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.
This is the final draft of the first chapter of Caponomics: Moneyball Thinking for the NFL. We’re sending it out to publishers this week, but a) I’d love to share it with the Over The Cap audience as I’ve been unable to post much since March as I’ve been in the process of re-writing my first draft of Caponomics and b) I figured this would be an avenue to reach publishers I don’t have access to.
After about 16 months of researching the salary caps of Super Bowl champions, this chapter is an introduction to a book that is (my best attempt at) the process or the blueprint for how to build a successful NFL franchise.
In less than a week we have had our second major blockbuster trade, this time between the Eagles and Browns with the Eagles moving up to number 2 in the draft. The Eagles in return will send their 1st, 3rd, an 4th round picks this year and their 1st and 2nd round picks next year to the Browns. I had a chance to listen to GM Howie Roseman explaining some of the reasoning behind the trade today, which echoed many of my own thoughts when exploring the reasons for drafting a QB regardless of roster construction, but the cost of this was pretty big. I’ll use our OTC trade matrix to again grade the trade from both sides. Continue reading Evaluating the Browns and Eagles Blockbuster Trade »
Today’s podcast talks about a variety of things from Paul DePodesta to the Soviet Union hockey team and their coach, all the way to Lane Kiffin in a conversation about how some incredible minds come up with new, unique solutions.
Two important questions that are brought up from Mike Vorkunov’s Vice Sports piece on Paul DePodesta are:
1) What can I take from this and how can I maybe apply it to baseball and make us better?
2) If we weren’t already doing it this way, do you think this is the way we would do it?
Estimated 2015 Cap Space: $48.8 million ($140M cap limit)
Players Under Contract: 55
Pro Bowlers: 3
Unrestricted Free Agents: 10(4 with 50%+ playtime)
Draft Selection: 12
Salary Cap Breakdown
Free Agents to Re-sign
The team faces an interesting decision with cornerback Buster Skrine. They drafted a replacement for him but Skrine is the more proven commodity and did come up with four interceptions on the year. With all the cap space the Browns have it is probably worth hedging their bets and retaining him…Jordan Cameron struggled with injuries and may have also felt the pressure of a contract year leading to a miserable season. But Cameron is talented and last year should work in the team’s favor to get a reasonable price….For a low cost Miles Austin is a perfectly fine plyer to keep on the team especially since it seems he embraces the role of working with the younger players on the team.
Free Agents to Let Walk
The Brian Hoyer era came and quickly vanished by December. Cleveland mat have to make a decision on the QB position but Hoyer shouldn’t even be part of that process. Hoyer is not the type of player that a rebuilding team should be committing to. He’s a decent backup on a team with a good quarterback…Jabaal Sheard hasn’t fared well with the defensive changes and will cost too much to justify the production he is giving. He’ll land with a team that puts him back on the line…Ahtyba Rubin has been one of the worst values at the position and the team will likely look for better value elsewhere.
Contracts to Modify
Tashaun Gipson is one of those hidden gems and will likely be tendered, even off injury, at the first round level. There is no need for the Browns to waste any time in signing him long term once that tender is extended. They will get a much better contract by working it out now than waiting a full year…The Browns has picked up the option year on DE/DT Phil Taylor, but Taylor has missed 20 games over the last three seasons and doesn’t really have a defined role on the team. I think all sides would benefit from an incentive laden contract than pushing the release of the player. But I can’t see a reason to pay Taylor the $5.47M salary.
Players to Consider Releasing
It seemed as if the Browns and Josh Gordon reached a breaking point when the Browns suspended Gordon for the final game of the year to block him from become a free agent in two years. Gordon is very talented but is always a suspension risk and the Browns did not believe that he is necessarily a team player. It would seem realistic to think the Browns locked his contract down to make him more attractive to another team in a trade….If no deal can be reached with Taylor I would place him in this category as well.
For about ¾ of the season the Browns tricked everyone into believing they turned a corner, but by the end of the year they were almost a bottom 10 team. The team will once again have a huge surplus of salary cap space at their disposal to attempt to fix the team and get them back to being a real contender within the next two seasons. Their defense made strides under Mike Pettine and they got a lot out of the secondary and saw Paul Kruger live up to the contract. These seems to be a solid foundation in place on this side of the ball and I don’t believe they will let that go to waste by ignoring the offense in free agency and waiting on draft picks to develop.
