the team last season.
The Bears best avenue for success is going to come by focusing on the draft and rebuilding their defense that way. If they keep Cutler, Forte, and Martellus Bennett along with Jeffrey and possibly Marshall there is enough talent on offense to be competitive while the defense improves and if they really hit in free agency they might have a one year window in 2016 where the offense and defense come together.
If the offense falters at least they can get experience for a young defense that can hopefully hold the fort when the Bears make a turn to a young QB in 2016. But if they go heavy in free agency I tend to think that the Bears will get pulled in the wrong direction and be in a worse spot two years from now. The Bears should consider making a trade or two to amass some added picks this year. If they stand pat they need to come out of the draft with a defensive end, linebacker, and cornerback that project as quality starters by 2016.
[adsenseyu1] For those of you who enjoy the Power Rankings I do during the season here is a look at the efficiency rankings of all the Super Bowl champions. For those unfamiliar with the rankings what these percentiles measure is the percent a team either scores or prevents an opponent from scoring above or below their schedules average for the season. So for example a team with a scoring efficiency of 25% means that team scored 25% more points per game than their opponents gave up that season. A defensive score of 25% means that a team held their opponents to 25% below their normal scoring output on the season. The stats are for regular season only.
While most people consider the 1985 Bears the greatest team of all time they actually only rank 4th on this system. The top team is the little praised Redskins who really dominated the league in 1991. The team’s opponents allowed just 19 PPG while the Redskins scored over 30. It’s the top performing scoring unit in the history. The defense wasn’t a slouch either holding teams to 24% below their averages.
The 1996 Packers, who looked like they were going to be the next dynasty franchise, ranked second with a tremendous all around tea. The 73 Dolphins rank 3rd and were far superior to the undefeated team in 1972 that faced a much easier schedule. The 75 Steelers fill out the top 10. The worst SB champions have been the 70 Colts, 11 Giants, 07 Giants, 01 Patriots, and 87 Redskins, though it’s the bottom 4 that are teams that really surprise as being on the list of champions.
The most productive scoring came from the 91 Redskins, 77 Cowboys, 98 Broncos, 09 Saints, and 94 49ers. Only two teams had a below average scoring output and those were the 01 Patriots and 02 Buccaneers. The 90 Giants, 00 Ravens, and 81 49ers would round out the bottom 5. Defensively the best unit was not the 85 Bears or 00 Ravens but the 73 Dolphins who just edge ot the 02 Buccaneers, who I think people forget when discussing the great defensive teams. The 66 Packers, 85 Bears, and 75 Steelers are the other best ranking teams. At the bottom of the list are the 06 Colts, 11 Giants, 09 Saints, 07 Giants, and 98 Broncos, all of whom were below average.
Perhaps not so surprisingly is that no teams from the current era are close to the top of this list as the NFL is filled with parity and a lack of dominant teams that can run all the way to a title. The 2004 Patriots just cracked the top 10 and the next closest team is the 00 Ravens at 19 and 10 Packers at 22. Of the 13 lowest ranking teams, 6 are from 2001 onwards.
The current era will be represented better by either the Seahawks or Broncos either of whom would rank in the top 20. The Broncos would have the best scoring output of any team on this list but would also grab the “title” for worst defense and it would be by a wide margin. It would be unlikely to see either mark broken anytime soon. The Seahawks defense would rank 9th all time, which is pretty impressive considering the way the rules have skewed to the offenses in this era.
The table below should be fully sortable.
|2||1996||Green Bay Packers||45.84%||32.45%||78.29%|
|6||1984||San Francisco 49?ers||36.26%||28.10%||64.36%|
|7||1966||Green Bay Packers||18.57%||43.55%||62.12%|
|8||1999||St. Louis Rams||39.72%||22.12%||61.84%|
|9||1994||San Francisco 49?ers||48.21%||10.52%||58.73%|
|10||2004||New England Patriots||31.97%||26.73%||58.70%|
|11||1969||Kansas City Chiefs||16.30%||40.95%||57.25%|
|17||1989||San Francisco 49?ers||27.18%||25.88%||53.06%|
|22||2010||Green Bay Packers||12.70%||33.37%||46.07%|
|25||1967||Green Bay Packers||16.18%||28.73%||44.91%|
|27||2009||New Orleans Saints||50.80%||-6.76%||44.04%|
|29||2002||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||-2.94%||45.79%||42.85%|
|31||1986||New York Giants||13.39%||27.10%||40.49%|
|33||1990||New York Giants||1.17%||36.89%||38.06%|
|34||1968||New York Jets||33.21%||4.01%||37.22%|
|35||2003||New England Patriots||12.74%||23.67%||36.41%|
|37||1981||San Francisco 49?ers||6.42%||24.07%||30.49%|
|39||1988||San Francisco 49?ers||19.16%||8.88%||28.04%|
|44||2001||New England Patriots||-1.54%||12.58%||11.04%|
|45||2007||New York Giants||9.94%||-0.61%||9.33%|
|46||2011||New York Giants||15.29%||-7.09%||8.20%|
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The other day the Chicago Bears signed K Robbie Gould to a lucrative contract extension with reports of having the largest guarantee ever given to a kicker. Through a league source we were able to verify the details of Gould’s contract and can shed a bit more light on the guarantee structure.
