Thoughts on Robert Quinn’s Contract Extension with the Rams

The numbers are now in for the Rams star Defensive End Robert Quinn and it’s a very interesting contract that I think benefits both sides. First let us go over the particulars of the contract. Quinn receives a signing bonus worth $4,776,774 to go along with a guaranteed base salary of $608,608 (prorated from a base rate of $646,646) and a guaranteed roster bonus in 2015 of $10,233,201.  That brings Quinn’s full guarantee to $15,618,583.  The reason for the small bonus and salary in 2014 is likely to maintain a near identical salary cap charge as the Rams are right up against the salary cap this year, though in general the Rams are not a team big on the signing bonus.

In 2015 Quinn has a base salary that will become fully guaranteed that is worth $5,555,555 (yes in case you were wondering the Rams made sure to get every palindrome reference possible in this contract). For all realistic purposes this is guaranteed. In 2016 and 2017 his base salaries are $7,777,777 and $6,161,616 and can become guaranteed if on the roster at the start of that League Year. There are also roster bonuses of $2,424,242 and $3,633,363 that will also be guaranteed. His cash salary in 2018 and 2019 is $11,444,412 and $12,932,332.


The contract is closer to what I believed JJ Watt would have signed with the Texans in that the player is probably undervalued in terms of production but the window is open for another mega-contract in a few years which comes with the shorter term extension. The guarantee package for Quinn is decent with the early vesting roster bonuses helping protect his salary. I think these are all benefits for the player. The Rams get Quinn essentially on their terms (minimal signing bonus, vesting guarantees, contract flexibility) and I think at a bargain price, all things considered.

In the following chart I compare the new money in Quinn’s contract to that received by other players who signed extensions this year. Those players are JJ Watt, Patrick Peterson, Richard Sherman, and Joe Haden. Since Quinn’s contract is 4 years I just want to look at the 4 year values to compare apples to apples.  For players with two years remaining under contract, such as Quinn, I consider the first two years as year -1 and year 0 of the contract. Year 1 is when the extension kicks in. The colors represent the likelihood of earning the salary with a green essentially meaning it’s a virtual certainty, yellow meaning the player has to maintain a solid level of play, and red meaning the player will need to be at a high level to continue the contract.

Robert Quinn Salary

You can see the favorable structure, from the Rams perspective, of the deal with Quinn compared to some of the other players. Despite the higher annual value on the contract Quinn will trail all but Sherman in terms of new money made during the original contract years and in the first year of the contract. By year 2 Quinn will trail all of the newly signed cornerbacks in earnings, a trend that continues through year 3. By year 4 he will pull ahead of Sherman and barely ahead of Haden.


Because of the low signing bonus in the contract Id would consider Quinn’s earning potential to be less than the corners just based on contract structure. That does not mean he will not get there, but he will basically have each year of his contract tied solely to his performance on the field. Though the early vesting roster bonus is a nice addition for Quinn the Rams have already set a precedent through the release of Cortland Finnegan that the bonus will not be a barrier to release.

For the other pass rushers looking for new contracts Quinn’s deal is probably a major disappointment Once teams get past the annual value of the contract, there is not much there besides potential guarantees on a relatively short term extension. The contract by no means built on the Watt contract that way the cornerback contracts, which all shattered the existing market, built upon each other. More importantly it also did not advance the market beyond what already existed.

Why do I say that?  Lets look at this contract compared to the extension signed by Clay Matthews in 2013 (he had one year remaining) and new contract signed by Charles Johnson in 2011. Both were signed at a time when the salary cap was significantly lower and neither as productive as Quinn.

Quinn Pass Rushers 2

Granted these players had varying degrees of leverage (Quinn by far had the least), but the effective impact is that his contract is not all that different than what already existed in the NFL. I do think that brings up the major question of if it is truly beneficial for the player to be looking for a contract extension so quickly when the team holds all the leverage. That was another point I discussed in the Watt contract that a player is going to give a discount in these spots, the question is just how much. Johnson gave up none because he was going to be a free agent. Matthews had one year left. Quinn had two.