Outside of offensive line the Browns are incredibly underinvested in their offense. They are near the bottom of the NFL in spending on the quarterback, running back, and tight end positions. The only reason they are not that far down at receiver is because of a unique frontloaded contract they used when signing Andrew Hawkins.
The Browns approach to offense has been a disaster for the last decade. The underinvestment isn’t because they are necessarily filled with great young prospects or avoided offense in the draft, but simply the fact that they have made poor decisions when it comes to identifying any non-lineman. The names read as a who’s who of underperformers- Trent Richardson, Brandon Weeden, Brian Robiski, Mohamed Massaqui- and there has to be real worry that Manziel is going to fit into that same category after partying his way right out of a starting job in his rookie year.
With so much cap space the team is in a position, similar to the Raiders last season, where they really need to start taking some chances just to bring professional players onto that side of the football. With the QB position so up in the air they need to upgrade their talent at running back and perhaps identify a blocking tight end, both of which can be found in free agency. The team has a major need for a wide receiver, especially if Gordon is released. There is no shortage of talent available in free agency and finding a quality free agent would allow them to use their draft picks on other areas.
Defensively the team could use an inside linebacker and more help along the line to keep the defense a strength of the team. I would not be surprised to hear the Browns linked to former Jets linebacker David Harris, though they would be better off looking for a younger player to develop and take over for Karlos Dansby in 2016. There is probably an end or tackle they can find with one of their first rounder’s this year as there is not a great deal available in free agency. They could take a chance on BJ Raji hoping he can stay healthy and rejuvenate his career or look at Damon Harrison depending on what type of tender offer the Jets make to him.
It won’t be an easy path for the Browns. They need to hit in free agency to make the most of what they have now while also getting some younger pieces in place to replace some of those veteran defenders in the near future. Unless they show real improvement the team will likely find all new coaches and front office personnel in 2016 signaling yet another new start for the team. The GM will keep that in mind when making decisions “for the future” instead of the present.
With trade rumors swirling in the NFL, I thought it would make sense to look at three of the big names mentioned at Wide Receiver and the reasons why the teams might or might not pull the trigger on trading their players. The big names in question are the Giants’ Hakeem Nicks, Browns’ Josh Gordon, and Titans’ Kenny Britt. All three would seem to be on the block for various reasons and we’ll try to look at some comparables to determine what the players may gain in a trade.
Of the three names Britt is likely the least appealing. Britt is a former 1st round draft pick whose best seasons came in 2009 and 2010 when he looked poised to break out as one of the next great receivers in the game. Britt suffered a serious knee injury in 2011 that seemed to de-rail his career. Prior to his injury Britt averaged 17.5 YPC and was looked to be at a minimum a 55 catch/900 yard type player. Since then his numbers have plummeted to under 13 YPC and he has basically been benched by the Titans for general ineffectiveness. Britt’s off the field problems are well documented and I think there are some who question whether Britt is simply not recovered from injury or just unhappy in Tennessee.
Britt will be a free agent in 2014 and there is no chance that the Titans would designate him a franchise player. For Tennessee they first need to weigh what they would receive in draft compensation in 2015 if they let him walk next season. I don’t believe it would be much anything because there are so many questions surrounding him that it would seem hard to imagine a team signing him to anything more than a two year low base value but incentive laden contract.
There are rumors that the Titans are looking for at least a 3rd round pick for Britt. That number is insane and I’m not sure what justification there would be to that price tag other than management preferring to have him suffer through the rest of the year on the bench. The best high end comparison I could come up with for Britt was Santonio Holmes. Holmes was 26 years old when traded to the New York Jets prior to the 2010 NFL draft. Holmes was in the final year of his deal and had well documented off the field issues. He has just finished a season in which he went off for more than 1200 yards and was two seasons removed from being named Super Bowl MVP. Holmes only fetched a 5th round pick.
Another possible player to look at would be Ted Ginn, Jr, who was just 25 when he was traded from Miami to San Francisco. Ginn’s productivity was nowhere near that of Holmes and like Britt had seemingly regressed, though he was never at as high of a level as Britt. Ginn did not have the off the field issues and also had tremendous value as a kick returner. Ginn also only cost a 5th round pick and was set to enter free agency one year following the trade.
