Seahawks and Marshawn Lynch Agree On Contract

According to Pro Football Talk, Marshawn Lynch and the Seattle Seahawks seem to have agreed in principle on a new contract extension that will pay Lynch up to $24 million in new money over the next three seasons. The delay on officially agreeing, one would think, is on the forfeiture provisions in the event Lynch were to retire after this season. Lynch will receive, according to PFT, a $7.5 million signing bonus of which $2.5M a year could be tied to wanting to play football.

The contract itself, despite the high $24 million new money pricetag, is most likey going to simply be a raise for Lynch of $5 million for this year to entice Lynch to come back to the Seahawks. He was previously under contract for $7 million and had indicated he might retire. The way the contract is structured the Seahawks would keep the same cap charge for Lynch in 2015 as if they never reworked the contract. That leads me to believe that they are just dumping some added cap charges into 2016 when he retires/is released.

Lynch’s $12 million payout this year is essentially what would be paid to a “franchise player” on a one year contract. The fact that the new money annual value works out to an even $12 million a year also indicates what the intention is here and they will deal with next season when it happens.

The big question is will this impact the running back market?  Probably not. This salary moves Lynch into the class of recent contracts signed by Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson, both of which were considered outliers in the market. Lynch is in a very unique situation in Seattle where he clearly is their most important offensive player and his style is not really “plug and play” like most of the players currently in the NFL. Peterson would be the one player who could potentially argue that this makes his $13 million salary legit for the 2015 season based on his projected significance to an offense and his past performance.

View Marshawn Lynch’s Projected Contract Details

Marshawn Lynch Reworks Contract with Seahawks


According to, the Seahawks have agreed to modify running back Marshawn Lynch’s contract in return for him ending his holdout and returning to training camp. Per the report the Seahawks have agreed to convert $500,000 in gameday roster bonuses, $500,000 in incentives, and $500,000 in 2015 base salary into Lynch’s 2014 base salary. The new contract will increase Lynch’s 2014 cap charge and cash salary by $1 million.

Though this is not the big raise that Jamaal Charles received from the Kansas City Chiefs, it was likely the best case scenario for Lynch, who had almost no leverage in the situation. Charles had been woefully underpaid and is the centerpiece of the Chiefs offense and projects to be in that role for at least one more season. Lynch has been paid well and is likely going to be phased out of Seattle over the next season.

I’ve said for some time that Lynch holds more importance for the Seahawks early in the season moreso than late in the year and I think this compromise indicates that they feel the same way. The Seahawks have a stable of potential replacements for Lynch, but it often takes time to work such players in to the offense in an ffective manner. Lynch should carry the workload early in the year while everyone else gets their feet wet in the system. Seattle easily could have held firm, continued to fine Lynch and further enforce forfeiture clauses in his contract, but instead they agreed to a slight raise.


While it is being widely reported (and is technically true) that this deal means no new money for Lynch, from a practical standpoint this is an additional $1 million for the player. The $500,000 incentive was only going to be earned if Lynch ran for 1,500 yards in 2014, something Lynch has only done once in his career. Considering his workload is expected to be reduced the odds of earning that incentive was next to nothing. It is now part of his base pay.  Lynch should still be scheduled to earn $7 million next year at an $8.5 million cap charge, which is not a safe spot for any aging running back to be. Lynch is still a strong candidate for release in 2015 so any money being moved from that season to this one is effectively a raise for him.

So he gained something with the hold out, a fact that may not make many NFL owners and General Managers very happy.



Hard to Compare Marshawn Lynch and Jamaal Charles


While we already have discussed the Marshawn Lynch contract on the site in the past I thought in light of his holdout that we could use this as an opportunity to look at certain distinctions between contract situations. On it’s face the immediate reaction to Lynch holding out is that Jamaal Charles got a raise and thus the Seahawks should follow the pattern to give Lynch what he deserves. However, the two contract situations are very different.

Charles was underpaid during the term of his agreement. Based on his production at the time of signing (which was more or less near the end of the 2010 season) the Chiefs got a tremendous bargain. The fact that he produced at an even higher level in the future made it even more of a bargain. For the most part Charles was giving the Chiefs $10 million a year production at 55% of the cost.

