The draft represents an avenue for NFL teams to acquire talent at a fixed price below the market value of similarly talented free agents. Drafting effectively is imperative for success, as no team can afford to pay the free agent market price for all 53 players on the roster. Teams who draft effectively are potentially able to release veteran players with large contracts, thereby freeing up cap space to reallocate to positions where no recently drafted player is prepared to fill a need in the roster. The draft decisions made in the early rounds of the 2016 draft may therefore have an impact on contract termination decisions made during 2016 training camp and the 2017 offseason. I have identified below a number of such draft picks and the veterans potentially affected by their selection, accompanied by the relevant Expected Contract Value calculations.
As a reminder, Expected Contract Value 1.1 represents an expectation of contractual outcome that is neutral with respect to performance, health, and team needs. ECV 1.1 calculates the probability that a player will remain under contract based on position, age, seasons remaining on the contract, and salary cap savings relative to annual contract value. Expected Contract Value 2.0, on the other hand, incorporates performance as captured by the Approximate Value metric produced by Pro Football Reference. For the 2017 ECV 2.0 calculations, I have used each player’s 2015 AV for the purpose of ECV 2.0 calculations, as if to assume that each player will produce to an identical degree in 2016.
Team: Los Angeles Rams
Drafted Player: Jared Goff (QB – #1 pick)
Potentially Impacted Player(s): Nick Foles
ECV Calculations: 2017 ECV 1.1: 53%; 2017 ECV 2.0: 36%
Foles was already unlikely (36%) to remain under contract for 2017 based on his poor play in 2015, but given Case Keenum’s lack of track record it was certainly possible that Foles would have gotten another chance at some point during 2016 to provide the Rams with reason to bring him back in 2017 for $12.25 million (although if Foles received enough playing time he also could have voided his contract for 2017). However, now that the Rams have drafted Jared Goff, Foles seems very unlikely to see significant playing time in 2016 (unless he is traded), and the Rams will almost certainly not retain him as a backup in 2017 under his existing contract terms.
Team: Philadelphia Eagles
Drafted Player: Carson Wentz (QB – #2 pick)
Potentially Impacted Player(s): Sam Bradford
ECV Calculations: 2017 ECV 1.1: 60%; 2017 ECV 2.0: 72%
Expected Contract Value found the probability of the Eagles bringing back Bradford in 2017 from a performance-neutral perspective to be fairly uncertain (60%), with Bradford having the opportunity to improve that probability with reasonably productive performance (72% if similar to 2015, due in large part to the scarcity of competent quarterbacks). But now that the Eagles have drafted Wentz, and given that Chase Daniel is under contract in 2017 with an $8 million cap number ($7 million dead money to release), the Eagles seem much more likely to eat $9.5 million worth of dead money in 2017 than to retain Bradford for a cap number of $22.5 million. A team trading for Bradford in 2017 would need $17 million worth of cap space available to absorb his contract, which somewhat limits the range of possible trade partners.
Team: Baltimore Ravens
Drafted Player: Ronnie Stanley (OT – #6 pick)
Potentially Impacted Player(s): Eugene Monroe
ECV Calculations: 2016 ECV 2.0: 52%; 2017 ECV 1.1: 64%; 2017 ECV 2.0: 23%
Expected Contract Value considered Monroe’s contract situation to be a coin flip entering the 2016 offseason, and the presence of Stanley may embolden the Ravens to attempt to force Monroe to take a pay cut from his $6.5 million 2016 salary. Monroe’s performance-neutral contract retention expectation for 2017 is a decent 64%, as he will be only 30 years old with two remaining contract seasons and a cap number of $8.95 million compared to $4.4 million worth of potential dead money. But if his performance in 2016 resembles his performance in 2015, the Ravens will be much more likely (23%) to determine that the $4.55 million cap savings are more valuable than an aging offensive lineman in the second half of a contract.
Team: New York Giants:
Drafted Player: Eli Apple (CB – #10 pick)
Potentially Impacted Player(s): Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
ECV Calculations: 2017 ECV 1.1: 46%; 2017 ECV 2.0: 83%
Rodgers-Cromartie performed well in 2015, which is why his 2017 ECV 2.0 calculates to a strong 83% probability of being retained under existing contract terms. However, the Giants signed Janoris Jenkins to a very large contract this offseason, and DRC will turn 31 during the 2017 offseason and will present the Giants with the opportunity to save $4.5 million worth of cap space ($8.5 million cap number, $4 million dead money) in his penultimate contract season. Given the Giants’ aggressive spending in 2016, the team may not be able to justify passing up such cap savings while utilizing Apple as a third cornerback. As a result, DRC’s 46% context-neutral contract expectation may oversell his likelihood of remaining under contract absent a very strong season. A trade is definitely possible in this case, as a two-year contract worth $13 million in total, with none of that amount guaranteed, seems fairly attractive, particularly given that the Eagles were able to trade a much more onerous Byron Maxwell contract.
Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Drafted Player: Vernon Hargreaves (CB – #11 pick)
Potentially Impacted Player(s): Alterraun Verner, Brent Grimes
ECV Calculations (Verner): 2016 ECV 2.0: 38%%; 2017 ECV 1.1: 44%; 2017 ECV 2.0: 28%
ECV Calculations (Grimes): 2017 ECV 1.1: 12%; 2017 ECV 2.0: 22%
Expected Contract Value determined that Verner was fairly likely to be released or forced to take a pay cut this offseason (38% 2016 ECV 2.0), so the addition of Hargreaves only increases that probability with respect to 2016 training camp roster decisions. The Buccaneers would incur $2 million worth of dead money upon release as compared to a cap number of $6.75 million.
Moving forward to 2017, both Verner and Grimes are scheduled to count $6.5 million against the salary cap but would leave behind $0 worth of dead money in the case of a contract termination. Expected Contract Value considers Verner more likely to be retained from a context-neutral perspective (44% to 12%), mostly due to the age of each player (28 to 34 as of Week 1 2017), but if each player performs in 2016 as he did in 2017, the probabilities of remaining under contract will be roughly the same (28% to 22%). It would therefore not be surprising if both players are released next offseason (if Verner is not released this training camp), but the addition of Hargreaves makes it overwhelmingly likely that at least one of Verner or Grimes will not play the 2017 season under existing contract terms.
Team: Miami Dolphins:
Drafted Player: Laremy Tunsil (OT – #13 pick)
Potentially Impacted Player(s): Branden Albert
ECV Calculations: 2017 ECV 1.1: 46%; 2017 ECV 2.0: 73%
Albert will be 32 years old at the beginning of the 2017 season, and the $10.6 million cap number in his penultimate contract season can be reduced to $3.4 million worth of dead money upon release. So while Expected Contract Value likes Albert’s chances (73%) of remaining under contract if he performs in 2016 as he did in 2015, and finds his chances to be decent (46%) even from a performance-neutral perspective given the general aging patterns of offensive lineman and the optionality value of his 2018 contract season, the fact that the Dolphins will have both Tunsil and Ja’Wuan James signed to rookie contracts means that retaining Albert would probably not be the best use of salary cap resources for a team with a number of large contractual commitments. With two years remaining at a total cost of $18.5 million, none of which will be guaranteed, Albert may be tradable next offseason even if the Dolphins choose not to retain his contract.
Team: Washington Redskins
Drafted Player: Josh Doctson (WR – #22 pick)
Potentially Impacted Player(s): Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson, Andre Roberts
ECV Calculations (Garcon): 2016 ECV 2.0: 50%
ECV Calculations (Jackson): 2016 ECV 2.0: 42%
ECV Calculations (Roberts): 2016 ECV 2.0: 46%; 2017 ECV 1.1: 32%; 2017 ECV 2.0: 24%
Expected Contract Value considered each of Garcon, Jackson and Roberts to be roughly equally like to be released this offseason as to be retained for the 2016 season. The addition of Doctson provides the team with leverage over all three players, as utilizing either a well-paid veteran or a first round draft pick as a #4 or #5 receiver does not seem like an efficient use of resources. Roberts is clearly the least productive of the three receivers, although his contract also presents the worst ratio of cap savings to APY. With Jamison Crowder also on the roster, the team can probably release Roberts while still having leverage to force Garcon and Jackson into a sort of contractual prisoner’s dilemma on the final day of training camp roster decisions.
Team: San Diego Chargers
Drafted Player: Hunter Henry (TE – #35 pick)
Potentially Impacted Player(s): Antonio Gates
ECV Calculations: 2017 ECV 1.1: 9%; 2017 ECV 2.0: 6%
Gates is the type of outlier that breaks Expected Contract Value, as there is just very little precedent of a 37 year old (Gates’ age at the beginning of the 2017 season) non-QB, non-Kicker/Punter remaining under contract at a cap number equal to 100% of APY with only about 10% of that amount potentially amounting to dead money. So no matter how well Gates plays in 2016, Expected Contract Value will probably not calculate a decent probability that the Chargers will retain him in 2017 (outliers are outliers for a reason). The investment of a high second round pick in a player of the same position only lengthens the odds that Gates will remain under contract for 2017 under his existing contract terms.
Expected Contract Value was created by Bryce Johnston and Nick Barton.
Bryce Johnston earned his Juris Doctor from Georgetown University Law Center in May 2014, and currently works as a corporate M&A associate in the New York City office of an AmLaw 50 law firm. Before becoming a contributor to overthecap.com, Bryce operated eaglescap.com for 10 NFL offseasons, appearing multiple times on 610 WIP Sports Radio in Philadelphia as an NFL salary cap expert. Bryce can be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @NFLCapAnalytics.
Nick Barton is a junior at the McDonough School Business at Georgetown University. He is majoring in Finance and Operations and Information Management. Nick currently interns with an NFL team . His prior work experience includes interning with CollegeSplits and Dynamic Sports Solutions, and working as a research assistant for the Center of Applied Research of the Apostolate.