The current largest real guarantee given to a kicker is $8 million which was the amount given to Sebastian Janikowski of the Raiders when he signed his $15.1 million contract extension this summer. Janikowski’s $8 million was fully guaranteed upon signing and will remain the highest true guarantee for a kicker.
Upon signing the only guarantee for Gould is the $3 million signing bonus that he received. His 2014 base salary of $1.9 million is guaranteed for injury only but becomes fully guaranteed if he is on the roster on the 3rd day of the League Year. Considering the timing of the deal I think its safe to consider this fully guaranteed and is simply a mechanism being used by the Bears to set precedence in contract guarantee structure.
Gould has a base salary of $2.9 million in 2015 that is guaranteed for injury only. That salary only becomes fully guaranteed if Gould is on the roster the 3rd day of the 2015 League Year. He also has an injury only guarantee of $1.05 million in 2016 that does not vest. So while the contract does contain a total of $8.85 million in guarantees the real guarantees total just $4.9 million. In terms of annual value his contract ranks 2nd at the position based on our records.
Gould’s contract contains $100,000 workout bonuses in 2014 and 2015 and $500,000 roster bonuses in the final two years of his contract. His cap charges will be $2.6M, $3.6M, $4.1M, and $4.1M over the course of the contract.
The NFL salary cap is a major concern for teams at two times every season. The first is the most talked about time, which is the month of February when teams are ripping apart rosters to become salary cap compliant for the new League Year and to create the maximum possible cap room for free agency. Once free agency ends the overall importance of the cap is low because only the top 51 contracts plus dead money charges count towards the salary cap.
The second most important time for the cap is right now. By 4 PM on September 4 the cap valuations change. For salary cap purposes rosters expand to include everyone under contract. At a minimum that pushes the roster to 53 players plus a Practice Squad, which every team fields. The cost of two players adds at least $810,000 to the roster and a PS costs a team another $816,000. For teams that have players on Reserve lists such as PUP or IR the salary for the players who are replacing them will now count. For some teams that can be an additional 4 to 5 players that will now be accounted for. It quickly adds up and it all adds up by Wednesday.
While most teams want to carry upwards of $5 million in season salary cap space for emergencies, I just want to focus on the teams that will be around the $3 million mark come Wednesday based on how things stand right now. Based on the top 51 cap room as of the morning of the 29th , nine teams will have less than $3 million in cap space on Wednesday. Of those nine, four will not be cap compliant unless players inside the top 51 are released. Those four are, in order, the Rams, Chiefs, Texans, and Redskins. The other five teams are the Vikings, Seahawks, Chargers, Giants, and Bears.
With that in mind I wanted to look at these teams and moves they may need to make cap space.
Rams– The Rams are projected to about $1.2 million over the salary cap based on their current roster construction. I would not expect the Rams to release anyone of note but instead restructuring deals for cap relief. The most likely candidates are Cortland Finnegan ($9 million base salary), Sam Bradford ($9 million base salary), and Chris Long ($7.25 million base salary). Long already restructured once so its less likely they would go to him again. With questions marks surrounding Bradford and already over $10 million in dead money on the books in 2014, Finnegan is the guy to watch. Converting $7 million of his base into a signing bonus will save the team $5.5 million in cap room and increase his 2015 dead money from $2 million to $5.5 million, which could be considered acceptable.
Chiefs– The Chiefs will be around $500,000 over the cap if moves are not made in their top 51. There are minimal avenues for savings for the team, due to high offseason spending and the fact that they retained Branden Albert on the Franchise tag rather than extending or trading him. There is no one of note that could be released or even threatened with release to really help them. The logical solution would seem to be having Tamba Hali restructure his contract. He carries a $12.25 million dollar base salary and just cutting and prorating the difference would save the team about $4 million in cap room.
If they fail to reach an agreement the other candidate is Alex Smith, and for long term cap planning probably makes more sense to approach than Hali. Smith earns $7.5 million this season and next season. Because the contract only has two years remaining proration is limited over two years, but that could be enough to easily save at least $3 million in cap this season by converting $6 million of salary to a bonus. That would make his cap charge just $10.5 million in 2014, still a bargain for a starting QB. Though neither side will want to extend that deal they could also go the void year route for proration purposes if they wanted.
Texans– Houston will only be about $300,000 over the cap, though that number does not include the replacement body they likely need to carry to cover Antonio Smith’s one game suspension, which would increase the cap to $700,000 over. They could carry 52 players for the week for cap purposes if necessary. The Texans are an older team so extensions to players like Wade Smith are not really a possibility. Jonathan Joseph makes $7.5 million this season and might be a person they look at for a bonus conversion, though that will put the last two seasons of his contract very high in terms of cap charges. This could be a team that also ends up releasing some of the veteran players close to minimum salaries to pick up small amounts of cap.
