CJ Spiller and the Mysterious Player Option

I’ve been getting a large number of questions recently about CJ Spiller of the Buffalo Bills in regards to a player option that I wanted to address. The confusion seems to come from a contract info blurb on Rotoworld that was picked up from a report back in 2010. Rotoworld’s contract information was later used by Spotrac and Forbes in reporting that Spiller could opt into his contract next season. Both are incorrect and were based on a misinterpretation of the original report from 2010. Since this relates to a few other players this offseason I thought it was a good topic to address.

In the old CBA players that were drafted in the top portion of the draft were eligible to sign 6 year contracts. However the 6 year maximum was not mandated and the actual contract length was negotiated between the team and the agents. These contracts were often very complex because of the need to comply with the constraints of the 25% rule and Year One rookie pools.

Obviously the goal for most players is to be able to enter free agency as soon as possible after the draft. Players also wanted to earn as much as possible under their rookie contracts. There were two ways that teams met these demands. One was to make the 6th year salary astronomically high once incentives were earned to force an extension or make it worth the player’s lost year of free agency. Often, though, the compromise was reached to add a sixth year onto a players’ contract that was essentially a “dummy year”, a year that in all likelihood would never be valid when that season occurred.

The “dummy year” was essentially a salary cap placeholder for prorated money from an option bonus paid in the second year of a player’s contract. The way the process worked is the team would have the option of picking up the 6th year of the contract which would allow the option bonus value to be maximized and comply with the rules.

The catch is that the contract year is voidable. Once the player hits a minimum playtime threshold the void kicks in. There is no option on the void, it’s an automatic termination of the contract once earned. Typically minimum playtime was 45% in any year thereafter to earn the void. If unearned the season would remain and the team could choose to honor or not honor the contract just as they would any other player.

It was a rarity for the void to not be earned and the player to still be on an active rookie contract—usually if you were that bad you were released before the final year of the contract.  The only recent example I can think of was last season when Larry English just narrowly missed out on a void that many of us, myself included, thought he earned. He was eventually released anyway.

Spiller should have easily earned this void back in 2012, but regardless there is no player option that exists. The contract either voids or does not void.  The salary that is listed for him is simply a placeholder salary agreed upon in the event the void did not occur. That salary will vanish once the void kicks in and just his prorated money will be left on the books. For Spiller and most of the rookies this will happen a few days following the Super Bowl.  Then the players will become a free agent in March just like all other unrestricted free agents.

With the new rookie contract system in place this will be the final year that we encounter these contracts. Other player’s who will be treated the same as Spiller and are on pace to become free agents include:

Ndamukong Suh, DT, Lions

Tyson Alualu, DE, Jaguars

Ryan Mathews, RB, Chargers

Brandon Graham, LB, Eagles

Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, Giants

Derrick Morgan, DE, Titans

Of those players I believe Graham is the only one who has never played very often. The other players whose contracts contained voidable years have either been extended (Gerald McCoy, Anthony Davis, Joe Haden) or released (Rolando McClain).

NFL Stock Down: Week 7


Every Monday during the season we will take a look back at three players who are entering important stages of their contract that may have hurt their stock in upcoming negotiations with their play on Sunday. In addition we will also look at one player signed in the offseason to a new contract that did not live up to the expectations that his contract sets for the player.

Stock Down

Brian Hoyer– Maybe Hoyer was reading into the press clippings too much but this was a dog of a game that looked more backup level quarterback than competent starter. To complete 39% of your passes against Jacksonville is about as bad a game a player can have in the NFL. For a player at his level he cant afford many games like this.

CJ Spiller– I always dislike putting an injured player in this category, but this was really devastating for Spiller who will likely miss the rest of the season. Spiller needed more of an opportunity in his walk year to do something special enough to warrant a mid tier contract. Now he could be looking at either a one year “prove it” type contract in the same pay range of Knowshon Moreno or a far lesser two year contract like Ben Tate.

Osi Umenyiora– Another game and another empty stat sheet for Umenyiora. The Falcons are not out of the race because the NFC South is so bad, but if there is a player they should trade its Osi, who doesn’t fit in the system and isn’t benefitting either side by remaining in Atlanta.