The final possible look would be Davone Bess. Bess was a bit older than Britt and never had the upside or cache of Britt, but maybe one could make an argument that a motivated post-injury Britt could be productive as a shorter field threat capable of gaining maybe 500-650 low impact yards a season. The trade for Bess amounted to a 5th rounder in return for Bess and a 7th. Bess was set to be a free agent when traded.
At the most the Titans could expect to receive a 5th round pick for Britt and even that could be pushing it due to his lack of use this season. He was never as good as Holmes and may not be as varied a threat as Ginn especially post-injury. My gut feeling is that they should be happy with receiving a 5th for him and giving up a 7th in return, similar to the Bess trade. Even a 6th rounder might be worth doing. I don’t see the compensatory pick being very large in this case, if it happens at all. It seems to be a trade that should happen if anyone is really interested.
Gordon is a very interesting prospect because he still has two years remaining on his rookie contract and will thus be an extremely low cost option for a team that acquires him. As a rookie Gordon had over 800 yards and this season would be on pace for 1700 yards if he played 16 games. So the upside with Gordon is tremendous. So why are the Browns looking to trade him?
In this case I think this is the Browns trying to strike before the clock strikes 12. Gordon has had many drug issues in the past and is one strike away from being out of the NFL for a full year. I doubt the Browns trust him to stay clean and he missed two games for a failed test this season. If he was to slip up again next year he goes from high value to no value.
The Browns are said to be seeking a first round pick for Gordon. It is pretty much impossible to find a comparable player because players this young never get traded. In terms of off the field trouble Holmes would be a comparison, but contractually they were in very different spots. Godson would give a team 2 ½ low cost years while Holmes was only going to give one.
That said the only receivers in the last few years to get a 1st round pick in return were Percy Harvin and Roy Williams, both of whom were entering their contract years and received extensions following the trade. Williams was a colossal bust and Harvin has yet to play a game for Minnesota. Prior to that would be Deion Branch in 2006 and Randy Moss in 2005. Considering Gordon’s history I think a first rounder would be out of reach, though a 2nd rounder from a playoff contender could be in play. Even a second, though, could be high. Brandon Marshall is the only recent trade (the one that sent him from Denver to Miami) to include a 2nd round pick. Beyond Marshall the only other trade I can recall is the 2007 in-season trade of Chris Chambers from the Dolphins to the Chargers.
Whatever decision is made with Gordon will take a great deal of guts on both sides. If the Browns think he can be clean then they should hold on to him. If they feel he is going to fail another drug test they should take a 2nd or 3rd for him.
Of the three names Nicks is the most intriguing. Nicks has had monster years in the past and has been treated as a true number 1 target. But injuries in 2012 seemed to move him to second fiddle behind Victor Cruz and it’s clear that he never regained his chemistry with QB Eli Manning. Nicks is on pace for nearly 1200 yards this year but it seems like a quiet 1,200 yards as he has battled drops and gaining the attention of his QB. Some seem to perceive a rift between Nicks and Manning that most will blame on Nicks going through the motions and not putting in the work.
Nicks is in the final year of his contract, but unlike Britt is going to be a Franchise player. I get the feeling that Nicks is not too thrilled to stay with the Giants but he is going to get that tag which will allow the Giants to control his rights for next season as well. While nobody expects the young wideout to really sign a contract with another team as a Franchise player it does set a bar even now as to his worth. The other two teams can dream and ask for whatever they want but the Giants are the only team that can truly block Nicks with the price they want.
I tend to think the rumors of the Giants being open to offers for Nicks is more of a fishing expedition to hear what he is worth to teams next season. They could just be setting the groundwork for a trade next year rather than this one. Provided the Giants don’t go wild in free agency next year, which they likely won’t, at worst he is worth a compensatory 3. So they are the one team that can really set parameters of a 1 all the way down to a 3 and have reasons behind those parameters.
Finding the trade value for Nicks is difficult because the results are so varied. Nicks is a much more proven player than Harvin and the Seahawks gave up a fortune for him in both draft picks and money. Harvin is also injury prone. Going back to the Williams trade in 2008 the situations could be looked at as similar. Williams often had lingering injury issues, but he had shown tremendous talent when healthy. Dallas gave up a first rounder and other mid round picks to get the job done. I would think both would be the Giants ideal scenarios.
