I’m having a lot of fun writing the current chapter of the Caponomics: Management Theories book as I’ve been getting to dissect the two coaches in the NFL who I think are bringing in the next evolution of football, Pete Carroll and Chip Kelly. In my opinion, for the next fifteen to twenty years, these two will do for the NFL what Bill Belichick has done for the league the last decade and a half, a true trendsetter who has popularized the pass-catching running back role, the slot receiver, and the pass-catching, run-blocking tight end, which I go into detail on in the “Think Like A College Coach” chapter that I’m speaking of. Continue reading Xxplosive by Dr. Dre, Pete Carroll and Chip Kelly »
Below is an unfinished draft of the beginning of the Front Office section of the “Caponomics Theories” section of “#Caponomics: Understanding NFL Roster Building through Super Bowl Champion Salary Cap Analysis” which I’m pushing to have published and available on Amazon during training camp. I started this project in February after going to the NFL Combine and originally planned on having it done by June. Of course, I had no idea what I was talking about because I’ve never written a book before and it’s taken longer than I originally thought, so it might be out in August or it might be out a little later than that. On top of that, I am preparing for the NFLPA’s Agent Certification Exam that’s in July, so it could be delayed a little more as I prepare for that. Continue reading #Caponomics Excerpt: Opening of Front Office Theories Section »
This is a first draft of one of the 25 or so theories from the “Caponomics Theories” section of my upcoming book Caponomics: Understanding NFL Roster Building through Super Bowl Champion Salary Cap Analysis. Any of the references to other chapters in this article are
E-mail me at Caponomics@gmail.com if you’re interested in staying updated when preview chapters are released to the e-mail group and want to be alerted to when the book will be made available. Join the list now and you’ll receive the chapter on the 2000 Ravens, which we’ve already sent out to the group! Continue reading Caponomics Book Excerpt from Theories Section: Be Different, Creative and Unique »
LeSean McCoy: The Running Back Who Cried Wolf
How LeSean McCoy, Tra Thomas and Stephen A. Smith Confuse Capism With Racism
I was in the middle of a great addition to my chapter on the 2014 Patriots for Caponomics, but then I had to get drawn into a bit of a rant on this because LeSean McCoy and Stephen A Smith are in the news again for saying absolute nonsense.
Let’s preface this being fair and saying, I was never in the Eagles locker room, therefore, I can never say I know what happened in that locker room or what LeSean McCoy may have experienced, so we all must keep that in mind. We have never walked a mile in his shoes, nor know what caused him to feel this way, but with that in mind, I still think he’s overstepped his boundaries and has made himself out to be a fool.
We also must keep in mind that, like any industry, racism exists in football and it’s for both black and white players. Brandan Schaub from The Fighter and the Kid podcast is a UFC fighter now, but during his football playing days at the University of Colorado, he had a racist running backs coach. While watching film of Nebraska’s white running back, his coach said, “I don’t know why white guys play football, they just can’t do the same things that us black guys can do.” This was while white Brendan Schaub was in the meeting room. Not exactly how you make one of your players feel welcome.
What really kind of set me off to write this was an article by Phil Sheridan, ESPN’s Philadelphia Eagles reporter, titled: “LeSean McCoy’s comments are a sign that Chip Kelly is caught in a trap.” What trap Phil? Are we talking about the trap of 2015 where everything that you do that someone can disagree with can be seen as racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia or whatever the name is for the group that is involved in the situation? It’s gross that Mr. Sheridan would even play into this nonsense.
By the end of his article, Sheridan even makes some counter points against McCoy’s statement with the following facts, so I don’t understand what trap Kelly is in:
- “Kelly traded quarterback Nick Foles, who is white.”
- “In free agency, Kelly replaced McCoy with another African-American running back,DeMarco Murray (on a five-year, $42 million contract). Kelly also signed cornerback Byron Maxwell to a six-year, $63 million deal — the largest contract of Kelly’s tenure.”
- “In the NFL, if you trade or release a Pro Bowl-level player like McCoy or Jackson, there is a good chance he’ll be black. A 2014 study showed that 68 percent of NFL players are African-American.”
