Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Lions off season and their depth chart /. roster

The Detroit Lions have 46 players under contract at this point in time. They also have half that number in guys who will be free agents if they are not signed or in the case of 4 of them, tendered an offer, by March 13th at 4:00pm. Getting some of those potential free agents signed is no easy thing as several may want to test free agency regardless of any offers. Getting the players they want to keep is further complicated by the fact they have to be under the (as yet unannounced) salary cap with their top 51 contracts by 4pm on March 13th as well. As explained below the Lions may have as much as $11 million (or as little as no) salary cap available at this point in time (one source says $11 million, others none, and I have them at around $8 million). However, they could free up cap space by signing Calvin Johnson to a new contract, as much as $13.5 million in fact. They could also restructure as many as 5 contracts freeing upwards of $17 million more if they truly wanted to... but it would have to be for a very good reason as whatever cap is freed up will reduce future cap by the same amount one way or another (unless a signed player is outright cut).

With all this in mind, let's take a look at the Lions Depth Chart (ie: Roster) in detail. We'll start with the offense and closest to the ball working our way out.

At Center we have Dominic Raiola and his backup C/G Dylan Gandy and the on again off again 3rd string player C/G Dan Gerberry. Raiola still has years left on his contract, he is extremely good at identifying defenses and he calls all the OLine plays. He is nearly totally useless in the short yardage run plays but that is his only negative. That makes him one of the coaches favorites (despite the 3rd or 4th and 1 issue) and he's not going to be going anywhere. That said, he's no spring chicken and a replacement center of the future needs to be developed behind him. I'm not sure if Gerberry or Gandy is that player, the Lions will likely bring in at least one guy to compete against those two for the backup job, and if the guy can play guard so much the better. This will not be a free agent though, it will be someone in the draft or even an undrafted player, or one of each possibly. If the guy could play the long snapper position too, he'd probably be a lock to make the team. Dan Muhlbach is a free agent and remains unsigned. I can't rule out a first round pick for the backup/developmental center job, but I do find that highly unlikely based on how long it would be before the draft pick would become a big contributor to the team.

The starting guards are Rob Sims and Stephen Peterman. Their backups are the same dudes who are backing up the center position (see above). I can almost guarantee the Lions will draft at least one guard to compete against Gandy, Gerberry, and to be honest, Peterman. With a $2.725 million salary I don't think the Lions will cut Peterman, at least not unless he loses his starting job to said draft pick, but they could if they need the cap space. Drafting a starting guard in round 1 is not where you would normally take one unless he was ready made to start immediately, so this situation does bear watching. A later round draft pick may find it harder to win the starting job but if the guy can backup the center position too as he's being developed it could be an interesting cut down day in August.

The starting tackles are Jeff Backus and Gosder Cherilus. Jeff Backus is a free agent who will likely be re-signed by the Lions. As beerlion posted in my forum, Backus started the year recovering from a pec injury but in the final 8 games of the year he was the best LT in ... the entire NFL (yeah, he was, really). Gosder has a tendency to end up in the coaches dog house at least once each year but plays semi-solid when he's trying to. This lack of consistency is driving the coaches crazy and if they ever find a replacement RT I think Cherilus is a goner. His backup is Corey Hilliard, but he's a free agent. The other two tackles are Jason Fox and Johnny Culbreath. Fox has been injured so much no one knows if he can play LT and Culbreath was recently caught hiding two joints in a hotel hallway desk. Cutting Cherilus frees up $2.89 million in cap but that leaves the Lions without a starting RT. Like Peterman, I can see the Lions drafting someone to challenge for the starting job, and if obtained, cut down day in August becomes interesting for a second reason.

All 3 of the Lions TEs (Pettigrew, Schefler, and Heller) are signed for 2012, the Lions will bring in at least one more to keep them honest but I don't expect much to happen to this group.

