Bills Release Tarvaris Jackson; Could Jets be Landing Spot?


The Buffalo Bills have announced the release of QB Tarvaris Jackson. While many have expressed some surprise that the Bills would release a player that had recently received a $500,000 signing bonus without even seeing him in training camp, the fact is Jackson was simply a sunk cost signed when the Bills were searching for answers at the QB position.

After signing Jackson the Arizona Cardinals released Kevin Kolb, who promptly signed with the Bills to compete with Jackson for the starting job. The situation changed even further when the Bills selected QB EJ Manuel in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft, making the likelihood of both Kolb and Jackson being on the roster in September remote.

Financially the Bills put more into Kolb than Jackson. Kolb received a signing bonus that was double the amount of Jackson’s. Both players had roster bonuses tied to being on the roster in week 1- In Jacksons case $450,000 and in Kolb’s case $250,000. That made it likely one would be released rather than sinking more money into someone who was going to be a 3rd string QB.

Jackson’s chances of making the team were further compromised by  incentives in his contract based on playing time. Kolb, according to reports, had incentives in his contract that were tied to non-guaranteed escalators in his 2014 contract, which could be avoided by release. Jackson, if given the starting job, had the chance to earn $1.25 million in bonuses by playing 60% of the snaps and an additional $1 million if he played in 65% of the snaps. Once earned they would be guaranteed. That would likely equate to starting 10 or 11 games which just put him further behind Kolb in the chances for the starting job.

With such little chance to make the team it made almost no sense to carry Jackson longer and it is always in a players’ interest to be released before training camp to give the player the maximum opportunity to sign a contract with a new team and compete in training camp. The Bills also should owe Jackson payment on a $50,000 workout bonus, putting his dead money total at $550,000 once the release is processed by the NFL.

Jackson had reportedly drawn interest from the New York Jets in the offseason before accepting the Bills offer to return to Buffalo. The Jets ended up signing David Garrard with Jackson was off the market. The Jets had prepared to take 5 QB’s into camp this season following the drafting of QB Geno Smith and subsequent release of Tim Tebow. Garrard has since retired due to injury concerns leaving the Jets with just 4 QB’s on the roster.

Jackson is familiar with the concepts of the West Coast Offense and was coached as a freshman by Jets coach David Lee and is familiar with Jets General Manager John Idzik who was part of the Seahawks front office when they signed Jackson in 2011. Having already earned a signing bonus with the Bills and perhaps few options the Jets may be able to bring Jackson in at a cost that they deem reasonable.

The Jets had signed Garrard for $1 million in base salary only $250,000 less than Jackson’s base salary with Buffalo.  The Jets could offer Jackson a similar roster bonus as the Bills except base it solely on being on the active gameday roster rather than the week 1 roster.  Because Jackson was inactive for the entire 2012 season no bonus money would hit the 2013 salary cap. If the Jets were to carry Jackson as their third QB during the season and never suited him up they would not need to pay him any bonus money under that structure. Such a contract may be the best situation for Jackson to keep alive the faint hopes of being a starter in the NFL.


What Teams Will Gain in Cap Space with the June 1 Cut


With June 1 rapidly approaching I thought this would be a good time to update on the salary cap changes that will occur for a number of teams as well as some other thoughts on the subject. On June 1 the league changes their accounting rules for acceleration of prorated bonus money. If a player is cut prior to June 1 all of a players unaccounted for bonus money accelerates onto the salary cap. If a player is cut after June 1 the players unaccounted for money accelerates to the following season (in this case 2014) with only his current proration remaining on the 2013 cap books.

The NFL allows teams to cut up to two players prior to June 1 and designate them “June 1 cuts”. If this mechanism is used the team carries the players’ full cap charge in their top 51 until June 1. On June 2 the player is officially removed from the roster with only his current years proration remaining on the books and in many cases a dramatic increase in cap space for cap starved teams that need to sign rookies or have money on hand for in season roster management. 10 teams utilized the June 1 designation, with the Dolphins being the only team to use it on two players.

For many of the teams the money is desperately needed. The Oakland Raiders have yet to sign a draft pick as they remain right around the NFL’s cap limit, but on June 2 their cap will grow to about $7.86 million after Michael Huff drops off the books. The Steelers with almost no breathing room and less than $600,000 in cap room with 4 picks to sign will now have $5.59 million to spend, due to the June 1 treatment of Willie Colon. The Chargers, the other cap strapped team with less than $1 million in room, will remove Jared Gaither to jump to $4.65 million in cap space.  The other teams with limited cap funds that will benefit from the June 1 rule are the Falcons and Ravens, both of whom currently have around $2 million in cap space.