- “Kelly tried to sign Maclin to a new contract, but dropped out when Kansas City went to $11 million per year. To replace Maclin, Kelly draftedNelson Agholor in the first round last week.”
- “Five of the Eagles’ six draft choices are African-American. Only seventh-round pickBrian Mihalik is white.”
- “Finally, when Kelly became head coach of the Eagles, he inherited Foles and Michael Vickas his candidates for starting quarterback. Vick won the competition. At Oregon, Kelly’s starting quarterbacks included African-Americans Darron Thomas and Dennis Dixon before Tongan Marcus Mariota took over.”
Sheridan noted that the Eagles had 21 non-black players on their 53-man roster at the end of the 2014 season or about 40% of the team, which is slightly higher than the 32% league-wide. Of those 21 players, Cooper is one of the seven who were originally signed or drafted under Andy Reid.
Former Eagles assistant coach Tra Thomas says that he feels “like there is a hint of racism,” but he doesn’t want to “put that tag on someone,” because “you’ve got to be careful with that, but there are some of the players that kind of feel like that’s what it is.” Strong words from a man of strong convictions.
Thomas then goes on to cite “a report that came out last year” regarding the Eagles being “one of the whitest teams in the NFL.” All very serious allegations and something that we should certainly get the Justice Department to investigate. I mean seriously, what can we do when a staggering 40% of the people you work with are white? How can we fight this injustice?
Another point from Thomas regarding Kelly’s perceived racism is that the Eagles have only one African-American position coach, Duce Staley, their running back coach. Tre Williams is now on the scouting staff after being the tight ends coach. Both players were with the Eagles before Kelly was hired.
Sheridan states that out of 23 assistant coaches for the Eagles, seven are African American, that’s just over 30%.
The only real trap that Sheridan speaks to is that since Kelly didn’t release Cooper after that racial episode in 2013, it has given Thomas, Smith and McCoy some firepower to make these charges of racism. Kelly has declined to comment on this and to that Sheridan says, “that might be easier than trying to challenge the perception that’s out there, but silence only seems to make the trap sticker and harder to escape.”
Now the question is, does anyone who should be taken seriously actually think that Chip Kelly is racist?
First, how do we keep giving Stephen A. Smith a voice? There are times in the past where I have applauded him for raising issues that I think should be raised and speaking his mind, but the last few months have raised only one issue for me with Stephen A. Smith, one question for him: are you the racist?
When Tom Brady skipped going to the White House, Stephen A. went on this ten to fifteen minute rant about how Brady was disrespecting the president and even suggested that this man who has made a career out of playing with and leading black and white men might be a racist…Tom Brady might be a racist for not going to the White House…because it was his parents 50th Anniversary…what planet are Smith on?
Smith went on a rant a couple months ago about how Kelly got rid of McCoy, Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson, but still kept Riley Cooper. What Smith is doing is showing his ignorance to the NFL’s salary cap, he’s mistaken racism with capism!
So let’s dive into this!!
In 2015, LeSean McCoy was set to have a cap hit of $11.95 million for the Eagles, while earning $10.25 million in salary. As Jason says, “neither number shoule ever occur for a running back in today’s NFL and it is possible that McCoy would have been released had he refused a pay cut.” His cap hit would have taken up 8.34% of the cap. Instead, he counts as $3.4 million in dead money, which is only 2.37% AND the Eagles got one of the best young linebackers in the NFL, a position they needed to upgrade going into this season in Kiko Alonso, who will take up a mere 0.56% of the cap.
So the Eagles got rid of a guy who’s cap hit was out of line with what a running back should be paid in today’s NFL and who was Pro Football Focus’ 55th rated running back…out of 57 running backs. Something that very few people realize is that the Eagles offensive line was one of the best in the NFL last season, they were rated by PFF as the #1 run blocking offense in the NFL. Their rating of 85.7 was 30 points higher than the Cowboys who were #2, but their rush rating was 22nd at -3.1, largely because LeSean McCoy had a -1.4 rushing rating behind the best blocking in the NFL.
And, to top it off, McCoy signed his overpriced extension the year before Kelly was named the Eagles head coach, so it wasn’t like he was “Kelly’s guy.” From a team building standpoint or looking for players that fit what Kelly wants in a running back, who knows if McCoy fits the mold of what he even wants.
