I will be posting a handy reference guide that brings together all of the relevant information here on Over The Cap for each division in the NFL as free agency begins next week. You’ll be able to see the cap room your favorite team has, an overview of some team needs, the draft picks they’re projected to have, and what those draft picks are projected to cost.
We keep track of the salary cap (or at least try to) on an everyday basis, so I thought it might be good to do a weekly recap of the effects of the weeks cap moves as we make a turn towards training camp time where the transaction sheet will likely begin to pick up pace.
Moves from the Week:
Cincinnati Bengals– The Bengals signed DE Carlos Dunlap to a 5 year contract extension worth just under $40 million dollars and also locked up their first round draft pick Tyler Eifert to a standard 4 year deal. Dunlap’s contract was heavily frontloaded and cost the Bengals $5,418,200 in cap room. Between he and Eifert the Bengals spent $6,439,231in cap space. There should be no worries as the moves left them with nearly $15.55 million in cap room, 7th most in the NFL.
Green Bay Packers– The Packers extension of S Morgan Burnett reduced their 2013 cap space by $1,650,000, the amount of Burnett’s proration attributed to his $8.25 million dollar signing bonus. With $14.67 million in cap room the Packers have the 8th largest amount of unused cap in the NFL.
Denver Broncos– The Broncos lost $2.72 million in cap room with the signing of LT Ryan Clady to a heavily frontloaded contract and vesting future guarantees. Already counting $9.828 million against the cap the Broncos agreed to pay Clady a $10.5 million dollar roster bonus to keep his future charges low rather than looking to build carryover cap space this season. Denver has $7.39 million in cap room.
Jacksonville Jaguars– The Jaguars came to terms with rookie WR Ace Sanders on a four year contract. Jacksonville lost $45,362 in cap room following the signing. The Jaguars still have $22.9 million in cap space, 2nd most in the NFL.
Detroit Lions– The Lions gained $321,000 in cap room with the release of RB Jahvid Best and they will now carry $1.1 million in dead money on the 2014 salary cap. The Lions have $5.22 million in cap room.
Dallas Cowboys– The Cowboys gained $225,000 in cap room when Josh Brent retired. Dallas can also go after his proration from the year, $11,889, though I can’t imagine they would do so.
New England Patriots– The Patriots released WR Donald Jones to save themselves from paying a $200,000 reporting bonus due at the start of training camp. Jones was set to count for $1.131 million against the cap in 2013. Releasing him created $576,250 in cap space pushing the Patriots to $9.79 million.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers– The Buccaneers traded troubled cornerback Eric Wright to the San Francisco 49ers for a conditional late round pick. The Bucs got off great with Wright as off the field problems saw his guarantees for 2013 void, which allowed them to push him into a paycut. With more legal troubles Wright was sent packing creating $945,000 worth of cap space in the process. Tampa has he 4th most cap space in the league at $19.22 million.
San Francisco 49’ers– The 49’ers were on the other end of the trade with the Bucs, taking on Eric Wright and his $1.5 million dollar salary. The addition of Wright reduced San Francisco’s cap room by $945,000. The 49’ers now have $4.49 million in cap room and limited space in 2014, fueling speculation that the team may cut CB Carlos Rogers, saving over $4 million in 2013 and $5.1 million in 2014, giving the team much more breathing room as they prepare for an extension with QB Colin Kaepernick after the season.
Three to Keep an Eye On
St. Louis Rams– With just $214,088 in cap room the Rams do not have enough cap space to function once the regular season begins. They will need to restructure contracts or make a few cuts to be able to function in the regular season.
Washington Redskins– At $1.4 million in cap space the Redskins have the 2nd least amount of space in the NFL. Once rosters expand to 53 and teams spend $1 million on a practice squad the Redskins will be forced to make moves to be cap compliant in September. They should have over $10 million in cap room in 2014 so they may look to push some money into next year if they do not want to make any cuts.
Houston Texans– Houston still needs to sign their first three draft picks, which will eat into their $2.8 million in cap room leaving them with around $1.6 million in room when the season begins. Add in two contracts and a Practice Squad and you get the idea- Houston can’t stand pat and do nothing over the next few weeks.
