Projecting the Top 2015 NFL Free Agents

December 20th, 2014

Here’s a look at the early list of potential 2015 NFL free agents, organized by position – not necessarily their “ranking”.

Free Agent Pos. Team Age 2014 Cap Hit
Brian Hoyer QB CLE 29 $1,250,000
Mark Sanchez QB PHI 28 $2,250,000
Ryan Mallett QB HOU 26 $776,976
Jake Locker QB TEN 26 $4,004,637
DeMarco Murray RB DAL 26 $1,596,625
C.J. Spiller* RB BUF 27 $4,585,833
Mark Ingram RB NO 24 $2,359,875
Frank Gore RB SF 31 $6,450,000
Ryan Mathews RB SD 27 $3,612,000
Demaryius Thomas WR DEN 27 $4,700,000
Dez Bryant WR DAL 26 $3,148,500
Randall Cobb WR GB 24 $1,021,179
Jeremy Maclin WR PHI 26 $5,421,875
Julius Thomas TE DEN 26 $741,000
Jordan Cameron TE CLE 26 $1,550,350
Charles Clay TE MIA 25 $1,459,000
Jermaine Gresham TE CIN 26 $4,832,000
Mike Iupati OL SF 27 $4,625,863
Orlando Franklin OL DEN 27 $1,386,000
King Dunlap OL SD 29 $2,425,000
Bryan Bulaga OL GB 25 $3,829,000
Greg Hardy DE CAR 26 $13,116,000
Jason Pierre-Paul DE NYG 25 $4,611,000
Jerry Hughes DE BUF 26 $3,995,000
Ndamukong Suh* DT DET 27 $22,412,500
Nick Fairley DT DET 26 $3,146,500
Terrance Knighton DT DEN 28 $2,750,000
Jared Odrick DT MIA 26 $2,779,548
Justin Houston OLB KC 25 $1,598,812
Pernell McPhee OLB BAL 26 $681,140
Brian Orakpo OLB WAS 28 $11,455,000
Jabaal Sheard OLB CLE 25 $1,619,625
Rolando McClain ILB DAL 25 $700,000
Brandon Spikes ILB BUF 27 $3,250,000
Darrelle Revis* CB NE 29 $7,000,000
Brandon Flowers CB SD 28 $3,000,000
Chris Culliver CB SF 26 $1,580,719
Kareem Jackson CB HOU 26 $4,335,000
Devin McCourty S NE 27 $5,115,000
Patrick Chung S NE 27 $1,040,000
Da’Norris Searcy S BUF 26 $1,552,106
Rahim Moore S DEN 25 $1,415,313
Stephen Gostkowski K NE 30 $3,800,000

* denotes the player has an option for 2015 but is expected to void

Related: View the complete list of 2015 NFL Free Agents

5 NFL Offensive Players Overpaid in 2014

December 18th, 2014

1. Jay Cutler | QB |CHI | 2014 Cash: $17,500,000

USATSI_8273772_160074578_lowresNot only is Jay Cutler the worst value in the NFL in terms of our True Value Rating, he’s currently calculating 44 points below the best value QB (Russell Wilson, SEA). The numbers would look even worse had the Bears not deferred $5M of this year’s salary to 2015 (which they’ll pay him even after he’s traded).

To be fair, outside of the interceptions (his 18 lead the league), Cutler’s 2014 statistics really aren’t terrible. He’ll end the season completing 66% of this passes, throwing for over 3,600 yards, 28 TDs (up from 19 in 2012 & 2013), while averaging 260 yards per game. His 89.5 QB rating is actually the highest in his 9 year career.

But it takes more than numbers on paper to evaluate Cutler’s season, and the bottom line is he’s done little to put the Bears in a position to win nearly every week. We recently broke down his contract status going forward as his tenure in Chicago appears to be nearing its close.


2. Josh McCown | QB | TB | 2014 Cash: $5,750,000

USATSI_8257220_160074578_lowresThe Buccaneers were hoping the same Josh McCown that took the reigns from Jay Cutler in Chicago last year would swoop in and lead their franchise back to winning ways in 2014. That’s been far from the case.

In the 9 games he’s been active (missed 5 games due to a hand injury), McCown’s averaging 17 completions, 216 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, and a lousy 72.6 QB rating. He’s completing just 56% of his pass attempts in 2014, and is currently the 34th ranks QB according to Pro Football Focus (PFF). His $5,750,000 in cash earning ranks 20th among 2014 QBs and his cap number rises from $4.75M to $5.25M. He’s a prime candidate for a restructure and/or release this offseason.


3. Dexter McCluster | RB | TEN | 2014 Cash: $4,050,000

USATSI_8168736_160074578_lowresThe Titans signed McCluster away from the Chiefs with the intentions of him becoming the “Darren Sproles” of their offense, presumably becoming a factor both in their rush and pass game.

In total, McCluster rushed 40 times for 131 yards, while catching 26 balls for 197 yards, and just 1 touchdown. Certainly the Titans were hoping for more than 328 yards from scrimmage when they signed him to a 3 year $9 million contract last March. His $4.05M cash ranks 9th among 2014 running backs, while he ranks 20th in both PFF and our True Value ratings.


4. Percy Harvin | WR | SEA/NYJ | 2014 Cash: $11,000,000

USATSI_8276155_160074578_lowresObviously being run out of Seattle wasn’t in the master plan to start the year, but Harvin never found consistency anywhere in 2014. He’s caught a combined 47 balls for 439 yards and a score, while rushing for another 201 yards.

While an average of 53 yards from scrimmage each game isn’t dreadful, it certainly doesn’t merit the $11 million in cash Harvin’s pulling in this season (tied for 6th most among active WRs).

With no additional guaranteed money (or dead cap) remaining on his contract, a restructure or even release is likely this offseason.


5. Vernon Davis | TE | SF | 2014 Cash: $5,106,250

USATSI_8051000_160074578_lowresAfter a maligned offseason that included threats of holding out for more money, and the launch of his stock from Fantex, Vernon Davis has spiraled downward in terms of statistical production.

