Jake Long Injured Again and a Look at the Rams Upcoming Decisions


Rams left tackle Jake Long tore his ACL this past Saturday, an injury that should send him to the IR and end his season. This will mark the 4th time in four seasons that Long has finished the year on the injured list and he will add to the massive salary total that sits on the Rams injured list.

If Long will want to play football next season he will likely need to discuss his contract with the Rams. The Rams designed a creative contract with Long that was somewhat back loaded in value and gave them yearly outs in the event the often injured tackle continued to be hurt.

Long is owed $9.25 million in salary in 2015 and has a $10.5 million salary cap number. If Long is on the Rams roster a few days into the 2015 League Year, $4 million of that figure will become guaranteed, forcing a decision sometime in early March on his future. Releasing Long will save the Rams $8 million in cap room, so the Rams would certainly have every financial incentive to move on.

The sides could also agree to restructure a contract that pays Long his guaranteed number he wanted ($4 million) and nothing else. That would have the sides meeting somewhere in the middle in terms of cash/cap savings while also giving Long one more opportunity to play in the NFL.

The Rams will likely have a number of offseason roster decisions to make. Even with the injuries they have to be disappointed with their current 2-5 record and it may be hard to justify coming back with the same veterans on the roster in 2015.

In addition to Long the Rams will have to make a decision on the future of quarterback Sam Bradford, who will count for over $16.5 million in cap charges. Releasing Bradford avoids sinking another $13 million into the quarterback in both cap space and actual cash commitments. Kendall Langford carries a $7 million salary cap charge and would open up $6 million in cap room if cut. The team could also look to try to do something with the contract of Jared Cook.

My current estimates for the Rams have them with about $13 million in cap room in 2015, assuming a $3 million credit for Cortland Finnegan and a $140 million salary cap. That would be around the top of the bottom third of the NFL. Making a few of the above moves would move them into the top 10 best cap positions in 2015 and likely near the top 5.


Best & Worst Contracts: St. Louis Rams


A few weeks ago Jason LaCanfora published a list of best and worst contracts in the NFL so I thought it might make a good idea for us to do the same here at OTC, with a team by team approach. I’ll try to be a bit more analytical in terms of why money was paid and how it fits in the market, but the general premise is the same. The one key difference is outside of restructured rookie contracts under the old CBA we will only use veteran contracts as there is a big difference between best draft picks and best contracts.  Please note that there is a difference between a bad player and a bad contract when discussing some of the selections. Clicking on a players name will take you to his salary cap page.

Jake LongBest Contract: Jake Long

I am not a big fan of many of the contracts that the Rams have given to players in recent years, but I have found the deal for Long to be one of the more intriguing contracts in the NFL. It was not long ago that Long was the number 1 pick in the draft and was considered one of the best two tackles in the NFL. From 2008 through 2010 Long was a dominant player for the Miami Dolphins before the bottom seemingly dropped out. Long was plagued by injuries and his play slipped tremendously.

Between the market dropping for Tackles and his decline in play, Long was a very difficult player to put a price tag on. Teams were still willing to designate Left Tackles at Franchise players so the upper end was clearly $10 million, but was Jake Long still close to an upper echelon player?  Injury was the biggest concern for signing Long as he finished the last two seasons on IR so the Rams needed ways to protect themselves from that while also giving Long a chance to be paid as an upper tier player.

The Rams agreed on a contract that only fully guaranteed Long’s 2013 salary, which consisted of a $5 million dollar signing bonus and $3 million dollar base salary. In 2014 his contract contains conditional guarantees where the condition is not based on February or March roster status, which is the typical manner in which a conditional guarantee vests, but instead on finishing the 2013 season on the Active roster.

If Long fails to stay healthy the Rams will have gotten Long at a $2 million dollar discount from a true Franchise tag player, which is not a bad deal by any means considering the upside. While the dead money will be $3.75 million, which is significant, it was the only contract that could fit Long into a very tight salary cap situation in 2013.

If Long remains healthy the Rams are still only obligated to pay him $16 million over a 2 year period, again a very reasonable cost for someone with the type of potential Long has.  They have a second decision date the following year in which a portion of his 2015 salary becomes guaranteed if they fail to cut him by the 5th day of the League Year, giving them another out in the event injury becomes a major deterrent in his success. At that point the dead money is only $2.5 million, making it an easy decision for the Rams.

Jared CookWorst Contract: Jared Cook

In the last few years the Rams have become a team of over spenders, both on their own players and outside players.  To some extent I think this is a calculated risk that the Rams are taking. For years the Rams had not been considered an ideal destination for players to consider and I think in many ways this may have been a necessary evil to attract talent and begin to get people talking around the league about how the Rams could be a landing spot as free agency preparations begin.

