Archives for Opinion

24 Hours to Lots of Overpayments…

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As the title states, tomorrow is the opening of NFL Free Agency, and the flurry to get things done quickly and outbid competitors leads to a lot of inflated contracts.

Like many smart people, I’m of the opinion that it’s a better idea to wait and pluck some of the second tier players for much more affordable sums. These early march contracts almost never end up being good ideas.

Surely you know that PFT (or that stupid Twitter thing) will be your best source for news, but it’s worth noting that the posts made later in the days by Florio himself will contain a lot of quality analysis and numbers breakdowns. Another site I only recently discovered, Over the Cap, will also likely provide like-minded analysis and news. That site is the same author as the NY Jets page I found years ago, and his blog is pretty much exactly what I’d like this one to be if I had the time to update it that often. Additionally, he has mostly accurate cap data for EVERY TEAM in the league. What an excellent resource.

So keep an eye on those guys this week. And best of luck in seeing your team make only good decisions.

Filed under NFL, Opinion, Salary Cap
Mar 11, 2013

The Ravens are Screwed

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The title is a slight exaggeration, of course, and probably inaccurate because Ozzie Newsome and Eric DeCosta know what they’re doing when building a roster, but I’m still less than optimistic about the future of the Baltimore Ravens, especially now that it looks like they may end up losing Anquan Boldin.

Personnel isn’t my gig, and maybe I’m in the minority here, but I think Anquan Boldin is one of the most underrated players in the game. I believe I’ve seen (but can’t currently find a link to support so maybe my claim is unfounded) that at the time of his acquisition by Baltimore, he had the highest yards per pass attempt of any receiver in history. I never really understood why Arizona let him walk when they had both the cap space and a glaring need for receivers (as we have seen every year since Warner retired). But even if that statistic is wrong, all you have to do is watch the Ravens play to know that he is a very important piece of their offense. He’s not as versatile as Ray Rice, but he bails Flacco out more often than most realize.  He runs great routes, has great hands, and is as reliable as they come. Even with diminished foot speed, he’s a handful, and he’s open even when he’s covered because of his size and physicality. He’s a great safety net.

Basically, in my opinion he’s responsible for a lot of Flacco’s success, and consequently, also his giant contract.

And if the Ravens let him go instead of paying him a perfectly reasonable* salary, they could be looking at a seriously poor return on their quarterback investment. Especially in a few years when the cap hits start to get ridiculous (in 2016, his cap hit appears that it will be $29 million!). Because in those years, coincidentally, Ray Rice will probably start to slow down a bit too. And if those two things both happen, you’re going to end up looking at a very highly paid QB that has to do an awful lot more by himself than he has ever had to do. And in 2016, you may very well be looking at a cap hit that is crippling a team that suddenly doesn’t have anything even resembling an elite offense.

*- I understand the numbers from their point of view, and wholeheartedly agree that it’s always better to let someone go too early than too late, especially at that age. And every million counts. 6 isn’t a lot for a known quantity, though, even if it’s a slight inflation of his real value. They’re right to hope to lower the figure; but in my opinion paying him $6m is a better option than not having him at all.

I don’t like Flacco’s contract or think he’s worth it, but there wasn’t much of an alternative for the Ravens. In the end it’ll only be a few million dollars a year different, and they’re creative and smart enough to figure out ways to make that up elsewhere.

But Anquan Boldin shouldn’t be one of the guys they cast aside so save that cash. He’s more important than most people realize.

Mar 6, 2013

There’s Always More to the Story

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This morning, Bill Polian sat on a panel at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference about “sports breakups,” in which he told us several excellent stories about the emotions involved with cutting players and firing coaches (and what makes a coach last) and in which he also showed some of his famous stubbornness and made the laughable assertion that the Colts could very well have kept Peyton Manning AND Andrew Luck after the 2012 draft.

It occurred to me that a lot of people just assumed that the reason Bill Polian was fired was because he stopped hitting home runs in the draft and because he was incorrectly (but also occasionally correctly) regarded as a jerk.

That’s certainly part of it; the drafts certainly contributed. But what they contributed to – the 2012 salary cap situation – is the bigger issue, more than anything draft or behavior-related. Because the 2012 Colts were going to be screwed even if Peyton Manning’s neck had been 100% all along.

