Where Will DeSean Jackson End Up?


If DeSean Jackson had been a free agent on March 11th, all 32 teams would have at least done their due diligence on the explosive wide receiver. But as March turns to April, most teams have already filled their holes and/or exhausted their funds, and are now exerting all of their energy towards May’s draft.

Obviously, teams make exceptions when it comes to premium talent. The Saints were not in prime financial position to sign Jairus Byrd earlier this offseason, but they found a way to get the deal done (likely mortgaging their future in the process).

At the same time, “premium talented” guys who are fairly paid aren’t released in their prime for no good reason. Jackson is explosive both on and off the field, meaning any team who gives him a long-term deal will have to think long and hard before doing so. It also means that teams with tight cap situations won’t be players in the D-Jax sweepstakes.

Jackson doesn’t turn 28 until December. While unlikely, it’s conceivable that he could sign a one or two-year deal and hit free agency again while still in his prime. However, it’s more likely that he signs a four or five-year deal structured in a way that the first two years are guaranteed.

I could see something such as a four-year contract worth $41 million, including a $6 million signing bonus and $15 million guaranteed. I have drawn up this estimate below, with his $7 signing bonus, $5 million 2014 base salary, and $3 million of his $8 million 2015 base salary accounting for the guaranteed portion of this deal. A deal structured like this—with the team eating $8.25 million in 2015 dead money and therefore saving only $1.5 million against the 2015 cap—means Johnson would almost certainly earn $20 million over the first two years.

Projected Contract for DeSean Jackson

YearBase SalaryProrated Bonus Cap NumberDead Money Cap Savings

So who are the potential suitors under my projected scenario? Let’s take a look:

Note: Effective Cap Space is simply (Remaining 2014 Cap Space)-(Projected Cap Space Required to Sign Rookies). It depicts how much cap space each team is theoretically working with at this point in time.

Ranked in descending order of most likely to least likely to sign Jackson.

Washington Redskins

Remaining 2014 Cap Space= $6,479,886

Cap Space Required to Sign Rookies=$1,077,167

Effective 2014 Cap Space=$5,402,719

The front-runners simply because Jackson just left a visit to Washington and are reportedly in negotiations. The Redskins have already spent a bunch of money this offseason, which includes the signing of WR Andre Roberts to a 4-year/$16 million deal ($5,250,000 guaranteed). With $5.4 million in effective cap space they could afford D-Jax at around the price I proposed. However, with Pierre Garcon, Roberts and Jordan Reed comprising a very legitimate playmaking threesome, I don’t necessarily think it’d be the best usage of Dan Snyder’s money when looking at the big picture.

Oakland Raiders

Remaining 2014 Cap Space=$15,552,626

Cap Space Required to Sign Rookie Class= $4,241,589

Effective 2014 Cap Space = $11,311,037

In my opinion, Oakland makes the most sense of any team. They are in great cap position for both the present and the future, have football’s least talented roster, and a GM (who assembled this horrid roster) that needs to win games next season in order to save his job. Jackson is also from the SoCal area.

Cleveland Browns

Remaining 2014 Cap Space= $30,781,931

Cap Space Required to Sign Rookies=$5,946,259

Effective 2014 Cap Space=$24,835,672

The Browns are also reportedly interested, which certainly makes sense. They have a glaring hole at their second wide receiver spot, as well as the money to lure Jackson in. The questions become whether Jackson would want to play in Cleveland (and if they pay up, I don’t foresee this being an issue), as well as whether new GM Ray Farmer is willing to take this risk on the volatile star.

Miami Dolphins

Remaining 2014 Cap Space= $16,682,418

Cap Space Required to Sign Rookies=$1,984,918

Effective 2014 Cap Space=$14,697,500

Scheme-wise, this wouldn’t be a great fit. Jackson is a vertical threat in the passing game, very similar (albeit more talented) to current Dolphins top receiver Mike Wallace. However, Miami does have the cap space to lure Jackson in, as well as an owner who has shown he isn’t afraid to make a splash.

