Examining the Marginal Value Implied in Player Contracts

There are a number of ways to look at roster construction in the NFL, and Nick recently did a great job with his roster texture charts(which you should read if you haven’t already), but today I wanted to look to see how teams really derive their value when they build a roster. Normally when we look at a roster we look at two basic numbers- salary cap charges and contract annual value- and then compare franchises across the board. But I got to thinking, wouldn’t it be a much more accurate portrayal if we put those numbers in perspective by seeing how much marginal value a team is really assigning to their highest paid players?  For example Peyton Manning makes more than Darrelle Revis, but Manning plays a position where the average salary for a starter is over $12 million. Tehnically the Jets are giving up more by having Revis as the highest paid player on the team, even if Manning has a higher stated salary. So we can best define value by determining the cost above average a team spends on their top players on the team. Continue reading Examining the Marginal Value Implied in Player Contracts »

Jameis Winston Official Contract Numbers

Joel Corry of CBS sports was the first to get the official breakdown of 2015 number 1 pick Jameis Winston’s new contract with the Tampa Bay Buccneers.

Continue reading Jameis Winston Official Contract Numbers »

Buccaneers 2015 Offseason Salary Cap Outlook

Estimated 2015 Cap Space: $29.8 million ($140M cap limit)

Roster Overview

Players Under Contract: 43
Pro Bowlers: 1
Unrestricted Free Agents: 11(1 with 50%+ playtime)
Draft Selection: 1

 Salary Cap Breakdown

Buccaneers 2015 Salary Cap

Buccaneers 2015 Offensive Salary Cap SpendingBuccaneers Defensive Spending2

Free Agents to Re-sign

With Gerald McCoy already re-signed there is little left for Tampa Bay to do as they prepare for the offseason. LB Danny Lansanah has bounced around the NFL for years and seems to have finally found a home. He has been effective in his starts this year.  The Bucs control his rights so he won’t be going anywhere next season…There is really no one else on the roster worth going out of the way to keep and the team already extended low level contributors Brandon Myers and Louis Murphy. Major Wright and Mason Foster might be the two most reasonable players to bring back on low value contracts.

Free Agents to Let Walk

Adrian Clayborn has been a disappointment and is constantly injured. I am sure there is some thought that he is worth a low cost one year contract, but he has never been effective and they are just likely throwing money away by keeping him. Maybe he can have a solid NFL career but it will probably never happen in Tampa Bay…DaQuan Bowers has also been a disappointment and has been a headache off the field. He can give the team 200-250 snaps a year as a role player, but that is money that can be better spent elsewhere.


Contracts to Modify

DaShon Goldson has been nothing short of a disaster for Tampa Bay since they signed him to a bloated contract in 2013. He is still owed $4 million and I think that will prove a barrier to release. His salary is far too high at $8 million so bringing it down to $5 million would seem to be a reasonable compromise for both sides, assuming Goldson wants to remain in Tampa…Logan Mankins is set to earn $7 million in 2015 which is the highest cash figure paid to a guard in 2015. He is no longer that level of player and if he wants to continue playing he is worth closer to the $3 million salary that is average for the position.

Players to Consider Releasing

Michael Koenen is coming off a season where he averaged a career low in yards per punt. His $3.25 million salary is the 4th highest cash salary in the NFL next season. I’m not sure the team needs to carry him at that figure….The Buccaneers will need to make a decision on Anthony Collins. He looked to be a take the money and run player and has another $3 million guaranteed, but if they release him they avoid making that guarantee $6 million. It’s worth considering… I thought Evan Dietrich-Smith would have been a solid addition to the Bucs offensive line, but he has been much better and they can find better value for the $3.75 million that it will cost to keep him.


Offseason Plan

Tampa Bay needs to re-evaluate the way their entire organization has been run as they prepare for the 2015 offseason. Nothing right has worked for them in years as they have exemplified the worst of both worlds: they big money splashes in free agency have failed and their draft strategy has failed. Almost any position is fair game for this team.

Based on availability I would expect the team to look for a running back, defensive end, linebacker, and right tackle in free agency with quarterback, center, and left tackle being draft priorities. The team has a veteran head coach and a number of high priced pieces so it is doubtful they would enter complete rebuilding mode. They do have a few building block players in Mike Evans, Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David and Alterraun Verner, but they need to find a way to build a complementary group rather than just buying a bunch of parts that don’t seem to fit together.