Davis finished the 2013 campaign with 52 rec, 850 yards, and a whopping 13 TDs. But through 12 games active in 2014, he’s caught only 25 balls, for 236 yards and just 2 TDs.

He’s earned just north of $5.1M cash this year, 10th most among tight ends. While his $7M cap figure in 2015 is a bit of a decrease from this year, it may be too rich for the 49ers wallets.

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Understanding Jay Cutler’s Contract

December 18th, 2014

USATSI_8252766_160074578_lowresThe Bears abysmal season has culminated to the eventual benching of their highly paid quarterback Jay Cutler, who signed a 7 year $126.7M contract some 11 months ago. With a likely change to the coaching staff forthcoming, and plenty of cries for a change from Cutler, we’ll do our best to make the ins and outs of his contract somewhat understandable.

Upfront Cash/Guarantees

One of the most important factors of any new contract is the cash paid immediately to the player. In this case, Cutler received no signing bonus, meaning his first taste of this deal came in the form of a $17.5M salary. The contract originally called for a $22.5M 2014 salary, but Chicago deferred $5M of that base to the 2015 season. In terms of the salary cap this restructured money pro-rates at $1M per season from 2014-2018, and is considered “dead cap”.

The Bears fully guaranteed all of the $38M due to Cutler in 2014 and 2015 at the time of his signing, meaning the $15.5M salary due for 2015 is on the books. The only way the Bears can avoid this payment is by finding a trade partner to take it on (and even in that case it’s likely Chicago would need to toss in money to combat that pricetag). All of this means as of today, the Bears are on the hook for $20.5M in cash, a $16.5M salary cap charge, and $19.5M in dead cap costs for Jay Cutler in 2015.

Upcoming Guarantees

Here’s the part of the deal some of you might not be aware of. On March 12th of 2015, $10M of Cutler’s $16M salary for 2016 becomes fully guaranteed. This means the Bears will soon be on the hook for $30.5M in cash, and $29.5M in dead cap charges.

If he remains a Bear through the 2015 season, Chicago will have a similar scenario, as the remaining $6M of his 2016 salary fully guarantees in March of 2016.

Spelling Out the Dead Salary Cap

For those who may not know, dead cap refers to dollars of a contract that haven’t yet been allocated to a team’s salary cap. For instance the $5M restructure that Cutler received in 2014 pro-rates at $1M each of the first 5 years. This means that only $1M has been allocated to the Bears’ cap, leaving $4M in dead cap associated with the restructure. Dead cap can come in the form of guaranteed salary, signing bonus, option bonuses, roster bonuses, restructures, etc. We’ll take a numerical look at Cutler’s dead cap situation going forward.

Date Released Dead Cap $
Today: $38,000,000
Feb 2015-March 12,2015: $19,500,000
March 13, 2015+: $29,500,000
Feb 2016: $13,000,000
March 2016+: $19,000,000
Feb 2017+: $2,000,000


What if he’s traded?

It certainly seems unlikely based on the financial situation, but it’s plausible that the Bears do indeed find a partner to deal with this offseason. There are certainly plenty of teams in need of a QB with Cutler’s raw talent. Here’s a look at the contract and dead cap scenario should Cutler be traded this offseason (assuming post March)


The Bears would be left with just $4M in dead cap, assuming the new team takes on his full $15.5M 2015 salary.

Possible Trade Suitors
The Buffalo Bills have a benched E.J. Manuel, and current starter Kyle Orton (who carries a player option) for the 2015 season. They also lack a 1st round pick to help improve that situation immediately. With ample cap space, they’ll be able to take on Cutler’s $15.5M salary.

The Cleveland Browns might play themselves into a mess to finish out the 2014 season. It’s likely that Brian Hoyer will walk through free agency, leaving a raw Johnny Manziel to carry the reigns of what is looking like a pretty decent team. Cutler would be an upgrade, and like the Bills they can afford it. It should be noted they also carry two 1st round picks in 2015 though.

The Houston Texans face a similar situation to the Browns, who have the makings of a playoff team, but lack the final push. Cutler has more talent than Ryan Fitzpatrick (though certainly not as efficient).


Closing Thoughts

The Bears took a big financial swing when they agreed to this contract with a QB as unproven and inconsistent as Cutler has been throughout his career. To date, it’s been a miraculous bust, but barring a team coming forward with trade interest, Chicago likely has to give Cutler one more year to make things right.

The window to cut ties with him after 2015 will be immediately following the Super Bowl, before the additional $6M in 2016 salary guarantee kicks in. While $13M in dead cap is a big pill to swallow for a player no longer on the roster, its the earliest “decent” financial out for the Bears.

Restructure and Re-Build
The better plan might be to simply improve the roster around him, notably on the defensive side of the ball. All quarterbacks improve when their environment is consistent and reliable, and the Bears as a whole in 2014 have been nothing of the sort. With no signing bonus, and a high guaranteed salary, Cutler is a prime candidate for a simple restructure. The Bears can convert a large chunk of this $15.5M salary into pro-rated bonus across 2015-2019, giving them more cap to shore up the roster around him. While the QB is certainly a “need” for improvement heading into the offseason, the Bears have plenty other areas to address along with it.
Related: Breaking down all of Jay Cutler’s contracts

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Colin Kaepernick’s Contract Going Forward

December 16th, 2014

USATSI_8077621_160074578_lowresA rough season in San Francisco has been highlighted by a major step-back year from QB Colin Kaepernick. As of today, Kaepernick ranks 30th out of 40 eligible QBS according to Pro Football Focus. His 10 INT are already two more than he had in all of 2013. Add this to an astounding 48 sacks (up from 39 in 2013), and it comes as no surprise that the 49ers offense has struggled this year. We’ll take an in-depth look at the semantics of the $114M contract he signed this past June, making note of just how little the 49ers are actually on the hook for.