Again, they also got a great player, Kiko Alonso, in the trade at a low-cost and at a position they needed help at. That can’t be forgotten, it wasn’t like he trade McCoy for a bucket of Rex Ryan’s favorite buffalo wings.
Anyway, what happened with the 5.41% of the cap that the Eagles saved by trading McCoy for Alonso? They spent 4.89% of it on two running backs who aren’t white: Ryan Mathews and DeMarco Murray. I think it would be hilarious if a reporter asked McCoy where Chip Kelly could find some white running backs?
While Mathews was injured for much of last season, he’s a player who can do a lot of good things when healthy and fits into Kelly’s offense. Murray has some of those injury issues as well, but most people say he fits Kelly’s scheme better than McCoy and he was the 5th best running back according to PFF, not the 55th.
So they went and got themselves TWO running backs with the money they saved with the trade and they had 0.52% of the cap left over to spend elsewhere.
So there is one case where the salary cap and good management supersedes the cry of racism. One down, two to go.
So with Jeremy Maclin, why did Lyndon Baines Kelly get rid of him? Oh, because Maclin got offered a five-year contract worth $55 million, with a $12 million signing bonus, from the coach who drafted him, Andy Reid. So what did LBK do after that? Did he go sign Brian Hartline, Wes Welker, and Dane Sanzenbacher? Nope. He signed Miles Austin and Seyi Ajirotutu, then he went and drafted Maclin’s replacement, African American wide receiver Nelson Agholor in the first round, Maclin 2.0.
As I wrote in my last piece, Agholor couldn’t be more similar to Maclin:
Maclin: 6’/198, 4.48, 10’ broad jump, 35 ½” vert, 7.06 3 cone
Agholor: 6’/198, 4.42, 10’5” broad jump, 36 ½” vert, 6.83 3 cone
Maclin turns 27 this year, white Agholor turns 22 and adds a punt return dimension that Maclin doesn’t have.
While Maclin’s 2015 cap hit is low due to his signing bonus, in 2016, Maclin’s number is $12.4 million, while Agholor will only cost $2 million.If the salary cap goes up to $153 million in 2016, Maclin will take up 8.10% of the cap, while Agholor will take up 1.31% of the cap.
Through the first four seasons of these contracts, it is projected that the Eagles will save $32,703,526 by having Agholor instead of Maclin. That is $32.7 million that the Eagles will have to spend on other positions and needs over the next four years, while still having a player in Agholor who should produce at a similar level to Maclin fairly quickly because his attributes, measurables and talents are so similar to Maclin’s.
(History Lesson: Lyndon Baines Johnson was one of the most racist men to ever occupy the White House, he helped dismantle President Eisenhower’s Civil Rights Act of 1957 when he was in the Senate, only to push it through in 1964 for purely political reasons and the quotes attributed at the time will make you shudder. I feel it’s important for people to research and understand this because history has been rewritten regarding this man. Plus, saying Lyndon Baines Kelly in a serious voice made me chuckle, what can I say, I’ve been writing all day and only talking to my dog.)
Lastly, with Jackson, I did not like the way rumors were bandied about regarding his gang affiliations and things of that nature, he has reportedly been a good citizen throughout his career, but according to NJ.com, that was only part of the issue for why they cut ties. Keep in mind, with what happened with Aaron Hernandez only two years before the Eagles traded Jackson, their concerns that “his friends were becoming a more powerful – and negative – influence in his life” is a legitimate cause for worry.
Sources told NJ.com that he had “a bad attitude, an inconsistent work ethic, missed meetings and a lack of chemistry with head coach Chip Kelly” and that those “were the original reasons for his fall from grace.”
I fully supported Jackson’s side of this story when it happened on the personal level, I thought it was gross the way the media portrayed the issue. Do you think Jackson should just give up hanging out with the people he grew up with because society is going to judge him? Most of our society doesn’t even know how to judge him and has no right to because it’s not their life. Again, by all accounts, Jackson is a good man.