Aaron Wilson, of Scout.com, had the breakdown today of the contract extension signed by Carlos Dunlap, which you can click thru to read to see the general cash flows of the contract.
The contract is actually worth $39.37 million in new money over the 5 year extension. Dunlap had been scheduled to earn $630,000 in base salary in 2013 which brings the total to the reported $40 million. He also had an incentivized $551,800 bonus, but that normally does not count in the new money calculation since it was not a base amount in his original contract.
It is one of those rare contracts that seems to benefit both sides and both sides can say they came out a winner. The Bengals used a very smart contract structure, utilizing cap room in 2013 and 2014 at the frontend of the contract rather than backloading the contract as most teams do. Of the $40 million dollar total the Benagls will dump $ 15.2 million of cap charges into 2013 and 2014 seasons. That leaves only $24.8 million in cap charges over a 4 year period on the backend, an average of just $6.2 million a season.
Why is this smart for the Bengals? First of all the Bengals are flush with cap space due to being a relatively young team built on draft picks and supplemented with affordable free agents, so it is an ideal time to use their cap room. Some may say that you can just carry money over anyway, but carrying over too much money can hurt negotiating room in the future and put you at risk of saddling your books with dead money from overpayments and poor contract structures. The Bengals reduced their cap by $5,418,200, but still have over $15 million in space this season and I have them estimated around $20 million in room next season, after this signing.
Because the Bengals are built young it means in the near future they will need the cap space to afford bigger ticket items. Star DT Geno Atkins will be a free agent after this season. The following year QB Andy Dalton and WR AJ Green will be free agents. By pushing Dunlap’s cap figures into the low tier for a DE the Bengals will keep their books in order to sign these players long term and maintain their salary cap flexibilitiy.
The deal itself is also very friendly for the Bengals in terms of downside risk. The Bengals only paid Dunlap a signing bonus of $8 million dollars, which is prorated thru just 2017. In 2016 the Bengals could cut Dunlap for just $3.2 million in dead money and in 2017 its just $1.6 million of dead money. While Dunlap has been incredibly effective in his role the question will be if he maintains that effectiveness as a starter. The Bengals have cap protection if he does not.
For Dunlap he gets an incredible amount of up front money. Set to earn just under $1.2 million this year he will now earn $13 million. In terms of new money payouts his first extension year takehome will be $19.37 million, which is a tremendous amount of money for a player who has started just two games in his career. Dunlap also has yearly escalators that can push the value of his contract.
The payout structure, in terms of regular cash, mimics the frontend of Paul Kruger’s with the Browns, despite Kruger being an unrestricted free agent that had more negotiating leverage. Kruger will earn $13 million in cash in 2013 and $20 million in two seasons. Dunlap’s total money matches the first two years and the new money payouts will match the three year payout of Kruger’s contract, with $27.02 million coming in the first three extension seasons for Dunlap and $27 million for Kruger.
All told it really is a very strong deal for both sides. It helps the Bengals short term and long term and gives Dunlap a great increase in pay and a commitment to be a starter in the future for the Bengals.
A few weeks ago Jason LaCanfora published a list of best and worst contracts in the NFL so I thought it might make a good idea for us to do the same here at OTC, with a team by team approach. I’ll try to be a bit more analytical in terms of why money was paid and how it fits in the market, but the general premise is the same. The one key difference is outside of restructured rookie contracts under the old CBA we will only use veteran contracts as there is a big difference between best draft picks and best contracts. Please note that there is a difference between a bad player and a bad contract when discussing some of the selections. Clicking on a players name will take you to his salary cap page.
Best Contract: Andrew Whitworth
Don’t let the annual value number I have posted fool you. That was just the new money the Bengals gave Whitworth in 2011 when they added an addition two years onto his existing contract. The real dollars of that deal are around $6.2 million a year an absolute steal for a left tackle, especially one as good as Whitworth.