Most of the contracts do contain some protection for the Rams in that they contain very low signing bonuses and have all the guarantees paid out by the second year, meaning at worst it’s a two year risk. So while the players are overvalued there is always a correction that can happen right around the corner. I’m not sure Cook is one of those players.

In terms of price tag it is hard to believe that the Rams paid Cook this kind of money. While I understand how the league has become more focused than ever on the TE position that doesn’t mean you overpay for a player with limited starting experience and very little stats to back up his play. Cook has started a grand total of 12 games in four seasons. His three year yardage average is around 550 yards. He has never scored more than 4 touchdowns in a season.  And for this the Rams paid Cook over $7 million a season with an incredible $16 million in guarantees.

Unlike the other bad contracts on this team Cook’s guarantees extend into his third season on the club. There is really no escape from this deal at any point. This is significantly worse than the Jaguars deal years ago with Marcedes Lewis. At least in Lewis’ case he had a big year in his walk year and had the 1st round pedigree. Cook only has expectations because he can be a big play threat at times.

Some will point to the poor QB situation in Tennessee as a reason to be hopeful but is Sam Bradford that much of an upgrade over Locker/Hasselbeck?  I’m not so sure and their offensive coordinator was never a big “run it through the TE” type in New York so I don’t think that will change either. The Titans who were huge overspenders this year had no desire to touch the price that was being floated by Cook.  Even the Dolphins who were buying everything in sight could not justify matching this offer. Cook is going to have to see a major upgrade to his game to ever justify this contract.

Check out Our Other Best & Worst Contract Articles

AFC East: Buffalo BillsMiami DolphinsNew England PatriotsNew York Jets

AFC North: Baltimore RavensCincinnati BengalsCleveland BrownsPittsburgh Steelers

AFC South: Houston TexansIndianapolis ColtsJacksonville JaguarsTennessee Titans

AFC West: Denver BroncosKansas City ChiefsOakland RaidersSan Diego Chargers

NFC East: Dallas CowboysNew York GiantsPhiladelphia EaglesWashington Redskins

NFC North: Chicago BearsDetroit LionsGreen Bay PackersMinnesota Vikings

NFC South: Atlanta Falcons, Carolina PanthersNew Orleans SaintsTampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West: Arizona Cardinals, St. Louis Rams, San Francisco 49’ers(July 31)



The Chiefs and Branden Albert


Sometimes when I write about the salary cap and roster moves Ill use a phrase like “noose around the neck” in regards to a players (rare) control over a situation. Such is the case right now regarding T Branden Albert and the Kansas City Chiefs.

Make no mistake about it. The Chiefs never intended to have Albert on their team this season. The Chiefs were remaking their franchise this past offseason and Albert didn’t really fit in their plans. The team had the number 1 pick in the draft which they were going to spend on a Tackle and were prepared to make a number of money moves to improve the team. Just off the top of my head the Chefs traded for Alex Smith, signed Mike DeVito, Anthony Fasano, Dunta Robinson, and Sean Smith plus they re-upped star WR Dwayne Bowe.  While only Bowe cost mega-money the number of mid-tier moves the team made quickly added up.

The Chiefs slapped the franchise tag on Albert primarily because they saw him as a valuable asset that could be moved to acquire more low cost pieces in the draft.  What they may not have planned on, however, was the way the market for Offensive Tackles was going to shrink in 2013. Jake Long maxed out the market at a deal worth $8.5 million a year and the meat of the market is really around $7.5 million, and that’s for the left side of the line. Some think Albert belongs on the right side which brings the price down even further, between $6 and $7 million.

Needless to say Albert wants to make more than that, around $9 million a season, according to reports, and the Chiefs are in a real bind. Supposedly Albert and the Miami Dolphins had agreed on a price which I have to assume is in that $9 million a year range. However there was no way that the Dolphins were going to pay an above market price for a player and give up a 2nd round draft pick as well.  They could do one or the other, not both. The trade fell through and now the Chiefs are stuck with Albert.

Since the Chiefs didn’t plan for this they find themselves in a salary cap crunch. They have around $4.3 million in cap space for their top 51 players. The team needs about $3.876 million in cap room to sign their rookies. Once the season begins the cap counts 53 players rather than 51, which is another $960,000. Just like that the Chiefs are out of cap room, sunk because of the franchise tag a fully guaranteed amount of $9.828 million. They have other options such as restructuring the contract of Tamba Hali, but does a team want to get deeper on a 30 year old pass rusher with $6 million in dead money in 2014?  I wouldn’t think so.