At Running Back we have a M.A.S.H. unit. Jahvid Best is the starter, but how many more concussions he can take is at issue. If he were a cat I'd say he has run out of lives and the next one is the end. Mikel LeShoure was drafted to be the short yardage back but his foot injury is extemely hard to come back from. He may never make an NFL roster in his lifetime, or he may come back fully recovered and play for the Lions for years. It is not even 50/50. More like 5/95. Past players with this injury who came back and had successful NFL careers rate way under 5%. Kevin Smith has the heart of a Lion but is a free agent. Then there's Joique Bell and Keiland Williams. Jerome Harrison and Maurice Morris are also free agents. The Lions probably will draft a RB to compete with whichever of these players can be healthy enough to practice (and in 3 cases, if they get re-signed even). Keep an eye on the rounds after round 1.

At Wide Receiver there's Calvin Johnson (the best in the NFL), Nate Burleson, Titus Young all under contract along with Stefan Logan and Nate Hughes. The Lions might re-sign free agent Rashied Davis who plays special teams well and can also play back up cornerback. I suggest they re-sign him at least. Maurice Stovall probably won't be offered a contract to come back to the Lions. For those counting, that does leave an opening, someone to compete with Hughes for the last spot if Rashied comes back or to fill the roster spot he leaves behind. This might be a free agent, a trade, a draft pick, or one of the sure to be many undrafted WRs the Lions will look at.

At Quarterback Matt Stafford is the only one with a contract. Hopefully he is still keeping his shoulders in condition as two years of therapy sure helped him in year 3. Backups Shaun Hill and Drew Stanton are free agents. I look for the Lions to re-sign Hill and Stanton will test free agency (he's looking for a #2 job at least). The Lions will be getting a QB in to camp and probably more then one to compete for the #3 job.

The Lions went with 24 on offense last year for most of the season and 26 on defense, so a really talented offensive player could take a roster spot away from one of the defensive players ... just something else to keep in mind.

In summary, the Detroit Lions will be bringing in a Guard and potentially/probably a Center, Wide Receivers, Right Tackles, a #3 QB, and a Running Back to compete for roster spots. For those saying to go with an all defensive draft this spells trouble but for the Lions it gives them the option to continue to draft the best player on their board (or near enough to the top dude anyway).

I say the Lions need to re-sign (on offense) Jeff Backus, Shaun Hill, and if possible with short contracts; Rashied Davis, Kevin Smith and Corey Hilliard. I look for Stovall, Stanton, Leonard Davis, Jerome Harrison and Maurice Morris to hit free agency.

Now for the defense. At Defensive Tackle and under contract is Suh, Fairley, and Corey Williams. They aren't going anywhere. Potential free agents Andre Fluellen and Sammie Lee Hill may test free agency and it's possible the Lions will be looking for yet another DT this off season. I don't expect it will be a first round pick however. That said, it would be nice if the Lions could get Hill re-signed, I just don't think they will have the money to do it.

At DE the big potential free agent is Cliff Avril. KVB, Willie Young and Lawrence Jackson are under contract. The Lions might franchise tag Avril if they have the cap space to give them more time to work out a contract. I really don't think they want Avril to get to free agency. I can see the Lions drafting a DE if there is a good one to be had to help the rotation, this would probably be the Fluellen roster spot, so if the draft pick is big enough to also play some DT he'll have a better chance of making the team. If Avril ends up a free agent this becomes a major hole in the defense and in fact the team.

The Lions have only 2 linebackers under contract. Doug Hogue and Justin Durant. Levy is a RFA and will probably be tendered an offer. Palmer won't be tendered but he may still end up a lion as a signed free agent. I have no idea what will happen to Bobby Carpenter. The big free agent fear here is Stephen Tulloch. The Lions really need to re-sign him. If a hole in the roster opens up due to Tulloch, Palmer or Carpenter then a game changing LB in the draft, ready to start or developmental, is almost a given.

At Cornerback the Lions have Houston, Alphonso Smith, Aaron Berry, and Don Carey under contract. Rumor is the Lions would entertain trade offers for Smith. Willing to trade and getting one are two different things though so we'll see what happens here. Free agent Eric Wright the Lions would like to re-sign. Unsigned player Brandon McDonald will probably enter free agency but may end up a Lion down the road anyway. I expect, as does most of the world, that the Lions will bring in competition from the draft at CB. Which round remains to be seen.