Lynch was paid very well upon signing his contract in 2012. The Seahawks follow a different contract model than many other teams. Many of their contracts appear to be very forward looking rather than using the past as a guide for future performance.  Whether it was Percy Harvin, Zach Miller, Sidney Rice, or a number of other players on their team, they often try to identify the future benefits they will realize once the player is fully immersed in their system. Lynch is one of those players.

Lynch began his career in Buffalo and fell out of favor in 2009. During the 2010 season he was traded to the Seahawks and had a relatively lackluster run averaging 3.5 yards per carry and producing 573 yards in 12 games. Lynch would have a much better season in 2011 running for 1,200 yards on a 4.2 YPC as he looked for a contract in free agency.

I like to use a matrix on valuing contracts (and there are plenty of other ways to do this) where we use a weighted average of three years of stats to help identify a range of pay. I usually split the numbers 50/35/15.  Lynch signed in the same offseason as many other players. I included Charles in the list as comparison even though he signed in 2010. Here were the numbers leading into the contracts signed by the player:


In terms of production Lynch was near the bottom, only better than Jonathan Stewart. In terms of per play performance Lynch was at the bottom of the list and was also one of just two players to be a non-factor in the passing game.

One of the ways we can break down the valuation on the contract is by looking at the annual value and the three year contract average value per rushing yard and yard from scrimmage. This tells us what the player would have cost, in an average year, per yard of production.


Dollar per yardDollar per yard

dollar per total yard

So when you look at Lynch what you see is a player who was compensated, at the very least, fairly over the terms of his original contract. On an annual basis he was more or less compensated at the top of the position (discounting Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson’s outlier deals). That was balanced out somewhat by the cash flows of the contract which were steady rather than frontloaded like Rice, Foster, and McCoy, but it was still a contract that called for a high level of salary based on what he had done before. Due to the lack of expected receiving production he would likely have been a player that a team would have required a partner for passing downs.

As things turned out the Seahawks were correct in their projections and Lynch was worth the risk, but it was one of the better player contracts in the NFL. He was also guaranteed $17 million right from the start, higher than all but two players on this list, both of whom signed longer contracts.

That’s why it is hard to compare the situation of the Charles and  Lynch and expect the same results, even just on the principle of “fairness”.  Charles was the most underpaid of the group. If the Seahawks took an optimistic eye with Lynch, then the Chiefs took a super pessimistic one with Charles. Even if we factor in Charles’ new money ($5 million) into the deal, he would simply come up to the Forte/Rice levels on annual value per run yard and still be the lowest paid using total yards from scrimmage as a metric.

While its understandable that Lynch is holding out, Charles was far more deserving of the raise he received. In Lynch’s case, his improved performance was built into the contract he signed in 2012. We’ll see if Seattle budges, but this is a spot where the fans may not be on the player’s side




Declining RB Production and NFL Contract Modeling

Though plenty has been written on the decline of the running back at 30, I figured why not add to that with a focus on the contract and likelihood of players performing. It’s a good topic if you are interested in working in the NFL, simply like Fantasy Football, or are going to take a more holistic look at Fantex valuations in the future. Plus with all the discussion on giving Seahawks’ RB Marshawn Lynch a raise and a new contract to reflect what he has accomplished combined with fact that a number of solid NFL running backs are about to make that turn into the late 20’s, it’s a good time to look at those late 20 years.

As a quick study I wanted to go back and look at all running backs between the year 2000 and 2013 that had at least one 100 carry season between the ages of 25 and 27. There is no magic to the 100 carries as it was just an arbitrary cutoff point that I figured would at least let us focus on players who do get reasonable use in the NFL.  I also just wanted to look at players whose age 25-27 seasons all occurred in the 2000’s (so no Curtis Martin types).

All told 70 players qualified for the study. Since originally I did this with Lynch in mind I wanted to look at a three year weighted average with a team placing 50% on the 27 year old season, 35% on the 26 year old season, and 15% on the 25 year old season to set a baseline performance. I also included the regular three year average. Here is the group of players and the resulting stats:

Age 25-27 RB Stats

The top of the list is a who’s-who in fantasy magazine covers and I forgot just how great LaDainian Tomlinson and Larry Johnson were for a period of time. Adrian Peterson’s numbers would have been even more ridiculous if he would (or could) have been pushed the same way those others were.  The first thing I want to look at is what percentage of the group (with the top number adjusted for removal of active players) remained in the NFL at each age bracket.