Matthews does have $500,000 per year tied to games active which Quinn does not which does make Quinn’s contract structure more player friendly, but overall Matthews seemed to get the stronger and more secure contract. It just does not have the upside value, if all things are equal and the players continue to be strong. I have to think if Quinn gets through the 15 remaining games his contract would have shattered the Matthews one.


I’d say that this also sends the message to the other rushers (and rookie contract guys too) that the Watt contract may be looked at as an aberration. The Texans did not do much to utilize their leverage in that case and seemed to give in on a number of key parameters. Maybe that did not do as much to change the market as I had thought.

The Rams were likely not coming close to the Mario Williams/Watt numbers which is probably what helped lead to this contract.  It’s the same approach I thought would happen in Houston where the compromise would be a high valued contract but for a shorter term. In that respect this is a very good contract for the player. Johnson and Matthews do give up years of free agency for those big initial cash flows. Quinn does not and if he maintains exceptional levels of play he will cash in again and likely get close to Watts numbers over the same time period, especially if the salary cap keeps inflating. The other two are stuck at figures agreed upon years before.

For that reason I’d classify the contract as a good deal for both sides, but by no means is this a game changer. It’s really just opening a door for large cash flows on the front end of a short term contract rather than forcing a player into a longer term deal, which backend years are rarely seen from a practical perspective but could hinder a player if he maintains high levels of play for his career.


NFL Salary Cap and Super Bowl Champions, Part III- Current NFL Teams

In the first part of our series we looked at the percentage of a Super Bowl Champions salary cap that was spent on the top players on their team. In part two we looked at positional spending on the Super Bowl Champions. Now we turn our focus to the 2014 NFL season and see just what teams are built like a champion and which teams are not.

Top Player Spending

Top NFL Player Spending- 2014

Six NFL teams are spending more on one player than any team that had ever won a Super Bowl in the salary cap era, which was set by the 1994 49ers at 13.1%. Those teams are the Lions, Giants, Steelers, Bears, Saints, and Rams.   All but the Lions have their cap money spent on the quarterback position, which is normal. The Lions money is spent on a defensive tackle, Ndamukong Suh. Only one SB champ spent the most cap dollars on that position.

The lowest amount of spending was done by the 2000 Ravens at just 6.7%. Seven teams will be under that mark this season. Those teams are the Eagles, Jaguars, Bengals, Titans, Colts, Raiders, and the 49ers, who surprisingly have the lowest spend on a top player in the entire NFL.

The teams who fall closest to the average are the Seahawks, Cowboys, Jets, Cardinals, Redskins, and Chiefs. What is somewhat surprising is that of that group just the Cardinals have the most money spent on the QB position. The Cowboys, Jets, and Redskins have their money tied into positions that have been the top charges on a team before. The other three do not, though the Seahawks set a new mark last year when they won a Super Bowl with a tight end as their top cap position.

Top 3 Cap Spending

Top 3 NFL Player Spending- 2014

The Lions are in a different universe when it comes to top heavy spending in 2014, with 38.6% tied up in their top 3 players.  The next closest team is the Rams with 30.9%, though a big chunk of that is already on injured reserve. The top spending on the cap by a Super Bowl winner was done by the 2002 Buccaneers at 27.8%. The Lions, Rams, Steelers, Ravens, Saints, and Giants are all above that level. Our low spending champion was again the 2000 Ravens at just 17.4%. In 2014 the Jaguars, Eagles, Raiders, 49ers, and Colts are all below that figure.

Our most average teams are the Bills, Cardinals, Falcons, Vikings, Browns, and Patriots, and Dolphins. Buffalo is one of those teams with a heavy portion of their spending not actually on the roster. Two of their top three cap charges are being spent on released/traded players- Stevie Johnson and Ryan Fitzpatrick. New England also has big money tied up in a released player with Aaron Hernandez carrying the second highest cap charge on the team. The Falcons and Cardinals have the most traditional breakdown by position of this group.


