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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Sometimes it's when, not if


Before I post some of the updated cap numbers there is one additional item that needs to be pointed out... cuts for salary cap reasons have their own schedule and some decisions will have to be made sooner rather then later, others can wait right up until the day before the season begins. What we're dealing with here are a couple of things, first is some players have a roster bonus due usually in March, that get paid as long as they have not yet been cut. Paying these roster bonuses can greatly affect whether a player will be cut or not later on. Workout bonuses are paid if the player reports for the voluntary off season workouts, once again affecting any savings if cut later. Then in the other direction there is the June 1st rule, any player cut after June 1st (or designated as a June 1st cut when cut if earlier then June 1st) the future year signing bonus allocations do not accelerate into the current season, it does create dead money for the next season but if the player is signed for future years in addition to this year and had a signing bonus when signed to their contract they can be cut later in the season and save cap space.

Lions players who have bonuses are: QB Shaun Hill; TEs Pettigrew and Scheffler; RB Leshoure, WR Titus Young, WR Mike Thomas; OL Peterman, OL Sims, OL Backus; DE KVB, S Wendling and CB Bentley.

All NFL team rosters are currently frozen, no player can be cut until the day after the superbowl, so any cut activity is still a little over a week away. Teams then will have roughly 5 weeks to tender their restricted free agents, franchise tag players, even re-sign their own players before free agency begins March 12th at 4pm. That is also the date (I believe) that all teams have to be in salary cap compliance (meaning their top 51 contracts have to be under their cap maximum).

Using my updated contract numbers, these should be the accurate salary cap savings for each of these players as long as their salaries are not guaranteed:

Ndamukong Suh -$5,127,500
Kyle VandenBosch -$4,962,500
Dominic Raiola -$4,050,000
Stephen Peterman -$3,250,000
Nate Burleson -$2,925,417
Shaun Hill -$2,750,000
Jeff Backus -$2,750,000
Tony Scheffler -$2,450,000
Rob Sims -$2,225,000
Mike Thomas -$1,500,000
Brandon Pettigrew -$1,396,250
Ronald Bartell -$1,000,000
Matt Stafford -$958,750
John Wendling -$730,000
Brian Robiskie -$715,000
Tyrell Johnson -$715,000
Ashlee Palmer -$666,667
Ogemdi Nwagbuo -$630,000
Don Carey -$630,000
Terrence Austin -$555,000
Dominique Curry -$555,000
Devin Moore -$480,000
Lance Long -$480,000
Chastin West -$480,000
Nathan Overbay -$480,000
Bill Nagy -$480,000
Jimmy Saddler-McQueen -$480,000
Kellen Moore -$473,334
Travis Lewis -$450,414
Mikel LeShoure -$437,802
Jonte Green (PUP) -$431,500
Rodney Austin -$405,000
Conroy Black -$405,000
Lionel Smith -$405,000
Ross Weaver -$405,000
Troy Burrell -$404,333
Carmen Messina -$403,333
Patrick Edwards -$391,666
Chris Greenwood -$384,000
Tahir Whitehead -$374,000
Titus Young -$335,335
Ronnell Lewis -$281,456
Dwight (Bill) Bentley -$225,444

Most of these cap savings are the same as they were in my original post below, a few have changed however so I thought I would post them. Now as I mentioned above, some of these cap savings change once the roster bonus is due and payable in March (or whenever due), the same goes for the workout bonuses, and then there's that cap savings trick of waiting until after June 1st as well.

My guess as to who may be cut shortly after the Super Bowl probably isn't as large a list as some others because I am not sure the Lions will cut various players without first being certain they have a replacement on hand. I really can't see the Lions paying Kyle VandenBosch a $2 million roster bonus and I'm thinking they may be hesitant to pay Peterman his $600,000 as well. Not saying that one or the other or both won't be cut and then re-signed for a much smaller amount, just that I can't see the Lions paying the bonus even without a replacement player on hand (not counting Lewis and Nagy who may actually be pegged as the replacements).

Other players the team will make a decision on sooner rather then later is QB Shaun Hill, WR Titus Young, LT Jeff Backus and TE Tony Scheffler. Since we don't know the exact date of each of their bonuses we can't know (yet) the final date the Lions have to make a decision on them. Once the bonus is paid though it is entirely probable the player makes the final roster.

This will be the first year in a very long time that the decision(s) on who to cut won't be made entirely on talent, the salary cap monster is sitting in Mayhew's office and licking his chops. That said, Mayhew created the monster in the first place so he's the one who has to feed it. At the same time, creating too many more holes in the roster will only make it that much harder to field a decent team in 2013 (and beyond). The Lions are about to find out just how good their GM is.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Lions Cap update


Based on new (and hopefully accurate) information, I have revised my Lions Salary Cap chart tonight. It now matches everything found at http://www.freep.com/article/20130117/SPORTS01/130114053/detroit-lions-salary-cap-breakdown?odyssey=tab so assuming Dave has an impeachable source then my numbers are now 100% accurate (and no, they won't match those of another popular cap source online, not entirely anyway).