Other teams such as the Bills and Dolphins will see large increases that will jump them very close to the top of the NFL in cap space. The Dolphins will jump from 15th to 7th in the NFL in cap space while the Bills will go from 7th to 5th. This is primarily because of the large cap investments that the teams’ made in mediocre players. Ryan Fitzpatrick current sits as the 2nd largest cap charge on the Bills active roster while Karlos Dansby has the highest cap figure of any Dolphin. Huff of the Raiders also ranks as the highest cap charge on his team.

Most of the players are all good enough to find another job in the NFL, only Gaither has not found a team willing to take him, but only 5 received multi-year contracts and the highest cap charge to be found is Tyson Clabo, now of the Dolphins, at $3.5 million. The June 1 rule really illustrates the mistakes that teams make when valuing players and structuring contracts. While Dansby, Huff, and Fitzpatrick were outrageous figures, 6 of the June 1 cuts still take up a top 5 cap spot on the active roster and 9 are in the top 10. The following table shows the amount of estimated cap space that was to be spent on these players, dead money the teams will carry, and how much cap new teams are going to pay these players this season:



Original Cap Charge


2013 Dead Money


2014 Dead Money


New Team 2013 Cap


So the cutting teams will carry more dead money this year than the players will collectively make from their new teams to play in the NFL. The league valued these players at 74.3% less than the teams original projections. Assuming that the average salary for the group in 2014 is $1 million each then those players will play football over a 2 year period for 50% less than the dead money totals that the original teams will now carry in 2013 and 2014. That’s one of the reasons why when we do some of the valuations on the site from a team perspective we try to take into account future productivity as this was, for the most part, money thrown away on players. These are the type of contracts that get General Managers fired over the long run.

As for the June 1 cuts themselves here is the list of players that will be removed on June 2 and what the projected cap totals for the teams will be based on the official salary cap numbers as of May 28, 2013.


Current Charge

New Charge


New Team Cap Space

James AndersonPanthers





Michael HuffRaiders





Bernard PollardRavens





Ryan FitzpatrickBills





Karlos DansbyDolphins





Kevin BurnettDolphins





Willie ColonSteelers





Jared GaitherChargers





Tyson ClaboFalcons





Marcus SpearsCowboys





Adam SnyderCardinals






Preparing for the Future: The AFC East


As we lead up to the draft I thought it might be fun to start looking ahead at some teams rosters and futures to help determine likelihood of trading down, good spots for undrafted free agents, and teams that will still be shopping in the bargain bin. We start with the AFC East:

Buffalo Bills

The Bills have 44 players under contract in 2014, which is the upper tier of the NFL. The only projected starters set to be unrestricted free agent are  C Eric Wood and TE Scott Chandler, while reserves RT Sam Young, OLB Bryan Scott, DT Alan Branch, and OLB Arthur Moats will also see free agency in 2014. I have the Bills estimated to carry around $107 million in cap charges in 2014, which is a pretty safe figure considering their roster size with likely cap casualties of WR/KR/QB Brad Smith and DE Mark Anderson either this summer or next season. Clearly the Bills are in desperate need of a QB  and could be a team that would look to move up if there was one they felt they loved and needed in round 1 or 2. Because the team seems to be set in a lot of positions this may not be a great fit for undrafted players unless they played the ILB position where the Bills are completely lacking or the OLB position where a prospect could show enough to eventually displace the players set to leave next season. That, of course, depends on the defense that the team runs. If they switch to a 34 Defensive end could be a more pressing concern. In terms of positional drafting QB, DE, and LB would seem to be major areas.  If any type of cornerback comes here they have pretty much no shot of making it.