Redskins– Washington will be right up against the cap and don’t really have much in the way of high salaries to reduce as their situation is compromised by the cap penalties more than expensive contracts. LB London Fletcher is the one player who should be given a pay cut from his $5.5 million base, but that seems unlikely at this point. His contract already contains numerous void years for proration purposes so it’s possible they could simply defer the cap charges to next season. The other person to watch out for would be WR Santana Moss. Releasing Moss will clear $2.25 million from the books. The team could also consider asking Chris Baker, playing on a non-guaranteed $1.323 million tender to reduce his salary by a few hundred thousand.
The Other Five (Bears, Giants, Chargers, Seahawks, Vikings)
I lumped these four together since they should all be cap compliant even after the rosters expand but wanted to touch on them briefly
Chicago we have touched on many times before and just yesterday wrote about why moving WR Earl Bennett is a likely move. The Bears have multiple avenues for cap relief if they want it via extensions, but it seems as if they will weed out some of the lower cost players like Bennett that they feel will not make a contribution rather than extending players.
The Giants cap was dealt a big blow when they lost their starting Safety for the season, but they should be ok. Players in danger could be Bear Pascoe, Louis Murphy, Aaron Ross, etc…They could also work with Chris Snee or Antrell Rolle if needed for cap space….
The Chargers could be in trouble because they already have a massive list of players on IR and PUP. Releasing Max Starks would save the team over $2 million based on cap treatment of LTBE’s and releasing WR Eddie Royal would save $3 million. Royal might be asked to take a pay cut instead.
Seattle is not in terrible cap position, though they currently have a IR number that will eat into it a bit if settlements are not reached. I’d imagine they will continue to cut veterans for cap relief. Releasing special teamer Heath Farwell saves the team $1.5 million and looking at FB Michael Robinson could save $2.5 million. Both could also be asked to take paycuts.
The Vikings might look to simply cut ties with some projected backups making over the minimum (Desmond Bishop, Fred Evans, AJ Jefferson) if they felt they needed more cap space. They will gain some added cap room once Jerome Feltons suspension is official and considering they are right around $3 million in room may not see the need to make any moves.
As requested we will take our look at the NFC’s approach to using free agency to find starters in 2013. Just as a reminder we consider trades if the players traded signed new contracts with the acquiring team, which makes players such as Carson Palmer count as a free agent acquisition. The rosters are determined based on Ourlads current depth charts with the exception of the Seahawks where I did include Percy Harvin simply because he was expected to start.
The first thing that jumps out when looking at the data is the difference between the AFC and NFC in approaching free agency, which I think plays to the fact that the NFC is the more dominant conference with teams having less need to change their rosters. On average the AFC has 3.75 new starters per team while the NFC has just 2.44. The NFC quality of free agent was considerably higher as teams were looking for at the approach of bringing in talent to complete the puzzle and help push the team over the top.
All told three NFC teams brought in no free agents to start for their club. Those teams were the Packers, Redskins, and 49’ers. The Vikings and Saints both brought in just one each. The Steelers and Bengals were the only AFC teams to have that low of a level of activity.
The team to do the largest overhaul of their roster was the Cardinals, who tied for most in the NFL with 8 free agents. However their spending was moderate at just $20 million per year in new salaries and with no players signing for more than 3 years this was not the win now with big money spending approach of the Dolphins nor long term vision of the Colts. I tend to think this was a team desperately clinging to the amount of money invested in Larry Fitzgerald, Darnell Dockett, Darryl Washington, and Calais Campbell and trying to piece together a team around them that makes that spending result in wins. Their big pick up was Carson Palmer.
The Eagles spent more money than anyone else in the NFC and 3rd most in the NFL. Like the Cardinals most of the contracts were shorter term (five were 2 or 3 years) but on higher priced players. That plays to the fact that the Eagles did not have a great deal of talent to begin with as well as an approach to likely work in two and three year windows. This will be Phase I of Chip Kelley’s program and would represent places where perhaps the team would prefer to not invest in the draft.
The Bears were the only other team to add more than five new starters, but they were almost all short term moves to just get by on the 2013 season. Of their six FA starters only two are signed for more than just one season, one of whom is TE Martellus Bennett whose contract is structured in a way where there is a good chance he would be cut after the 2013 season.
The Buccaneers, Vikings, and Rams only added five free agent starters combined, but allocated major dollars on those players. Tampa committed over $24 million a year to Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson, far and away the most expensive per player spending in the NFL. Clearly they are expecting these players to be the missing pieces that push them from 7 wins to 9 wins. Minnesota signed Greg Jennings at $9 million a year to improve their passing game while the Rams spent over $15 million on Jake Long and Jared Cook.
I don’t see people looking at any of the NFC teams the way that they will be watching the results for the Dolphins and Colts this year. The real stories in the NFC would seem to involve “impact” acquisitions, specifically of the three teams listed above. The Seahawks would also be in that mix, but with Harvin sidelined it is not fair to consider them. I would think most neutral observers would say Revis, Goldson, and Cook were all overpriced with Jennings slightly overpriced. If the teams all improve it could potentially help some of the top of the market players to continue to find teams willing to go above and beyond for their services.
The following chart illustrates the cost, number and years given to Free Agent starters in the NFC.