Other teams could use the Braylon Edwards in season Browns to Jets trade as some type of lowball offer. Edwards was an extremely high draft selection who never really lived up to expectations in Cleveland and had fallen out of favor with the new coaching staff. Edwards still was somewhat productive and the Jets traded a 3 and a 5 along with some spare piece players in order to acquire Edwards from the Browns. Edwards was in the final year of his contract at the time of the trade. Other deals involving third round picks include Marshall from Miami to Chicago and Anquan Boldin from Arizona to Baltimore. Both players were in different stages of their carriers than Nicks
Nicks has been t he better pro than Edwards and remains more productive even now. Edwards was almost like a firesale trade because he clashed with the coach. The least the Giants should settle for is the two second round picks that the Dolphins gave for Marshall in 2010. Marshall also signed an extension almost immediately upon being traded. Teams could make the deal at a 2 and a conditional 3, with the 3 becoming a 2 if Nicks is re-signed.
The Giants clearly have options here and with the Franchise power probably do not have any reason to trade him this year. Unless he gets injured his value should remain the same and teams have shown a willingness to spend on the position. The only reason to trade him now would be because they want to make certain they have additional draft selections in the 2014 draft, which may not occur if they have him on the tag.
If it was me I would not trade him, but Franchise him instead and let him more or less seek out his own trade next year. If they do that early enough they should grab two picks over the next two drafts. It allows the Giants to keep up a mirage that they think this season means something and probably will not compromise their position in the long run.
With Josh Freeman’s benching official we now turn some attention to possible landing spots for the QB. Right off the bat I do feel that the Buccaneers really mishandled the situation. If they were this down on Freeman to bench him this quickly they should have explored the trade market months ago when he still had value. Giving up on him kills his trade value to the point where you are now just hoping to dump a player that was drafted in the first round in 2009.
I do think a possible scenario could be one in which the Bucs sit and wait until the trade deadline hoping that a starter gets injured and makes picking up Freeman a necessity. That would be the maximized return in terms of trade value. But this is not going to be Carson Palmer to the Raiders. Palmer had retired from football and not had an opportunity to QB a team expected to do well and then been the primary person blamed for failure. They will give up something, but it’s going to be more like a 5th or 6th round pick, not a 2nd rounder.
From a draft pick for player trade perspective I think all sides will look at the possibility of compensatory draft picks. Right now Freeman is damaged goods but players like Vince Young and Jason Campbell were able to fetch close to $4 million a year while Kyle Boller even made $1.5 million, so it’s possible that compensatory picks could be awarded if he hits free agency. If the Buccaneers think they will receive a compensatory 5th in the 2015 draft they should be willing to take a 5th in 2014 for him. A 6th could even get it done. Those same teams might look at this as a one season delay on the draft pick since they would then hold Freeman’s free agent rights and receive that compensatory pick in the 2015 draft.
Thus far I don’t think there are any rumors of serious interest anywhere, but why not look ahead anyway and focus on the five teamsthat most fans are talking about.
I don’t really see this as being an ideal trade partner. While Christian Ponder is not lighting the world on fire in Minnesota he is not the biggest issue on a team that gives up 30 points to the Browns and cant place a body on a receiver on a fake FG attempt. The Vikings are 0-3 and what reason would there be to believe that Freeman, who flopped on a playoff potential team, would come in here and rescue the season?
The other issue here is the cap space issue. Josh Freeman will cost $6.94 million in cap space to a team that acquires him. The Vikings have just $2.3 million. I would imagine if you are trading for Freeman the need for either Matt Cassel or Christian Ponder disappears. The Vikings could include Cassel in a trade and cut about $1.4 million from the payroll, but that still would not be enough to make the trade happen. Ponder would free even less room but the Vikings would also pass along $1.7 million in fully guaranteed 2014 salary to the Bucs, making him perhaps a more reasonable candidate.