Top 5 Cap Spending

Top 5 NFL Player Spending- 2014

Our two top 5 extremes remain the same in the 2002 Bucs and the 2000 Ravens. Eight teams are currently spending more than those Buccaneers. The Lions, Rams, Ravens, Steelers, Texans, Saints, Buccaneers, and Bears would all set a new high mark if they were to advance to a Super Bowl this season. The Titans, 49ers, Eagles, Jaguars, Colts, and Raiders would all set new low marks if they were to advance.

Our closest to average teams are the Chargers, Vikings, Bills, Browns, Falcons, and Patriots. Neither the Browns nor the Vikings have a QB make their top 5 in spending.

Top 10 Spending

Top 10 NFL Player Spending- 2014

The Buccaneers and Ravens were again the two extremes as champions at 56% and 44.4% respectively. We have eight teams spending above 56% of their adjusted cap on the top 10 and seven spending below. The teams above are the Rams, Steelers, Texans, Lions, Bears, Ravens, Buccaneers, and Panthers. Those below are the Eagles, Colts, 49ers, Titans, Jets, Jaguars and Raiders.

The teams that would be closest to the average range are the Giants, Cardinals, Redskins, Browns, Bengals , Bills, and Falcons.


Putting it all Together

Three teams would set a new high in every category if they were to win the Super Bowl this year. Those teams are the Rams, Steelers, and Lions. From a salary cap perspective these would be the three most unlikely teams to advance to the Super Bowl. Five teams would set new lows in every category if they won the Super Bowl. Those teams are the Eagles, Colts, 49ers, Jaguars, and Raiders.

When we look at just three categories you can add the Bears, Ravens, and Saints to the high list and the Titans to the low list. The most average teams, which hit the average mark in 3 of the 4 categories, were the Cardinals, Browns, Bills, and Falcons. Of those teams the Cardinals and Falcons would have the most normal positional breakdowns and would also likely be considered to be the only ones with the talent to make the playoffs.

If we score each category by calculating the percentage below or above the average and then sum the values together we can get a better idea as to just how far away each team is from the average Super Bowl spending habits. Breaking it down per category the average NFL team score is an 18.5% difference from the average Super Bowl winner’s cap spending breakdown.


The Lions winning the Super Bowl would really be something extraordinary. They average 52.9% per category from the average. That’s nearly 3 times greater than the average and its 19.1% more than the next closest team. It’s a method of constructing a team that has simply never been successful in the NFL and they would be the first to ever do it. The Rams, Steelers, Raiders, and Ravens make up the remainder of the top 5 and the Giants, 49ers, Colts, Bears, and Saints round out the top 10 least likely winners.

The teams with the least percentage difference are the Cardinals, Vikings, Browns, Redskins, Patriots, Cowboys, and Seahawks. These teams exhibited less than 10% difference from the average per category. The Patriots and Seahawks are certainly favorites in the NFL. The Cowboys are a team that manages the cap on a year by year basis to help manipulate numbers which has them coming in pretty normal this season.

The following table will show the percentage of cap spent on each category and the average percentage difference per category. The table should sort itself if you click on the header.

Team% Cap Spending, Top Player% Cap Spending, Top 3 Players% Cap Spending, Top 5 Players% Cap Spending, Top 10 PlayersAvg. Percent Difference Per Category




Chris Long Restructures Contract with Rams


I have said for some time that star defensive end Chris Long is the “go to guy” for the Rams front office when it comes to salary cap relief and the two sides once again came to an agreement to help the Rams become cap compliant for the 2014 League Year.

Long converted $3 million of his guaranteed base salary into a signing bonus that will be prorated over the remainig three years of the contract. This creates an additional $2 million in cap room for St. Louis in 2014.

As part of the restructure the Rams agreed to move $1 million of Long’s 2015 base salary into a roster bonus that will be paid on the 3rd day of the League Year. Long is one of the top defensive ends in the NFL so it is hard to imagine him being released, but this slight tweak is a way to ensure a quick decision on his future. Long now has $3 million in March roster bonuses coming his way next offseason while also improving the timing of his cash next year.