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Should the Buccaneers Keep Darrelle Revis?


The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ season that is spiraling out of control brought up a number of questions last night about the future of CB Darrelle Revis in Tampa, so I thought this might be a good time to look at the situation from a few angles.

The Revis Contract

I’ve covered Revis’ contract battles pretty extensively on my nyjetscap site and then again here when Revis moved to Tampa Bay, so I’m at least somewhat familiar with the battles he has had with the Jets in the past. Revis’ side had always been motivated by the ultimate in dollar signs. Not that this is any great revelation and most people in life want to make the most that they can, but it always came across as extremely important to their team, more than any other player I can remember.

As a rookie Revis had a difficult time agreeing to a contract with a fight over years and money which eventually led to him signing a contract that busted the draft slot salary about 3 or 4 positions(meaning that Revis’ 14th slot had the chance to be paid like the 10th or 11th pick).  Just three years later he held out looking for a contract that would surpass the annual value of Nnamdi Asomugha’s deal with the Oakland Raiders. In this case a compromise was reached where Revis would earn the same two year annual value of Asomugha’s contract but not the overall annual value. This was when phrases like “QB of the defense” began to arise and it was clear that the end game was to be paid at a level similar to that of a QB.

In 2012 pass rusher Mario Williams signed a record setting $16 million dollar a year contract with the Buffalo Bills giving Revis a new number to aim for. Another holdout was threatened but the Jets held some contractual power that saw Revis take the field and unfortunately injure his knee right at the start of the season. New York knew that the contract would become an issue in 2013 and prepared for life without Revis. Their goal was to find a team desperate enough to not just trade a high draft pick but pay him the $16 million dollar a year figure.

The Buccaneers were willing to deal with Revis and the Jets but there was a condition attached- if Revis wanted to be the highest paid defensive player in the NFL they would not include any guarantees in his contract. Williams had received nearly $25 million in full guarantees upon signing and $50 million in total guarantees on his $96 million dollar deal. For Revis, who fought with the Jets over guaranteed salary offers in 2010, that $16 million dollar number was so important that he was willing to take no guaranteed money in his contract.

Revis’ contract is not that different in structure than many of the Buccaneers contracts in that no signing bonus is included. However,  most of the players have guaranteed base salaries for the first  two years of their contracts. Revis does not. His contract contains an annual payout of $16 million each year. If Revis is cut the cost to the Buccaneers is zero on the salary cap. If Revis is traded the cost is zero on the salary cap. So Tampa left themselves many avenues to easily escape the deal.

Tampa’s Situation

Tampa Bay certainly looked like an intriguing team this year. They were competitive last year and had sunk considerable money into their offensive line, wide receivers, and secondary with the addition of Revis and Safety Dashon Goldson. They had other talented players via the draft as well.

Unfortunately for Tampa the Quarterback situation blew up on the team and the team has seemingly lost faith in their head coach Greg Schiano. At 0-7 and pretty much non-competitive the last few weeks the team could be in line for a major shakeup. GM Mark Dominik, who has been in that role since 2009, has only once delivered a winning record and will have gone through two hires in the last five years. It is debatable if he gets to hire a third coach.

Dominik has structured the roster in a way where they can create millions in cap space by moving on from a number of “name” value players. The question for Tampa becomes do they believe that just the coach is a problem or that the organization is fundamentally flawed?  If the answer is the former then expect Dominik to bring in a more experienced coach and to hit free agency or trades to bring in a Jay Cutler and go the route that the Arizona Cardinals are trying with Carson Palmer. If the answer is the latter then expect a number of roster moves, one of whom could be Revis.

The Buccaneers have already parted with a number 1 pick for Revis. They also owe the Jets a 3rd round pick in 2014 provided that Revis is on the Buccaneers roster beyond the 3rd day of the 2014 League Year. If he is not the draft pick falls to a 4th. Tampa has a strong probabilty to be the top pick in the NFL draft making the 3rd rounder much more valuable than Tampa ever considered. If Revis is moved that pick drops to a 4th rounder. For a team potentially rebuilding that could be a point worth considering.

Trading Revis

From the Buccaneers point of view their best chance to trade Revis would be to make a mad dash to the phones and get a deal done over the weekend. Revis would cost a team $6.88 million for the remainder of the season. A few teams can take on that cap figure including the Bills, whose defensive coordinator has a relationship with Revis, Packers, Dolphins, and Eagles. Green Bay and Miami are both playoff contenders.