But hey, let’s look at the salary cap again! Jackson, like McCoy, signed an extension in the 2012 offseason, the year before Kelly came on board. He also was grumbling that he hoped the Eagles would re-do his contract heading into the 2014 offseason, something that Kelly obviously did not want to do. Jackson had a cap hit of $12.75 million in 2014, which was 9.59% of the salary cap. By trading him, they cleared 4.89% of the cap, which isn’t a lot, but was probably the right move for a guy who wasn’t going to be happy playing on that contract in 2014 and because they could easily draft some replacements for him in the draft or sign someone in free agency.
They signed Darren Sproles who helped in Kelly’s pass catching running back role and as a punt return, then drafted Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff to solve the loss of Jackson long-term.
Jackson went to Washington and signed a contract that he could be happy with, he also had 1169 yards on 56 catches (20.9 ypc) and six touchdowns, a great season for a player who has a lot left and who I sure wish the best.
Matthews had 67 catches for 872 yards (13.0 ypc) and eight touchdowns, while taking up only 0.68% of the salary cap as a second round pick. Huff only had 8 catches for 98 yards (12.3 ypc), but did have a 107 kickoff return for a touchdown along with his 14 returns for 415 yards, while taking up 0.42% of the cap.
So I’m sorry Mr. McCoy, is the salary cap racist? Is Chip Kelly racist for getting the best return on his investment that he can possibly make? Is he racist for trying to do the best job he can, so that he doesn’t get fired?
This is like the third time this offseason that McCoy has brought up this charge of racism against Kelly and it’s just wrong. Relax LeSean! He’s not judging you by the color of your skin; he’s judging you by your cap number and your performance on the field!
Meanwhile, Riley Cooper got resigned after the 2013 season because he had just had a great season with 47 catches for 835 yards (17.8 ypc) and eight touchdowns. He was pretty bad last season, but that just means that resigning him to a five-year, $22.5 million deal might have been a mistake. His cap hits through 2018 are still incredibly low for someone who’s supposed to be a WR2. In 2015, he’s only taking up 3.35% of the cap and makes him the 11th highest paid Eagle. This means the Eagles don’t have a WR in their Top 10 cap hits, which is very unusual, but also shows the value that they’re getting out of the position because they have one of the best receiver groups in the league with Zach Ertz and Brent Celek at tight end and pass catching running backs as well.
Cooper was the 110th rated receiver…out of 110 receivers last year according to PFF, but all that means is that they made a big mistake signing him to an extension. What does McCoy want though? Does he want Kelly to cut Cooper this year with $6.2 million in dead money cap hit if the Eagles cut him, but a $4.8 million cap hit if Cooper’s on the team? So McCoy wants them to waste $1.4 million to what? Prove that Chip Kelly is not only not a racist, but also a moronic businessman?
I remember when the word racism used to have meaning, when people used to cringe at the idea of being called racist. Today, being called a racist just means that someone disagrees with you. Being called a sexist on Twitter means that you just made fun of the people who are offended at what Jeremy Renner called a fictional movie character or the people outraged at what Bud Light put on their bottles.
Apparently, all being called a racist takes today is trading or not resigning some black players in a sport that’s 68% black.
The only thing I hate as much as racism are false cries of racism.
Tweet me: @ZackMooreNFL
If you liked the kind of cap analysis that went into this article, please e-mail me at Caponomics@gmail.com, so that you are added to our e-mail list and get some bonus finished chapters as they become available. Last week, I sent out our chapter analyzing the 2000 Ravens.
Caponomics is a book that analyzes the Super Bowl champions from the last 21 seasons, creates theories based on this analysis and then uses those theories to discuss why 2014 teams were or were not successful.
This Monday night will begin one of the more interesting stories in the NFL when Mark Sanchez takes over the quarterbacking duties for the Philadelphia Eagles. I find it fascinating because Sanchez’ performance will likely have consequences far reaching beyond just his own career, impacting the opinions and futures of people across multiple organizations.
There were certainly high expectations surrounding Sanchez when he came into the NFL as the fifth overall draft pick in 2009. The Jets traded up with the Cleveland Browns to nab Sanchez and by the summer Sanchez was anointed the starter of the team. The Jets were highly successful in Sanchez’ first two seasons in the NFL, earning a trip to two AFC Championship games including road playoff wins against Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Phillip Rivers.
