Andrew Cohen

Offseason Low Down

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Salary Cap Notes: Team Updates

Monday, March 24, 2014


8. Cleveland Browns

 

Substantial FA Acquisitions

Donte Whitner (Signed four-year, $28M deal)

Karlos Dansby (Signed four-year, $24M deal)

Total Money Given to Substantial FA’s = $52 million

Fully Guaranteed Money Given to Substantial FA’s = $23 million

2014 Cap Hit of Substantial FA’s = $9.75 million

 

The Browns parted ways with two of their own (D’Qwell Jackson and T.J. Ward) for two outsiders (Donte Whitner and Karlos Dansby). The structure of the Whitner and Dansby deals indicate each player will be in Cleveland for a minimum of two seasons. Replacing Jackson with Dansby made financial sense—the back-loaded extension that Jackson signed in February of 2012 meant he’d be vastly overpaid as a 2014 Brown. Yet it’s somewhat surprising that Cleveland chose to bring in Whitner instead of retaining the younger Ward for around the same price.  However, Cleveland’s annual front office overhaul leaves no connection between the newly promoted Ray Farmer and the regime that drafted Ward 38th overall in 2010.


9. New York Giants

 

Substantial FA Acquisitions

Geoff Schwartz (Signed four-year, $16.8M deal)

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Signed five-year, $35M deal)

Total Money Given to Substantial FA’s = $51.8 million

Fully Guaranteed Money Given to Substantial FA’s = $16.7 million

2014 Cap Hit of Substantial FA’s = $5.1 million

 

A longtime apprentice to Ernie Accorsi, Giants GM Jerry Reese is often associated with the “build-through-the-draft” approach of his former boss. In Reese’s first year on the job in 2007, seven of the eight players he drafted were active during the Giants’ Super Bowl XLII upset of New England. Yet recently, Reese has struggled to acquire impact players through the draft.

 

It’s fair to wonder if Reese’s draft-day struggles are playing a role in his markedly active free agency thus far. While most of the outsiders that he’s brought in have been low-risk transactions—even the four-year deal given to Geoff Schwartz can be cheaply terminated after one season—the large investment made in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is certainly un-Reese-like.

 

10. Miami Dolphins

 

Substantial FA Acquisitions

Branden Albert (Signed five-year, $46M deal)

Earl Mitchell (Signed four-year, $16M deal)

Total Money Given to Substantial FA’s = $62 million

Fully Guaranteed Money Given to Substantial FA’s = $25 million

2014 Cap Hit of Substantial FA’s = $7.7 million

 

For a team that entered free agency flush with cap space, the structure of Branden Albert’s signing is a bit confusing. With no guarantees in the contract post-2015, the five-year $47 million can be looked at as a two-year deal worth $20 million. But by constructing the deal in a way where Albert’s 2014 cap number is just $4,225,000, the result is a cap number that becomes inflated over the back-end of the deal.  The Dolphins would have been smarter to absorb a bigger year one cap hit now (while they can afford to), which would have lowered Albert’s cap number in the deal’s later years.

 

This potential scenario is comparable to what the Browns just did with D’Qwell Jackson. Jackson, who quickly got picked up by the Colts after his release from Cleveland, can still play—the Browns likely would have held on to him if it made sense cap-wise. So while Albert might not have left tackle value in 2016 or 2017 in line with his cap number for those years, he might have value at another offensive line spot. But a $10-$11 million cap-hit for an aging right tackle or guard is unrealistic.

 

11. Tennessee Titans

 

Substantial FA Acquisitions

Michael Oher (Signed four-year, $20M deal)

Wesley Woodyard (Signed four-year, $16M deal)

Total Money Given to Substantial FA’s = $36 million

Fully Guaranteed Money Given to Substantial FA’s = $10.75 million

2014 Cap Hit of Substantial FA’s = $5.5 million

 

Details of the contracts given to Wesley Woodyard and Michael Oher confirm that Tennessee did not heavily invest in either player. Woodyard is guaranteed nothing after 2014, while Oher’s $3.35 million 2015 base salary is guaranteed for injury only. The potential concern with these deals does not lie within the financial implications, but rather in the ability of these players. The Ravens ostensibly wanted nothing to do with Oher, while Woodyard played just 54.7% of the Broncos’ postseason snaps.

 

12. Minnesota Vikings

 

Substantial FA Acquisitions

Linval Joseph (Signed five-year, $31.5M deal)

Total Money Given to Substantial FA’s = $31.5 million

Fully Guaranteed Money Given to Substantial FA’s = $12.5 million

2014 Cap Hit of Substantial FA’s = $6.6 million

 

Money is usually the chief determinant in the landing spot of any free agent. In the case of Minnesota—the preferred vacation spot of nobody—it always is.

 

NFL players don’t take pay cuts to play in the Twin Cities. Last offseason the Vikings got Greg Jennings by offering him more (and possibly much more) than anybody else. They lured in Linval Joseph by doing the same.