For those of you that visit my website and click on the salary cap chart you will find it completely updated, for those of you who do not, I shall have to make some changes to my last two posts in this blog as they aren't entirely accurate (because of the new numbers). Look for some updated entries here in the near future.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

How much cap space will the Detroit Lions be able to free up?


In my last post I hopefully was able to express somewhat accurately the salary cap situation the Detroit Lions are currently in. One thing to remember, this "news" to many fans is not news at all to the Lions. They've known about all of this since the 2012 season began when their final roster cuts were made late last August. They haven't just started to think about what to do, they've likely got multiple plans worked out to cover multiple scenarios. If they don't, they probably shouldn't have remained in charge after a 4-12 season. The only new variables they have now compared to 5 months ago are updated rankings on their own players (based on how well they did in 2012) along with end of season medical reports.

With that said, I've been asked repeatedly lately what options the Lions have to free up cap space. Allow me to give some examples of things that could be done with various players.

C Dominic Raiola. Dominic is on the last year of his contract in 2013. He is signed to earn a salary of $4,050,000. Many have suggested to me that he should simply be cut as that will free up $4.05 million in cap space. Never mind the Lions have no one on the roster to take his place (unless you are counting on Rodney Austin to do so). What else could be done besides an outright cut? He could be offered up for trade I suppose, if some other team thought he'd be worth having at $4.05 million for one year (which would free up the same amount of cap space as if he were cut) but that still leaves that starting job on the roster unfilled. He could be offered a contract extension (which is kind of what I'm expecting actually). Say he signs a contract that replaces his current one for 5 years and a signing bonus of $4 million, with salaries of $800,000 in 2013 and $5 million in each of 2014 thru 2017. The cap gets hit in 2013 for only 1.6 mill freeing up $2.45 million. Cap hits in 2014 thru 2017 would be $5.8 million each, but he could be cut (or traded) in any of those years to save cap space if needed yet the cap charges for each of those years isn't so high as to prevent the team from keeping him on the roster. What happens would depend on his willingness to work with the Lions front office and on how badly the team wants to keep him and at what cap charge.

QB Matthew Stafford. Matthew is under contract for 2013 and 2014 with a voidable 2015 which I'm sure gets voided. The Lions could go the simple route as they have done in the past and take most of his 2013 salary ($12 mill) and turn it into a signing bonus spreading it out over the 3 years remaining on his contract (frees up roughly $7.4 million in cap space in 2013) or they may try to get him under contract for a longer period of time and replace his current contract with an extended one (the more likely and preferable option). A new contract will have to include big numbers, enough to make the $23 mill in salaries for the next 2 years that he would've made seem like a good thing to give up, plus any current signing bonus allocations on the books don't go away no matter what so the cap hits will still be fairly big, but a 5 year $100,000,000 contract (or something like that) with a $25 million signing bonus and salaries of $1 mill, $1 mill, $18 mill, $20 mill and $22 mill could possibly fly. Cap hits with something like this added to the ones already on the books would equate to $14,151,250 in 2013 and 2014 (a savings of $6 million in cap space in 2013 and $7 million in 2014), $25,552,500 in 2015, $25 mill even in 2016 and $27 mill even in 2017.

WR Nate Burleson. Nate is scheduled to make salaries of $4.5 mill in 2013 and $5.5 mill in 2014. On top of those salaries he has cap allocations of $1,574,583 each of those years for previous signing bonus contract re-works. If he's cut the 2 years worth of allocations accelerate into 2013 but since one counts regardless, the loss of his salary frees up $2,925,417 in cap space for 2013. He could also be cut and designated a post June 1st cut, which would free up $4.5 million in 2013 cap space but create $1,574,583 in dead cap space in 2014. Word is, he might be willing to accept a pay cut to remain on the roster. If for example he'd take a $2 mill pay cut in 2013 that frees up $2 million in salary cap just like that. Perhaps he'd even be willing to work for $1.6 million, which would free up $2.9 mill in cap space, the exact same amount saved if he were cut!

There are many other players who could be cut, or extended, or traded, or that may accept a pay cut to stay employed by the Lions. Who and how much is yet to be determined. I think the Lions could free up anywhere from $16 million to $22 million, possibly more, if everything worked out right. Sounds like a lot but there are a lot of guys who will be leaving in free agency if they are not re-signed and that cap space will be used up real fast. The front office is going to have to be very judicious with their contracts this year.