Though Sanchez was efficient in those games, nobody will argue that he was the catalyst for those wins nor that he was a good player in those years. Like most young players he struggled and the Jets struggled with a balancing act of developing a quarterback while competing for a championship. Still, in this age where playoff success means everything for a QB, Sanchez got almost no credit for his work as a Jet.
Sanchez was immature in his time with the Jets not really understanding how to handle the bright lights of New York and a media ready to pounce on him. It didn’t help that the loudest voice in the NY metro area held a grudge against the Jets and drew added attention to any shortcomings with the team. The hot dog incident, the prepared speech, the numerous women, photo shoots, and on and on…Mark gave critics every reason to hammer him.
The Jets development of Sanchez left a lot to be desired. As a rookie they began using a series of color coded cards to remind him when to be extra careful with the football. They would devise strategies where for weeks he was asked to throw the ball to win and then, when the coach got annoyed, completely abandon the pass. Mark was lost in a sea of voices and unhappy players in 2011.
In 2012 things peaked when the Jets were unsuccessful in getting Manning to sign as a free agent, so they turned around and extended Sanchez. Though the contract was by no means outlandish (in essence the contract was giving them salary cap relief in 2012 for guaranteed salary in 2013) it was enough to bring fan scrutiny to the highest levels. Then the Jets traded for Tim Tebow and the Tebow circus that followed him. It was a nightmare that culminated with the “butt fumble” and Rex Ryan coming up with a plan to keep Sanchez from playing before a ultra negative home crowd at the end of the season.
Sanchez’ lack of development and crash of 2012 saw GM Mike Tannenbaum fired and replace by John Idzik, who immediately drafted a quarterback, Geno Smith, to eventually replace Sanchez. Sanchez outplayed Smith in the preseason but was told that the competition was ongoing. For some strange reason the Jets decided to put him on the field in garbage time of a preseason game and he injured his shoulder and was done for the year. The Jets would release Sanchez in 2014, letting him twist in the wind for a few weeks while all the NFL jobs dried up. Sanchez signed for pennies with the Eagles to backup Nick Foles for one season.
So now Mark is a few years older and in a new environment. For the first time since 2010 he has a tremendous support system around him. Those voices that rallied against Sanchez in 2012 are now on his side as his doing well just adds more fuel to the dumpster fire that is the Jets 2014 season.
So let’s look at who his play impacts moving forward:
Mark Sanchez– When Mark took the job with the Eagles it was in part to work with someone considered a good offensive coach and in part because the other jobs did not exist. A player of Sanchez’ pedigree at the worst will usually earn a few million in free agency to be a backup. In a league where Andy Dalton makes $16 million a year and people believe Brian Hoyer should earn $10 million a season, Sanchez can earn some big dollars if he is successful. If Sanchez gets back to the playoffs with this team his skillset should translate into a very nice contract.
If he fails? Well then he has to decide if he wants a career earning the minimum as a backup or calling it quits and falling back on whatever money he banked off his rookie contract with the Jets. Most likely if he fails it gives a strong possibility that he is done with the NFL.
Rex Ryan– The current head coach of the Jets consistently gets a pass because he has never had a quarterback to work with in the NFL. Since he has been the coach of the Jets he has had games started by Sanchez, Smith, Vick, Kellen Clemens, and Greg McElroy. If you throw Tebow in the mix that’s actually three players selected in the first round (though Vick was selected an eternity ago) and two second rounders, so the argument against Rex is that he gets nothing out of potentially talented players.
For the first time ever fans will get to see if Rex really never had a QB all this time or if he simply failed to develop the talent he had. If Sanchez is successful it would probably be the blackest mark on Ryan’s resume and reinforce the label that he is a great defensive coordinator with limited ability to work with the offense.
Chip Kelly– Right now Kelly is pretty much all the rage in many circles around the league. People love that he is not the traditional system coach and the fact that he avoided a second year collapse has brought his system much more validity than many other flash in the pan coaches. If Kelly can succeed with Sanchez the QB guru/offensive system label is going to stick forever. If Sanchez fails it’s going to be a ding on his record with critics looking more at the talented Eagles roster as a reason for his success rather than Kelly’s ability to get every ounce of talent out of a prospect.