If Revis is going to cost the Buccaneers at least a 4thround pick next year it might be worth seeing if someone is willing to take on Revis for a playoff run for a 2ndor 3rd round pick to lessen the blow. That trade possibility will only exist, in my opinion, if a trade is made now for the stretch run rental. If they wait until next season there will be no trade market. We’ll touch on that aspect of this below.


The Value of the Non-QB Position

The average quarterback contract for a starter in the NFL is around $10 million per year. The average veteran contract, which is a more realistic number to use when addressing true QB value, is about $15 million a year. There are only six other players in the NFL that earn in the vicinity of “QB money”. Those players are Calvin Johnson ($16.2 million), Larry Fitzgerald ($16.1 million), Revis ($16 million), Williams ($16 million),  Adrian Peterson ($14.2 million), and Juilus Peppers ($14 million).

The combined records of the teams featuring those players since they signed their mega-deals is 69-100 through Thursdays Buccaneers/Panthers game. The only playoff team was Peterson’s Vikings in 2012 when Peterson had the historic rushing year. They lost in the first round. Johnson’s Lions are in a position to make it this season. Only Peppers and Peterson experienced a winning season and I’d imagine Johnson will join that group this season.

This of course brings up the debate as to whether or not non-QB’s can be worth this kind of money?  I think most teams would answer no to this question. To some extent all of those other positions can be taken away from a gameplan. That can not really be done with a Quarterback which is why they are so valuable, though the prices on the QB have become far too high as well.

Revis is such a unique talent because he may be the only true lockdown corner in the NFL. While in New York, Revis didn’t just play a side while in man on defense. He didn’t play zone and pass off responsibility. Revis simply picked a player and followed him. He followed him out of the huddle and across the field. He was good enough to break assignments in the middle of a play while he sniffed out where the ball was actually going. And this did not always mean Revis was on the best player. Often he seemed to match against the player the Jets thought the play was designed to go to.

But to get the most out of Revis it takes a great deal of confidence in your defense and your personnel. Say what you will about Rex Ryan, the one thing he has is the utmost confidence in his team. He pushed to bring in another excellent corner(both through the draft in Kyle Wilson and free agency in Antonio Cromartie) to play alongside Revis to prevent teams from being able to use the strategy of just throwing away from him at a below average player.  It also required a coach to believe that he can just leave a player out there to “do his thing” and not have the support in place.

What we see in Tampa is the approach where Revis is forced to fit into a defense rather than the  “defense plus 1” strategy that was a success in New York. I don’t think many teams in the NFL would be willing to do what Ryan did with Revis in New York. It was the perfect marriage. But if a team is going to zone Revis out then how can he be the “QB of a defense”. He can’t.

In Revis’ case a team acquiring him in a trade next season would need to be willing to pay him $16 million in cap and cash each year  to honor his contract. While they could juggle some numbers to make it more cap friendly than the current contract, the bottom line number remains the same- every year will cost the team $16 million in cash. A team might be willing to pay him for 9 weeks at that rate knowing they are a playoff team, but on a yearly basis?  Doubtful. That’s why at least exploring trades now might not be a bad option for Tampa.

The Revis Gamble

The lack of guarantees and dead money protection really makes the deal nothing more than a one year contract with yearly options. It was a gamble on  his part that he could lose. The cornerback market considerably softened in 2013. Players expecting mega deals or franchise tags signed for less than $5 million a season. Others took one year contracts hoping that the salary cap situation would improve in 2014 for most teams. Whether that was because of the spread offenses in the NFL further diminishing the value of one player or some other reason, teams just are not spending there yet. In hindsight it makes Revis’ contract look ludicrous.

Revis earns almost $6 million more per season than the next closest priced corner, who is Champ Bailey of the Denver Broncos. It is almost impossible for Revis to be worth that much more than the second highest paid player at the position especially in the defense Tampa is running. The other high end players are anywhere no more than $4 million above the second highest paid player at the position. It’s pretty much an unsustainable salary for Revis if Tampa Bay decided to move on.

By no means does that mean Revis is going to starve but if he enters free agency and there are a group of young cornerbacks that are going to push the envelope on pricing in the near future, but I don’t think a team would be willing to really go much above the $12 million dollar level. His willingness to go with no guarantees could potentially lead to some pretty big changes not just in Tampa but for everyone else at the position.