That’s why Albert has the Chiefs “noose around the neck” so to speak.  They need him to bring his cap number down. He has almost no incentive to do so. Players are taking short term deals in the hopes of a changing market in 2014. He may feel that if the Dolphins were willing to bite at his price this year another team might next year. Albert is already owed $9.828 million guaranteed in a market where multi year deals are coming in around only $17 or $18 million guaranteed. Sure he is betting on staying healthy this year, but for the most part the Chiefs are going to have to meet his price or simply deal with him for 1 season at the high price tag and then lose him next year.

Albert wants the money Duane Brown earned last season. It would be a deal that is around $9 million a year with $22 million in full guarantees.  To put that in perspective that’s about 6% more per year than Long, 20% more than Will Beatty, 25% more than Jermon Bushrod, and 31% more than Sam Baker in terms of annual value. Those were the biggest deals signed by Left Tackles in 2013 I believe. A $22 million guarantee would represent an increase of 83% on Long (Long has guarantees conditional on health, a concession he made to get the higher APY), 16% on Beatty, 88% on Bushrod, and 20.6% on Baker. The way the typical contracts are structured and knowing the Chiefs cap concerns would likely mean he is on the team for the next 4 years if they re-sign him. Those are all incredible premiums to pay for a player that just two or three weeks ago you really did not want on the team.

So financially the Chiefs are really in a bind. Normally a team holds all the cards. This is one of the rare cases where they do not. Albert really calls the shots here. It becomes a very tricky negotiation for the Chiefs and it will be interesting to see just how much Albert flashes his power here to get the money he wants.


Looking at Jake Long’s contract

The excellent Ben Volin of the Palm Beach Post broke down the particulars of Jake Long’s contract with the St. Louis Rams.

Earlier today, we broke down Jake Long’s new four-year deal with the Rams and told you how the Rams are betting that Long is going to be healthy and productive over the next three seasons.

It’s true, the Rams are making that bet. But upon further review, they built plenty of protection into the contract in case Long, who has suffered a multitude of injuries over his five-year career, doesn’t last.

Essentially the Rams built a great deal of protection into the contract via the use of a “health” based guarantee for the oft-injured Long. If Long is healthy for the final game of the 2013 season he will earn another $4 million in fully guaranteed salary. If not healthy he runs the risk of being cut from the team and collecting $12 million for one season of work. The Rams have structured the contract in a way where, if unhealthy, the release of Long in 2014 will create an additional $1.5 million in cap room and $4 million in free cash for the Rams. If there are offsets in the contract they would gain credits for salary earned, up to $4 millon, if he signs with a new team.

His $8 million takehome in 2013 represents his lowest one year cash total since 2008 the year he was drafted. Since then his lowest cash salary was $9.725 million in 2010. Long was ultra productive early in his career, grading out in my own metrics as one of the top 2 or 3 pass blocking LTs in the league until he started to get banged up and fell to around 30th in the NFL in 2011 and 2012. While Long has an injury history he has only missed 6 games over the course of the last two seasons, though both came at the end of the year which may show a lack of durability especially for a playoff team.


That being said it is a pretty stunning reversal of fortunes for a former number 1 pick that exemplifies the fiscal constraints most teams are showing in the NFL and the poor job the union has done in negotiating the current CBA agreement. Not only do teams not have money to spend in terms of cap dollars but now they have low cost rookies draft picks to hang over the head of a player. “Why would I give player X $12 million a year when I can draft in the top 5 and pay less than $5 million for a younger player at the same position?”. Those are the ripple down effects of the rookie slotting system that now exist.

DE Mario Williams, a former number 1 draft pick, has not been near the player Long has been over the duration of his career. Long is a 4 time Pro Bowler and was once named All Pro. Williams was awarded 2 Pro Bowl nods. Long always graded out near the top of the charts in pass blocking. Williams has been around top 10-15 for most of his career in pass rush. Williams had missed 14 games in the two years prior to becoming a free agent. and both years finished the season on injured reserve.

Even with all of those red flags the fact was Williams was a high profile player due to his draft status and lofty sack totals in 2007. The Bills, not understanding the changing landscape of the league (and they were not the only ones), paid Williams an outrageous $96 million dollars over 6 years with $24.9 million in fully guaranteed money and an extra $13.4 million in functionally guaranteed money. Williams, completely ineffective in 2012 with rumors of nagging injuries as an excuse, will earn $40 million dollars in the first two years of his contract. If all goes well for Jake Long he will earn $36.5 million over the next four years. Thats a gigantic disparity.

The market has completely changed for a player like Long. The Bills are stuck on a bad contract that doesnt fit in at all with what the marketplace has become. The Rams got a steal for a player that would have cost millions more had he signed in 2012 giving them a chance to get an elite player to help protect their investment in Sam Bradford. If Long fails no big deal, just a handful of cap dollars lost for a season.

View Jake Longs contract page

View Mario Williams contract page