John Idzik– Though Idzik’s mantra has been “competition” since day 1, whatever happened in 2013 did not look like a fair competition and he threw Mark out without any competition in 2014. His replacement, Vick, looked disinterested in even playing while Smith flamed out. Idzik’s rebuilding effort with the Jets has been a disaster and it’s quite possible the best QB he had, he ran out of town without a real opportunity to succeed. Idzik needs Mark to fail to at least fan some of the flames currently surrounding him.
Nick Foles– There have been many that have said Foles 2013 season was more a byproduct of luck and coaching than skill, and if Sanchez succeeds that group will grow larger. Foles had struggled at times this year and may find himself in a position where Sanchez never gives the job back to Foles. Foles inherited the starting job because of injury last year and the head coach had no intention of naming Michael Vick the starter again after that. If Sanchez is successful there would be no need to go back to Foles as Sanchez has a higher upside.
Because Sanchez is on a one year contract Foles would be in a very bad spot if the team signed Sanchez long term following the season as it would likely block him from starting again. For Foles that would be catastrophic in an attempt to cash in as a free agent in 2016. He would then be looked at as, at best, a high end backup, earning $4 million or so a season rather than the double digit APY he may have been looking at on an extension after this season.
Jeremy Maclin– Maclin is having a ridiculous season and is looking to cash in big in free agency this offseason. He was the favorite target of Foles, averaging over 10 targets a game. The big question when it comes to valuing receivers is how much of the production is the QB and how much is the receiver. If Sanchez is successful but spreads the ball around much more it can hurt Maclin’s value. If Sanchez completely bombs then a team should question what benefit the receiver truly brings at those costs. He needs Sanchez to play well with a majority of those passes coming to him to continue to solidify that value.
Mike Tannenbaum– Despite taking over an old team with salary cap troubles and finding a way to make the playoffs 3 times in his first 5 years, the big knock on Tannenbaum was that he was not a “football guy” and was never going to be successful long term at picking players. The back to back picks of Vernon Gholston and Sanchez high in the draft pretty much cemented his fate, but he now has a chance to say that the pick of Sanchez wasn’t as bad as people thought. Tannenbaum’s resume does include picking Darrelle Revis, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Nick Mangold, Muhammad Wilkerson, and David Harris and if Sanchez can do well that’s going to make his top line picks look very impressive to a team considering hiring him as a General Manager.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.
How do you build a winning football team? Over the next few weeks I am going to look at a handful of teams that are either relatively early in their rebuilding process or on the verge of a possible rebuild. The purpose of this is not to reflect on past regime decisions compared to the current decisions but rather to start the analysis from day one and evaluate personnel decisions along with contract structures and styles to see if certain trends help produce a winning franchise.
State of the Franchise and Front Office
There might not be a team in the NFL with more question marks heading into the 2013 season than the Philadelphia Eagles. Like most of the teams featured in this series, the Eagles have greatly underachieved and fallen far short of expectations in recent years. After the “Dream Team” stumbled to a disappointing 8-8 record in 2011, the wheels really fell off the wagon in 2012. A 4-12 season was bound to come with serious consequences, and none was greater than the departure of longtime Head Coach Andy Reid. The awful 2012 season was the final straw that ended a 14-year tenure that included 9 playoff appearances, 6 NFC East Division Titles, 5 NFC Championship Game Appearances, 1 Super Bowl Appearance, but no Lombardi Trophies. Reid wasn’t on the market for long, as he quickly agreed to become the Head Coach of the Kansas City Chiefs.
One man who survived was General Manager Howie Roseman. Entering his fourth season as GM, Roseman is going to be the longest tenured General Manager in our case study. The University of Florida and Fordham Law School graduate now faces at least a partial rebuild after two incredibly disappointing seasons following an NFC East Division title in his first year as GM in 2010. Roseman grabbed one of the biggest headlines of the offseason when he successfully lured offensive-guru Chip Kelly from Oregon to become the 21st Head Coach of the Eagles even after Kelly announced he was going to remain at Oregon.
While the Eagles may not be a contender right now, the team still a ton of cap room and serious talent across its roster. The Eagles currently have just under $21 million in cap room despite eating some dead money costs after moving on from 2011 1st round pick Danny Watkins and 2011 free agent prizes Nnamdi Asomugha and Jason Babin. In the NFC East, a division with no clear-cut favorites yet again, the Eagles might be able to make some noise while also transitioning their roster.