Pay as You Go Salaries

The salaries included in Kaepernick’s contract don’t guarantee until April 1st preceding each season. In other words, as of today the 49ers are on the hook for $0 of his $12.4M salary for 2015. The same This is the case for each of his salaries from 2016 to 2018 (only $5.2M guarantees prior to the 2018 season).

De-Escalating Salaries

Kaepernick’s contract contains one of the most obvious “smoke-screen” clauses we’ve seen in recent years. Starting in 2015 his salary will decrease by $2M unless he takes 80% of the 49ers snaps, AND takes the 49ers to the Super Bowl OR is named an All-Pro. While it’s not an obsurd limit to reach, it’s certainly not looking promising in 2014, meaning Kaepernick’s $12.4M salary will most certainly become $10.4M.

This ultimately means a cap figure of $15,265,753 in 2015, currently ranking 14th among active NFL QBs.

Per-Game Bonuses

The Niners covered their bases in this regard as well, as Kaepernick is set to earn $125,000 per game he’s active from 2015-2020. While this means a potential $2M per year for Kaepernick, it more importantly means cash-relief should he suffer an injury over the next 6 years.

Extremely Manageable Dead Cap

Because of the conditionally guaranteed base salaries, Kaepernick’s overall dead cap figure never reaches a gigantic number. Add in his relatively low $12.3M signing bonus, and the cost to cut him at any point in time is certainly doable. A few scenarios:

Date Released Dead Cap $
Feb/March 2015: $9,863,013
Post April 1, 2015: $22,263,013
Feb/March 2016: $7,397,260
Post April 1, 2016: $21,297,260
Feb/March 2017: $4,931,507
Post April 1, 2017: $21,431,507


Likely Contract Value

With so many conditional items built into this contract, it’s really far-fetched to call this a $126M contract (as most media sources are doing). He’s earned $13M in 2014 thanks to a modest $645,000 salary, $12.3M signing bonus, and $100,000 workout bonus. With $2M already set to be de-escalated in 2015, he’ll have a maximum $12.8M to earn (though $2M of that is built into $125,000 per game bonuses). Assuming he never avoids the de-escalation, but is active every game through the 2020 season, he’ll have earned an additional $100M on the dot. Still quite a haul for a kid out of Nevada-Reno, but not quite the blockbuster figure it appears to be on paper.

Final Thoughts

There appears to be a coaching change forthcoming in San Francisco, and with it will most likely come a new culture, and a new system. Kaepernick has an important last few weeks in 2014, as he’s likely showcasing himself for potential head coaching hires. While the job will likely be his heading into 2015, it’s possible the Niners look to backload their QB depth by way of the draft or free agency this offseason. Either way, the pressure will be on Kaepernick to re-solidfy his long-term role as the franchise QB – something the holes in his contract don’t automatically do for him.
Related: View all of Colin Kaepernick’s Contracts Breakdowns

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Average NFL Cap Figure By Position

December 14th, 2014

USATSI_8233666_160074578_lowresWith week 15 upon us, plenty of injuries, roster moves, and benchings have altered the lineups since early September. We’ll take a look at the difference in how each position averages financially from Week 1, to Week 14, also making not of the players who values best and worst at this stage of the season.

Pos. Week 1 Avg. Week 14 Avg. Best Value Worst Value
QB $8,879,067 $8,299,604 Russell Wilson (SEA) Jay Cutler (CHI)
RB $2,874,826 $2,640,362 Le’Veon Bell (PIT) LeSean McCoy (PHI)
WR $4,195,718 $3,433,920 T.Y. Hilton (IND) Mike Wallace (MIA)
TE $2,627,691 $2,968,093 Dwayne Allen (IND) Vernon Davis (SF)
LT $5,349,374 $4,730,522 Kelvin Beachum (PIT) D’Brickashaw Ferguson (NYJ)
G $2,612,581 $2,727,835 Kelechi Osemele (BAL) Jahri Evans (NO)
C $2,960,450 $2,357,804 Corey Linsley (GB) Ryan Kalil (CAR)
RT $1,998,682 $1,784,903 Ricky Wagner (BAL) Phillip Loadholt (MIN)
DE $4,373,123 $3,688,682 J.J. Watt (HOU) Mario Williams (BUF)
DT $3,920,535 $3,070,869 Johnathan Hankins (NYG) Ndamukong Suh (DET)
OLB $3,650,530 $2,631,014 Justin Houston (KC) Clay Matthews (GB)
ILB $2,861,338 $2,057,618 Jamie Collins (NE) Lawrence Timmons (PIT)
CB $3,637,993 $3,229,736 Chris Harris (DEN) Johnathan Joseph (HOU)
S $2,917,411 $2,349,753 Mike Adams (IND) Antrel Rolle (NYG)
K $1,542,899 $1,454,790 Justin Tucker (BAL) Josh Scobee (JAC)
P $1,577,044 $1,595,867 Johnny Hekker (STL) Michael Koenen (TB)


Injured Reserve Totals by Position

Related: Browse our real-time Injured Reserve Tracker

Inside Linebacker 32 $69,703,607
Defensive End 29 $57,450,328
Outside Linebacker 25 $53,500,050
Cornerback 39 $51,284,028
Quarterback 6 $37,533,909
Wide Receiver 30 $35,160,678
Safety 23 $31,692,573
Left Tackle 10 $29,092,856
Guard 19 $28,698,988
Right Tackle 18 $27,670,062
Center 14 $24,958,216
Running Back 23 $23,576,973
Defensive Tackle 20 $20,281,342
Tight End 19 $19,660,258
Fullback 6 $2,944,856
Punter 1 $1,252,500
Long Snapper 1 $855,000
Linebacker 1 $303,000
316 $515,619,224

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The NFL’s Best Values Thru 14 Weeks

December 13th, 2014

Advanced-Stat Best-Value Team


This week’s edition of the All-Value team carries a combined cap figure of just $26.2M, and is led by 4 members of the Ravens, 3 Broncos, and 3 Colts.