A 2nd round pick in the 2006 draft, Whitworth emerged as one of the best players from that draft. The Bengals acted swiftly and extended him in 2008 and then again in 2011. Over the 2011-2015 NFL seasons Whitworth will never have a cap charge that exceeds $7.5 million. His dead money in 2014? Just $2 million.
Signed at a time when tackles were making obscene dollar figures Whitworth’s contract has stood out as the best value at the position. Most players have yearly cap figures between $8.5 and $9 million a season with the top end contracts often topping $10 million. The contracts were loaded with guarantees making cutting of a player difficult in the event of failure once extended. That will not be the case for the Bengals who get a steal at left tackle giving them the added money they may need to lock up their younger stars.
Worst Contract: Michael Johnson
Truth is this isn’t really a bad contract as much as it simply was an unnecessary decision. Lets face it the Bengals don’t really have bad contracts on their team. Are the Bengals a big spender? No, but that doesn’t mean they are stupid either. I have seen plenty of teams pass on big stars and be cheap only to overspend on bottom tier players because $1 million here and there doesn’t seem like whiffing on an over priced star. That’s not the Bengals. They have a philosophy and they stick with it. If you don’t like it try to find a job playing elsewhere.
The truth is Johnson’s contract isn’t a bad contract, but I do think it was an unnecessary decision. In general I dislike the use of the franchise tag with the exceptions of two circumstances. Those two circumstances are
1) A veteran “win now” team that feels that this is the last chance with a group
2) An older or often injured player where the risk of a long term deal is great
Johnson doesn’t fit into either category. Johnson is only 26 years old and hasn’t missed a game in 4 years. The Bengals are a relatively young team with a large window of opportunity, so I don’t really see the point of the tag. With extensions soon due for Geno Atkins, Andy Dalton, and AJ Green getting Johnson done sooner rather than wasting all the cap space in 2013 on a one year contract would be a much more prudent decision. With the pass rusher market as depressed as it has been this would have been the perfect opportunity to extend a good young pass rusher at a reasonable price. They only have a few more weeks to do that and most signs point to them not doing it.
Check out Our Other Best & Worst Contract Articles
The Bengals are rumored to be prepared to negotiate a new contract with star DT Geno Atkins, looking to lock him up long term as a centerpiece of the defense. Atkins is one of the most unique players in the NFL in that he players in the interior of the defense but he is a bonafide pass rusher. It makes putting a value on Atkins quite difficult because he is, by all accounts, so unique as a player that it becomes difficult to find comparable players. So let’s take a look at Atkins in some key categories.
I have my own statistic that usually I refer to as pass rush performance. PRP essentially looks at a passing play as occurring either with no pressure or under pressure and puts a quantitative value on the pressure. For this metric we simply define success as a completion and failure as anything else once a QB drops back to pass. From the fine database over at Pro Football Focus we can calculate that a QB facing no pressure will complete a pass 64.8% of the time he drops back to pass the ball, a number that drops to 46.2% if he throws in the face of pressure. Having those numbers we can adjust a players pass rush plays into expected success and failures. The increased failures illustrates the effect the player has on the game.
Atkins rushed the QB 494 times in 2012, registering 16 sacks and 62 pressures. On 494 non-pressure snaps we would expect the QB to complete 320.4 passes and fail 173.6 times. Atkins produced 416 non-pressure snaps and 62 pressure snaps. Those situations result in 146.2 and 33.4 failures, respectively. He also had 16 failures from sacks bringing his total failed plays to 195.6. That equates to a pass rush performance of 12.6%.
Among defensive tackles that number is almost unheard of. The only other Defensive Tackle with a double digit rating was Steve McClendon of the Steelers at 11.6%, but he only rushed on 71 plays so its an extremely small sample. The average for a DT was 4.3% so in terms of pass rush we can say that he is 2.9 times more valuable than the average player at the position.
By that metric he is the most impressive positional pass rusher in all of the NFL. Nobody else that plays significant snaps is that much better than the average player at his position. Aldon Smith and Clay Matthews are about 1.5 times as productive as the average 34OLB. Cameron Wake is 1.7 times as productive as the average 43DE. Even JJ Watt who puts up unheard of numbers for a 34DE is only 2.4 times as productive as the average player at the position.