Much has been made about all the dead money that the team carried. And without some June 1 designations, they could have had even more cap trouble. And sure, if Manning had been kept, they wouldn’t have eaten quite the same sum of his contract all in one year. (They just would have been locked into eating millions more of it in future years, making it even worse.) But people tend to forget just how bad the rest of the Colts roster was by 2011. Manning made everyone around him better, sure, but he wouldn’t have been able to do very much with what was left in 2012 after all the necessary cuts would have been made.

So it is very very convenient and interesting that a mere four hours later, Bob Kravitz published a gem of an interview with Colts owner Jim Irsay, wherein he touches on some of the things that everybody forgets: Keeping and paying Peyton Manning would have crippled not only the 2012 Colts, but several more years worth of teams as well. It simply could not work. At all. And being a good and smart owner, Irsay knew it all along.

“…and he understood the cap room situation where, if he’d stayed, there would have been no Reggie Wayne, no Winston Justice, no Samson Satele, I’m not sure about Robert Mathis. We couldn’t have kept anybody. I mean, our offensive line would have been even worse than it was. The worst thing you can imagine would have been to see (Manning) struggling with a team completely deprived of talent, being 1-6 or something like that and then calls for Andrew to come in and play over Peyton. I could see it happening. The cap situation was that dire.

As we have discussed before, paying Manning’s option bonus last year would have locked him in for the next four seasons. Tom Condon negotiated a gem of a deal (and don’t believe what Polian said this morning about it “absolutely” being up for re-structuring; there was no incentive whatsoever for Peyton to do that and Condon wouldn’t have). And doing that would leave the team without the successor that fell into their laps and without a whole lot of other pieces to build with either.

Pardon the pun, but the team got Lucky as could be in 2011. A healthy Manning would’ve taken them to the playoffs, but the team would have struggled for the next decade. Heck, even one more win might have ensured that same fate! 2011 was a necessary evil, and may very well have been one of the best things to happen to the franchise since their previous #1 pick in 1998.

I think the world of Bill Polian. But draft misses – or even just singles where he used to hit doubles – led to him paying to keep veterans like Gary Brackett and Kelvin Hayden and Joe Addai where he previously made the difficult but correct decisions like letting Mike Peterson and Edgerrin James walk. And those contracts spread signing bonus prorations out into their years of decline and kicked the can down the proverbial road. 2012 was going to be a bloodbath, Manning or no Manning. And it was all avoidable. There’s always more to the story, of course, but the 2012 cap situation was a mostly-overlooked element that played a very large role in the switch that landed Ryan Grigson in Indianapolis.

Mar 1, 2013

Colts Keeping Freeney

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There is a new wave of reports stating that the Indianapolis Colts will keep Dwight Freeney on the 2012 roster as the team rebuilds and retools after 2011 with a new coaching staff and new hybrid defensive scheme.

Make no mistake, I’m a Dwight Freeney fan. I believe that his presence alone was responsible for many of the wins the team piled up over the previous decade and his ferocious pass rush when playing with a lead allowed the team to cover up for a lot of deficiencies on defense. As a fan, I love to watch him and I love to listen to him too. He has always seemed like a really fun and interesting guy.

As a cap guy, though, I just don’t see the point. The team could save just over $14 million in real cash and in cap space by cutting him. When you’re staring down the barrel of $35 million in dead money for 2012, that savings could go a long way. Heck, even without the dead money, and even without spending more than the minimum required to replace him, that savings can STILL go a long way, since the new CBA allows teams to roll over unused cap space! The 2012 Colts are going to get better (they can’t get any worse; and one could argue that simply through the additions of Andrew Luck and a new coaching staff they’re immediately better in all three phases of the game) but they’re not in any position to contend seriously just yet, even if everything breaks perfectly. So even if Freeney is an absolute terror in the new defensive scheme, it hardly makes sense to pay him that kind of money.

In reality, he’s an unknown. It’s the last year of his deal, he is getting older, his motor isn’t quite what it was, he’s probably not worth a long term extension, and nobody has any idea if the new defense suits his strengths. He won’t be the difference between contention in 2012 and failure, and that $14 million could be better spent elsewhere. I love the guy, but he’s little more than an expensive toy for Manusky and Pagano at this point, and the team should have already added him to the long list of famous and beloved Colts that will be looking for new teams in 2012. Their 2013-14 cap situation is already setting up to be great, but even in the best of times there’ll come a time when that extra $14 million would come in handy.

 

Mar 26, 2012