RB lifecycle

A majority of NFL teams have decided that by 31 most of the players no longer belong in the league, though a few make it to 33 and beyond.

How do the players fare when compared to their 25-27 weighted averages?  Not very good. Here is the percentage decline for the players that remain at each age:

rb percent declines

If we just look at higher end players (average above 750 yards) the declines are more or less just as steep, with slightly better yardage drops but massive drops in touchdowns, which is a huge deal for the fantasy folks.

High end RB declines

Very few players were more productive with age. Thomas Jones, Tiki Barber, Warrick Dunn, and Frank Gore were the guys who were more productive as they got older in terms of overall yardage production. Most of the other players saw major declines.

So if we expect average performance where does that leave Marshawn Lynch and some of the comparable players going forward?  I have 13 current players here that should be 28 or 29 this year and here is what the team would expect from the player in terms of yards, assuming he doesn’t flame out:

Current RB Projections

So if we are acting as the cap manager of the team it’s this forward look that we need to make when we decide on signing a player to a new contract. That’s not to say that Peterson will degrade this badly, but the expectation moving forward would be closer to this rather than where he has been for most of his career.

Of course a team should take on all factors into account when arriving at a price and the above chart gives numbers based on average performance and not being released. The threat of release has to be taken into account as does the chance of both better and worse than average performances.

Though the sample size is not that large we can illustrate a way that a team should price point a player. We’ll use Lynch as an example because he’s somewhat relevant. What I want to do is determine likelihood of various events by breaking expectations up into 4 categories: catastrophic (cut necessary), bad (falls off cliff performance/injury), average (mid grade performance), and great (top performers).  We can assign odds of the performance based on number of players who rate in that level, but to make things easier Ill just break the non-release categories into three groups and use the average of each. This is more or less what I would refer to as using financial scenario modeling to build a contract value.

Here are the expected increase or decrease in yards (based on the 3 year weighted average) per year:

Performance expectations

Combining that with the life cycle numbers from above we would need to weigh Lynch’s yardage as follows:

Lynch Scenario Analysis

When I come up with a value for a contract I need to base my thoughts on getting around 2,500 yards over a 4 year period from Lynch. More likely I would look at this chart and say he will likely be worthless to the team at the age of 30 and 31. Of course we can adjust various scenarios by varying the expectation levels beyond here, which is probably wise to do if in a bidding war with another team or you reach an impasse and need to determine how far you can go.

Using these numbers I would match a contract with each figure. Just as a rough estimate I would say a 1,000 yard runner is worth around $5.5 million, a 750 yard runner around $3 million and the last two years the minimum which is around $1 million. All told I would not offer a contract more than 4 years for $10.5 million in realistic dollars.

What I mean by realistic dollars is that the salary offered in 2016 and especially 2017 is worthless since he will likely be cut. If I believe strongly in Lynch I might offer close to $10.5 million over the first two years and fluff up the rest of the deal with money that I know will never be earned.

Now the other day I did say that perhaps a solution to the Lynch situation might include a signing bonus and we can use these charts to provide guidance on that. Knowing the odds of needing to release him the following year we can come up with an average amount of dead money we would anticipate based on signing bonus levels. The following table shows how much dead money we would allocate to Lynch in each year based on signing bonuses of $6, $4, and $2 million on a two year extension. Please note the age 29 row includes dead money from his current signing bonus as well.

Lynch dead money forecast

Based on these numbers I would say that the team should consider no more than a $4 million signing bonus, half of which will likely result in dead money. Using a format like this can actually help identify how much dead money a team can anticipate each year on the books if we analyze every player on a roster and assume teams did not let the cap dictate roster status.

Lynch is already scheduled to earn $5.5 million this year so there would be basically no reason to touch Lynch’s contract at all right now as he is valued right in 2014 and there would be no benefit to a signing bonus to pacify him unless he reduced his salary in 2015 to the $4 million level. Considering he is looking for a raise I cant see him being agreeable to any deal.  About the only way to get a deal both sides would be happy with is to include escalators or incentives that paid Lynch larger sums of money if he was in that rare group that continued to play well into their 30’s. Otherwise it’s contract reduction not increase for him and likely for many others who will soon be in similar situations.