Now whether or not Atkins can keep up this pace is a different story. He was at 8% the year before, which is still top of the position considering how he not just a situational rusher, but that’s a little more in line with the rest of the NFL than what he did in 2012. But for last season he was the most dominant player compared to his peers on defense and it was not even close.
In terms of overall productivity his 12.6% would rank behind only Cameron Wake (12.8%) and would tie with Aldon Smith. So there is a clear argument that can be made on his behalf that he should be slotted in with the exterior pass rushers when it comes to pay slotting.
In terms of run defense I want to compare Atkins’ numbers to the league average at his position in a number of categories, including solo tackles, total tackles, and stop percentage. The ranks given are among players with at least 100 run snaps at DT.
% Solo Tackles
Clearly he again ranks well above the average, right around top 5 at the position in the key categories. Realistically the only player better that was close to 200 snaps was Henry Melton (199 snaps) of the Bears. The other player to rank higher across the board was the Titans Mike Martin (165 snaps), so you could argue that he is the best of the close to full time run defenders.
This is where it becomes very difficult to fit Atkins in. The average salary for a starting quality DT is only $3.91 million. The top 32 players average around $5.3 million a year. The franchise tag at the position this past year was $8.45 million. Compare that to a DE where the averages are closer to $4.7, $6.5 and $11.12 million and you have a real difficult time figuring out where to put him. The matter probably becomes even more complex when you factor in that N’damukong Suh and Gerald McCoy make $12.7 and $11 million a year respectively due to draft status under the old CBA and in general should be treated as complete outliers at the position.
I am sure that the argument on his side may be similar to that of the hybrid TE/WR where you argue that he plays the DT position but he’s really a pass rusher and should be paid that way. The one difficulty with that argument is that Atkins played about 800 snaps last season which is around 150-200 shy of the top edge rushers in the league.
The one interesting name that should be brought up in the negotiation is that of Haloti Ngata of the Ravens. Ngata currently plays 34DE and is one of the more versatile players in the NFL, but he originally signed his contract with the Ravens as a Defensive Tackle. Now this was before the market collapsed, but Ngata earned $12.131 million a season to essentially be a versatile lineman and it is a contract that is still valid. Like Atkins, Ngata never was a 1000 snap player. While the two play very different games and Ngata is going to do more things that do not show up in a stat sheet, it’s a very valid point of reference especially for a team with as much cap room as the Bengals.
Now because of the changing market I don’t think the Bengals, or any other team, would go as high as the Ravens did with Ngata. I understand that Atkins is very unique, but pass rushers are getting limited funds in todays NFL marketplace compared to 2011. From a pure valuation standpoint if we take Atkins as 2.9 times as productive as the average DT in pass rush and 1.5 times as productive in run stoppage and factor the two categories in a 58/42 split mimicking the average NFL play selection you come up with a salary of $9.1 million a season.
Now I would consider that number the minimum that he is worth. We know he is unique and a strong case can be made that he is the best pass rusher in the NFL based off of last season. Average salary of the top 10 NFL defensive linemen is right around $12.9 million and I would use that number in calculating a figure for him moreso than the 2.9 times as productive figure. That bumps the salary to $9.94 million a year. I think that’s a fair figure.
There could be some wiggle room in that number depending on how much you value the pass vs the run. This looks at them at the base NFL splits but many would say that when games are in question the split might be closer to 60/40 or 62/38. That only increases his value all the way up to $10.3 million. If the Bengals are willing to come close to the $10 million dollar number I would think it’s a deal worth signing provided that the guarantees are somewhere in the $20 million ballpark.
He probably has little to gain by waiting on a contract unless the Bengals really lowball him. He is coming off a career season and it is hard to imagine him having more leverage at any point in his career just from an impact standpoint as he has now. With the market correction that just occurred and the threat of a franchise tag it is probably not worth the risk to hope he hits deals set by Suh or McCoy off rookie contracts that were never designed to be for defensive tackles in the first place. We’ll have to see how it ends, but $10 million a year for a DT would be nothing to sneeze at.
