Salary Cap Notes: Team Updates
By Andrew Cohen 10 hours ago Rotoworld

Salary Cap Notes: Team Updates

Andrew Cohen of OverTheCap.com breaks down Free Agency's second week for every NFL team from a salary …

Hopefully you had a fast Smartphone over the past couple of weeks. If not, you inevitably missed some type of “breaking news” at one point or another. Because as Adam Levitan noted in last Monday’s recap, major headlines become forgotten in a matter of hours in the frenzy that is the opening days of NFL free agency.
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If you live and breathe football, the beginning of free agency has developed into some of the most exciting days on the football calendar year. But do these offseason headlines correlate to on-field success?

Only four teams make a conference championship game each season, so let’s define those who make the NFL’s final four as successes. That means over the past five years, there’ve been twenty different “successful” teams (and yes, the 2011 49ers are classified as a different team than the 2012 and 2013 49ers). Looking at the 22 starters (offense and defense only) on each of the twenty “final four” teams from 2009-2013 leaves us with a sample size of 440 players.

How were these successful teams constructed? How often was a free agent acquisition a true difference-maker on one of these squads?

318 of the 440 players (72.3%) were either initially drafted or signed as an undrafted free agent by their respective team.

60 of the 440 players (14.3%) were either initially acquired through a trade or via free agent contract’s worth less than $2 million annually. Note the usage of the term “initially acquired.” Excluded are players who ultimately sign big deals after being acquired via trade or originally signing a short-term deal. The reason is that teams gain much greater intellect intelligence on guys after they’ve played for already played for the franchise.


32 of the 440 players (7.3%) were initially acquired via “substantial” free agent contracts—deals that were a minimum of 3 years in length and worth at least $15 million in total money. I used 3 years and $15 million as an arbitrary baseline, as that that usually signals a legitimate investment (in terms of both time and dollar value) made in a player.


Just 8 of the 32 players who signed “substantial contracts” played out the entirety of the contract: Visanthe Shiancoe and Ben Leber of the 2009 Vikings; Drew Brees of the 2009 Saints; Kareem McKenzie and Antrel Rolle - who will play out the final year of his deal in this coming season - of the 2011 Giants; Justin Smith of the 2011, 2012 and 2013 49ers; Wes Welker of the 2011 Patriots; and John Abraham of the 2012 Falcons. Danny Amendola of the 2013 Patriots and Peyton Manning & Louis Vasquez of the 2013 Broncos are still playing under their current “substantial contracts.”

That last stat is not paramount—in a league where deals are announced in terms of both total money and guaranteed money, failing to play out the entirety of a contract does not necessarily stipulate that the deal was unsuccessful. But the fact that just 7.3% of the sample size even had the opportunity to play out a contract of at least three years and $15 million is telling.

So l hope you had fun these past couple of weeks—I certainly did. But if you think your favorite team’s big free agent signing is the move that pushed them over the hump, you might be mistaken.

Below are salary caps notes on all 32 teams, with an emphasis on the “substantial acquisitions” that each team made.

1. Denver Broncos

Substantial FA Acquisitions

Aqib Talib (Signed six-year, $57M deal)

DeMarcus Ware (Signed three-year, $30M deal)

T.J. Ward (Signed four-year, $23M deal)

Emmanuel Sanders (Signed three-year, $15M deal)

Total Money Given to Substantial FA’s = $124.5 million

Fully Guaranteed Money Given to Substantial FA’s = $41 million

2014 Cap Hit of Substantial FA’s = $24.8 million

The offseason’s actual biggest spenders when you don’t let the total money that John Elway dished out fool you. It’s possible that Aqib Talib plays out only one year of his six-year pact, and with his $10 million 2016 cap hit I’d be surprised if he were a Bronco for more than two seasons. The structure of DeMarcus Ware’s deal projects he’ll be around for at least two seasons. But his $11.67 million 2016 cap hit and the $10 million that Denver would save against the cap by releasing Ware before the fifth day of the 2016 league year means it’s highly doubtful that the soon-to-be 32-year-old earns the entirety of this deal. Only Sanders and Ward have a realistic shot of staying in the Rocky Mountains for the duration of their contracts.