Contract Strategies and Trends
Although we have a lot more data available due to Roseman’s longer tenure, I’m still going to keep the analysis consistent with the theme of State of Rebuild and try to only look at the more recent moves. The Eagles seemingly use most of the contractual tools we have been going over including the standard roster bonuses, per-game roster bonuses, workout bonuses, and the Minimum Salary Benefit (Felix Jones). What is more interesting is the amount of money the contracts are actually worth relevant to the rest of the league. Players such as Lesean McCoy (3rd), Jason Peters (1st), Trent Cole (5th), DeSean Jackson (8th), Connor Barwin (10th) and Todd Herremans (10th after switch to Guard) are all being paid near the top of their positions on an Average Per Year basis. While the Average Per Year amount of a contract isn’t by any means a full-proof barometer, the Eagles have an exorbitant amount of players being paid near the top of their respective positions for a team that has struggled so mightily. This isn’t to say that they aren’t very good players, but it is interesting to me that a team with so many highly paid talented players is now trying to find a way to re-do their roster.
The Eagles do have a few interesting contracts on the books that I felt would be worth taking a look at. The Eagles are another one of the teams we have looked at recently that have used a very low P5 (base) salary and a high roster bonus in the first year of a new deal. Some of the Eagles players with this setup include DT Isaako Sopoaga, S Patrick Chung, FB James Casey, and CB Bradley Fletcher. Just as a brief refresher, this type of deal gives the team some cap flexibility by limiting 3rd year guarantees and prorated bonuses while it gives the player the money up front and protects against potential forfeitures.
There is one more little nuance to these four deals that I found particularly interesting. There are no official Team or Player option contracts in the NFL like you see in some of the other major sports, but the way the Eagles structured these contracts essentially turn them into 1 year deals with 1 or 2 yearly team options. As an example we’ll look at James Casey’s new deal.
As you can see, if you click here to view James Casey’s salary cap page, in year 1 of his new deal Casey has a low $715,000 in P5 (base) salary and the large $3,300,000 Roster Bonus. The remaining two years of his deal only contain unguaranteed P5 (base) salaries of $3,985,000 in 2014 and $4,000,000 in 2015. What does this mean? For one thing, it fully illustrates the benefits to both the team and the player we noted above. Casey gets a substantial amount of cash right up front with more protection than a signing bonus and the Eagles now have an extremely cap friendly deal as long as they can eat the higher cap number in the first year of the deal. They could have turned that same $3.3 million roster bonus into a signing bonus but that would have meant prorating it over 3 years. With this setup, after 2013 the Eagles have a clear and easy decision to make – Is James Casey worth $3,985,000 to us this year? If that answer is yes, they will basically be exercising a team option to keep him under contract. If the answer is no, the Eagles can release him with no cap penalties in 2014 or 2015. The deals for Sopoaga, Chung, and Fletcher are all setup the same way and as you can see, for a team looking to have a quick turnaround, the idea of keeping a good player or releasing an unwanted player at no cost is extremely beneficial.
The really interesting scenario I wanted to take a look at is the one that got the most attention during the offseason for the Eagles, Michael Vick’s paycut. I’m almost reluctant to use the term paycut, because to me they basically just tore up the old deal and created a truncated 1-year deal. There are a lot of moving parts to this whole scenario and because of that, this explanation might get a little confusing but I am going to do my best to get the big picture across.
Before even looking at the new deal, it’s important to look at a few of the factors leading up it. One of which is before the paycut, the Eagles were prepared to move on from Vick. Vick was set to count $16,900,000 on the cap this year and the Eagles weren’t going to have him on the roster at that figure. At first Vick said he wasn’t going to redo his deal, which led most to believe he would simply be released. Next, Vick was guaranteed $3,000,000 of his P5 (base) salary in 2013 and if the Eagles decided to release him, he would have cost them $7.2 million in dead money over the next three years ($3 million + $4.2 million of remaining prorated signing bonus). Finally, Vick reportedly had suitors in the event he was released. It was reported that the Browns, Cardinals, and Bills were among the teams that were interested in Vick in the event he became available.