New York Jets

Remaining 2014 Cap Space= $28,689,282

Cap Space Required to Sign Rookies=$2,313,384

Effective 2014 Cap Space=$26,375,898

On paper, this certainly makes sense. Similar to the situation in Cleveland, the Jets are loaded with cap space and are in need of another playmaker. But John Idzik’s conservative approach to free agency thus far makes this scenario unlikely.

San Francisco 49ers

Remaining 2014 Cap Space=$4,589,810

Cap Space Required to Sign Rookies=$2,129,953

Effective 2014 Cap Space =$2,459,857

I included the 49ers simply because they have reportedly shown interest in Jackson. However with so little spending money and the need to lock up some core players (i.e. Colin Kaepernick) in the near future, I would be absolutely shocked if D-Jax ended up in San Francisco.

Philadelphia Eagles Release WR DeSean Jackson


After attempting to trade DeSean Jackson the Philadelphia Eagles have finally opted to release the star wide receiver from his contract.

Jackson had signed a $48.5 million contract in March of 2012, that was in essence a two year $18 million deal with a significant amount of backend money designed to pacify his demands for a new contract. After struggling in 2012, Jackson would bounce back to have a terrific season in 2013 where he put up over 1,300 yards. Following the season, Jackson began making some noise about a new contract in part probably because he felt underpaid compared to the deals that came after in 2013 such as Mike Wallace ($12 million a season), Dwayne Bowe ($11.2 million a season), and Percy Harvin ($12.849 million a season), players whom he compared favorably to from a statistical standpoint. Part of this may have also been agent driven as Jackson switched agents last year, which usually is a precursor to looking for a new contract such that both player and agent can financially benefit.

Jackson was set to earn $10.75 million and would carry a $12.75 million cap charge in 2014. He still has $6 million in prorated money that has to be accounted for on the salary cap. In addition Jackson had a $250,000 guarantee on his 2014 salary if he did not complete the workout program in 2012. At this time I don’t believe he earned that bonus so we will count his dead money at $6.25 million until we clarify it. The move should free up around $6 million in net cap space for Philadelphia and help clear up their books in 2015 where the Eagles salary cap allocation had been at the top of the NFL.

Jackson will likely have a difficult time finding a home that will pay him anywhere near what the other receivers mentioned above earn. All three were essentially a bust in 2013 and the WR market pulled back to the point where Jackson will be hard pressed to average the $9.7 million a year he did in Philadelphia. There are a number of warning flags with Jackson ranging from inconsistent play to perceived attitude problems to potential off the field issues. His best season will be flagged with a “system benefit” tag by many teams in the NFL. While it only takes one team to overpay for production options will be more limited now that most teams have spent their big free agent dollars.

The fact that a team would not trade for him at just over $20 million in cash for two years shows that the odds of the double digit annual value are very slim. Eric Decker only received $7.25 million from the Jets coming off back to back strong seasons in Denver and would represent the top free agent in 2014. Other more moderate salary comparison points that teams will likely use would be Victor Cruz ($8.6 million), Pierre Garcon ($8.5 million), and Antonio Brown ($8.392 million). These players all provided more value that most of the big salary players and also don’t fit the pure “number 1” mold which Jackson also does not fit.




A Look at Trade Possibilities for DeSean Jackson


The rumors have picked up again about the Eagles relationship with WR DeSean Jackson. Jackson has made some noise about his contract this offseason and often when that happens some teams will decide it is best to move on that to continue a relationship. This is potentially a situation the Eagles had planned for back in 2012 when they signed Jackson to his current contract extension.

When the Eagles first signed Jackson in 2012 there was likely a disagreement about his true value. Jackson had clashed with the Eagles for two years over his desire for a contract and in 2011 his production seemed to suffer as he was unhappy with the situation. That was probably a red flag of sorts but there was a lot invested in the Eagles team and they did not want to chance losing a potentially dynamic player.

My own thoughts at the time was that Jackson’s production merited somewhere around a $9 million a year number. He wasn’t a player that transcended the position like Larry Fitzgerald and there had to be worries about his body and attitude.  Still that number was going to put him in the upper echelon of receivers. But Jackson, like most, had a number in mind that he needed to see in order to be happy with the contract.