The Rams salary cap situation is still tight so I would not be surprised if they have to go back to Long for more cap relief during the season either to help extend Robert Quinn or to deal with another injury that eats away their cap space.

View Chris Long’s Salary Cap and Contract Page



Austin Pettis Reworks Contract with Rams


I know I had read some things recently about the St. Louis Rams potentially parting ways with 2011 3rd round draft pick Austin Pettis, but it would now seem as if his roster spot is safe moving forward.

Per a source, Pettis agreed to a $481,000 pay cut, reducing his base salary from $1.431 million to $700,000 and also receiving a $250,000 signing bonus. This is a common type of contract negotiation that occurs in the late summer where a borderline player is essentially offered a guarantee in return for taking a pay cut. Pettis will still be a free agent after the season.

The Rams have likely reworked at least one other contract in order to comply with the salary cap. As soon as we know which that is we will get it out there and update their cap tables accordingly.

View Austin Pettis Salary Cap and Contract Page



Best & Worst Contracts 2014: St. Louis Rams


We finally get our first participant from the NFC West with our look at the St Louis Rams

Best Contract: Jake Long

Jake LongThe Rams have a different way of handling contracts than many other teams in the NFL. They are more creative and certainly much more quirky with the contracts than others. Most of their contracts maintain a great deal of flexibility, but at the same time there are a number of high guaranteed and high contract value players which make it more difficult to come up with a best contract.

The one contract that the team signed that I felt was very good value was that of Jake Long. For a time he and Joe Thomas looked to be neck and neck for who would be the highest paid tackle in the NFL before injuries began to take their toll on his body. When he hit free agency in 2013 it was very difficult to project what kind of contract he should receive from a team.

The Rams, who desperately needed a tackle, stepped up and offered Long a four year deal at $8.5 million a season with only $8 million paid in the season of signing and $12 million fully guaranteed. The contract contained various vesting guarantees that more or less allowed the Rams to evaluate his health before making a decision about whether to release him or offer him a contract that is more in line with his play and expected per game contribution.

The fact that Long was injured at the end of the 2013 season, showed the possible strength of the contract. In order to earn a full $16 million from the Rams, Long needed to be on the roster the final day of the 2013 League Year. If released the Rams would have saved $4 million in cash. The fact that he played so well before injury made it a moot point as the Rams need him and quite frankly the price is a bargain.

The $12 million guaranteed was less than Will Beatty’s signing bonus with the Giants that was signed in the same offseason. His $16 million two year salary is less than both Beatty’s and Sam Baker’s, whose contract was also signed prior to Long’s contract in St. Louis. The Rams would again have an out in year three with just $2.5 million in dead money and a $4 million guarantee not vesting until the 5th day of the 2015 League Year. By comparison the other players would cost the team over $7.5 million in cap charges if released.

The Rams had a very tight salary cap situation in 2013, to the point where they had to restructure $200,000 of Chris Long’s contract in the final weeks of the season just to remain cap compliant, but still came out on this contract without locking so much dead money into any season of the contract that they would feel a pinch moving on. Overall it’s a contract with very favorable conditions on a very high upside talent.

Worst Contract: Jared Cook

Jared CookI’m not sure if the Rams have open vault policy for former Tennessee Titans, but Jared Cook more or less robbed the team in 2013. The Rams tend to overprice certain players in exchange for some contract flexibilities, but in Cooks case he received the overpricing with no sacrifice in the contract structure.

At $7 million a season, Cook is the most overpaid Tight End in the NFL. His average performance was around 550 yards a season leading into this contract. He had started just 11 games in four years and never scored more than four touchdowns in a single season. Maybe the Rams graded him on the Marcedes Lewis salary scale, but at least Lewis had that former draft status and a long career as a starter to fall back on.

Like the Lewis contract with the Jaguars, Cook’s contract is a minefield of guarantees. Cook received $19 million in guarantees in the contract, guarantees which extend all the way out into the 3rd contract year. He had the most fully guaranteed salary of anyone at the position until Dennis Pitta matched him this season. It is unlikely that they could find a trade partner to take Cook after two seasons. His salary that year is $7 million (or the same as Jimmy Graham’s franchise tag) of which $5 million is guaranteed. That more or less means the Rams are stuck with paying him $21 million over three seasons.