Why Marshawn Lynch Should Look for a New Contract


With the news coming out that Marshawn Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks is unhappy with his contract I thought we should look at what is likely going to drive a holdout for him and why he needs to do this now if he wants to maximize his job security.

I do think it is worth noting that the Seahawks took a huge chance when they signed Lynch to a $7.5 million a year contract in 2011. Lynch had come off more than a few non-descript seasons in Buffalo and a half year in Seattle. Many teams would have pushed for a much lower value based on his history but the Seahawks have been about taking chances in recent years and believed strongly in his talent giving him $17 million fully guaranteed in the contract. Their gamble clearly paid off but with the guarantees gone and the likelihood of diminishing importance Lynch is ready for a new contract.

The NFL is always about changing landscapes. Coaches change. Schemes change. Young players mature and veteran players begin to decline. One can not diminish the impact that Lynch has had on the Seahawks offense the last three years- he has been the steady driving force that allows the team to pound the ball offensively and give the defense the rest and margin for error they need.

But that was the past and this is going to soon become someone else’s football team. QB Russell Wilson is about to make the turn from underpaid rookie to gigantic salaried veteran in 2015. He is the future of the team and their focus from a contractual standpoint next season. The team expects to have WR Percy Harvin, making nearly $13 million a year, healthy for the foreseeable future. Doug Baldwin is now signed for a few more seasons while the team spent a high draft pick on another wideout in Paul Richardson. The Seahawks also have a stable of young running backs that are expected to take more of the workload this year.

You don’t have to be a genius to see the writing on the wall. The offense is going to further morph over the next few years and Lynch will be left with a termination notice informing him that he is no longer a member of the Seahawks. But at least for 2014 there are still some questions for Seattle. Harvin has to prove he can be healthy. Richardson has to prove he can play. The young backs need to prove they can be effective in their role. Going into September Lynch will have a vital role for the team, but leaving November he likely won’t.  So it makes sense for Lynch to make a stand now while he still may have some leverage due to his role on the team.

If Lynch is forced to play the season out he will be 29 next season when odds are he will be released or be asked to restructure his contract. He is now entering the phase of his career where we do not look back and compare him to Adrian Peterson in 2011 or LeSean McCoy in 2012 when determining a likely value. Those players were younger when they signed. We now move up the ladder and examine the group of players who signed contracts when they were close to their 30’s at the front end of the deal.

Here are the three year numbers for those players when they signed and what Lynch has done the prior three seasons as comparison.

PlayerAge at SigningCareer AttemptsAttemptsYardsYPA RECYardsYPR
Frank Gore28137167230094.4814112318.73
Chris Johnson29174281733674.121359957.37
Reggie Bush2896747922224.641127967.11
Fred Jackson3181762929234.6511610288.86
DeAngelo Williams30116941519344.66403839.58
Maurice Jones-Drew29180466328224.26997747.82
Steven Jackson30255284734284.0512610378.23
Marshawn Lynch28175390140514.50877248.32

Lynch has certainly been run into the ground the last three years and these numbers don’t even include the playoff numbers, something that was not an issue for the other players. On a per play basis Lynch is not doing anything extraordinary and his value lies in durability and the ability to perform at a strong level despite the heavy workload. But is that important to teams in todays NFL?  Only in very few cases as most teams focus on passing the ball more than running it.

If Lynch gets another season of work from Seattle his career use will scare many teams away. If he gets less work he’ll still be second on this list and teams may begin to question if he can be a workhorse back.  If he gets hurt then his durability advantage is gone. It’s a no win situation for him from a contractual standpoint. Everything will be worse for him after this season in terms of contract discussions.

Another important aspect of this is the ability to stay in a place where he is comfortable and found his greatest success. Most of these players were cast aways from their original teams. Johnson signed with the Jets. Bush went to Detroit. Jones-Drew signed with the Raiders. Jackson ended up in Atlanta. Williams contract was actually a renegotiated deal where the team gave him the “pay cut or be cut” ultimatum.

