Buccaneers and Carl Nicks Part Ways…


Guard Carl Nicks has apparently decided to walk away from football following two injury riddled years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Nicks had signed a $47.5 million contract with the Buccaneers in 2012 that made him the highest paid guard in the NFL.

The contract was a good example of the problems that can occur with the all cash salary cap model that is employed by Tampa Bay. Because all cash contracts contain no signing bonus it often leads to lower cash flows in the first year of the contract than awarded in more traditional NFL contracts. The players also receive no “dead money” protection in the contract. These factors lead to teams overpaying for talent and guaranteeing large portions of the contract. Nicks received a ridiculous $25 million in fully guaranteed salary upon signing, an unheard of total for a guard. $31 million of the contract was guaranteed for injury.

The Buccaneers quickly gave up any benefits from the all cash model when they made the poor decision to restructure Nicks’ contract in December of 2012. At the time Nicks was injured and had only appeared in 7 games for the team, but the team was lining up their salary cap to make a run at Darrelle Revis in 2013 and Nicks was one of two contracts they reworked to create the needed salary cap space. The Buccaneers paid Nicks $11.785 million of his 2013 salary as a roster bonus in 2012. The bonus was prorated just like a signing bonus, thus giving Nicks the monster contract due to the all cash model plus all the benefits of the traditional contract model. Because the bonus was not classified as a signing bonus the Buccaneers also lost all rights to claim forfeiture in the event of a suspension, retirement, or other situation leading to him not playing football. This decision now leaves the Buccaneers with dead money from Nicks.


Nicks was set to count for $9.357 million against the 2014 salary cap. His cap charge will now reduce to $2.367 million, an immediate $7 million in salary cap savings. The reason the dead money is so low in 2014 is because the release will occur after June 1 which splits cap charges over two seasons. Nicks’ 2015 salary cap charge will now be $4.714 million. Had they never reworkd his deal the dead money would be zero.

The release was not official as of Friday so it remains to be seen if more money was involved with his retirement. Nicks did have $6 million of his salary guaranteed for injury and could have filed a grievance to keep that money had he been released. It was a tricky situation because in the eyes of the Buccaneers his injuries may not have been football related. It is possible that the team could have offered an injury settlement or another concession to cover the injury.

All told, Nicks will have earned $25 million for appearing in 9 games over a two year period.




Best & Worst Contracts 2014: Tampa Bay Buccaneers


Moving on to a very unique team in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers…

Best Contract: Alterraun Verner

Alterraun VernerThe Buccaneers are one of the few teams that employ almost a pure cash model for their contracts which brings about both positives and negatives. Usually the biggest negatives that I associate with their system is that, due to the lack of up front signing bonus, the team often ends up over paying or over guaranteeing for talent. Somehow they completely escaped both negatives when it came to locking Alterraun Verner up to a four year contract this offseason.

Verner, who is just 25 years old, was coming off a career season in Tennessee which had him projected as one of the top free agents at the position. The market was pretty well defined during free agency as three players (Sam Shields, Vontae Davis, and Aqib Talib) all signed contracts that would average over $9 million a year with double digit full guarantees upon signing. My feeling was that this was the range in which Verner would land.

Tampa Bay signed the young corner to a contract that really is closer to the third tier and pulls much closer to the contracts signed in 2013 free agency which saw teams pull back on spending at the corner position. Verner’s contract will average $6.375 million a year with just 31.4% of the contract fully guaranteed upon signing.  That percentage guarantee trails other lower cost contracts such as the ones signed by Keenan Lewis (40.3% fully guaranteed), Tim Jennings (52.7%), and Sean Smith (45.2%).

The Buccaneers landed Verner on their terms. He receives no signing bonus and has no fully guaranteed salary beyond 2014, which could lead to a trade or release very early in the contract if he fails to live up to expectations. He can earn just over $12 million in the first two years of the contract which is a far lower number than Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie ($16 million) who signed a lower annual average contract like Verner, but received heavy front end cash considerations for doing so. Verner would compare more to the older Jennings who receives $12M in two years on a $5.6M a year contact. That is a very solid contract for Tampa Bay that should pay dividends for the next few years.

Worst Contract: Dashon Goldson

DaShon GoldsonWhen we mention how the Buccaneers salary structure often leads to over-paying and over-guaranteeing contracts  there is no better example to point to than the $8.25 million a year contract signed by Dashon Goldson in 2013. The Goldson contract was a shining example of everything that was wrong with the Buccaneers and the way the front office misread their team potential, opting to throw money at anyone that had a resume.

Goldson received $22 million in guarantees, all of the no offset variety, meaning they could not release him to find any relief in the event he did not play well. It made no sense given Goldson’s age (29) at the time and the fact that he was a primary beneficiary of the 49ers defensive schemes. At the time of signing the gold mark for the position was Eric Weddle of the Chargers who was an all around world class player who was just 26 years old when extended. Goldson surpassed that contract to earn his spot at the top of the market.