Back at the beginning of this post I made comment as to the players being ranked. The Lions every year evaluate the players on the team, assign them a grade, and based on that grade they make roster decisions. They also assign a value, if a free agent player can be re-signed for that value (or less) they proceed, if he can not be signed for that value, he's allowed to look elsewhere. In the past the salary cap hasn't been the deciding factor in the roster makeup so much as the players grade and corresponding value. All players who are to be free agents from other teams are also graded and have values assigned, from this pool they look to fill out as much of the roster as they can prior to the draft so they aren't forced to draft a specific position but rather take the BPA that stands a chance to make the roster. For the most part, I see nothing that will be different this year, other then that the contracts themselves will have to be cap friendly in 2013 to whatever extent possible. The Lions still plan on building through the draft not free agency so once again don't look for any big splashes once free agency starts... not that the Lions will have the cap space to make any splashes anyway.

With that, I shall begin work on my estimated roster for 2013, it's not really going to be that easy this year, what with so many potential changes about to happen. Presently the Lions depth chart has only 2 DE's (and one of them might be cut); 2 Safeties; no kickers, punters or a long snapper; and their running backs consist of Best, Leshoure, and Devin Moore. They do have the 7 restricted free agents they may tender offers to if they can free up the cap space but at the moment the roster has quite a number of holes on it.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Detroit Lions 2013 Salary Cap situation as of 1-8-2013


I want to start this out by saying there is no way to know with 100% accuracy exactly where the Detroit Lions are with their salary cap. They keep all contract information from the press and it's rare to hear or read anything about the contracts they sign (most info comes from the agents, the players and from the NFLPA, not the Lions). The numbers are further muddled because you never know who is using what data. For the purposes of writing this today I am using my own spreadsheet created with information I have found online which may or may not have inaccuracies in it. In fact, I'll just say up front that there is bound to be an error here or there in it, so know this as we journey through the rest of the situation.

My disclaimer aside, I have the Detroit Lions with 49 players signed for 2013 as of today. They have 4 eRFA's (guys they can tender an offer to should they want to in Feb or March) and 3 RFA's (guys they tender offers to that other teams could counter with offers of their own giving the Lions a chance to match or get draft picks). They also could use their franchise tag on a player however it is very unlikely they will do so. These 49 players have on my chart a 2013 salary cap total of $120,798,541. I predict the total salary cap for 2013 will be in the area of $123 million.

You can compare my numbers to John Clayton's who has the Lions carrying over $486,000 of unused 2012 salary cap into 2013 to be added to his guesstimate of $120.9 mill in league wide cap space for a total cap available of $121.386 mill (assuming he did in fact use that number and did in fact add them together). He then shows that the Lions are $1.1 million over the cap meaning apparently that the Lions are at $122,486,000 in cap used on those 49 contracts. The link to his info is here: http://espn.go.com/nfl/playoffs/2012/story/_/id/8822266/nfl-mailbag-carryover-rules-impact-cap-strategy

(I may therefor be as much as $1.68 million off... or less.)

Obviously the Lions have some cap work to do before they sign any free agents, any new players, or even any draft picks. There are a number of players who, if cut or traded, would actually cost the cap more money then if they were kept, those players and how much they would add to the cap problems are:

Ryan Broyles $295
Nick Fairley $148,500
Jahvid Best $224,500
Stephen Tulloch $250,000
Riley Reiff $1,373,150
Calvin Johnson $20,600,000

(note: a player can be cut after June 1st to postpone some of his cap hit until the next year, I am not showing those numbers in this post but it is an option that is out there just the same)

It is quite likely that those 6 players will remain on the roster in 2013 regardless of anything else (unless, like I said, they use the post June 1st designation on Jahvid Best for example).

The other 43 players would save room on the salary cap if cut or traded, the amounts for each varying, though every cut or trade would create some dead cap space so the amount saved is nothing like their salaries alone might suggest. In addition, every player cut would have to be replaced somehow someway, preferably by someone who is as good or better so that the team doesn't go backwards any further in talent and ability. The replacement player won't be signed for free and isn't even guaranteed to be better, this is where the true front office work begins this off season. The names of the 43 players and how much cap space could be saved if that player were cut or traded are approximately (sorted in order of most to least):