In general free agency or the possibility of free agency has not really been that kind to these players. Here are the contract terms signed by the group:

PlayerAgeYearTotalAPYFull Guarantee
Frank Gore283$19,524,000$6,508,000$0
Fred Jackson312$8,700,000$4,350,000$3,000,000
Chris Johnson292$8,000,000$4,000,000$3,000,000
Reggie Bush284$16,000,000$4,000,000$4,000,000
Steven Jackson303$12,000,000$4,000,000$4,000,000
DeAngelo Williams303$10,000,000$3,333,333$4,000,000
Maurice Jones-Drew293$7,500,000$2,500,000$1,200,000

These are not the kind of contracts that are going to be big money movers in the NFL. Gore is the only player who got above $4.5 million a year and to get that he received no guarantees in his contract. This is likely what is staring Lynch in the face if he can’t get a new deal out of Seattle right now. Gore’s contract will also not exist next season taking the highest valued deal (and comparable rival player) off the board for future discussions making any higher contract even more difficult to attain. While Seattle is known to push the prices I doubt they would go far beyond the parameters of what is going on with this group.  For Lynch that likely makes this holdout more about trying to get some money now rather than later. Lynch is set to earn $5 million this season in base compensation and another $500,000 if he is healthy for 16 games. Next year that number jumps to $7.5 million.

The $5 million number would essentially be the guaranteed portion/first year cash of any contract he would wind up signing so what we are looking at here is either an opportunity to try to slightly increase the cash to even out 2014 and 2015’s earnings or tweaking the contract to contain more favorable terms such converting an incentivized roster bonus to a March roster bonus.

Right now cutting Lynch in 2015 will only cost the Seahawks $1.5 million against the salary cap. If, however, Lynch signs a three year extension that contains a $4 million signing bonus and $1.5 million base salary for this year then that number jumps to $4.7 million in 2015.  If he can get a small raise for the year and get that bonus to $5 million then he is looking at $5.5 million in what I like to call “dead money protection”. Even without the guarantee it probably locks in the 2015 salary.

Such a move would likely maximize his earnings for the next two years and keep him in the city where he may enjoy playing the most. But this move is only likely to happen this year. If he waits until next year where he shows diminished importance he is probably going to get similar treatment to overused players like MJD and Jackson in free agency. Jackson’s failure in Atlanta will be a warning flag that, rightly or wrongly, will be applied to Lynch and make it difficult for Lynch to even get to that level.  So this is his best and maybe only opportunity to safeguard his future.




Looking at Darren McFadden’s Decision to Play the Season Out


Darren McFadden

Chris Wesseling of has posted yesterday that RB Darren McFadden of the Raiders was ready to play the season out in hopes of getting a lucrative contract in free agency next season. So with that in mind I figured we could take a look at the running back and see if he really has any hope of earning big dollars.

The running back market in general has come crashing down since the heyday of the Shaun Alexander and Ricky Williams. Between teams having their salary caps damaged by unproductive runners being paid millions of dollars and the explosion of the passing offense and influx of younger talented QB’s the running back became devalued tremendously.

The only two runners to “break the market” were Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson, and those are both unrealistic data points for any player in the NFL. The true top of the market is between $7 and $9 million a year so I have to guess that is what McFadden is aiming for. The question is can he actually get there?

McFadden has a lot to overcome to even be considered in that grouping. The first issue is the injury history. No season, no matter how great, is going to convince a team that he can stay healthy and productive for 16 games. No team is going to spend big dollars on a player that is only healthy for 12 games and productive for 8 or 9. It ruins the flow of the offense.

Secondly he has to convince teams that the poor seasons were a fluke.  McFadden has had more mediocre seasons than good seasons. He only ran for 500 yards as a rookie and 360 yards in his second season. He played very well in 2010 and started out well in 2011 before falling off a cliff in 2012, which he blamed on the blocking scheme. The fact that he is saying he can’t run behind a certain scheme could be troubling to a team.

The Upper Market Statistics

I first wanted to look at the top end of the market and use the two year averages leading up to an extension to come up with some basic goals for McFadden. (Please note that I am not including Jonathan Stewart of the Panthers simply because no team is going to use him as any point of comparison).