RT Anthony Davis signed a 5 year extension with the San Francisco 49’ers worth about $33 million in new money. Matt Maiocco put the contract numbers out today which allowed us at OTC to come up with an estimate on the structure of the contract. While not perfect in terms of cap I am pretty confident in the cash flows of the contract. With Davis agreeing to the extension I think we now have a comparable player for Andre Smith, one of the few remaining “name” players on the free agent market.
Smith is a former top draft pick, selected 6th overall in the 2009 NFL draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. Davis was selected 11th in 2010. Both players had (and still have) red flags about weight and dedication to the sport. Davis will be 24 years old this year and 26 when his extension kicks in. Smith is 26 now. In general the two players grade out as two of the best three right tackles in the NFL. Smith was reportedly looking for $9 million a year, which we knew he had no chance of ever seeing but with the market crash the question would be just how far he might fall. Now we probably have an answer.
Davis will earn $6,640,280 per year under his new 5 year deal. Because this is an extension there are a number of ways to look at the values of the contract. Using simply a new money valuation the cash flows of the contract would look at follows:
As is typical for many contracts, the deal contains “rolling” guarantees where Davis must be on the roster on a certain date (which is a very team friendly April 1st, typical for the 49’ers) to earn his full guarantee. Based on the cap damage of a release due to the prorations from his existing contract and the new prorations from a $7.5 million signing bonus received with the extension I would consider 2014 and 2015 to be functionally guaranteed, though I could see an argument against the 2015 year. With that in mind the guarantee of the contract is around $15.879 million.
In addition, as Maiocco explains, Davis has a large amount of base salary tied into offseason workout participation and maintenance of his weight. He stands to lose $1.25 million per year if he fails to meet his weight during the year and skips voluntary workouts, reducing his total takehome to $26,951,400 if he fails to perform. While we are uncertain of the yearly bonus structure of the contract (I have estimated $1 million per year in roster bonuses) it is worth noting that the 49’ers are notorious for tying yearly bonuses to games active. Davis’ rookie contract called for significant bonuses that were tied to games active and it would not be surprising to see him earn around $62,500 for each game active. Essentially it is a play for performance contract.
Considering the similarities between Smith and Davis this is likely the model that Smith will be working from. Now the Bengals have more cap space than San Francisco and follow a different cap philosophy, but in general the cash flows, guarantees, and built in protections should be similar. Smith can try to push for more potential money to match the $7 million per year earned by Gosder Cherilus, but a good portion of Cherilus’ contract is backloaded money anyway. Here is the cash flow component of Cherilus’ contract:
Those first three years are very similar to the Davis deal with more money coming to Cherilus in year 1. Unlike Davis’ contract I would consider $20.5 million functionally guaranteed to Cherilus, though in part that is because Davis loses dead money protection by signing early. Smith’s functional guarantee should fall somewhere in between the two players. Based on the Davis deal you could argue that about 37% of the value is tied to health and workouts which will clearly be a part of the Smith contract.
Because the Bengals have so much cap room they can be more creative with Smith than the 49’ers were with Davis. The Bengals seem to like using a combination of a 1st year roster bonus along with a signing bonus and I would expect them to do something along those lines here. If Smith was more reliable they could frontload the contract, but with all the protection needed I can’t see that happening. They also need to set aside money to re-sign Geno Atkins either this year or next season. There have been some people talking about extending WR AJ Green after the 2013 season but with the WR market still vibrant there is no need to do that as the Bengals control his rights through the 2015 season at a very reasonable cost.
Back to Smith…I think its clear that the market has now been set. Realistically he is looking at around $20 million or so over 3 years of which I’d guess $5 million may be tied to weight, offseason participation, and general health. He could max out as high as $35 million but more likely will come in a shade under $34 million. At that price, a very similar price to his rookie contract, it would seem to be a no-brainer for the Bengals to get the deal done and keep him as part of a young nucleus that has potential to win the division in 2013.