At Safety the only guys not under contract is Chris Harris and Erik Coleman. I think the Lions might try to re-sign Coleman but they do have Delmas, Spievey (who has yet to have a full off season at Safety) Wendling and Silva under contract. If a game changing Safety falls to the lions in the draft they could snap him up, else I'm looking for them to bring in competition for the backup roles and may the best men win.

That leaves special teams. I personally think the Lions need to re-sign Ben Graham as the punter to compete against Donahue who is under contract already as I believe Graham to be the better punter.

I already mentioned that Muhlbach is not under contract, it'll be interesting to see if the Lions allow him to go into free agency or if they will look for a new one in the draft who can also play center.

In summary, the Lions could draft any defensive position and that player would have a chance to win a roster spot.

As some of my readers know, I have the depth chart in a spreadsheet format on my website at ... if you click on the link and view it watch for the tabs at the bottom, I add them as the off season progresses. You can also click on File and Save if you want to save a copy on your computer to play with (helps with the what if scenarios). I only ask you do not publish it online anywhere (you know, them copyright rules and all rights reserved and all that kind of stuff).

Monday, February 20, 2012

What might Calvin Johnson's contract look like?

Had someone email me asking what I think CJ's contract would be/could be. Figured I'd post my reply to that email.


That's a hard one to predict. The Lions haven't had to sign a top tier player (non draft pick) to a new contract in a very long time and most certainly not by Mayhew, Lewand and Schwartz. I'm not entirely sure how they'll handle it. CJ's agent will look at the Larry Fitzgerald contract for the minimum numbers... 8 years, $120 million which included:

$20 million fully guaranteed
$25 million guaranteed for injury
Workout Bonus: $250,000
2012 Option Bonus: $15 million
De-escalators for less than 80 rec.

There was no signing bonus but the Lions are cap strapped so can't afford to do it the same way the Cardinals did. Plus the Lions are already on the hook for $18.5 mill this year in actual paychecks so that would be added to whatever deal could be worked out. The other thing is the Lions tend to like guaranteed money more then signing bonuses and they tend to go shorter periods but may not in this case.

My best guess (and it is a total guess) is this:

6 Year Contract with 5 year Extension. $100 million. $47 million guaranteed. $16.67 million average per year.

2012 Salary $1 million. Signing Bonus $24 million. Cap charge 2012 $5 million plus whats on the books already of roughly $3.2 million for a total cap hit of about $8.2 million. A savings to the Lions of nearly $13.5 million in cap. CJ gets $6.5 mill more in his pocket this year then old contract would've paid... part of his incentive to do it... the $25 mill is all guaranteed.

2013 Salary $3 million. Option Bonus (advance on guaranteed future money or an acceleration bonus) $20 million. Cap charge 2013 $11 million. (first year of new contract, was already under contract for 2012). All $23 million also guaranteed.

2014 Salary $6.5 million. Workout Bonus $500,000. Cap charge 2014 of $15 million.

2015 Salary $13.5 million. Workout Bonus $500,000. Cap charge 2015 of $22 million.

2016 Salary $14.5 million. Workout Bonus $500,000. Cap charge 2016 of $23 million.

2017 Salary $15.5 million. Workout Bonus $500,000. Cap charge 2017 of $24 million.

2018 Free Agent

Now having said all this, the Lions could go in an entirely different direction but I think the contract will have to exceed $15 mill a year average to beat Fitzgerald plus still include what he would've made in 2012 without signing.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A 2nd update to the Lions 2012 Salary Cap picture

In my never ending quest to improve my Lions Salary Cap numbers I took some time these past few days to try to locate more accurate information. Mostly I was looking for Calvin Johnson information but as usually happens I came across a few tweaks to other players contracts as well.

What hasn't changed: At this point in time I still have the Lions with 46 players under contract and the salaries for those 46 players hasn't changed (yet). The 46 players salaries still add up to $85,665,750.