Justin Forsett (BAL), Randall Cobb (GB), Julius Thomas (DEN), and Justin Houston (KC) are among the most notable free agents set to hit the open market this offseason (maybe). While Johnny Hekker (STL), Chris Harris (DEN), and J.J. Watt (HOU) have already inked extensions with their respective teams.

With the league salary cap set to rise more than $5M in 2015, and a seemingly certain removal of Marshawn Lynch’s bloated salary from the cap table, the Seahawks are likely to address a long-term extension with QB Russell Wilson this offseason.

Pos. Player Team 2014 Cap TVS
QB Russell Wilson SEA $817,302 15.49
RB Justin Forsett BAL $570,000 18.84
RB Le’Veon Bell PIT $936,500 23.52
WR T.Y. Hilton IND $706,850 18.17
WR Randall Cobb GB $1,021,179 15.07
TE Dwayne Allen IND $835,826 16.64
TE Julius Thomas DEN $741,000 14.32
LT Kelvin Beachum PIT $581,474 24.69
G Kelechi Osemele BAL $912,510 21.25
C Corey Linsley GB $466,250 21.31
G Joel Bitonio CLE $993,036 20.31
RT Ricky Wagner BAL $531,140 21.70
DE J.J. Watt HOU $4,575,567 27.75
DT Johnathan Hankins NYG $916,065 17.15
DT Kawann Short CAR $1,052,349 14.88
DE Mike Daniels GB $645,146 18.68
OLB Justin Houston KC $1,598,812 24.98
ILB Chris Borland SF $574,359 12.11
ILB Jamie Collins NE $854,773 13.66
OLB Brandon Marshall DEN $495,000 15.27
CB Desmond Trufant ATL $1,855,870 2.02
S Mike Adams IND $635,000 16.93
S George Iloka CIN $610,075 16.38
CB Chris Harris DEN $2,187,000 17.53
K Justin Tucker BAL $570,000 22.73
P Johnny Hekker STL $573,333 25.55


Best-Value Veteran Team


When excluding players still on their rookie contracts, the following veterans are currently calculating as the best value at their respective position, a combined $42M in 2014 cap dollars.

Terrance Knighton (DEN), Rolando McClain (DAL), Brandon Flowers (SD), and Patrick Chung (NE) all of contracts expiring at the end of 2014, and are making strong cases for a raise in 2015.

The Steelers may have a few dilemmas on their hand this offseason. QB Ben Roethlisberger will be entering his contract year in 15 (and already feels underpaid). Antonio Brown is the #1 statistically rated WR in the NFL, but just the 13th highest average paid. Meanwhile Le’Veon Bell, who becomes extension-eligible for the first time this offseason, is making a case as the best all-around RB in the game right now.

Pos. Player Team 2014 Cap TVS
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick HOU $3,375,000 11.03
RB Justin Forsett BAL $570,000 18.84
RB Ahmad Bradshaw IND $570,000 11.04
WR Antonio Brown PIT $4,517,500 11.79
WR Anquan Boldin SF $2,364,000 10.01
TE Owen Daniels BAL $1,000,000 11.25
TE Andrew Quarless GB $1,250,000 9.22
LT Jared Veldheer ARI $2,500,000 14.91
G John Greco CLE $2,430,000 10.21
C Jeremy Zuttah BAL $1,700,000 10.47
G Joe Berger MIN $635,000 7.30
RT Ryan Harris KC $570,000 9.24
DE Jason Hatcher WAS $3,750,000 6.00
DT Jay Ratliff CHI $1,625,000 10.91
DT Terrance Knighton DEN $2,750,000 6.49
DE Jeremy Mincey DAL $1,250,000 11.40
OLB Parys Haralson NO $635,000 7.84
ILB Rolando McClain DAL $700,000 11.37
ILB Jasper Brinkley MIN $830,000 11.14
OLB Geno Hayes JAC $1,712,500 7.77
CB Brandon Flowers SD $3,000,000 8.31
S Mike Adams IND $635,000 16.93
S Patrick Chung NE $1,040,000 13.50
CB Rashean Mathis DET $635,000 13.99
K Billy Cundiff CLE $635,000 14.30
P Jon Ryan SEA $1,400,000 9.45

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Peyton Manning’s Backups, Financially

December 9th, 2014

USATSI_7671005_160074578_lowresOne of the great blessings an NFL franchise can receive is a franchise QB who can not only find success, but avoid injury, leading to a long career. With the prominent career of Peyton Manning surely nearing the end of the road in the next few seasons, we’ll take a quick look at “the other quarterbacks” he’s shared a sideline with, noting their playing time (or lackthereof) and total compensation from the best seat in the house.

Total Earnings
These 9 quarterbacks earned a total of $16,929,582 for their backup services – nearly $213M less than Peyton’s earnings over his 17 seasons. None of these players earned more than $12M in their entire NFL careers. Peyton is scheduled to earn $38M over the next two seasons in Denver, more than double what his backups will have earned for their services behind him since 1998.

According to our quick calculating, these 9 quarterbacks have a combined 576 pass attempts over 17 seasons, nearly half of which come from Curtis Painter’s 243 in 2011 (Peyton’s neck injury).

Peyton’s Indianapolis Backups

Kelly Holcomb (1998-2000), $1,103,250
Saw 0 snaps in his 3 years behind Manning, who was drafted #1 overall in 1998. He wound up earning $10.4M over 13 NFL seasons.


Steve Walsh (1999), $700,000
Walsh completed 7 of his 13 attempts in 1999, while also logging 2 INT in the final year of his 11 year career. He accrued $8.825M over that span.


Billy Joe Hobert (2000), $540,000
Hobert was given a short leash in Indy, and neither he nor Holcomb saw a snap behind Manning in the 2000 season. He ended his career as a Colt.