The cornerback market wants a player like Revis to earn $16 million because it gives them a target to aim for. Richard Sherman of the Seahawks would love to have a data point to go after when his contract comes up for renewal. If that data point drops to $12 million his leverage is going to be hurt. The whole market can benefit from players like Revis breaking the bank. Players need Revis to succeed where the others have failed to help increase their asking price. But with 0-7 and a bleak future staring the Buccaneers in the face this may prove to be nothing more than a failed one year contract.


Buccaneers Release Josh Freeman


According to Adam Schefter of ESPN the Buccaneers have released QB Josh Freeman after weeks of a pretty toxic situation following the benching of the young QB.

As a vested veteran the Buccaneers should be liable for his full salary for the season, meaning they still owe him $6.4 million dollars. There is a way that the team can avoid that payment if they have warned the player about his effort, but since no reports on that had leaked previously I would not think that is the case in this situation.

Freeman will now be free to sign with any team in the NFL. the minimum a team must pay Freeman is $715,000 which would be prorated for the remainder of the season. That only works out to $546,765 on the year, meaning every team in the NFL could be in play for Freeman. Considering Freeman should earn his full salary from the Bucs it would be in his best interest to sign with another team as quickly as possible in hopes of playing this season.

I would imagine that, at this price, the Raiders would be very interested in looking at Freeman as a backup to Terrelle Pryor. Freeman has a relationship with the Raiders’ offensive coordinator and could fit in the offense easily. I could potentially see at this price the Bengals thinking that Freeman would make a better insurance policy than Josh Johnson as the backup to Andy Dalton. Another team of note could be the Browns looking to cover all bases in the event Brian Hoyer comes back to earth. I firmly believe Jacksonville should be looking at anyone at QB and to get a look at Freeman first hand for this cheap would be a good deal for them, but for some reason they don’t seem very interested in looking outside of Blaine Gabbert at the moment.


Are the Buccaneers Looking to Avoid Paying Josh Freeman?


Sports Illustrated’s Jim Trotter reported today that the Buccaneers have fined QB Josh Freeman and could be looking to suspend Freeman, who the Buccaneers clearly do not want around the team anymore.

Under the terms of the CBA an NFL team has the right to suspend a player for up to 4 games for conduct detrimental to the team. Teams are supposed to treat all players the same in regards to fines and punishments, but in the case of suspensions a team seems to have more leeway in that regard. If a player is a repeat offender, being routinely fined for the same offense, the club can impose the suspension penalty if it so chooses. Based on Trotter’s article this would seem to be exactly what the Buccaneers are doing with multiple fines laying the groundwork for a notice of suspension.

I believe it may go even further than that. While the Buccaneers are trying to trade Freeman they have mishandled the situation so badly that there is no market for him anymore. The relationship is toxic and every team in the NFL knows this. Maybe Tampa feels by sending him away they can repair the damage and convince a team that they should give up a pick for Freeman, but that is unlikely. They must know their only option is release of the player.

The problem with that avenue is the fact that Freeman has enough years in the NFL to be eligible for Termination Pay, which means the balance of his salary for the year is fully guaranteed. That amount is $6.446 million. Even if he signed with another team the Buccaneers would have to pay that full amount once Freeman requested it.  A 4 game suspension saves them $1.983 million of the remaining salary reducing the cost of release to $4.46 million once his suspension ends.

However there is a route by which the Buccaneers can avoid Termination Pay if the player is not exhibiting a “good faith effort” to honor his obligations to the team. From Appendix I of the CBA:

The Club hereby provides you with written notice that you are failing to exhibit the level of good faith effort which can be reasonably expected from players on this Club. If you do not demonstrate the good faith effort which can be reasonably expected from players on this Club, you will not be entitled to Termination Pay under Article 30 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement if you are terminated before the end of this season

The Buccaneers may be setting up a paperwork trail of fines due to reported conduct that would allow them to release Freeman and avoid paying the remainder of his salary.  He is at the stage where he is being warned now and I’d imagine any further fines would indicate a lack of good faith on his part to be a contributing member of the team.

So while this is just speculation on my part, the situation has grown so bad between the two sides that I could certainly see this being in play as they look to avoid payment of any money owed to Freeman in the future.

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Examining the Potential Landing Spots for Josh Freeman


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.

Minnesota Vikings

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.

Oakland Raiders

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.

Jacksonville Jaguars

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 Browns

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.

Tennessee Titans

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.

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