The Eagles went up to $9.7 million a year, but the contract itself was heavily backloaded. The Eagles would pay him $18 million in the first two seasons, an average of $9 million a year. His last three years would pay him $30.5 million with a chance to earn higher salaries based on performance.  While the cost to cut Jackson was $6 million in 2014, the Eagles have always been a well managed cap team, and the lack of a salary cap floor in the new CBA simply meant the Eagles would carry over more cap room than they ever had before. So they were willing to sign off on the deal with little hesitation.

Jackson would have a terrible 2012 season as he battled injuries most of the year. He came back to have the best year of his career in 2013 and immediately there was talk of wanting a new deal. Since signing his contract in 2012 times had changed for receivers with Percy Harvin, Mike Wallace, and Dwayne Bowe all earning over $11 million a season. Jackson dominated those players statistically last year. In his mind it should be time to cash in.

From the Eagles standpoint they probably look at his salary this year as more than fair as Jackson is actually going to earn the fifth highest salary of any receiver with his $10.75 million salary. From his perspective the salary is not guaranteed, nor is any of his $20 million he is going to earn the next two years. Philadelphia, who is attempting to change the culture of the organization, likely does not want the distraction that might be made again by a sulking Jackson when the regular season begins and may see it best to just move on. The contract was designed that way anyway.

The issue for Jackson moving forward is that the receiver market took a major step back in 2014. Eric Decker, the most highly regarded receiver available, received just $7.5 million a year with $15 million guaranteed. Decker came off a 1200 yard season in Denver but faced knocks about not being a true number 1 receiver and that part of his production was based on the QB and system in Denver rather than his ability. I would think Jackson would face those same criticisms.

I don’t think any team in the NFL would trade for Jackson and then pay him somewhere in the realm of $11 million a season, even in funny money at the backend of a contract. I’m sure a team would guarantee him this years’ salary and maybe even a portion of his 2015 salary, but I think there would be few teams to pay him much above what he is earning now. His ideal destination lies with a team that simply has the cap room to carry him at his current salary figures, which is exactly what happened when the Chicago Bears traded for Brandon Marshall a few years ago. That type of contract structure would appeal to the Raiders, Jets, Jaguars, Buccaneers, and Bears. The Bears and Buccaneers already have two star players and would not be interested. If a deal was to be made it might be worth looking at those other three teams. Other teams are certainly rumored.

Oakland has the most need of anyone but has been reluctant in free agency this year to spend big dollars. They also do not have a QB in place to really fling the ball down the field either, so its hard to tell what their interest level would really be. The Jets might be interesting as they should have a significant number of draft picks to spare, but they have also shown some reluctance this year to be heavily involved in free agency. When Jets GM John Idzik was in Seattle that front office never shied away from making a trade as long as they felt the player fit their system. I don’t know if a player like Jackson would necessarily fit the vision Idzik has for the Jets and he would rely on their offensive coordinator for more inside knowledge about Jackson. The Jaguars have two receivers already but one is suspended so they might consider it as a way to improve the offense. They have been a bit more active than the other two this offseason.

The San Francisco 49ers have picks that they can probably dump, but he would be hard to fit inside their salary cap. The 49ers had to resort to using voidable contract years to fit Anquan Boldin into their salary cap for this season and then next year they will be looking to extend Colin Kaepernick, Aldon Smith, and Michael Crabtree. Getting Jackson would be the ultimate “this is our window” move. Currently I have them with about $4.4 million in cap space, but they will gain an additional $5.5 million when Carlos Rogers comes off the books on June 2. To get Jackson in without significant changes to his contract would require the release of RB Frank Gore, who might be considered completely obsolete if they are going to a pure vertical passing attack. Releasing Gore opens up $6.45 million in cap space, likely giving them a chance to keep up with the cap while awaiting June 2 for Rogers to provide cap relief.