What changed a little: My signing bonus allocations were off by approximately $250,000 with there being some corrections made to Delmas, Cherilus, and CJ's contract numbers (and there might have been a few others as well, didn't keep a log book of the changes made). The signing bonus allocations (a number that can not be reduced even if the player is cut or restructures) is now at $22,256,769.

What changed a lot: Other bonuses went from around $5.25 million to $9,068,928 with the majority of that coming from Calvin Johnson's contract. Apparently his much advertised $4.5 million bonus from last year wasn't a NLTBE bonus but was instead an incentive that affects this year's cap via a roster bonus. I assume it's guaranteed. He already had a roster bonus due, but because he hit his various targets last year it increased to $4.5 million.

The good news, the Lions cap won't be adjusted downwards $4.5 million as I had expected (at least, I do not believe it will be, there is still that super outside chance that CJ gets both bonuses, it's just very very unlikely).

The bad news, my new number that the Lions have tied up into the cap is $116,991,447

Which is quite obviously not the reported $122.8 million some have quoted. Near as I can tell, everyone is reporting the same number from the same source ... too bad that source wasn't me, then they would all be reporting a different number. That said, the other source may be right, or I may be right, or more likely, the real number falls somewhere in between. I'm okay with that. I know my numbers could be off and constantly am looking out for more information to improve my accuracy. I will never submit to anyone my numbers are totally accurate.

So how much cap space do the Lions have? Depends on what numbers you want to use (I hate that answer too). Let's say the 2012 base cap number per team is $123 million. The Lions have a $1.47 million cap carryover from 2011 coming to add to that. They will also probably borrow $1.5 million from 2015-2017 in cap space and that would make it $125,970,000 or the base might be $120 mill, making the number just under $123 mill. I may be missing some bonus money still (even after triple checking everything). If I'm close, then take whichever number above you want, say the $125.97 number and subtract what I think they are in for (the $116,991,447 number) and you get they have available just under $9 million in cap space.

Hold up! They also have 7 draft picks (1 in each of rounds 1 through 5 and 2 picks in round 7) that'll probably cost them $4.3 million (at least it cost the teams who picked in those spots that much last year).

They have 4 RFA (restricted free agents) they may tender. The tender amounts are not yet set but estimates are $1,260,000 for an Original Round tender, $1,927,000 for a Second Round tender, and $2,742,000 for a First Round tender.

All this and they still haven't signed a single free agent; guys like Avril, and Tulloch, and Wright and Backus, even Muhlback and Hill or Stanton.

One good thing to note, they have 46 under contract so after signing 5 more then for each new contract the lowest one (#52) drops off the cap (only the top 51 contracts count during the off season). So after the next 5 guys are signed number 6 causes $390,000 and eventually more to drop off the cap. Not a lot but it helps.

One thing becomes clear, reducing Calvin Johnson's cap number by getting him a new extended contract would help, and re-structuring other vets to cap friendlier contracts (which hurt future years by however much it helps this year) becomes more and more important as the date of March 13th draws closer.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

An Update to the Lions Salary Cap Picture

Since so many sites are quoting a number that I am not quoting, I figured I'd present my information and see if anyone can add (or subtract) from it.

First, the facts:

I (nor anyone else) still don't have any idea what the 2012 salary cap (unadjusted) will be for all 32 teams... yet. I'm going to guess $125.5 million which is the high end of all the guesses out there.

All 32 teams have the option of carrying over their unused cap from last year. Who has and how much has not been released yet. I suspect the Lions will but I suspect they have only $1.5 mill or less to carryover.

All 32 teams will have an adjustment to their cap. They will have all LTBE (likely to be earned) bonuses that were NOT met added to their cap and all NLTBE (not likely to be earned) bonuses that WERE met subtracted from their cap. I already know that CJ hit one of his NLTBE bonuses for around $4.5 million... I don't know if anyone else did or if anyone missed their LTBE bonuses.