Mark Rypien (2001), $477,000
The veteran was brought in to replace the parting Hobert and Holcomb. He completed 5 of his 9 pass attempts, and would never see time in a regular season game again. He reeled in $11.797M over 14 seasons.


Brock Huard (2002-2003), $1,500,000
The next man in was Huard, who saw limited time in Seattle prior to his appearance in Indy. He rode the pine for every down in 2002, and was 2 of 3 for 22 yards in a drop of time in the 2003 season. He returned to a backup role in Seattle in 2004, earning $3.22M over 6 combined seasons.


Jim Sorgi (2004-2009), $4,641,200
Sorgi was by far the longest-termed backup to Manning. In his 6 seasons in Indy, Sorgi completed 99 of his 156 passes for 6 TDs and just 1 INT. He earned a total of $5.186M over 7 NFL seasons, finishing his career as a Giant in 2010.


Curtis Painter (2009-11), $1,321,000
The Colts spent a 6th round pick on Painter in 2009 who saw limited action in his 1st NFL season (8 of 28 for 83 yards and 2 INT). He didn’t take a snap the following year, but was suddently thrust into the starting role in 2011 following the severe neck injury to Manning. The fans of Indianapolis were treated to their first view of life without Peyton in over 10 years, and Painter responded by completing only 54% of his passes, 6 total TD passes, and 9 INTS, leading the Colts to a dreadful 2-14 record. Painter would go on to backup brother Eli Manning in 2013, before being weeded out of the league shortly after. He earned just $2M over 4 seasons.


Kerry Collins (2011), $4,000,000
The Colts also brought in 16 year veteran Kerry Colins to help fill the void of the injured Manning. Collins saw time in just 3 games, completing 48 of 98 passes for 2 TDs and a pick. He’d hang up the cleats immediately following the 2011 season, earning $63.75M over his 17 year career.

Peyton’s Denver Backup

Brock Osweiler (2012-2014) $2,647,132
Just a few months after signing Peyton Manning to a 5 year $96M contract on March 20th, the Broncos used a 2nd round pick to select Brock Osweiler out of Arizona State. In nearly 3 full seasons, Osweiler has just 26 attempts, completing 15 passes for 120 yards in VERY limited minutes over 11 games. His entry-level contract will expire after the 2015 season, earning him a total of $3.5M.

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Financially Evaluating the Quarterback of all 32 NFL Teams

December 5th, 2014

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals made their future at the QB position clear when they rewarded Carson Palmer with a 3 year $49.5M extension a month ago. 5 days after the Super Bowl, Palmer’s $1M salary and $9.5M roster bonus become fully guaranteed for 2015, supplanting his role for the coming season. However, 5 days into the 2016 league year Palmer’s 2016 AND 2017 base salaries fully guaranteed, a total of $14.5M cash. Should the Cardinals need to cut ties at this point, they’ll incur only $6M in dead cap for doing so.

Subsequently, Drew Stantons 3 year contract expires after the 2015 season, meaning the Cardinals may be in line for an overhaul following next year (though a strong finish to 2014 from Stanton could make him eligible for an extension).


Atlanta Falcons

Year two of Matt Ryan‘s mega-extension paid him $21M cash, the most he’ll earn throughout the deal. Ryan carries a whopping $33.9M dead cap hit in 2015 (split $15.5M/$18.4M if cut post June 1st). Ryan’s guaranteed money ends after the 2015 season, but his dead money doesn’t drop to a feasible number until 2017 ($10.4M).

There isn’t much to discuss on the backup side here, with T.J. Yates‘ contract expiring after 2014, leaving 2nd year 7th round pick Sean Renfree as the only contracted option.


Baltimore Ravens

Joe Flacco has one of the more stable situations across the league. His contract contains dead cap figures of $36.4M, $25.85M, and $15.3M from 2015-17 respectively. And Tyrod Taylor, the only other contracted QB on the roster, is set to be a free agent after this season.

The Ravens get a bit of a break in 2015 with Flacco’s cap figure actually dropping down to $14.55M. But the relief is short, as that number soars to $28.55M & $31.15M in 2016 & 2017.


Buffalo Bills

The Bills have uncertainty at the QB position (what else is new) heading into 2015, with veteran Kyle Orton set to earn around $5.5M ($7M cap), and 2013 first round pick E.J. Manuel fully guaranteed through 2016. The Bills are trending toward the scenario the Minnesota Vikings found themselves in, when Christian Ponder’s poor play gave way to veteran Matt Cassell, who eventually lost the job to their next pick draft pick in Teddy Bridgewater.

While it’s not likely, the Bills would incur a $2.42M cap charge by trading Manuel this offseason, clearing his $1.2M salary for 2015, and $1.6M in 2016.


Carolina Panthers

A month ago we were talking about Cam Newton as the next $100M+ QB in the league. While that’s not off the table, the Panthers as a whole have taken a turn for the worse in 2014. The poor results could lead to Newton playing out his 5th year option ($14,666,666) in 2015. From there the Panthers will have the option to put together the blockbuster extension, or slap a hefty franchise tag on their quarterback.

Behind Cam, veteran backup Derek Anderson is signed through 2015 at a $1.464M cap ($1.26M cash).


Chicago Bears

11 months after signing a $126.7M extension to stay in Chicago, the cries for change have already begun. Unfortunately it’s not that easy financially speaking. Jay Cutler‘s entire $15.5M 2015 salary is already fully guaranteed, and $10M of his 2016 salary guarantees in March of 2015. Add in $4M in unallocated restructured money, and he’ll carry a $29.5M dead cap figure once March comes. The first feasible window to release Cutler would come in February of 2016, when only $13M of dead cap exists. It should also be noted that the should the Bears find a trade partner after this season, only $4M would hit their 2015 cap, with the rest of the guaranteed money transferring to the new team.