New England is also rumored, but I am not sure how well Jackson fits in with their offense anymore. Tom Brady did not excel last season down the field and while Jackson is a far better player than the Patriots other receivers, there were times Brady just missed when guys were open down the field. Not counting Edelman the Patriots had just $8.8 million in cap room, but releasing DT Vince Wilfork will save the team $8 million and that move seems likely. I would anticipate the Patriots trying to add Danny Amendola into any trade with Philadelphia and if they can dump him off along with a draft pick that would be a big win for New England.

Kansas City’s head coach has a relationship with Jackson and would certainly like him but their salary cap may be one of the more difficult to navigate in the NFL. Alex Smith will almost certainly get a large raise either this year or next and the team will have to make some hard decisions on veteran next year to maneuver the cap without Jackson on the team. This would be the one destination where Jackson would get the extension he wants because it is hard to imagine the Chiefs having any alternative with their salary cap.



Is Hakeem Nicks’ Value Really Falling?


There has been a lot of discussion lately regarding Hakeem Nicks and his level of play in a contract year. Having watched most of his games this season I can understand the negative feelings towards Nicks. He has clearly fallen out of favor with Eli Manning following the emergence of Victor Cruz in 2011 and has become just another secondary target. At times Nicks doesn’t look like he is concentrating leading to what seems to be a large number of drops.  But at the end of the day does it really matter?

Nicks, by pretty much all accounts, wanted a new contract this offseason. The Giants at one point made it known that Nicks was more valuable that Cruz, which likely only added more reasons to seek a new deal now. The Giants, who really had limited cap space to work with, preferred to let Nicks play out the contract. Nicks was unhappy and maybe that has carried over to the field. But it’s not like he is the first to do this.

Mike Wallace, now of the Miami Dolphins, sulked through his final year in a Steelers uniform. Wallace was a Restricted Free Agent who had no choice but to play on his tender. Like Nicks, Wallace watched a teammate be signed to a contract extension while this occurred. DeSean Jackson of the Eagles had hoped for a new contract in 2011. It never happened and he was unhappy throughout the 2011 season. He did get a new contract in 2012 with the Eagles.

When you look at some of the big name contracts given out to Wide Receivers in the last two years there has been minimal importance given to the “down season”  leading into the new contract. The players I want to look at here are Jackson, Wallace, and Dwayne Bowe. I considered Greg Jennings, but his injury plagued season was so bad I thought that it was unfair to include him.

The following table will include the percentage increase/decrease in a number of key categories from the players “contract season” to  the two year prime season. For Nicks we’ll be using the 2010 and 2011 season as he struggled with injuries in 2012. The categories are target per game, yards per game, yards per target, yards per receptions, and catch rates. All raw data used to compile this figures is courtesy Pro Football Focus






Catch Rate

























In terms of yards per target and yards per reception Nicks numbers are actually better than where he was back in 2010 and 2011 when he looked like a can’t miss player. Each of the other players saw dramatic dips in their contract seasons. On a per game basis  Nicks is right alongside Bowe and Jackson and significantly ahead of Wallace, who crashed on the Steelers.  His reception rate decline is the worst of the group, however, and his targets were way down.

The real important takeaway for a player like Nicks, who used to be a dominant target in the passing game, is that all he has to do is convince one team that the Giants are not featuring him for reasons unknown to him and that it has nothing to do with his play. If he was featured the way he was in the past his numbers would be right on  his career averages, which is more than the other three could say at contract time.

The alarming items for Nicks come from two areas. One is drops. Like I said above his drops seem terrible and the stats completely back that up. His fall in that category is unique compared to the others.
















Nicks is essentially dropping double the amount of passes he did in the past. That should be a red flag to an organization about how distracted he can be once taken out of an offense and a clear indication of a reason why he is not being featured as much in the offense. Nicks does have an injured finger and I am sure they will argue that these numbers are so far above his averages that they are a byproduct of injury, but it would be the one major concern.

The other concern is that you do have to go back, because of injury, two years to hit Nicks’ prime seasons when Eli Manning treated him as a number 1 receiver in an offense. I’m not sure how much weight teams will put on that but it could potentially be an issue.