2. Jacksonville Jaguars

Substantial FA Acquisitions

Zane Beadles (Signed five-year, $30M deal)

Red Bryant (Signed four-year, $19M deal)

Chris Clemons (Signed four-year, $17.5M deal)

Ziggy Hood (Signed four-year, $16M deal)

Total Money Given to Substantial FA’s = $82.5 million

Fully Guaranteed Money Given Substantial FA’s = $23.2 million

2014 Cap Hit of Substantial FA’s = $17.9 million

Jacksonville dished out significantly less money than Denver on the same amount of substantial acquisitions. Yet they’re spending just $6.9 million less on these respective players in regards to the 2014 salary cap. Jacksonville’s abundance of cap space has enabled them to favorably structure these deals—Bryant, Clemons and Hood have no dead money attached to them after this coming season, while Beadles has no dead money attached to his deal after 2015. If any of these players fail to perform, the Jaguars won’t hesitate to cut them loose.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Substantial FA Acquisitions

Anthony Collins (Signed five-year, $30M deal)

Michael Johnson (Signed five-year, $43.75M deal)

Alterraun Verner (Signed four-year, $25.5M deal)

Total Money Given to Substantial FA’s = $99.25 million

Fully Guaranteed Money Given to Substantial FA’s = $33 million

2014 Cap Hit of Substantial FA’s = $23.25 million

Similar to the case of Jacksonville above, these deals are front-loaded. The structure of Johnson and Collins’ deals ensure they’ll be in Tampa for at least two seasons, while Verner has no money guaranteed post-2014. The Bucs’ new regime replenished their roster while also minimizing the franchise’s long-term financial risk.

4. Washington Redskins

Substantial FA Acquisitions

Andre Roberts (Signed four-year, $16M deal)

Shawn Lauvao (Signed four-year, $17M deal)

Jason Hatcher (Signed four-year, $27.5M deal)

Total Money Given to Substantial FA’s = $60.5 million

Fully Guaranteed Money Given to Substantial FA’s = $20.75 million

2014 Cap Hit of Substantial FA’s = $9 million

Andre Roberts’ four-year deal reads like a true two-year, $8 million deal. Roberts will remain in Washington for at least two seasons, and the ‘Skins will be able to cheaply cut ties after 2015 if he fails to produce. Elsewhere, Washington made some questionable decisions. Jason Hatcher’s $9 million pro-rated bonus means there’s a significant amount of dead money tied to the deal for a guy who turns 32 in July. And Washington would have been better-suited looking for offensive line help in the draft as opposed to shelling out sizeable coin for Lauvao, Pro Football Focus’ 51st (out of 60 qualifiers) ranked guard this past season.

5. Atlanta Falcons

Substantial FA Acquisitions

Jon Asamoah (Signed five-year, $22.5M deal)

Paul Soliai (Signed five-year, $33M deal)

Tyson Jackson (Signed five-year, $25M deal)

Total Money Given to Substantial FA’s = $79.5 million

Fully Guaranteed Money Given to Substantial FA’s = $26.5 million

2014 Cap Hit of Substantial FA’s = $11.3 million

Just 14 months removed from a conference championship appearance, this spending spree is alarming on the heels of a 4-12 season. The structure of the three listed deals means it’s likely Asamoah, Soliai and Jackson will all remain in Atlanta for a minimum of three years. May’s draft will be especially key for Thomas Dimitroff, whose recent draft portfolio contains more misses than makes.