The best comparison I could come up with for Goldson was LaRon Landry of the Colts. Landry was also an older player when he signed with Indianapolis and also a big reputation player. Landry ended up earning $6 million a season with $11 million guaranteed on a contract that many thought was too high for what he brought to the game.  Goldson’s salary is in a complete different class than Landry’s.

The Buccaneers were able to get by this season without restructuring Goldson’s contract which was a major concern I had last year. That will benefit the Bucs long term as a restructured deal would have made the contract that much harder to deal with in the future. But for now they are stuck with an overpaid player for at least another season.

2013’s Best and Worst Buccaneers Contracts:

2013 Best Contract: Donald Penn (Released with just $666,666 in dead money, signed with Raiders)

2013 Worst Contract: Dashon Goldson (Starting Safety-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.




Buccaneers Release Carimi and Landri


The Buccaneers began their offseason roster trimming with the release of four players today.

Tackle/Guard Gabe Carimi was waived allowing the Buccaneers to clear out $1,337,187 in cash and cap charges. Carimi is one of the big busts of the 2011 NFL draft. Originally selected by the Bears with the 29th pick in the first round the Bears traded him after just two seasons to the Bucs for a 2014 6th round draft selection. Carimi lasted just one year in Tampa Bay. His contract can be claimed by any of the other 31 teams between now and 4PM on Tuesday the 11th. Carimi has no guarantees in his contract but he does have a $592,187 roster bonus due in March and a $100,000 workout bonus in his contract that would likely be a barrier to a team claiming his contract.

Veteran DT Derek Landri was also released today clearing up $1.5 million in cap space. As is customary with many of the Buccaneers contracts Landri’s contract contained no prorated bonus money so there is no dead cost associated with releasing him.

The team also waived QB Jordan Rodgers and RB Michael Hill. Our estimates had the Buccaneers at approximately $10.5 million in cap room. They should now have around $12.5 million in room.




How Freeman’s Benching Impacts Him and the Team Moving Forward


According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have benched starting QB Josh Freeman in favor of rookie Mike Glennon following a terrible 0-3 start and poor QB play. Based on reading tweets during Sunday’s game against New England it seemed as if the Buccaneers were prepared to make the switch in the second half as multiple people reported Glennon warming up on the sidelines. Whether they thought better of it or wanted to give Freeman one more chance to save his job, most likely the decision was made at that point.

For Freeman this is a crushing blow. Freeman was set to enter free agency after this season and was hoping to get a big money contract. Barring a trade this move will likely destroy his value in free agency. Freeman has been up and down his entire career since being drafted in the first round of the 2009 NFL draft and the lasting memories will be the bad start before being benched in favor of a mid round draft pick after just three games.

Free agency has not really been very kind to players who failed to finish out a season as a starter and were subsequently signed to new deals. On one end of the spectrum were question mark players such as David Carr of the Texans and Mark Sanchez of the Jets who were able to parlay shaky starts of their careers into more job security. But the list of other names which includes first rounders such as Matt Leinart, Joey Harrington, Byron Leftwich, Rex Grossman and Jason Campbell is extensive and the contract propositions were not strong.

For example Leinart signed a 1 year contract with the Texans worth $1 million after being released by the Cardinals. Harrington would be traded to the Dolphins where he would sign an extension worth just $2.87 million per season. Grossman signed a one year contract with Chicago for $3 million while Leftwich received a two year $3 million per year deal from the Falcons. In contrast the Texans were willing to execute a buyback that would guarantee Carr an additional $8 million while the Jets guaranteed Sanchez over $19 million in his extension.

Freeman is going to need to get back on the field to increase his earning potential. He needs to have his name put back into the equation for teams considering a younger QB with some upside in his game. This is likely only going to happen via trade. Freeman should be able to find a team willing to take a chance on him as the relationship between he and Coach Greg Schiano was poor and Freeman’s coaching in general has been somewhat haphazard. Teams can at least look at this as a reasonable reclamation project.

Tampa Bay probably damaged what little trade value he had by benching him, but there has always been a premium paid for QB’s so it should not be far fetched to imagine a mid round pick being used to acquire him. Teams will not be scared off by his free agent status because they still have the franchise tag at their disposal plus they can always sign him to an extension if he plays well. The cost of such a trade will probably be determined by what the Bucs feel they could earn in a compensatory pick if he signs elsewhere as a free agent in 2014. Tampa most likely will not be as active in free agency due to their salary cap in 2014 so a compensatory pick is a realistic option. If they feel they will get a 5th rounder a team inquiring to trade for him will need to part with that pick.

Freemans cost at the moment in terms of cash and cap for a trade partner is $6.94 million. Nine teams could currently afford to absorb that number on their books.  Of those nine the only one that would be interested would be the Jacksonville Jaguars. Another option, however, would be for the Buccanners to prepay some of Freeman’s salary to facilitate a trade. This would be reasonable if the situation in Tampa is so toxic that they have to move him. By eating $5 million of his remaining money it could bring life to a trade with a team like the Minnesota Vikings.