Again though, all it takes is one team to bite. The Eagles eventually paid Jackson $9.7 million a season, at the time one of the more lucrative contracts at the position. Bowe became the highest receiver not named Calvin or Larry for a few weeks this season before Wallace jumped him with his $12 million a year contract. Whether they are worth it or not is a different debate (Bowe and Wallace are struggling and Jackson is hoping to avoid a re-done contract in 2014), but the seeming lack of production is not something that should compromise his ability to earn a new contract, provided his finishes the year on the same pace. If he can bring his drops down there is little to really point to about his decline.

In some ways it may be better for Nicks to remain on the Giants for the remainder of the season. If he gets traded and fails to perform that could have an impact on him, much more than what is occurring in New York. While I think many positions are capable of transferring offenses in-season I don’t believe wide receiver is one of them. It takes chemistry with your QB to be a top level producer. For whatever reason he doesn’t have that with Eli, but I would think he would have far more chemistry with Eli than with a QB he has never played with before.

Years ago when the Dallas Cowboys traded for Roy Williams of the Lions, Williams was someone with 1,000+ yard talent and an injury history. He was struggling in his contract year and the Cowboys gave up a significant set of draft picks to bring him on the team before the trade deadline. He went from bad to worse in Dallas averaging under 20 yards a game as he struggled to learn the offense. Luckily for Williams, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones blindly gave him a $54 million dollar contract before he ever played a down for Dallas. Had Williams played the season out and failed with the Lions and Cowboys I think his options would have been more limited since you can make an excuse for not being used on one team, but once you get to two teams it starts to look more troublesome.

So if a team is able to pry Nicks away for a minimal haul and fails to extend him then I think his price tag could be damaged. If he keeps doing what he is doing he will have all offseason to convince a number of teams that this one situation was poor in New York and if given the opportunity he’ll be every bit the number 1 receiver most projected him as two years ago.


Stock Up: Week 2


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 helped 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 exceeded all expectations and provided exceptional value to his team.

Stock Up

DeSean Jackson– While DeSean Jackson is only in the second year of a new contract, the structure of the contract essentially makes this a contract year for him. Jackson’s 2014 cap charge is $12.5 million which should be good for 5thin the NFL at the position. With only $6 million in dead charges Jackson will be in a spot where he is asked to take a paycut or be released. If he continues to put up numbers like he did this week (9 receptions for 193 yards) he will earn every penny of his salary in 2014. The scary thing is Jackson’s numbers could have been even better had he hauled in a bomb where the throw was slightly off and he lost vision of where he stood on the field. He also had another big score called back because of a meaningless penalty. In this offense Jackson right now is unstoppable.

Darren McFadden– Thus far in his career McFadden has proven to be more hype than substance. He is slated to be an Unrestricted Free Agent in 2014 and needs a monster year to secure a place in the plus $7 million market. We had looked at McFadden extensively last month and laid out some milestones he would need to reach in terms of touches, games played and yards. 19 carries for 129 yards is a terrific start for McFadden, especially when you consider the threat of the passing game in Oakland is next to nothing. McFadden’s 129 rushing yards represented a higher total than Terrelle Pryor’s passing yards. His YPC was higher than Pryor’s YPA. His 28 receiving yards were third on the team. No question that McFadden will continue to up his price if he can produce more games like this.

Jimmy Graham– Graham’s explosion marks an all offense selection week. Everyone knows Graham is terrific but with games like this he is separating himself from the field by so much that the Saints are going to have no choice but to franchise him next season. The numbers are scary good and are going to blow away those of comparison points such as Rob Gronkowski and Jason Witten if this continues all season long. With 16 targets Graham was the offense for the Saints. His 16 targets were the same amount as all other receivers on the team combined. Graham is a rare player in that he is targeted as if he is a number 1 WR, something that rarely happens for a TE. That shows an ability for much of what he does to translate to any team in the NFL. I’m not sure there is another position in the NFL where the drop off from the best to second best overall player is as steep as the one from Graham to the next best TE.