6. New York Jets

Substantial FA Acquisitions

Eric Decker (Signed five-year, $36.25M deal)

Breno Giacomini (Signed four-year, $18M deal)

Total Money Given to Substantial FA’s = $54.25 million

Fully Guaranteed Money Given to Substantial FA’s = $22 million

2014 Cap Hit of Substantial FA’s = $6.625 million

The New York media has condemned John Idzik for his free agency inactivity. Yet Idzik, who’s in no rush to spend the Jets’ now carryover-able cap space, surely has a long-term plan. Instead of overpaying unrestricted free agents, his focus is on continuing to draft well and keeping his homegrown players around. He’ll look to lock up Muhammad Wilkerson (a free agent after 2014 who the Jets can exercise a fifth year rookie option on) in the near future. Operating mostly with the use of intelligent, low-risk signings (such as bringing in Michael Vick), Idzik’s one big splash (signing Decker) filled the Jets most pressing need.

7. Indianapolis Colts

Substantial FA Acquisitions

D'Qwell Jackson (Signed four-year, $22M deal)

Arthur Jones (Signed five-year, $33M deal)

Total Money Given to Substantial FA’s = $55 million

Fully Guaranteed Money Given to Substantial FA’s = $20.1 million

2014 Cap Hit of Substantial FA’s = $10.35 million

With a big-spender’s reputation and loads of pre-free agency cap space, many projected Jim Irsay’s Colts to spend wildly during free agency. And while they’ve made plenty of moves, credit GM Ryan Grigson for not doing anything to compromise the future of the franchise. D’Qwell Jackson’s contract is really just a two-year, $11 million commitment while Arthur Jones’ deal reads as a true two-year contract worth $16 million. With Andrew Luck in line for a massive payday when extension-eligible after this coming season, Indianapolis is in a good financial situation in both the short-term and long-term.

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.

18. New Orleans Saints

Substantial FA Acquisitions

Jairus Byrd (Signed six-year, $54M deal)

Total Money Given to Substantial FA’s = $54 million

Fully Guaranteed Money Given to Substantial FA’s = $18.3 million

2014 Cap Hit of Substantial FA’s = $3.5 million

Jairus Byrd’s $3.5 million cap hit compared to the $18.3 million in fully guaranteed money says it all. The Saints ‘act now, think later’ approach here will likely cause serious cap stress down the line. But there’s no denying that Rob Ryan’s defense will be a force to be reckoned with. Only time will tell if this ever-risky Mickey Loomis decision will pay off.

19. Green Bay Packers

Substantial FA Acquisitions

Julius Peppers (Signed three-year, $26M deal)

Total Money Given to Substantial FA’s = $26 million

Fully Guaranteed Money Given to Substantial FA’s = $7.5 million

2014 Cap Hit of Substantial FA’s = $3.5 million

Never bullish on the concept of big-ticket free agents, Ted Thompson’s acquisition of Julius Peppers is as big a splash as you’ll ever see him make. But don’t judge a book by its cover, and don’t judge an NFL contract by its total length and value.

Thompson’s thought process was likely similar to Seattle’s when the Seahawks signed Michael Bennett to a one-year deal last offseason. Both scenarios embodied a contender signing a needed pass-rusher to a deal containing no guaranteed money beyond year one. Unless Pepper turns back the clock in 2014, he’ll be a one-and-done in Wisconsin.

20. San Francisco 49ers

Substantial FA Acquisitions

Antoine Bethea (Signed four-year, $21M deal)

Total Money Given to Substantial FA’s = $21 million

Fully Guaranteed Money Given to Substantial FA’s = $6.25 million

2014 Cap Hit of Substantial FA’s = $3 million

With so much talent packed into one roster, the Niners didn’t need Bethea even after the departure of Donte Whitner. But after three straight conference championship appearances, it’s hard to argue with this move. Bethea technically has nothing fully guaranteed beyond 2014, but his $5 million signing bonus was prorated over the four years of this contract. This means that the soon-to-be-30 safety will almost certainly be on the roster under his $3 million 2015 base salary.