Run Yds


Rec Yds




Big Play























































Making a Case For the High End

Because McFadden has basically no useful stats the last two seasons we have to assume teams will use that 2010 season as a point of reference along with 2013. In 2010 he rushed for 1157 yards on 223 carries and added 507 receiving yards on 47 receptions. While I don’t see teams agreeing to just blindly use that year as likely that is the best case he can make for himself.  To get to the group averages McFadden is going to need the following stat line in 2013:

Games: 16
Carries: 300
Yards: 1207
Receptions: 60
Yards Rec: 448
TD: 13
Big Plays: 9

These numbers would all represent major career highs in touches as well as games played. Are those attainable?  Probably not and he may need to exceed the numbers simply because we are using 2010 as a data point, which is an eternity ago in football years. While some people might point to the fact that 300 carries for 1200 yards is not as productive as he has been at his peak and that he can get 1200 yards with just 250 carries it’s not really the yards that are important. It’s the touches. It is the ability to carry the ball multiple times that brings financial value to a team.

The problem with an ultra productive player that only carries the ball 200 times is that the team then needs to sign someone to handle the missing 100 carries. That costs money and cap space. It’s like being injured and needing a decent replacement. A team doesn’t want to design an offense where Player A can do X, Y, and Z for 5.5 YPC and then supplant him for significant carries with Player B that can only do it for 2.5.

Essentially if McFadden can only carry for 220 times a year and you sign him for $8 million a year it means you need to sign or draft another productive player that can carry the ball 170 to 200 times.  That brings your cost allocation from $7 or $8 million a year into the $10-$11 million a year range, a very high amount to spend on a running back.

The best case McFadden can make is to use Marshawn Lynch as a comparison point. When you look at the chart above Lynch is the one player who does not belong. His overall productivity was weak compared to others. He didn’t have the touches, didn’t factor into the passing game, and produced less than 4 yards a carry. Lynch had a few bad seasons leading into his extension. He was suspended for three games in 2009 and fell out of favor in Buffalo, only gaining 450 yards on the ground. He was traded the next year and produced an underwhelming 3.5 YPA for the Seahawks in 12 games. He also battled an ankle problem that year which he played through.

Those two seasons are not terribly different than what McFadden has done the prior two years. Lynch bounced back in 2011 to have a Pro Bowl season for the Seahawks and gaining 1200 rushing yards. Seattle took into account the distant past play when Lynch was a workhorse back with the Bills rather than considering 2011 the outlier and using his prior two years as reference points. Lynch would go on to have a monster season in 2012 justifying the overspending on the player.

The Secondary Market Statistics

While McFadden envisions himself in that group that earns $7 to $9 million a year, the more likely place for him is in the non-workhorse section of the market which varies from $3 million to $6.4 million a year. These are the players who teams do not have faith in being able to carry a full load or being able to remain healthy for 16 games. They understand the risks associated with the talent and are only going to spend a limited amount of cap dollars. Using the same two year averages here is that group of players:



Run Yds


Rec Yds




Big Play

R. Bush






















































Making a Case For the Secondary Tier

Using this subset McFadden doesn’t need to push for a team to use 2010 as a baseline. All he needs to do is come close to recreating 2010 and he will easily surpass the averages of this group with the exception of games played. If he put up his 2010 numbers over a 16 game stretch he’d be more proficient than everyone except Charles. Being that McFadden has top draft talent, is far superior as a big play threat, and could convince teams to throw out that 2012 season he can easily push to the top of this list.

There are a number of easy comparisons here. The most logical would be Bush. Bush was a former number 2 overall pick who did very little in New Orleans over the first five seasons of his career. He received more opportunity with the Dolphins and turned himself into a viable mid tier back capable of carrying 200 times a year. Bush is 28 in his season of signing with Detroit. McFadden will be 27 if he plays the season out. Bush received $4 million a season from Detroit with $5 million in full guarantees.

Another point of reference would be Frank Gore. Gore had a more productive career than McFadden but looked as if all the wear and tear of his early years had worn him down. He was 28 when he signed a 3 year extension that did not begin until he was 29 years old. Gore received a close to high end value with significant money tied up in per game roster bonuses because of fear of injury.

Setting a Price

The following chart illustrates the contract values and full guarantees of the various players we discussed above plotted simply against average combined yards over the two years before the new contract.

NFL Running back marketplace

I would consider Lynch’s contract, worth $7.5 million a year, to be the highest possibility for McFadden and that is probably a stretch price. Seattle has not been the most cautious team in the league in regards to contract decisions leaning much more towards payment based on upper level potential rather than proven results. Given the Raiders cap history and knowing that their General Manager, Reggie McKenzie, comes from a system that takes the pessimistic approach to payment on potential it would be highly unlikely that the Raiders would ever consider matching a 4 year $30 million dollar contract with $17 million fully guaranteed for a player with McFadden’s history. That doesn’t mean somebody won’t do it but I can’t imagine that team being the Raiders barring a historic season by McFadden.