New Contract Player Of The Week

Brian Cushing– Cushing just recently cashed in with Houston and if he had not he would have been in the above section rather than in this one. Cushing earned every penny of his extension this week racking up 11 tackles and 2 sacks. Almost all of his tackles were impact plays and he seemed to spend most of his day in the backfield or right up at the line making plays. His stuff of Chris Johnson was one of the critical plays on the drive that ended in a Safety. Thus far Cushing is having a nice bounce back season from injury.

Follow @Jason_OTC


State of Rebuild – Philadelphia Eagles


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.

kelly and roseman

HC Chip Kelly and GM Howie Roseman

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.

vickWhether 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.

deseanOne 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

Chicago Bears

Buffalo Bills

San Diego Chargers

Ryan Feder
Tulane University Law School
J.D. Candidate 2015

Estimating the Value of WR Mike Wallace

Since the first player valuation seemed to be well received I wanted to turn my attention (especially since I have a number of stats ready to go) to WR Mike Wallace of the Pittsburgh Steelers who is one of a number of wideouts that will be competing for top dollar in free agency. Unlike Dwayne Bowe in Kansas City there seems to be no door open to return to Pittsburgh, who not only have salary cap issues but also seemed fed up with Wallace’s late entry to camp as he refused to sign his restricted free agent tender.  I also want to point out because I forgot in the last article that the raw data that I use to make these statistical comparisons come from our friends at Profootballfocus.com. The analysis and calculations are all my own, but the basic numbers come from them.

Basic Stats

Here we have our initial look at Wallaces stats over the prior three seasons:

GRecYdsAvgTDCatch Rate

At first glance our clear warning sign comes from the 2012 season. Other than touchdowns Wallaces numbers fell badly, specifically his catch rate and average per catch. Now the Steelers had a number of changes that occurred with their offense this season so the next step is to dig in a little deeper and see if that played a role in Wallace’s decline this year.

Comparative Performance

The one point I will always make when discussing a wide receiver is that it may be the most dependent position in all of football and there is little that they can do one on one that makes a difference if the other 10 parts of the team are not doing their job. Whether it’s a QB getting them the ball on target or the line giving the WR enough time to get open, the Wide Receiver can not really make an impact on his own in any manner. This is why a player like Larry Fitzgerald has become a complete non-factor in Arizona or why Steve Smith was wasted in his prime years in Carolina.  Keeping that in mine, I want to look at Wallace’s contribution to the Steelers wide receiver corps in games he played the last three seasons:

Team Tgts

Team Rec

Team Yds

Team TDs

Team Ints

























There are a few numbers in 2012 that concern me. The Steelers were actually utilizing him more within their passing scheme buy the receptions and yards did not increase by the same levels. His interception rate spiked. His catch rate fell dramatically as well this season. In 2009 and 2010 he caught more targets than his peers as a whole which is impressive because he was the deep guy on the team, and those are much lower percentage passes.  Overall it makes me wonder if he spent the year sulking about his contract and that worries me when signing him as a free agent.

Comparable Players

Similar to Bowe Wallace is probably going to look at Vincent Jackson and DeSean Jackson as comparison points. Most likely Bowe has two players in mind when looking for a new deal- Vincent Jackson and DeSean Jackson, who both signed new contracts in 2012. This time I want to include Santonio Holmes of the Jets in the discussion. The table below compares the 3 year averages of each player prior to their extension:







Catch Rate

Mike Wallace








Dwayne Bowe








Vincent Jackson








DeSean Jackson








Santonio Holmes








Overall the numbers do paint an interesting picture. In terms of durability he is the best of the bunch having missed 1 game in the last three season. Statistically he is nearly identical to Vincent Jackson and gives similar touchdown performance. In terms of utilization he doesn’t compare to either Bowe or Holmes.  Unlike DeSean Jackson Wallace brings a more consistent catch rate into the picture and is more of a scoring threat. Based on these numbers I would say the first inclination would be to sign Wallace for the same contract as V. Jackson received with the Buccaneers.  But let’s look further.

Number 1 or Not?