For Tampa Bay this may be as much about salvaging this season as it is the future of the team. Getting a look at Glennon now gives Tampa insight into how the team responds to him. How he prepares dueing the week. How he accepts the responsibility of a starting job. I believe there is much more that can be evaluated with a rookie actually starting outside of just the on the field results, which many times are poor. If he fails to meet their internal expectations it gives Tampa the information that they would not have had by letting him ride the bench which could lead to different personnel decisions in 2014. Tampa could look to acquire a player in free agency or a high pick in the draft so knowing what they have is important. For example had the Raiders been able to get a look a Terrelle Pryor they probably never would have executed the trade for Matt Flynn. Tampa most likely wants to avoid those scenarios.

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Buccaneers Release RB Peyton Hillis


The Buccaneers have decided to release RB Peyton Hillis today.  Hillis, who broke out for the Cleveland Browns in 2010, was brought in to be the primary back-up to Doug Martin in the backfield during the offseason.  Hillis had signed a 1-year Veteran Minimum Salary Benefit contract which paid him $715,000 in P5 (base) salary with no guarantees but would only count $555,000 on the cap.  Remember, a Minimum Salary Benefit contract allows a veteran player, in this case 6-year veteran Peyton Hillis, to only count as much on the cap as a 2-year veteran.  After not seeing the field during the Buc’s first two games, the decision to release Hillis is much easier than it would have been previously without MSB contracts.

Hillis’ release leaves Brian Leonard and Mike James as the backups to Doug Martin and Tight End Danny Noble is being promoted to the active roster to replace Hillis.

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

Report: Josh Freeman to Seek Trade


According to CBS Sports Jason LaCanfora Buccaneers starting QB Josh Freeman is expected to ask the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a trade. Freeman has struggled to earn the confidence of his head coach and there seemed to be a growing rift following the week 1 loss to the New York Jets in which Freeman struggled.

Asking for a trade during the season for a starting QB is pretty much unheard of in the NFL. The Bengals Carson Palmer had looked for a trade or his outright release from the Cincinnati Bengals in 2011, but that process began before the season.  Palmer had realized the Bengals were moving in a different direction with the drafting of Andy Dalton in the 2nd round which led to Palmer retiring for a brief period in 2011. Eventually the Oakland Raiders did trade for Palmer during the season when starter Jason Campbell was injured.  Freeman’s situation could be considered somewhat similar in that Tampa Bay seemed to draft an insurance policy in rookie Mike Glennon, a 3rd round selection in 2013.

Freeman is set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2014 and needs a big season to cash in on his first round value. Both Matt Stafford and Mark Sanchez, drafted ahead of him in the 2009 NFL Draft, have been able to cash in on their first round draft status and accomplishments, something Freeman will not be able to do if he gets benched or if the team does not trust him enough to be given the opportunity to show improved statistics.

It is hard to tell exactly what the market would be for Freeman. I have already seen many people say teams would not give up much for him because he is in a contract year, but that should be of almost no concern. Usually if you trade for a player you will immediately extend the players contract. Just this past season the Seattle Seahawks gave up a first round draft pick for Percy Harvin who was also in the walk year of his contract and they quickly turned around and signed him to a lucrative extension.

This has been very typical in the NFL when dealing with QB traded. Kevin Kolb had one year remaining on his contract when the Arizona Cardinals traded for him in 2011. They promptly extended him after the trade. The same occurred with Matt Cassel in 2009 when he was traded from New England to Kansas City as a Franchise player. The Bears added more years onto Jay Cutler’s contract after executing a trade with the Denver Broncos.

Teams also will consider the fact that even though he is a free agent the Franchise tag will always be an option for a full one year look at Freeman before committing big dollars to him.  So the term of the contract is not an issue.

What kind of value he has would be more of a problem. The going price for a player like Freeman would likely be a 2nd round draft pick, which Tampa Bay may not accept. They will likely want a 1st rounder which could be difficult to obtain. They could make it conditional and tie it in with performance or the signing of a contract extension, but if Freeman is indeed seeking a trade the Buccaneers may not have much leverage to execute the trade.

Freeman’s base salary this season is $8,430,000, so a team would need to have at least $7,438,235 million in cap room if they were to execute a trade next week. As of September 13 only 10 teams have the cap room needed to execute that trade. Of those teams the interesting names would be the Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars. Both teams have poor QB situations and significant salary cap space to spend this season. The Browns are about $24 million under the cap and the Jaguars are close to $18 million. Other teams whose names could be linked to such a trade would be the Raiders and Vikings, but neither has the cap room to execute a trade without including players or restructuring contracts. The Vikings have just $2.2 million in cap room while the Raiders have $3.25 million prior to the extension of FB Marcel Reece. The Vikings, in theory, could extend DE Jared Allen to make the trade happen but that would seem unlikely. Oakland would have a much more difficult route with Darren McFadden being the likely candidate.  Teams could also consider a sign and trade type agreement, but that requires a fast extension for Freeman and many moving parts would be needed to come together for that to occur.

View Josh Freeman’s Contract and Salary Cap Page

View Josh Freeman’s Financial Charts

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