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Analyzing 2014 NFL Cap Situations: Washington Redskins

January 28, 2014 Leave a comment

This is a series in which we will take a look at some of the more obvious moves teams will be making when the calendar turns to March, and try to get out in front of a lot of cap analysis you will read.  This is more about setting the stage for free agency previews and the upcoming season than the actual hard numbers.  There will not be a lot of tables in this series, and a lot of the calculations will be back of the napkin type, rounded up to the closest million.  If you are into the hard numbers, check out OvertheCap.com.

2014 Washington Redskins

Critical talent (remaining contract):

– QB Robert Griffin (2 years, $5.6 million remaining, $12.5 million guaranteed)
– OT Trent Williams (2 years, $17.5 million remaining, $4.0 million guaranteed)
– RB Alfred Morris (2 years, $1.2 million remaining, $62 thousand guaranteed)
– WR Pierre Garcon (3 years, $23 million remaining, $6.6 million guaranteed)
– TE Jordan Reed (3 years, $1.8 million remaining, $412 thousand guaranteed)
– NT Barry Cofield (3 years, $16 million remaining, $6.2 million guaranteed)
– DE Stephen Bowen (2 years, $10 million remaining, $5.0 million guaranteed)
– LB Ryan Kerrigan (1 year, $1.6 million remaining, fully guaranteed + 2015 option decision due by 3/2014)

Robert Griffin has more guaranteed money left on his rookie deal than money left on his deal because of the way the NFL amortizes signing bonuses.  He signed a four year deal, and of the $22 million he got in the deal, the Redskins have paid off $9.5 million on prior caps, and still have to pay the $12.5 million on future caps.  However only $5.6 million of that $12.5 has yet to be given to Griffin in the form of a bonus or a past salary.

Current Cap Situation: $27 million under the cap

Washington is currently just a fraction over $15 million under the cap, but four different contracts on their roster will terminate prior to the start of the 2014, and those players are already considered to have expired contracts.  Functionally, Washington will be working with $27 million in cap space.

It’s the best cap situation Washington has been in since Dan Snyder became the owner.  They were in arguably a better situation in 2011, or at least they thought they were, but they were then penalized $36 million for violating a salary cap that did not exist.  The cap penalty was split in half over the 2012 and 2013 seasons.  The Redskins still spent some money they didn’t have, but only to the tune of about eight million, which they will pay out this year in the form of deadcap.  It’s okay, the difference between having $27 million and $35 million in cap space is not going to make a huge difference.

The reason Washington’s cap situation is so good is because they’re are no ridiculous back loadedcontracts that they will have to pay off in future years.  The Washington cap situation actually gets better in 2015, as they’ll get (as of this moment) another eight million to spend in addition to what they will roll over in 2014.

Moves that will be made (90% certainty)

– Release DE Adam Carriker (saves $3.2 million)

Adam Carriker last played in Week 2.  Of the 2012 season.  Good work if you can get it.  The Redskins are now functionally working with 30 million in cap space.

Tough Decisions on Key Players

– NT Barry Cofield
– DE Stephen Bowen
– G Kory Lichtensteiger
– G Chris Chester
– C Will Montgomery
– T Tyler Polumbus

The Redskins have just seven players with contracts larger than their production (which is remarkable for a 3-13 team), and the largest contract, which belongs to Pierre Garcon, is safe.  The Redskins are just that weak at receiver.  Elsewhere, they are in a spot where freeing up space is a smart thing as they can be more aggressive for younger players in free agency.  More than that, they need to free up space in the lineup for new acquisitions.

Right Guard Chris Chester is the one guy on this list who is more likely than not to get released.  Releasing Chester would free up $2.7 million in salary cap space, pushing space for the Redskins north of $32 million.  Chester fought a knee injury sustained in 2012 throughout the last offseason and was ineffective in 2013 coming off the strongest two year stretch of his career in 2011-12.  The Redskins need to make a personnel move on the offensive line, and Chester’s release makes a lot of sense.

Center Will Montgomery, who isn’t particularly expensive to keep, is best suited as a backup.  But a $2.65 million salary makes him a really expensive backup.  He’s probably not going to be an early March release, but it’s not difficult to see him as a cut in training camp.

Barry Cofield is a borderline first-rate starter in this league and will almost certainly be retained as the nose tackle, but Stephen Bowen (offseason knee surgery), Kory Lichtensteiger (one year removed from offseason surgery), and Tyler Polumbus are all expendable players.  Expendable, but affordable.  And you can get away with all three of them as starters (Polumbus, in particular, makes a backup salary).  Expect the Redskins to leverage the free agent market for these guys’ successors, and release them only if they can sign younger players from other teams.