Miami Dolphins

Miami looks to be an interesting team as they head into the draft. Clearly they were big spenders in free agency and they do have 41 players under contract next season with more than enough cap room for 2014, but they have a ton of projected starters and reserves whose contracts expire at the end of the 2013 League Year. The names include DT Paul Soliai, DT Randy Starks, CB Brent Grimes, G Richie Incognito, TE Dustin Keller, S Reshad Jones,  and S Chris Clemons. That’s nearly half of the projected defensive starters. The Dolphins have clearly been built as a win now team and with that in mind they are a team that could look to make an impact in the coming weeks. By 2015 the Dolphins only have 15 players under contract, 6th lowest in the NFL as of April 18th. They are already rumored to be trading for Branden Albert from the Chiefs, a bit of a strange move since they could have kept Jake Long for probably lesser money, so they would be out at least one draft choice to make that move. I’d imagine on draft day they want a player that they think can slot in right away and play for the team. Miami has a ton of draft picks and even if they trade two away will still have 9 picks in the draft. I doubt that will draft for anything but positional need with an eye on both this year and next year, specifically improving the secondary. Considering the moving of parts that could occur after this season I would consider this a decent landing spot for UDFAs to have a as low cost active roster players or Practice Squad players to get noticed and perhaps stick around in the future.  The one negative to signing with Miami is that with so many draft picks and big name new acquisitions it will be much more difficult for a UDFA to stand out.

New England Patriots

The Patriots essentially have no draft this year. They have late picks in the 1st thru 3rd round and then don’t pick again until the 7th round.  The Patriots have a large number of free agents after this season but only 4 project as starters. The team has 44 players under contract for 2014 and limited cap space. The Patriots I think would like to find a receiver and could also look for more interior linemen as both their center and backup are free agents next season. Given that the Patriots are a “now” team I could see them trading back or out entirely and trying to stockpile picks in the future. The team is going to have holes at ILB, WR, CB, C, and potentially DT in the near future making those areas of interest, but if they don’t see the payoff this year and a more desperate team comes calling Id expect the Patriots to play the trade game and wait to reload at a later date.

New York Jets

The Jets are clearly in the midst of a massive rebuild. The team only has 36 players under contract in 2014, 8th fewest in the NFL, and of those 36 many are not likely to be here during or after this season. Of their current projected starting lineup 5 offensive players are free agents after 2013 and 3 defensive starters will be free agents. By 2015 over half of the current projected starters will have their current contracts expire a number that does not include Mark Sanchez and Santonio Holmes, players who are as good as gone as soon as the cap allows. This is a long term plan with no real quick fix here. If you notice the Jets signed no long term deals this past offseason, the longest contract running all of 3 years. The Jets did not go off the deep end restructuring contracts and did not extend the terms of Antonio Cromartie’s contract for added cap relief nor get deeper on C Nick Mangold for a quick fix in 2013. They did not seem to approach a number of former starters about coming back, including Dustin Keller and Mike DeVito, both of whom signed reasonably priced contracts elsewhere. Those are often signs of a team  with plans of jettisoning a number of players and playing the compensatory pick game as best they can. The Jets are trying to move CB Darrelle Revis and with all the holes on the team there is no reason why they should not do it. This is a long term rebuild which means a ton of draft selections are of the utmost importance and it’s a great home for UDFA’s. The only position where the Jets will have stability is at the DE position where Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples look like long term building blocks. Otherwise this is a clear BAP draft and I would think the Jets will actively shop players, both big name and small name, all summer long.


Looking at the Bills QB Situation with Kolb and Jackson


The Buffalo Bills continued their search for a Quarterback to get some return on significant defensive investments, this time signing former Cardinal Kevin Kolb to a two year contract.  Sometimes as fans we get caught up in “name value” and memories and the immediate reaction to this signing was that Kolb was destined to be the starter and a sign that the Bills would not draft a QB.  Kolb fed into it himself with the statement as to how he was in Buffalo to win a Super Bowl portraying himself as some type of superstar QB looking for a home. A closer look at the situation paints a much different picture.

The Bills find themselves in a bit of a QB hole due to the poor decision made to extend journeyman QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to a lucrative $59 million dollar contract after a handful of good games in 2011. I heavily criticized the move at the time on my nyjetscap site, (which in turn saw me criticized by Bills fans), because it was a move that had almost no upside and did not need to be done at that time. It was a situation where the Bills had struggled so badly for so many years, the only team in 2000s to fail to make the playoffs, and been perceived as a cheap organization that GM Buddy Nix got caught up in sending a message that the Bills organization was going to become a spender in the NFL. Unfortunately it was the wrong player and Fitzpatrick crashed the minute he signed his name on the dotted line.