When you talk about committing $11 million a year to a wide receiver you are clearly making the leap of faith that this is the guy that can be your pure number 1 target and be the kind of player that really fixes your passing game. I would say the Miami Dolphins are clearly a team that would be interested in this type of potential as they saw what an impact V. Jackson had in Tampa Bay when he slotted into the number 1 position. This is where I get worried with Wallace. First lets compare him to what I consider the upper tier of the group, which is Bowe and V. Jackson. These numbers are three year averages of worth to the teams WR corps before they got the free agent dollars. In Jackson’s case it’s a two year look because he held out for almost all of 2010.

WR Comparisons

Outside of TD production there are clear differences between the two “upper bound” players and Wallace. That does not mean that Wallace can not be a number 1 target, but I think the numbers would say he really has yet to prove that he can do it. Bowe has been the primary threat in all facets for three years. Jackson was there for two of them. The only areas where Wallace competes are in touchdowns as he was the go to guy in Pittsburgh and in interceptions where targets intended for him were picked off far less than those against Jackson. Still the touchdowns are lower than the other two and the percentage of yards and targets is poor. So if I intend to sign Wallace for Jackson money and what I assume will be Bowe money I making a much riskier leap of faith than I did with those two players.

Now lets look at the “lower bound” market.

Wr Comparisons

See now I find this set to be far more appropriate when putting a number on Wallace than the other grouping. These are the guys that probably should at least have raised a small red flag when giving them upper market money to be the number 1 player. In Holmes’ case he imploded when the offense was designed to run through him. The Eagles seemed to wisely continue their spread the ball system before Jackson got injured and we will likely get a better idea next year as to how Jackson fares if given more responsibility.

Market Value

Here is the breakdown of the three player contracts:



% Guar

3 Year Pay

V. Jackson





D. Jackson





S. Holmes





As I discussed in my Bowe valuation I think that the discrepancy between the two Jackson contracts was tied mainly into the belief that one player was a safer bet to be a number 1 than the other. All things considered D. Jacksons’ and Holmes’ contracts are not much different despite the higher APY for Jackson. Jacksons’ realistic takehome over 3 years is only $1 million higher, representing about a 3.5% raise over Holmes’ contract which was frontloaded receiving over 61% in the first three years while Jackson only received 58.7%.

Those numbers to me are Wallace’s real market worth. There was very little if any statistical difference between Jackson and Holmes. Maybe a small difference based on total yards which was probably based as much on offensive philosophy as much as anything else. That slight difference in three year pay may just be the increase of the market as a whole due to the Fitzgerald contract extension in 2011.  Calvin Johnson, who signed a day before DeSean Jackson, probably had little bearing on the contract and maybe raised the market slightly higher but likely not by much.

The Final Verdict

The lone selling point that I think Wallace has is that his TD ratios which are impressive compared to some other high end players. Outside of that I think many teams are going to hesitate on giving him top 3 or 4 WR money and will instead use the D. Jackson deal as a point of reference. I would personally peg his value as significantly less than that of Bowe and I don’t think I would offer much more than Jackson received. Maybe in the ballpark of 5 years at $49-49.5 million with $16 in firm guarantees and $29 million in the first three years.

Wallace supposedly turned down $10 million a season from the Steelers but in reality that was a generous offer unless it was completely backloaded. I think this is a situation where Wallace is banking on a desperate team with a lot of cap room throwing a ton of cash at him. If I had to venture a guess I would think their lowest price that they think is fair would be representative of the increase Jackson received over Holmes which would give Wallace $10.45 million a season with $30.7 million coming in the first three seasons.

That is highly overpaying for the risk involved and there is probably a good chance that Wallace is not going to be a build it around me player.  I also think what works against Wallace is that this is a loaded free agent class of wide receivers. Besides Bowe there is Greg Jennings and you also have Wes Welker and RFA Victor Cruz as potential slot targets.   While Wallace could end up being the guy who gets paid because the other teams missed out I doubt there is any one team that, at the start of free agency, feels he is the only free agent option on the market and thus they need to pay him highly. If you are a team that is going to go beyond $10 million a season just remember there is a clear “buyer beware” sign when you make that move.