Other potential cap related casulties

After releases, Washington figures to be sitting around $35 million in cap space, though there’s no reason to have to create additional cap space for the first day of the league year.  The Redskins have to fill so many holes off last year’s team.  Both corners and both inside linebackers are free agents (including London Fletcher, headed for retirement).  The top safety is a free agent.  The top rush linebacker is a free agent.  His established, productive backup (Rob Jackson) is a free agent.  The backup nose tackle and versatile defensive line joker (Chris Baker) is a free agent.  The player who went into last season as the starting TE (Fred Davis) is a free agent.  The third and fourth receivers (Santana Moss and Josh Morgan) are free agents. They are naturally going to be hesitant to create a hole on the roster they have to fill because there are 11 contributors off last year’s team heading for free agency.

Top Unrestricted Free Agents

– OLB Brian Orakpo (age 28)
– CB DeAngelo Hall (age 31)
– CB Josh Wilson (age 29)
– LB Perry Riley (age 26)
– OLB Rob Jackson (age 29)
– TE Fred Davis (age 28)
– FS Brandon Meriweather (age 30)
– WR Josh Morgan (age 29)
– DL Chris Baker (age 27)
– LB Nick Barnett (age 33)
– WR Santana Moss (age 35)

Brian Orakpo and Perry Riley are going to be the main focuses for the Redskins in terms of retaining their own players.  They’ll want to keep Chris Bakers as well, particularly if either Cofield or Bowen isn’t retained.

Draft Needs Created by Cap Issues

More like draft needs created by free agency.  The Redskins will need to focus on:

– Offensive Line
– Wide Receiver
– Defensive back
– Defensive Line
– Linebacker

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Analyzing 2014 NFL Cap Situations: Dallas Cowboys

January 27, 2014 1 comment

This is a series in which we will take a look at some of the more obvious moves teams will be making when the calendar turns to March, and try to get out in front of a lot of cap analysis you will read.  This is more about setting the stage for free agency previews and the upcoming season than the actual hard numbers.  There will not be a lot of tables in this series, and a lot of the calculations will be back of the napkin type, rounded up to the closest million.  If you are into the hard numbers, check out OvertheCap.com.

2014 Dallas Cowboys

Critical talent (remaining contract):

-QB Tony Romo (6 years, $93 million, $41.7 million guaranteed)
-LB Sean Lee (6 years, $32 million, $13.5 million guaranteed)
-TE Jason Witten (4 years, $24 million, $8.6 million guaranteed)
-DE DeMarcus Ware (4 years, $53 million, $8.6 million guaranteed)
-RB Demarco Murray (1 year, $1.4 million, $166 thousand guaranteed)
-WR Dez Bryant (1 year, $2.0 million, $1.9 million guaranteed)
-CB Brandon Carr (4 years, $33.6 million, $16.9 million guaranteed)
-OT Tyron Smith (1 year, $2.1 million fully guaranteed + 2015 contract option decision due by 3/2014)

Current Cap Situation: $24 million over the projected cap

The Dallas Cowboys are in the worst cap situation in the league.  And the real question that cap analysts have for this roster is exactly where the shoe will drop.  The Cowboys are completely capped out, and have three of their eight best players eligible for unrestricted free agency after the season.  They will not have the cap flexibility to use the franchise tag, so either they agree to extensions, or the teams running back, wide receiver, and left tackle all get to test free agency next season.  If this happens, the Cowboys are a 5 win rebuilding team with one of the three highest paid QBs in the NFL.

And that might be the best possible outcome.  Because things can always get worse.

Here’s the good news for the Cowboys: that cap deficit will be erased pretty easily.

Moves that will be made (90% certainty)

-Tony Romo Contract restructure (saves $10 million in exchange for $10 million in future guarantees)
-Sean Lee Contract restructure (saves $3.8 million in exchange for $3.8 million ” )
-Miles Austin release with 6/1 designation (saves $5.5 million in exchange for a $5.1 million deadcap hit in 2015)

The Romo and Lee contract restructures are virtual certainties because the flexibility to make such restructures were all but written into their 2013 contract extensions.  Romo has restructured his deal to play for the league minimum salary every year since 2009 except twice: the 2010 uncapped year, and last year, when he signed his extension post FA and post draft.  Terrence Wiliams rookie year makes Austin expendable, and he wasn’t productive in any way last season.  He will be gone.