21. Buffalo Bills

Substantial FA Acquisitions

Corey Graham (Signed four-year, $16M deal)

Total Money Given to Substantial FA’s = $16.3 million

Fully Guaranteed Money Given to Substantial FA’s = $5.5 million

2014 Cap Hit of Substantial FA’s = $2.55 million

While the Bills had (and still have) plenty of cap space to work with, they failed to grab many headlines over the past few weeks. Corey Graham, signed for four-years and $16 million, was their biggest free agent snag. The contract’s prorated signing bonus carries a $3 million 2015 dead money hit against a $4.3 million 2015 cap hit, meaning the 28-year-old Graham will be a Bill for a minimum of two years.

22. Oakland Raiders

Substantial FA Acquisitions

Austin Howard (Signed five-year, $30M deal)

Total Money Given to Substantial FA’s = $30 million

Fully Guaranteed Money Given to Substantial FA’s = $7.9 million

2014 Cap Hit of Substantial FA’s = $8 million

A rare scenario where a team that should have handed out some big contracts failed to do so. The Raiders made plenty of minor moves, but their roster has holes everywhere. The fact that they didn’t get any of the market’s top guys is disappointing for a team with so much spending money.

The following nine teams did not sign a new free agent to a deal that was at least three years in length and worth a minimum of $15 million.

23. New England Patriots

It’s fitting that New England still found its way into the “no substantial FA signings” section of this list. Revis, Edelman, LaFell, Browner—the Pats have obviously been extremely active the past couple weeks. But signing a free agent they’re not familiar with to a mega-deal is simply not the Patriot way.

24. Baltimore Ravens

It’s also not a surprise to see Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens here, a franchise that didn’t have one “substantial free agent” on either of the 2011 or 2012 teams that reached the conference championship. After a successful couple of weeks, the Ravens have less than $5 million in cap space remaining.

25. Seattle Seahawks

John Schneider’s primary concern was re-signing Michael Bennett—a mission he successfully accomplished. With so many talented players with expiring contracts, it should be quite a while before we see Seattle signing an outside to free agent to a significant deal.

26. Dallas Cowboys

Inactive by necessity rather than choice, the Cowboys’ salary cap mess can primarily be attributed to perpetual cap mismanagement rather than overpaying free agents. Conceptually, Jones has the right idea—he attempts to retain his own guys. His problems mainly stem from misvaluing talent.

27. Cincinnati Bengals

Congratulations to the Bengals, who continue moving up the “Available 2014 Cap Space” list—their $29.7 million of space currently ranks third-most in the league. They have not made a peep in free agency thus far.

28. Houston Texans

The Matt Schaub era has officially come to an end. Credit the Texans for receiving compensation (a sixth rounder) for a guy they would have otherwise released. Trading Schaub as opposed to releasing him outright (which they would have otherwise done) did not affect Houston’s salary cap scenario—the guaranteed portion of Schaub’s contract had already expired. He still leaves the Texans with $10.5 million in 2014 dead money.

29. Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs, who have lost multiple starters during free agency, had a quiet week. They’re currently approximately $5 million under the cap, with a projected $1,402,441 of cap space required to sign their incoming rookies.

30. San Diego Chargers

Like the Chiefs above, the Chargers are running low on spending money. Approximately $3.7 million under the cap, their projected cap space required to sign their rookies stands at $1,585,487. The Chargers will continue to remain quiet.

31. Carolina Panthers

Their wide receiver corps has been bolstered with the acquisitions of Joe Webb, Jerricho Cotchery and Tiquan Underwood over the past week. Currently around $5.5 million under the cap, they’ll have to find their new #1 WR through the draft.

32. St. Louis Rams

Despite what the Rams say, the organization is not sold on Bradford as their quarterback of the future (with good reason). If they were, they’d have extended his current deal to gain cap space in the present. His $17.6 million 2014 cap figure that decreases to $16.58 million in 2015 has really hindered St. Louis

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