I know all 32 teams have the option of borrowing from the future $1.5 million in cap for some veterans on the team (as long as they don't get cut). I suspect the Lions will do this.

I know the Lions have 46 players signed and I know exactly what their salaries (only salaries, not bonuses or any allocations) equal. These are:

Player Name Position Compensation

Bell, Joique RB $540,000
Berry, Aaron CB $415,000
Best, Jahvid RB $640,500
Burleson, Nate WR $4,000,000
Carey, Don CB $540,000
Cherilus, Gosder OL $2,310,000
Chinasa, Ugo DE $390,000
Culbreath, Johnny OL $390,000
Delmas, Louis S $973,250
Donahue, Ryan P/K $465,000
Durant, Justin LB $1,750,000
Fairley, Nick DT $824,500
Fox, Jason OL $490,000
Gandy, Dylan OL $850,000
Gerberry, Dan OL $390,000
Hanson, Jason P/K $2,550,000
Harris, Marcus WR $390,000
Heller, Will TE $900,000
Hogue, Doug LB $465,000
Houston, Chris CB $3,000,000
Hughes, Nate WR $465,000
Jackson, Lawrence DE $915,000
Johnson, Calvin WR $14,000,000
LeShoure, Mikel RB $465,000
Logan, Stefan WR $615,000
McClendon, Jacques OL $540,000
Norris, Slade DE $540,000
Overbay, Nathan TE $390,000
Peterman, Stephen OL $2,725,000
Pettigrew, Brandon TE $1,062,500
Raiola, Dominic OL $3,400,000
Scheffler, Tony TE $1,550,000
Silva, Ricardo S $465,000
Sims, Rob OL $1,500,000
Smith, Alphonso CB $695,000
Spievey, Amari S $490,000
Stafford, Matthew QB $11,500,000
Suh, Ndamukong DT $9,250,000
Toliver, Terrence WR $390,000
Vanden Bosch, Kyle DE $5,000,000
Weaver, Ross CB $390,000
Wendling, John S $700,000
Williams, Corey DT $4,900,000
Williams, Keiland RB $490,000
Young, Titus WR $465,000
Young, Willie DE $490,000

Total salaries only for these 46 players = $85,665,750

Now for a couple of more guesses... I think the 46 players have various roster and workout bonuses that will cost the cap $5,254,728

I think the 46 players have signing bonus allocations (from prior years that are being allocated over the life of their contracts) that will cost the 2012 cap $22,568,156

So when I add up $85,665,750 which is accurate to $5,254,728 which is a semi-solid guesstimate to the $22,568,156 allocations which is also only a semi-solid guesstimate I come up with $113,488,634 in cap space used up.

Now I take my guesstimate of the unadjusted salary cap for all 32 teams of $125.5 million, the Lions carryover from 2011 guesstimate of $1.5 million, the Lions LTBE and NLTBE cap adjustment guesstimate of negative $4.5 mill and I guesstimate the Lions will borrow the full $1.5 mill from the future cap and I get an adjusted cap available of $124 million.

So taking my $124 million available guess and subtracting my $113,488,634 in cap space used guess I come up with the Lions have available $10,511,366.

Some sites are guessing the cap will be $120 million, not $125.5 million. That's a $5.5 mill swing. Maybe the Lions only have $5 million in cap available, that would be the low end of the guesstimates.

Some sites may or may not be including the adjustments or the carryovers, I've no way of knowing. Some might be including the adjustments as cap hits when it's not really that even if it has the same affect on the cap available. But no matter how I figure it, I can not come up with the Lions being into the cap for $122.8 million that one site stated and all the others copied (or so I assume they all copied it).

That's not to say it isn't true, only that I've absolutely no information that leads me to believe they are correct and I am not. No information at all. So I guess I'll keep looking in case I did miss something.

ps. I still believe the Lions could add as much as $15 million in cap space by restructuring 5 contracts and I still believe that they may do it, not because they have a record doing it, they only did it last year to a couple of contracts and not much before that, but because they did say they are going to be making a superbowl run and you can bet the farm they will be betting the farm.