 

But in contrast to the overpaid Jennings, who will still cost Minnesota $6 million in dead money hit if they choose to cut ties with him after 2014, Joseph’s deal is more financially friendly. His dead money amount decreases from $6 million in 2015 to $1.8 million in 2016, so the Vikings will realistically be able to cut him after just two seasons. After 2015, the Vikings can decide on a year-to-year basis as to whether Joseph is worth his $6-$7 million annual cap hit from 2016-2018.

 

13. Detroit Lions

 

Substantial FA Acquisitions

Golden Tate (Signed five-year, $31M deal)

Total Money Given to Substantial FA’s = $31 million

Fully Guaranteed Money Given to Substantial FA’s = $10.5 million

2014 Cap Hit of Substantial FA’s = $3.1 million

 

Two factors can be attributed to the Lions’ inactivity in free agency’s recent years: lack of success and the old CBA. Annually drafting so high (they held a top-two pick in ’07, ’09 and ’10) allowed them to draft Megatron, Stafford and Suh. But the lack of a rookie wage scale meant handing these guys outlandish rookie deals, and eventually giving them even more money to hang on to them (Suh’s entering the final year of his rookie deal with a $22.4 million cap number; the combined 2014 cap number for all three is $51.3 million).

 

Still, Martin “on-the-hot-seat” Mayhew found a way to fit Golden Tate into his mangled salary cap scenario. The Lions were forced to structure a player-friendly deal that will pay Tate just $1.5 million in 2014 base salary. The Lions also prorated Tate’s $8 million signing bonus over the course of the deal. The result of this is that Detroit saves only $1,550,000 by cutting Tate before the start of the 2016 league year.

 

In essence, Tate—who will almost certainly earn at least $18 million from Detroit—is the beneficiary of Detroit’s poor cap standing.

 

14. Arizona Cardinals

 

Substantial FA Acquisitions

Jared Veldheer (Signed five-year, $35M deal)

Total Money Given to Substantial FA’s = $35 million

Fully Guaranteed Money Given to Substantial FA’s = $10.5 million

2014 Cap Hit of Substantial FA’s = $2.5 million

 

It’s normally a red flag when a team with unlimited cap space makes no attempt to resign their left tackle. But given how Reggie McKenzie and Mark Davis are choosing to operate this offseason, the “proceed with caution” sign doesn’t seem to apply here. Larry Fitzgerald’s restructure allowed the Cardinals to add the 26-year-old Veldheer to a five-year deal. Based on Veldheer’s age and the evenly dispersed cap hits over the course of the deal, this has the potential to be a rare sizeable contract that’s played out in its entirety.

 

15. Pittsburgh Steelers

 

Substantial FA Acquisitions

Michael Mitchell (Signed five-year, $25M deal)

Total Money Given to Substantial FA’s = $25 million

Fully Guaranteed Money Given to Substantial FA’s = $5.25 million

2014 Cap Hit of Substantial FA’s = $2.2 million

 

The combination of the Steelers’ tight cap situation and historic idleness during free agency makes this Mitchell signing a bit surprising. But by fully guaranteeing the safety only 20% of the total contract, it’s a financially low-risk acquisition. That’s good news for the Steelers, as they’ll be able to cut ties with Mitchell cheaply if he can’t reproduce his 2013 career-year in Carolina.

 

16. Philadelphia Eagles

 

Substantial FA Acquisitions

Malcolm Jenkins (Signed three-year, $15.5M deal)

Total Money Given to Substantial FA’s = $15 million

Fully Guaranteed Money Given to Substantial FA’s = $6 million

2014 Cap Hit of Substantial FA’s = $2.67 million

 

After the Dream Team debacle of 2011, Philadelphia has been much quieter on the open market. The new contracts given to Jason Peters, Jason Kelce, Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin prior to free agency shows motivation to build from within. Regardless of how the signing of former-Saint Malcolm Jenkins ends up playing out on the field, the three-year, $15 million deal (with $6 million fully guaranteed) won’t break the Eagles’ back financially.

 

17. Chicago Bears

 

Substantial FA Acquisitions

Lamarr Houston (Signed five-year, $35M deal)

Total Money Given to Substantial FA’s = $35 million

Fully Guaranteed Money Given to Substantial FA’s = $8.95 million

2014 Cap Hit of Substantial FA’s = $5 million

 

The Bears hoped the six-year, $84 million deal they gave to Julius Peppers on the first day of the 2010 free agency period would deliver a title.  Four years later, they’re hoping a much cheaper first-day pact will do the same.

 

While Chicago surely would have preferred Michael Bennett to Houston, at least they didn’t overpay for Pepper’s replacement. The small signing bonus and therefore small dead money hits associated with the Houston deal means the Bears could realistically cut the pass-rusher any time after 2015.

 


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Overthecap.com is the leading source for all NFL salary cap and contract information analysis. Follow me or OTC founder Jason on Twitter.
Email :Andrew Cohen



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