Cincinnati Bengals

Similar to the situation in Chicago, Bengals fans are already uneasy with the 6 years $96M extension awarded to Andy Dalton this offseason. While it won’t happen, should the Bengals part ways with Dalton this offseason, they’ll incur $13.6M in dead cap (split $6.4M in 2014 and $7.2M in 2015 if post 6/1). It’s not a huge number, but it’s not a likely transaction either. Current backup Jason Campbell is on a 1 year deal and will likely test the open market this offseason, while newly drafted A.J. McCarron has yet to make it off the Reserve/PUP list (shoulder).


Cleveland Browns

Maybe the most polarizing franchise in terms of the QB position, Cleveland’s current starter, Brian Hoyer, will see his 2 year $1.965M contract expire after the season. Hoyer has the Browns in the playoff mix, and strong play could earn him an extension with the team. On his heels remains Johnny Manziel, the #22 pick in this past draft. Manziels’ 2015 and 2016 salaries are both fully guaranteed.


Dallas Cowboys

34 year old Tony Romo has $79.5M remaining on his deal (through 2019), but as of today, only $7.5M of that cash is fully guaranteed. Another $7.5M kicks in next March, to go along with $29.9M in unallocated bonus money. In total, Romo will be carrying $44.9M in dead cap into the 2015 season. Talk about job security? From there the figure drops to $19.1M in 2016, and $10M in 2017.

His backup, Brandon Weeden holds a $660,000 salary in 2015, the final year of his contract.


Denver Broncos

Peyton Manning carries $19M salaries in oth 2015 and 2016, each which fully guarantees should he remain on the roster at the previous year’s end. It’s possible he’s asked to restructure this offseason in order to make room for their laundry list of pending free agents.

Behind him, Brock Osweiler has just one more year remaining on his rookie deal. He’s thrown 26 passes in nearly three NFL seasons.


Detroit Lions

The Lions are nearly out of the weeds with the mess that was Matthew Stafford‘s rookie contract (two massive restructures, a huge option bonus, etc…). $8M of his $9.5M 2015 salary is already fully guaranteed. Throw in $19.2M in unallocated bonus cap, and Stafford carries $27.2M in dead cap next season. This figure drops to a manageable $11M in 2016, and just $5.5M in 2017, meaning the opportunity to shift this deal (restructure, trade, release) becomes much more feasible.

Long-time backup Dan Orlovsky is playing out a one year deal in 2014, and may be brought back if the Lions don’t feel like Kellen Moore can hold down the role.


Green Bay Packers

Aaron Rodgers has nearly $80M remaining through 2019, structured in a VERY team-friendly manner (gradually increasing cap figure from $18.25M to $21.1M). His guaranteed money will deplete after his $10.1M roster bonus is paid next February, meaning Green Bay is on the hook for unallocated bonus money only from 2016+.

Both Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien are set to hit the open market after 2014, meaning Green Bay will need to make call on how to properly backup Rodgers going forward.


Houston Texans

Journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick can’t seem to keep a starting role long-term, despite flashses of above average production. He’s signed through 2015 with a $3.875M cap, and should be safe regardless of the Texans plans elsewhere.

Recently acquired, and quickly injured, Ryan Mallett  is set to hit the open market after 2014, leaving 4th round draft pick Tom Savage as the incumbent backup to Fitzpatrick.


Indianapolis Colts

The Colts have the ability to exercise a 5th year option for Andrew Luck, but it’s much more likely that a long-term deal is forthcoming. We valued Luck at more than $19M per year a few months back.

Of equal importance is the expiring contract of Matt Hasselbeck, who at 39 years old may no longer be a viable emergency option for the Colts. They’ll be pressed to find a backup plan for 2015.


Jacksonville Jaguars

Blake Bortles, the #3 overall pick, has a fully guaranteed $20.6M contract through 2017, and a 5th year option eligible for 2018. In winning the job, Bortles also eliminated the chance for Chad Henne to reach his plethora of escalators this season, meaning his 2015 salary cap hit will be a doable $3.5M. The Jaguars appear to be in good shape heading into next season.


Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs decided in favor of making Alex Smith their “long-term” solution by extending him out 6 years, $96M this past August. On the 3rd league day of 2015, Smith’s $11.9M 2015 salary, and $14.1M 2016 salary become fully guaranteed, meaning $40.4M in dead cap. This figure drops to $24.9M in 2016, meaning the Chiefs are likely sticking with Smith for at least two more seasons (barring a trade).

With a $4.8M cap figure, current backup QB Chase Daniel may be in danger of losing is job this offseason. 5th round draft pick Aaron Murray and undrafted Tyler Bray are both under contract in 2015.


Miami Dolphins

Ryan Tannehill is rounding into one of the better QBs in the league. He’ll become extension eligible this offseason, but the Dolphins may not be ready to bite on that just yet. He’ll count just north of $4M against the cap in 2015.

Long-time backup Matt Moore has earned nearly $17M for his secondary role since 2011, but is set to hit the open market this offseason.


Minnesota Vikings

The emergence of Teddy Bridgewater is just what the doctor ordered in Minnesota, whose contract contains cap hits of $1.55M, $1.8M, and $2.1M through 2017. Veteran Matt Cassel  is owed a $500,000 roster bonus on the 7th day of 2015, but with a $4.75M cap figure, his job is in danger. He’ll likely be asked to restructure should the Vikings look to keep him on in a backup role.


New England Patriots

With cap hits of $13M, $14M, and $15M from 2015-2017, Tom Brady continues to give his organization room to stay competitive. He’s set to earn just $24M cash over those three seasons, all of which becomes fully guaranteed at the end of 2014.

This tends to not bode well for backup Jimmy Garoppolo, whose $3.4M rookie contract also expires after the 2017 season.


New Orleans Saints

The Saints have plenty of cap issues on the table, but they start with the eye-popping figures for Drew Brees over the next two seasons. Brees is set to count $26.4M in 2015, and $27.4M in 2016. It’s likely that a good portion of Brees’ $18.75M 2015 salary is restructured this offseason, meaning more dead cap in future years.