A more realistic number is between that $4 million and $6.4 million range of the second tier of players with minimal guarantees and for shorter terms in length. Though Charles was much younger when he signed his contract I could see the $5.4 million being a fair figure for McFadden if he has a good season. If he is willing to hedge his bets on his skill guarantees I think they could push the value closer to Gore’s.

Gore received more money potential for giving up true guarantees. This is not completely uncommon in the NFL. Darrelle Revis, CB for the Buccaneers, did the same in order to receive a contract far exceeding his “on paper” value, especially in light of an ACL injury that sidelined him for almost all of 2012. Gore’s lack of skill guarantees combined with heavy incentives based on staying healthy would seem like an ideal model for McFadden.

This style of contract fits in with McKenzie’s background with the Green Bay Packers and what he has started to use in Green Bay. McKenzie has also shown a willingness to use incentives in his contracts to push the value beyond the stated values in the contract which could also be used to max McFadden out if he was to produce the way Lynch ended up producing this past season. Again the incentives are not terribly uncommon as Rice’s contract contains performance incentives that would push his value closer to his “on paper” production level if he continued to hit certain statistical thresholds.  Gore’s contract also contains added performance incentives.

The Risks of Playing the Season Out

Contrary to popular opinion I don’t think McFadden has any leverage right now despite his team high $9.68 million dollar cap number. None of McFadden’s salary is guaranteed and the Raiders are no longer hurting for cap dollars. Next season the Raiders will be flush with cap space as they try to build their roster essentially from scratch and a few extra carryover dollars from McFadden reworking his contract means nothing.

I am not sure what the Raiders would consider fair value for him now, but I wouldn’t imagine it would be much more than what the Dolphins paid Bush in 2010. Bush received a contract worth $4.875 million per year over two years with just $2.5 million in guarantees. The contract was completely based on potential and the belief that he would be a better fit in the Dolphins offense than the Saints offense.  That money would be in addition to his $5.85 million dollar salary he is earning now.

If McFadden is unsuccessful this year in improving on 2012 he probably will not even receive that much money in free agency. I think because of the failures of McCoy, Foster, Forte, Stewart, DeAngelo Williams, etc… teams are more hesitant than ever to invest. In terms of annual value Bush, despite being more productive, is earning less than he did off his nothing seasons with New Orleans. Our own valuation of McFadden based on last season said he was worth only $1.9 million a season.

If McFadden were to hit free agency he could find his options limited. His statements about the offensive scheme could eliminate teams from considering him and he will likely only be picked up by a team needing a complementary piece. Most likely he would need to take an Ahmad Bradshaw style 1 year $2 million dollar contract with next to nothing guaranteed as a way to prove himself and Bradshaw was far more productive than McFadden.

So if the Raiders were offering him such a deal he could lock himself into a good chance to earn close to $10 million in 2014 and 2014 with the Raiders. With so many holes to fill as long as McFadden has a pulse they may be willing to stick with him especially since he will not damage their salary cap at those figures.  So you could be looking at an $8 million dollar loss by hoping for a higher value contract. McFadden also has to consider the franchise tag as a realistic option even he plays well because the Raiders will be cap rich in 2014 and can easily take on a one year $8.5 million cap hit for a question mark player.

As a point of reference Bush’ s new contract will only pay him $8.5 million over the next two years  and Gore’s paid $11.1 million in his first two extension years. If the Raiders were willing to go to $9 million or so in a two year extension (and we have no idea if they would be willing to do so) he would really be giving up very little value over his likely market price even if he had a pretty productive year as his base values of his contract may very likely end up right at the same figure. Really what he would be giving up would be some added backend contract value that is always non guaranteed and the incentives that could be part of an extension.

For this to truly be worth the risk, McFadden is going to have to put up absolutely incredible numbers, not have the franchise tag applied, and find a team willing to spend for an outside player based on a one year data point. None of the big contracts were free agent acquisitions as all players re-signed with their own teams, so free agency for runners is generally soft. That is a lot of things that need to occur for a player who typically plays 12 or 13 games a season to get the kind of money he hopes to get by playing the season out.