Kyle VandenBosch -4,962,500
Jeff Backus -4,150,000
Dominic Raiola -4,050,000
Ndamukong Suh -3,703,333
Nate Burleson -2,925,417
Shaun Hill -2,750,000
Stephen Peterman -2,650,000
Brandon Pettigrew -2,146,250
Tony Scheffler -1,950,000
Rob Sims -1,850,000
Mike Thomas -1,500,000
Matt Stafford -1,296,250
Ashlee Palmer -1,000,000
Ronald Bartell -1,000,000
John Wendling -755,000
Brian Robiskie -715,000
Tyrell Johnson -715,000
Ogemdi Nwagbuo -630,000
Don Carey -630,000
Terrence Austin -555,000
Dominique Curry -555,000
Devin Moore -480,000
Lance Long -480,000
Chastin West -480,000
Bill Nagy -480,000
Jimmy Saddler-McQueen -480,000
Kellen Moore -479,063
Travis Lewis -450,500
Jonte Green -431,500
Patrick Edwards -405,000
Troy Burrell -405,000
Nathan Overbay -405,000
Rodney Austin -405,000
Carmen Messina -405,000
Conroy Black -405,000
Lionel Smith -405,000
Chris Greenwood -384,000
Tahir Whitehead -374,000
Titus Young -339,167
Mikel LeShoure -321,524
Ronnell Lewis -281,456
Dwight Bentley -205,444
Ross Weaver -4,050

Now the Lions don't have to cut (or trade) players to free up cap space (or at least, not just that) they could also re-work contracts, moving salary into signing bonus which has the effect of pushing salary cap into future years... they could also demand pay cuts... cut and re-sign a player for less... or extend a players contract re-working the remaining part into future bonuses or guaranteed salaries. These salary cap saving moves are usually done with guys who cap hits exceed $1 million (usually far exceeding that number). The current signed players who exceed $1 million in cap space utilization (not salary, but cap space) are:

Matt Stafford $20,151,250
Ndamukong Suh $18,846,667
Calvin Johnson $12,200,000
Kyle VandenBosch $9,248,750
Nate Burleson $6,074,583
Jeff Backus $4,900,000
Stephen Tulloch $4,750,000
Dominic Raiola $4,050,000
Shaun Hill $3,250,000
Stephen Peterman $2,915,000
Brandon Pettigrew $2,912,750
Nick Fairley $2,696,500
Tony Scheffler $2,450,000
Jahvid Best $1,976,500
Rob Sims $1,850,000
Riley Reiff $1,816,600
Mike Thomas $1,500,000
Titus Young $1,244,167
John Wendling $1,005,000
Ashlee Palmer $1,000,000
Ronald Bartell $1,000,000

Some of the 43 players listed way up above will be cut or traded, and some of the players listed immediately above will get a re-worked contract, an extension, or perhaps even cut and re-signed later, in order to free up cap space.

(Guys who were drafted last year who appear on that list can not have a contract re-work per the new CBA)

Once the Lions have some cap space to work with they are no where near finished for they have no kicker, punter, long snapper, starting DEs, Safeties, or even as I and some others would say, a starting RB (in other words, more holes then Sponge Bob Square Pants).

The Lions might choose to attempt to re-sign some of their own free agents or the unsigned players may decide to retire, go to another team or perhaps won't be offered anything and their NFL careers are over involuntarily... the Lions players who currently do not have a contract are:

Keiland Williams
Kevin Smith
Joique Bell
Shaun Chapas
Stephan Logan
Kassim Osgood
Kris Durham
Will Heller
Dylan Gandy
Gosder Cherilus
Corey Hilliard
Jason Fox
Sammie Lee Hill
Corey Williams
Andre Fluellen
Cliff Avril
Lawrence Jackson
Willie Young
DeAndre Levy
Justin Durant
Louis Delmas
Amari Spievey
Erik Coleman
Ricardo Silva
Chris Houston
Jacob Lacey
Drayton Florence
Pat Lee
Jason Hanson
Don Muhlbach
Nick Harris

You just might recognize some of the names on that list. Various fans will have their favorites and so will the coaches, but until there is cap space available none of these players can be signed for 2013. In addition to signing some of these players the Lions will need cap space for their 2013 draft picks and for the season (to replace guys who end up on IR and so on). Figure $8 to $9 million for the picks and season. By now you probably have realized that the Lions are not sitting in a very good spot in regards to the salary cap... Martin Mayhew, Jim Schwartz and all the rest of the front office most certainly have their work cut out for them this year.

There is one saving grace, after the Super Bowl when free agency begins (I believe it's March 12th this year) only the top 51 contracts count against the cap until the final cut down day at the end of August/beginning of September. This allows a team such as the Lions to fill out their roster without having to cut most everyone on the team first.

Hopefully I have successfully relayed to you the salary cap situation for the Detroit Lions as we look to the start of the 2013 season. It's not a pretty picture but it's not entirely without hope, depending on the willingness of the players to work with the front office on contracts and depending on the front office to make the right calls in who to let loose and who to keep. My next post should be about possible roster makeups that could fit under the cap and perhaps some draft prospects as well. Happy New Football Year Everybody.