Whether it was Chip Kelly convincing Vick to stay, or Vick realizing on his own that this offense might be the lynchpin to an Arizona Cardinals Kurt Warner-like resurrection, the two sides agreed to a new deal that would keep Vick an Eagle for one year. This is where some things might get a little confusing. Prior to the paycut, Vick still was under contract through the 2016 season, had $3 million of his 2013 P5 (base) salary guaranteed, and $4.2 million of prorated bonus money still to be accounted for on the cap. After the paycut, the 2014, 2015, and 2016 years of the contract were voided, none of his P5 (base) salary was guaranteed, and all $4.2 million of prorated bonus money accelerated into the 2013 season as one hit. I know it’s messy, but before showing the revised deal I wanted to at least attempt to show where some of the core parts of the new deal came from. Vick’s new deal is a 1-year deal with an unguaranteed P5 (base) salary of $3.5 million and a signing bonus of $3.5 million. In addition, Vick has a per-game roster bonus of $31,250 and a playtime incentive bonus of $500,000, both of which are not guaranteed.
So what does all this actually mean? When the deal was redone, Vick wasn’t named the starter, as that was a recent development. But at the time, it gave Vick a chance to compete for the starting job in a system he might be able to flourish in and it gave the Eagles an opportunity to see if he was worth keeping for the year with limited added risk. If the Eagles had cut Vick in March, they would have had to sign a replacement level backup quarterback and gone with Nick Foles as their starter. Suffice it to say; I don’t think Chip Kelly ever wanted that option. By keeping Vick, even if he lost the competition and the Eagles decided to cut him, it would have cost them $7.7 million, only $500,000 more than if they had cut him originally in March, which is basically the cost of signing the replacement level backup quarterback. The Eagles essentially got a starting quarterback tryout for the cost of a replacement level player. In the end, they didn’t just get a tryout of Vick; they got their starting quarterback for the year. What happens after this year is totally up in the air. My guess is the Eagles decide to move on from Vick (again), but who’s to say what happens if the Eagles offense clicks on all cylinders with Vick at the helm.
Biggest Upcoming Roster Decision
Aside from the obvious question of what the team is going to do at quarterback after this season, there are a few roster question marks that will need to be addressed. When the Eagles traded a 4th round pick and swapped 3rd round picks to the Houston Texans for Demeco Ryans last year, it was proclaimed as an absolute steal for the Eagles. One year later, it seems more likely that Ryans will never revert back to his pre-achilles injury days. Unless Ryans’ play this season improves, the Eagles will most likely move on and create quite a bit of cap relief. Because he was acquired in a trade, all of his prorated signing bonus money was accelerated into the Texans’ cap in 2012, leaving the rest of his contract free of guarantees for the Eagles. If the Eagles decide to move on from Ryans after the 2013 season, they would save the entirety of his $6.9 million figure in 2014 as well as an additional $6.9 million in 2015.
One more position to look at for the Eagles is at Wide Receiver. With former 1st-round pick Jeremy Maclin sidelined with a torn ACL and set to be a free agent after this year, the situation was already one that needed to be addressed. To further stress the issues with the position, the Eagles decided to keep Riley Cooper after his racist outburst. The Eagles decided it was more worthwhile to deal with the distraction of keeping Cooper around than release him and incur $42,871 in dead money this year, the final year of his contract. What complicates things further is DeSean Jackson’s contract. With Jackson set to count $12.5 million on the cap in 2014, $12 million in 2015, and $12 million in 2016, something is probably going to happen next offseason to adjust those figures. Jackson would still have $6 million of his $10 million dollar signing bonus to be prorated over the remaining years at $2 million per year, making cutting him relatively inexpensive. If Jackson chooses not to renegotiate his deal, the Eagles could save around $30 million of cap over three years by releasing him. The fact of the matter is that barring an explosive year under Chip Kelly, Jackson just is nowhere near a $12 million dollar a year receiver in this league.
In the next few days we’ll be wrapping up the first stage of State of Rebuild with a look at the Oakland Raiders.
Past ‘State of Rebuild’ Articles@RyanFeder email@example.com