Last year Cook would go on to gain 671 yards and score 5 touchdowns in 13 starts for the Rams. His average salary rates just below that of players like Antonio Gates, Jason Witten, and Vernon Davis. His guarantee per year is right at the top of the NFL among tight ends.  There is really no easy way to spin this one. He is a $4-$5 million a year player making $7 million from the Rams. Over the next two years he needs to gain close to 1,000 yards per season to make this contract look reasonable.

2013’s Best and Worst Rams Contracts:

2013 Best Contract: Jake Long (See above)

2013 Worst Contract: Jared Cook (See above)

Click Here to Check out OTC’s other Best and Worst Contracts from around the NFL!




The Rams and Buccaneers Create New Model Contracts for Draft Picks


Normally we don’t spend too much time with the particulars of individual rookie signings but in the last few days I thought two interesting contracts came through that were worth discussing.

The first is the contract signed by the 7th overall selection, Mike Evans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Evans was selected high enough to where his agent could argue for a contract with no offsets on the guaranteed contract. For those unfamiliar with offsets, a no offset clause allows a player to collect salary from two teams in the event he is released and signs with a new team. If you do not have that clause the money you earn from a new team first pays back the guarantee from the old team with the only extra earnings coming in salary paid above the guarantee from the old team.

In 2012 players were winning the fight against the teams and signing contracts with the no offset provisions, until the Miami Dolphins signed QB Ryan Tannehill to what I call the “Tannehill compromise” in which offsets existed but the team would pay large roster bonuses in August thus improving the timing of the cash flows and any possible release from the team.  Basically it blocked a team from “evaluating” for a fourth summer and then releasing with no cash repercussions in September. This became the model in 2013 and 2014 for almost every team not named the St. Louis Rams.

Evans contract is the first top pick to receive partial no offset clauses in his deal.  He received the roster bonus benefit that Tannehill received, but those roster bonuses have no offset clauses. His base salaries, for the minimum each year, do not. I thought it was an interesting decision by the Buccaneers as it illustrated a fundamental concept that more teams maybe will consider in regards to the drafted player, making the fight over offsets a bit more meaningless. Here is what I mean by this.

Offsets are only an issue if the player is released. For a top player to be released he basically has to be a bust that has fallen out of favor with the organization. While those players almost always get a second opportunity elsewhere, what is the usual contract that they earn?  The answer is not a very large one. Most teams will usually sign those players for the league minimum or close to it. Of recent picks who were free, Danny Watkins signed for the minimum as did Brandon Weeden. Gabe Carimi received an additional $65,000 bonus and a chance to earn another $140,000 in gameday roster bonuses.

When it comes to the offsets its more or less just that minimum base salary that a team would in reality ever recover. If he is a bad fit with some upside the Buccaneers could always trade his contract and the guarantees with it ala Trent Richardson or Carimi, making the offsets moot. If Evans was so bad to warrant his outright release no team is going to bend over backwards for his services. If he makes a another team in 2017 you can be 99% certain that it will be for just $690,000, which is the amount Tampa Bay has allowed themselves to recover in the contract.

It’s really a neat little deal that I could see more teams tinkering with in the future. I’d specifically be interested in seeing if the Jaguars use it as a compromise in the negotiation with QB Blake Bortles.

The second deal is that of a very low level pick, Garrett Gilbert of the St. Louis Rams. Gilbert, who is represented by Leigh Steinberg, was a 6th round compensatory draft selection. Everyone drafted in a compensatory slot usually gets the same contract- minimum P5 salaries and a $78,680 signing bonus. The only exceptions to that would have been players selected by the Kansas City Chiefs who give players small workout bonuses worth a few thousand over the minimum workout payments.