Fitzpatrick now compromises the Bills spending allocation on the position for the next two seasons. The Bills designated Fitzpatrick a June 1 cut meaning he will count for $3 million in dead money in 2013 and $7 million in 2014. Not that the free agent market was going to provide strong QB candidates but $10 million in dead money is nothing to sneeze at. Cutting Fitzpatrick was absolutely the right move to make and restructuring his deal was simply going to eat into more cap room for no reason, but if there was one move that Nix would want back in his tenure it has to be the Fitzpatrick one.

With Fitzpatrick gone but not forgotten on the books the Bills are in a position where they needed to look for a stopgap player and continue to still look in the draft. The two are not exclusive events as many have portrayed. The Bills situation is not all that different than that of division rival Miami last year. In 2012 the Dolphins signed former Jaguar starter David Garrard in March to a one year contract to compete with Matt Moore, entering the final year of a two year contract to be the backup in Miami. When the draft came around the presence of low tier starters made no impact on the Dolphins’ draft decisions, drafting Ryan Tannehill with the 8th overall pick.  In the Bills case the low salary of a rookie contract will counteract the $7 million in dead money that Fitzpatrick leaves the team in 2014.

The Bills and Nix are far more protective of their rights with their latest QB signings of Kolb and Tarvaris Jackson. Neither is signed to a big money deal and both will need to perform if they want to earn their keep. Kolb received a $1 million dollar signing bonus and will earn a $250,000 roster bonus if he makes the team in September. Jackson received a $500,000 signing bonus and will earn $450,000 if he makes the team in September. Kolb has an escalator in his contract for 2014 while Jackson can earn $2.25 million in additional 2013 compensation if he is named the starter and stays in that role.

The salary cap hits and contract makeup don’t proclaim the job to be Kolb’s by any means. Kolb carries a $2.5 million cap hit compared to Jackson’s  $2.25 million. Kolb’s cash takehome in 2013 is $3 million while Jackson can max out at $4.5 million. Cutting Kolb before week 1 saves the team $1.9 million in cap and $1.9 million in cash consideration. The team would take on a $500,000 dead money hit in 2014 if released. Cutting Jackson saves $1.7 million in cap space and cash consideration not taking into account the incentives in the contract.  In general the two deals are equal and both players need to be active to see the money come their way. If a third QB enters the mix it is likely that the loser of the preseason competition will be cut as the contracts were both designed to be team friendly, allowing the Bills to cut bait with minimal cash outlay.

Bypassing consideration of the draft is simply not an option. In the last two seasons Jackson has only suited up for 16 games, starting 14 of them and throwing for 3,091 yards. The often injured Kolb has played in 15 games, starting 14 of them, and thrown for 3,124 yards. Jackson’s TD/INT totals were 14/13 and Kolb’s 17/11. Kolb completes around 58% of his passes and Jackson right around 60%. Both players, especially Kolb, have name value but neither is likely going to amount to anything more than a 1 year fill in. Both players have had two teams look elsewhere for answers which is usually not the trait of a quality player. In a QB market where Drew Stanton earns $3 million guaranteed the dollar figures tell you everything you need to know about how the rest of the league values Kolb and Jackson.

Now it may turn out that there is no QB in the draft this year the Bills want to draft but the signing of Kolb wasn’t a sign that the Bills completed the search. All Kolb represented was a $1 million gamble that he might be better than the $500,000 gamble in Jackson for this upcoming season. Drafting a QB makes the decision that much easier to cut the cord on one of the two players come September and at least gives the Bills the upside they need to look at a potentially bright future. With Tom Brady getting older, the Jets in a rebuild, and the Dolphins having a question mark at the QB position, getting the young arm gives the Bills an opportunity to supplant the Patriots in a year or two as Brady nears the end of a dominant career, a similar strategy the Dolphins are using. Neither Kolb nor Jackson gives the Bills that chance, and they know it as evidenced by the contracts they have given the two players.


Bills Release George Wilson and Nick Barnett

The Buffalo Bills announced the release today of S George Wilson and LB Nick Barnett. Though the Bills have around $15 million in cap room, deficiencies in the roster and the impending free agency of star Safety Jairus Byrd have put them in a position where they need more space to improve on the disappointing results of last season.

Barnett represented the second highest cap savings possible for the team, behind only that of Chris Kelsay. His release frees up $3.5 million in both cash and cap space. Wilson, who earned an escalator to push his base salary to $2.9 million, will save the team $2.925 million in both cash and cap room.