Current backup QB Luke McCown was signed at the veteran’s minimum last March, and might be asked to do so again next March as well.


New York Giants

It’s not fair to place the weight of the demise of the Giants on Eli Manning entirely, but it’s safe to say he hasn’t played very good football in the past two seasons. The 33 year old will enter the final year of his contract in 2015, carrying a cap figure of $19.75M, and only $2.25M in dead cap. While an outright release isn’t likely, it’s possible the Giants look for a trade parter this offseason.

With that being said, New York has done little to find a reputable backup plan for Eli in recent years. Currently Ryan Nassib, their 4th round selection in 2013, holds the role. While his contract runs through 2016, he’s done little to show he can compete for the starting role any time soon.


New York Jets

The Jets were REALLY hoping Geno Smith would breakout in 2014, answering all the questions and concerns about his role as the franchise QB going forward. But injuries, benchings, and extremely poor play has the Jets back to square one heading into the final few weeks of the season. His dead money currently consists of $1.01M in unallocated signing bonus, so the Jets won’t carry too much financially should they start from scratch in 2015.

Michael Vick has had plenty of chances to win the starting role away from Smith in 2014, but hasn’t capitalized. At 34 years old, he’ll be looking for a veteran minimum deal as a backup(somewhere) in 2015.


Oakland Raiders

The Raiders paid Matt Schaub $8M in 2014 to win the starting role going forward. He gave way to Derek Carr after just two games and with a $5.5M cap hit in 2015, likely will be looking elsewhere this summer.


Philadelphia Eagles

Talk about an interesting situation. Entering 2014, Nick Foles was one of the quarterbacks trending way up. Insert Mark Sanchez and the entire narrative is in flux now. Luckily (maybe for both?), Sanchez’ contract expires after 2014, meaning he’s heading toward another nice contract from someone. Foles carries an $815,880 cap in 2015, the final year of his rookie contract.


Pittsburgh Steelers

Ben Roethlisberger‘s 6 year extension is set to expire after 2015, and the 32 year old has been vocal about his discomfort with that. It’s likely the two sides hit the negotiating table this offseason. Big Ben’s backup, Bruce Gradkowski, is signed through 2015 with a reasonable $1.833 million cap figure.


San Diego Chargers

Like Eli and Big Ben, Philip Rivers 6 year extension is set to expire after the 2015 season. He’s still a Top 10 rated QB, and at 32 years old shouldn’t have a problem getting another 5+ years from the Chargers. Journeyman backup Kellen Clemens signed a 2 year deal this offseason and should remain the backup in San Diego with a $1.8M cap figure.


San Francisco 49ers

As per usual with the 49ers major contracts, Colin Kaepernick‘s 6 year $114M extension is a “pay-as-you-go” structure. He should have no trouble seeing this contract through the 2016 season. An increase in cap to $21.3M in 2017 may become a question mark depending on his production.

The 49ers do not have a backup option in place for 2015, as both Blaine Gabbert and Josh Johnson are set to hit the market.


Seattle Seahawks

At some point Russell Wilson‘s going to need to make some money in the NFL. Another strong postseason run in 2014 should all but supplant a long-term extension this coming offseason. There are currently 40 2015 QBs with a cap hit higher than Wilson’s $953,519.

Like the 49ers, Seattle has no backup under contract for 2015, as Tarvaris Jackson will become a free agent.


St. Louis Rams

For the 2nd straight season, former #1 overall pick Sam Bradford will finish the season on the injured reserve list. His $16.58M cap hit for 2015 should have been reasonable, but average production and multiple injuries make this a HUGE question mark for the Rams. The problem? St. Louis has done nothing to backfill the position over the past few seasons.

Veteran backup Shaun Hill has playing adequately in 2014, and can probably be signed for near the veteran’s minimum in 2015. Austin Davis was all the rage early on this season, and might be brought back on a restricted tender in 2015 as well. While the Rams will most certainly use a draft pick on a QB in the upcoming draft, it’s leaning toward likely that Bradford gets a chance to win back this starting role and play out his contract in full.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay brought in Josh McCown to add a veteran stability to a young sporadic bunch. But injuries and a lack of production have limited McCown’s role in 2014, and Mike Glennon did little to advance his place for the future. McCown carries a $5.25M cap figure for 2015, which might prove to be too rich at the end of the day.


Tennessee Titans

Jake Locker‘s tenure in Tennessee may be coming to a close, as his $12.5M contract expires after the 2014 season. His starting job has also given way to Zach Mettenberger, whose 6th round contract could be a huge value should he pan out. Current 3rd-string QB Charlie Whitehurst carries a $2.75M cap figure for 2015, meaning the Titans could be set with Zach/Charlie going forward.


Washington Redskins

It’s been widely reported that the Robert Griffin III tenure in Washington is all but finished. His $3,269,877 2015 salary is fully guaranteed, but the Redskins would only eat $3,449,836 in dead cap (unallocated signing bonus) should they find a partner to trade with this offseason. Washington gets another year from Kirk Cousins ($778,112 cap), and could bring back Colt McCoy on a deal close to the veteran’s minimum (again) to compete for the starting role next year.



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The Best-Value Expiring NFL Contracts

November 28th, 2014

Each week we assess the value of all 24 starting players on each NFL team by mathematically combining the advanced rating from Pro Football Focus with their 2014 salary cap figure. We’ll take cumulative look at our True Value Ratings, taking note of players in the final year of their current contract who are out-performing their pay this season (and should be expecting a nice pay-day forthcoming).
Related: Complete List of 2015 NFL Free Agents

Brian Hoyer (QB, CLE)

According to our figures, Hoyer is currently the 4th best-value QB in football (R. Wilson, Tannehill, Kaepernick. He’s taken a small step back in the past two weeks, but could earn himself an extension should he finish the season strong in Cleveland. If he hits the market, Alex Smith’s original free agent 3 year $28M deal with the Chiefs could be a starting point.