Now I have always talked about a “QB premium” that is paid in the draft, but that has just been for players drafted in the late first and second round where they get slightly better guarantees or cash flow structures and in the third round in which teams often bump up their year 3 and/or 4 salaries. The only non third rounder to get a slight pay bump was Matt Barkley who was drafted with the first pick of the 4th round and received some workout bonuses.  The third rounders never received added guarantees.

Gilbert’s contract contains $100,000 in guarantees, basically putting his guarantee on par with the 24th pick of the round. This guarantee is made up of his slotted signing bonus, a guaranteed $10,000 roster bonus in 2014, a $29,917 March roster bonus in 2015, and $21,403 in guaranteed 2015 salary. All of the guarantees are of the no offset variety.

The contract itself seems more or less like a hedge against success. Success in pretty limited for these late round picks and if Gilbert gets released in 2014 he’ll ensure himself $100,000 compared to just $78,680 for those around him, which makes this a smart deal. However, if he makes the team his salary in 2014 will actually be $30,000 less than the comparable player. That will more or less balance out in year two when he earn an additional $29,917 that will put him at $83 behind the comparable pick. The $83 will never be made up, which I guess we could say is the cost of the added guarantee and a low cost at that.

I guess when negotiating a deal like this it begs to consider the time value of money. Is it better to defer additional money for a year to lock in more guarantees?  Or is it better to receive the money during the course of the first year in the NFL.

Would other teams consider using this model in the future?  I have to think it will come up in other negotiations in the future now that one team has done it. Though there is some sacrifice in the timing of the money the bottom line is trying to ensure the most realistic money possible for a player and they did that here with Gilbert.  Something to keep an eye on for next season.




Free Agency Thoughts: St. Louis Rams


St. Louis Rams

Key Additions: Shaun Hill ($1.8M per year), Alex Carrington ($1.5M), Kenny Britt ($1.4M)

Key Re-Signings: Rodger Saffold ($6.3M per year), Jo-Lonn Dunbar ($1M)

Key Losses: Chris Williams (Bills),Shelley Smith (Dolphins),Kellen Clemens (Chargers)

Major Cuts: Cortland Finnegan ($4M cap savings), Harvey Dahl ($4M)

Free Agency Thoughts:

A relatively quiet offseason for the Rams who likely would have been even less active has the Raiders not backed out of the Rodger Saffold contract due to him failing their team physical. Wisely the Rams quickly pounced on Saffold keeping what could be an important part of the team. With the injury history of Jake Long, Saffold is very important to the Rams success since he can swing over from guard to play tackle. The Saffold contract I think shows a better structure than some of the more recent deals they signed with a full series of vesting guarantees rather than deals where all guarantees are earned after the first year.   There are also incentives and void clauses that will reward him for exceptional play, which I think helps the Rams maintain a good relationship with potential free agents in the future while dangling a carrot designed to increase the level of play.

Kenny Britt could be a good pick up for a team with limited offensive talent. He only has a bit over $500,000 guaranteed if he completely busts with most of it in the form of a salary guarantee. That is smart because if he is cut they may get another team to eat some of the cost. I think they went slightly overboard on incentives, but if he can play well that won’t be a worry.

The other contracts are all low risk, low cost deals. Would they have been better off not bringing back Jo-Lonn Dunbar and attempting to keep Shelley Smith?  Maybe, but that’s a very minor complaint. Shaun Hill should be a better fit at backup than Kellen Clemens if you are looking for someone to potentially mentor a young QB.

The timing of the Cortland Finnegan release was smart. By not waiting until the last minute they have teams more than enough time to dig up old tape and convince themselves that he could still play. The Rams owed him $3 million and this helped them earn a salary offset. That credit should come in 2015.

Overall Grade: C+

This was a smart offseason plan by the Rams. Of the four teams in the NFC West they are the team that would benefit the least from a big run in free agency, which they may have been able to accomplish by reworking a number of contracts which wisely they did not.  The Rams have multiple draft picks, including two in the top 15. They should gain starters in the draft while also having the depth of picks to replace some of the players lost on the offensive line. It is the draft that will get them on equal footing with the other teams and they built their offseason around that.