New Contract Disappointment Of The Week

Andy Dalton– When Dalton is bad he can be atrocious and after a hot start it looks like the Bengals have entered the bad Dalton period of the season. The franchise QB finished the day 18 of 38 for a sad 126 yards and no scores. That can’t be what the Bengals expected when they signed Dalton to a $16 million a year extension this offseason.

Stock Down: Week 3


Every Monday during the season we will take a look back at three players who are entering important stages of their contract that may have hurt their stock in upcoming negotiations with their play on Sunday. In addition we will also look at one player signed in the offseason to a new contract that did not live up to the expectations that his contract sets for the player.

Stock Down

Colin Kaepernick– Coming into 2013 I often received numerous tweets or emails concerning Kaepernick and how can the 49ers afford him going forward. Kaepernick caught fire last season when he replaced Alex Smith and helped lead the team to the Super Bowl. He added another dimension to the 49ers and looked to be the next big thing with some very well respected media personalities going so far as to say he has the ability to be the best QB of all time. When asked about Kaepernick I’ve always been cautious because the sample size last year was next to nothing and his situation was the perfect storm as teams spent months preparing for Smith, who had no arm and was a standard scrambler, and ended up getting Kaepernick who had a rocket for an arm and was a fantastic runner. Teams adjust and the last two weeks they got him good. Kaepernick followed up a disaster in Seattle with another disaster, except this time at home and against the Colts, a team not considered a juggernaut on defense. He threw for just 150 yards on 48% passing and only added 20 rushing yards. The 49ers always prefer to extend players early and Kaepernick’s first season of eligibility for a new contract was after the completion of the 2013 season. He has now played the worst two games of his career in back to back weeks which is going to put the process on hold if it keeps up.

Jared Allen– The Vikings allowed Allen to play out his contract and he needed a big season to prove to a team that he could still be an elite pass rusher as he makes the turn into his 30s. Allen was nowhere to be seen on Sunday against a team that threw the ball 54 times. Allen registered just one pressure on the day according to Pro Football Focus which is not the kind of game that will get Allen the double digit APY he supposedly is looking for in 2014. Allen’s pace for the season is not strong considering the circumstances. His 1 sack in three games has him on pace for his lowest sack total  of his career and these have been in games where teams are averaging over 45 attempts a game. In terms of pressures he is only generating pressure on around 8% of his pass rush attempts compared to 11.5% the last few seasons.  With the team off to an 0-3 start and the defense looking below average Allen has a chance to be lost in obscurity this year with teams feeling he was unable to do anything in the few early season meaningful games they played.

CJ Spiller– It was a miserable day for Spiller rushing for just 9 yards on 10 carries before leaving the game on Sunday against the Jets. Spiller was expected to carry the Bills offense following his explosion in 2012 when he was arguably the second most productive back in the NFL behind the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson. Spiller was explosive and difficult to contain, finally living up to the draft day promises. This season was set to be the perfect storm for Spiller. The Bills were starting a young QB, considered to be a bit of a project, making him the man to carry the offense. Players like Ray Rice, Chris Johnson, etc…were able to use that to their benefit in getting lucrative contracts in the last few years. With some relatively heavier escalators possible to be earned in his contract 2014 should be an extension year for Spiller. But Spiller has had a difficult time this season with 2 of 3 games seeing him held under 50 yards and none will ever be worse than Sunday’s contest against the Jets.

New Contract Disappointment Of The Week

Will Beatty– Beatty, signed to a $7.5 million dollar a year contract extension in the offseason by the Giants, was abused by the Panthers’ Greg Hardy. While Hardy is a terrific player Beatty was expected to be a top line tackle. Instead he looked like a 4th quarter throw in from the first Preseason game of the year.  He was out-muscled all day and never looked like he could match up physically with the Panthers.  There was no technique helping him cope with the pressure. He was a revolving door and it set the tone for what turned into a blowout for the Giants.

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Revaluing the Running Back Marketplace

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