I would think to make it work they would move Ponder for Freeman and have to make the salaries match. Trading Ponder transfers $2,829,645 in guaranteed salary to the Buccaneers. In turn the Buccaneers would need to pay $4,112,708 of Freeman’s salary before executing a trade. That would bring the cash and cap commitment for the Vikings to $2.829 million, giving them just enough room to execute a Ponder for Freeman trade. I actually think the Vikings would want something beyond Freeman to do that trade, but Ponder has also become a scapegoat so maybe not.
The Vikings do have a number of high cost players who could also have their contracts reworked to open up the cap space necessary to make the trade if they did not want to part with any players on the team. The Vikings have a low payroll in 2014 so franchising Freeman is a realistic option.
If this was April I think the Raiders would have been interested. Greg Olson, the Raiders Offensive Coordinator, has a relationship with Freeman when the two were together in Tampa and he got the best out of Freeman. But Oakland already whiffed once in the trade market and now have seen Terrelle Pryor at least be capable enough to warrant more opportunity. Pryor did suffer a concussion this past Monday and those injuries can be very tricky. If the Raiders think it could be a long term setback for Pryor this could be a reasonable option.
Like with the Vikings, the trade is complicated because of salary cap constraints as the Raiders only have $3.1 million in room. It is probably further complicated because the Raiders are not going to spend more draft picks on the position as they have wasted picks in trades for Palmer and Flynn in recent years. I would think this would need to be a pure player for player trade with Flynn going to Tampa and Freeman to Oakland. Flynn only makes $1.25 million so again we have a scenario where the Buccaneers are going to need to eat significant salary, somewhere between $2.8 and $3.8 million to make the numbers work.
Oakland does not have the financial flexibility to rework contracts to make the deal work without Tampa kicking in significant money. I guess an outside the box thought would be trading Darren McFadden and his salary to the Buccaneers, but that seems counterproductive for both sides. If Tampa does not foot the bill Oakland would, most likely, have to sign Freeman to an extension. Since Freeman’s value right now is so low Oakland could be willing to do that if Freeman was willing to sign off on it. Oakland’s payroll is next to nothing in 2014 so adding money to that year, even via a void provision, would not impact them one bit.
In my mind this makes sense simply because the Jaguars are so bad and have the worst QB situation in the NFL. But the Jaguars have not really made any changes to their team and seem to be simply playing for the draft at this point, making this a move they will not want to make. Unlike the first two teams Freeman would be a clear upgrade to both Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne, but that could potentially compromise their ability to cruise to the first pick in the draft. There is no reason for the Jaguars to think that Freeman is a franchise QB and they are simply treading water until they get the opportunities to build the team in a manner they feel champions are built.
The Jaguars have more than enough cap room to take Freeman on but unless they just want to throw a bone to their fanbase there is no reason for them to make this trade. It would be a surprise if they made this move.
Cleveland already moved on from Brandon Weeden in favor of Brian Hoyer, so I guess the question here is how high are the Browns on Hoyer, who played well last Sunday, and how low are they on Weeden. The Browns owe Weeden $2.44 million in fully guaranteed salary in 2014 and 2015 and a trade involving Weeden lets them pass those obligations on to another team, which is what they did with Trent Richardson. Would they consider that a fair swap? I’m not sure as they may prefer getting a late draft pick for Weeden than a player like Freeman. The Browns have plenty of cap space this year and next so applying the tag or extending Freeman would work without problem.
I would keep an eye on the Browns closer to the trade deadline if Freeman is still riding the bench in Tampa Bay. The Browns division does not look to be strong this year and the Browns do have a solid defense that will keep them in games. If Hoyer proves to be a one game wonder but the Browns tread water and sit at 3-4 with a solid defense Freeman could be worth a gamble. At the worst it is throwing away a player you have already given up on for someone who could be more than just a stopgap for the season.
I have seen the Titans name mentioned before, and they have just enough cap room to pull this trade off, but I’m not really sure there is a fit. I feel as if the Titans would like to continue to give Jake Locker a look and if he was to fail would be prepared to turn the reigns over to Ryan Fitzpatrick in hopes of being able to make the playoffs. Going forward the Titans have enough salary cap commitments to where having cap rollover dollars are more important than bringing Freeman onto the roster. Those same cap commitments likely eliminate the Franchise tag and any extensions before free agency. I only see this as a destination if both Locker and Fitzpatrick were to get injured.