Justin Forsett (RB, BAL)

Forsett started quietly after the release of Ray Rice, but has turned himself into one of the leading rushers in the entire league this season. He’s second only to Le’Veon Bell (PIT) in terms of calculated value. At 29 years old, a long-term deal isn’t likely, but he’ll have teams interested should he hit the market. Ben Tate’s 2 year $6.2M contract from the Browns might be a benchmark for him this offseason.


DeMarco Murray (RB, DAL)

The best all-around running back in the NFL may be the toughest decision the Cowboys face this offseason. The 4th best-value running back thus far (Bell, Forsett, Lacy) has plenty of pros on his resume, but fumble-itis, injuries, and heavy workloads in his cons column as well. He’ll command an average salary similar to Matt Forte’s $7.6M if the market allows for it.


Randall Cobb (WR, GB)

An injury in 2013 didn’t keep Cobb from rounded right back into form this season. He’s been a go-to target for QB Aaron Rodgers in all scenarios, especially so in the redzone. The 24 year old is the 2nd best value WR thus far (T.Y. Hilton). Eric Decker’s 5 year $36.25M deal with the Jets should be his starting point.


Torrey Smith (WR, BAL)

Smith’s had his role reduced slightly with the acquisition of Steve Smith Sr. to the arsenal, but he’s quietly put together solid WR2 numbers (32 rec, 544 yards, 6 TDs). He’s the 7th best-value WR according to our figures, and might be an under-the-radar steal should he hit the open market. He should have his eyes on the 4 year $16M deal Andre Roberts got from the Redskins.


Julius Thomas (TE, DEN)

He’s battled an few ankle injuries over his almost 4 seasons in Denver, but since the beginning of 2013 he’s been one of the best all-around tight ends in the game. He’s the 2nd best value tight end (Dwayne Allen, IND) and should command more than $7M per year with his next contract.


Terrance Knighton (DT, DEN)

Knighton has been outperforming his 2 year $4.5M contract from the beginning, and will almost certainly be looking to cash in this offseason. With plenty of free agents to retain, Denver may not be able to afford Knighton for the long-term. Tyson Jackson’s 5 year $25M deal with the Falcons seems like a fit.


Justin Houston (LB, KC)

He’s consistently been one of the best bargains in all of football over the course of his rookie contract in Kansas City. According to our data, he’s the best value OLB by more than 10 points, and should demand a contract in the $15M per year range (meaning the Chiefs will franchise tag him if they can’t get it done).


Rolando McClain (LB, DAL)

He’s been quite the story over the past few years, but the bottom line here is that when he’s on the field, the Dallas Cowboys are a much better defense. He’s currently the best-value inside linebacker according to our figures and at only 25 years old, has time to fit in a sizeable contract should Dallas or another team have interest in doing so.


Chris Harris Jr. (CB, DEN)

As the best-value cornerback in the NFL, Harris is playing out a restricted free agent tender in 2014 and has done enough to garner a multi-year deal going forward. From a football standpoint, it makes sense for Harris to provide Denver a bit of a “hometown discount” to remain a Bronco. Captain Munnerlyn’s 3 year $11.25M deal might be a target, though we valued him much higher in a recent piece


Perrish Cox (CB, SF)

With more than $150M allocated to their 2015 salary cap, the 49ers may have trouble keeping starting CB Perrish Cox in town. His $695,000 2014 cap figure has turned out to be a steal, as Cox currently sits as the 2nd best value CB in the league. A backloaded 2 year contract might be a fit for both sides.


Patrick Chung (S, NE)

The Patriots have plenty of decisions with the secondary as Chung, McCourty, and Revis (club option) have expirations this offseason. Chung was brought back on a 1 year deal this past offseason and is currently the 5th best value at the safety position. Another 1 year deal with a raise might get the job done for 2015.

Related: Complete List of 2015 NFL Free Agents

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NFL Offensive Leaders, Financially

November 26th, 2014

When looking at the offensive statistical leaders through Week 12 from a salary cap standpoint, we find that many of the top performers in 2014 are not necessarily (even close to) the top paid players. The following shows the cap ranking for the top 3 passing, rushing, and receiving yard gainers thus far.

Passing Leaders


Andrew Luck leads all quarterbacks with 3,641 passing yards to go along with 29 touchdowns. His $6 million cap figure ranks 18th among 2014 QBs. Luck will be eligible for an extension after the season, and will certainly have his 5th year option exercised as a backup plan.

» 2015 Free Agent Quarterbacks
» Quarterback Cap Hit Rankings

Player Team Pass YD 2014 Cap $ Rank
Andrew Luck IND 3641 $6,029,454 18
Peyton Manning DEN 3558 $17,500,000 7
Drew Brees NO 3491 $18,400,000 4


Rushing Leaders


All three of these backs have cap figures that rank out of the Top 30 among all active running backs this year. With this being said, Murray and Forsett are both set to be free agents after the 2014 season. While Bell has another season in Pittsburgh before he’s extension-eligible ($1,123,800 2015 cap).

» 2015 Free Agent Running Backs
» Running Back Cap Hit Rankings

Player Team Rush YD 2014 Cap $ Rank
DeMarco Murray DAL 1354 $1,596,625 31
Le’Veon Bell PIT 951 $936,500 44
Justin Forsett BAL 903 $570,000 70


Receiving Leaders


All of the leading receivers have cap figures ranked 25th or lower. Demaryius Thomas is one of the biggest names set to hit the free agent market, though it’s likely Denver will slap the franchise tag on him to keep him around if they have to. Like his QB, T.Y. Hilton is eligible to be extended this offseason, while his $796,850 cap figure in 2015 ranks 75th.

» 2015 Free Agent Wide Receivers
» Wide Receiver Cap Hit Rankings

Player Team Rec YD 2014 Cap $ Rank
Demaryius Thomas DEN 1192 $4,700,000 25
Antonio Brown PIT 1161 $4,517,500 27
T.Y. Hilton IND 1083 $706,850 95


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