These moves bring the Cowboys within $5 million of the expected cap number.  It’s an awful cap situation, but the awfulness of being $24 million over the cap will be overstated in coming months.  These three moves are no brainers and save the Cowboys more than $19 million on the 2014 cap.

Tough Cap Decisions on Key Players

-Jason Witten
-Brandon Carr
-DeMarcus Ware

There is nothing here to suggest that Jerry Jones is prepared to finally make a difficult decision on anyone on his roster.  With Carr and Witten, there is enough reason to believe in their future value to either restructure or extend.  Witten saw his numbers decline in 2013, but he’s going to be an effective player into his mid-thirties, so expect the Cowboys to add two years to his deal, and save $3.2 million on the cap.  This will likely lock Witten onto the roster through the 2016 season, but as far as investments go, that’s not a bad one.  It will also give flexibility to keep Witten and make extension offers to Bryant, Murray, and Smith.  Alternatively, Dallas can do a simple one-time restructure, save just under $3 million on the cap, and prepare for life without Witten in 2015 or 2016.

It’s still too costly both in terms of on the field production and cap ramifications to consider releasing Brandon Carr, so he is also a candidate for extension.  However, a simple restructure probably makes more sense.  It would save the Cowboys $5 million in 2014, and push an additional $5 million in guarantees into the future.

Here’s the litmus test on the Dallas offseason: DeMarcus Ware.  Based on cap factors and declining productivity, the Cowboys would be wise to release Ware so that they can be players in the free agent market.  Ware could be released with a post-June 1 designation, and the Cowboys would save a full $13 million on the cap, in exchange for a $5 million deadcap hit in 2015.  That would help the Cowboys cap situation both immediately, and in the future.  Alternatively, Dallas can save $7.5 million by releasing Ware in March.

But the reason the Cowboys are in this situation dictates that they are not likely to do the wise thing.  Ware still has sacks left in him, and Jones wants those sacks for the Cowboys, and they can save money on the Ware deal by pushing money out into future years and paying for it later.  With the other contracts on this list, it’s different.  Dallas doesn’t really save any money by releasing any of the other guys mentioned above, but this is a real point in the Ware contract where it isn’t expensive at all to move on, and it’s very expensive to keep him on the roster.  Ware will turn 32 during training camp.  70% of owners would move on at this point and thank him for nine great seasons.  Jones is probably going to keep him.

And it could cost him his best shot at re-signing Dez Bryant.

Other potential cap related casulties

One way or another, Dallas is going to be able to save something in the ballpark of $17 million on the Carr, Ware, and Witten contracts, which will give them a functional amount of cap space to work with this offseason.  It will put them about $12 million under the cap.  That is enough room to do a couple things.  It’s enough to sign the rookies they will draft.  And it’s enough to make some competitive extension offers to guys like Tyron Smith, Dez Bryant, and DeMarco Murray, although not all three.  If Dallas wants to retain any unrestricted free agents or make any moves on the free agent market, they’ll have to move on from some veterans who we haven’t talked about at this point.

-OT Doug Free (post 6/1 cap savings: $3.5 million)
-CB Orlando Scandrick (restructure to save $3 million)
-QB Kyle Orton (save $1 million upon release)
-G Mackenzie Bernadeau (save $1.4 million upon release)

Free is likely to go if the Cowboys keep Ware.  They don’t save any money on him cutting him prior to June 1 (but can designate up to two players on their roster prior to that).  The Scandrick contract is already a disaster, and Dallas is likely going to leave this one alone, but can save up to three million if they’re on the verge of an extension with someone like Bryant.

I don’t expect any additional moves here unless the Cowboys need some extra cash right before the season begins.  After accounting for Doug Free’s release or restructure, I project the Cowboys to work the offseason from a position of $15 million in cap space, which means that they can be very minor players in free agency, and could re-sign some some of their free agents if they are on the market a couple weeks.  Any contract the Cowboys offer would have to be very team friendly.  They’ll likely make a play for a safety in free agency.

Top Unrestricted Free Agents

-DT Jason Hatcher (age 32)
-DE Anthony Spencer (age 30)
-G Brian Waters (age 37)

None of these players are better than 25 percent to re-sign, and Waters is probably about to enter his second and final retirement.

Draft Needs Created by Cap Issues

-Defensive Line
-Offensive Tackle
-Offensive Guard