Thursday, January 22, 2009

Unrestricted Free Agents to keep an eye on this off-season

Quick departure from the Raven LB analysis, but I just wanted to give you my list of UFAs who could be in line to receive some interesting contracts this off-season. I'll give you my perspective on these guys in the coming days & weeks, and as these guys sign contracts, I'll fill you in on the deals that they received. So here's my list:
  • Matt Birk - C - MIN

  • Nnamdi Asomugha - CB - OAK

  • Dunta Robinson - CB - HST

  • Julius Peppers - DE - CAR

  • Albert Haynesworth - DT - TEN

  • Brian Dawkins - DS - PHI

  • Ray Lewis - LB - BLT

  • Takeo Spikes - LB - SF

  • Bart Scott - LB - BLT

  • Channing Crowder - LB - MIA

  • Terrell Suggs - LB - BLT

  • Karlos Dansby - LB - ARZ

  • Michael Boley - LB - ATL

  • Shane Lechler - P - OAK

  • Michael Koenen - P - ATL

  • Jeff Garcia - QB - TB

  • Brandon Jacobs - RB - NYG

  • Derrick Ward - RB - NYG

  • Darren Sproles - RB - SD

  • Darren Sharper - DS - MIN

  • Tra Thomas - OT - PHI

  • Khalif Barnes - OT - JAX

  • L.J. Smith - TE - PHI

  • Bo Scaife - TE - TEN

  • T.J. Houshmandzadeh - WR - CIN

  • Antonio Bryant - WR - TB
  • Matt Cassell - QB - NE
  • Kurt Warner - QB - ARZ

There's some legitimate talent on this list, and these guys are going set the market at their respective positions. So be on the lookout for my analysis of these guys. I'll be out of town this weekend, so I may not have time to update the blog in that time; so I'm going to holla at yall on Monday. Have a great weekend everyone!!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Raven fans get use to the names Barnes, Greisen, & Gooden (Part 1 of 3)

As Ravens fans may or may not know 75% of their linebacking corp are scheduled to become free agents this off-season, specifically they are Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, and Bart Scott. The only starting LB under contract for next season is Jarrett Johnson; so if these guys don't come back, say hello to Antwan Barnes, Nick Greisen, and Tavares Gooden. Over the next day or so we'll take a look at each LB's circumstances. Today we'll look at Ray Lewis.

Ray Lewis:

Ray Lewis is clearly the face of the franchise; however, he'll be 34 years old by the time week 1 of the 2009 season rolls along. So the challenge is finding a fair and reasonable contract for a player who may be in the twilight of his career (although he doesn't seem to be slowing down and is still making plays week in, week out). Although, its been proven time and time again that as players age they're more suceptible to injury (ie, Rodney Harrison); inevitably your body is eventually going to betray you because we're not built for this type of long-term battering.

By no means am I trying to compare these two players in terms of what they mean to their respective teams and cities, but one contract that intriques me, when considering an appropriate contract for Ray Lewis, is the contract received by Donnie Edwards of KC in 2007. Edwards was signed as a UFA by KC, at the time he signed his contract he was just shy of 34. He signed a 3 year deal, meaning KC expected to have him under contract for ages 34, 35, and 36. The contract guaranteed Edwards $7.5M and averaged $4.5M per year, for a total package of $13.5M. On this contract, Edwards earned over 2 years $9M, and over 3 years $13.5M. If the Ravens can get Lewis at $4.5M per year, then they would've truly got the "hometown discount." Other players in the $4.5M/yr neighborhood include Lewis' teammate Bart Scott, David Thornton, Pisa Tinoisamoa, and Morlon Greenwood (who??).

Another contract for consideration is that of the Redskins' London Fletcher. Like Lewis, Fletcher quarterbacks the defense and is the spiritual leader of his unit, if not his team. The Skins signed Fletcher as a UFA in 2007 at age 31. His contract was for 5 years, guaranteed him $10.5M and averaged $5M/yr for a total package of $25M. Over 2 years, Fletcher will make $12.75M and over 3 years he'll make $15M.

Lewis' most recent contract averaged $7.8M/yr; the only other non-Franchise tag, LB contract higher than this average was Urlacher's $8.7M/yr deal. Given everything he means to Baltimore, in my estimation Lewis could receive a pay-as-you-go contract for 5 years (2009-2013; ages 34-38) with an average of $7M/yr for a total package of $35M. However, over this $35M, I would estimate that he would receive a lower guarantee amount (relative to the other contracts in the $7M/yr neighborhood); Lewis' guarantee could be $8M-9M. Over 2 years he could make $17M and over 3 years he could make $23M. These numbers keep him in the upper echelon of LB contracts (ie, Pace, Adalius Thomas), but by guaranteeing less money, Lewis has to be on the team to make most of this money, as only 26% of his total package would be guaranteed.

In the end, I can't imagine the Ravens letting Ray leave Baltimore, and I would hedge on them getting a deal done (despite the rumors of the Cowboys being interested).

In my next entry, I'll take a look at Terrell Suggs.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Is Larry Fitzgerald worth the salary of a QB?

Sitting here watching the NFL Network's replay of this past weekend's NFC Championship game and the show Larry Fitzgerald put on. Admittedly, when he came out of Pitt, I wasn't certain that he'd be the playmaker in the NFL that he was in college, but that's why I crunch numbers and don't evaluate talent.

In my opinion, Fitzgerald had his coming out party on Sunday. Which is more so a statement about the dismal location of the Arizona Cardinals on the NFL landscape, than it is on Larry Fitzgerald. The kid has been ridiculously productive over the course of his young career. Since coming into the league in 2004, only Reggie Wayne (6230 rec yrds) & Chad Johnson (6055 rec yrds) have more receiving yards than Fitz's 5975 rec yrds. Only Randy Moss & Terrell Owens (both with 58 rec TDs) have scored more receiving TDs than Fitz's 46. So clearly the kid is an elite receiver in elite company from a productivity standpoint.

So when Fitz received a contract extension this past off-season that guaranteed him $32.1M, a guarantee amount normally only reserved for QBs and #1 overall draft picks; many simply attributed that amount to a poorly structured rookie contract. His rookie contract was indeed structured poorly, positioning the Cardinals to be on the hook for $31,947,500 over the final 2 years of the deal (2008 & 2009). Surely, the Cardinals weren't going release Fitzgerald to avoid this obligation; instead, they extended his contract by 2 years (his new contract runs from 2008-2011). As previously mentioned they guaranteed Fitz $32.1M via $15M signing bonus, $5M option bonus, $10M in year 2 and year 3 salary guarantees for injury, and his year 1 (2008) salary of $2.1M. The deal only (only??) provided Fitz with $8,052,500 in new money; meaning in exchange for suring up their stud receiver for 2 new contract years (2010 & 2011), the Cardinals only coughed up a little over $8M (thus an extension average of a little over $4M/yr, but an overall package average of $10M/yr, $31,947,500 old money + $8,052,500 new money = $40M divided by 4 years).

So is Fitzgerald worthy of QB-like compensation? Based upon Sunday and the productivity of his young career, I'd say so. Speaking of "young," Fitz will be 28 when his current contract expires, so he'll be in line for yet another big payday, while still being in the prime of his career, and his new contract prohibits the Cardinals from franchising him, thereby assuring he'll hit the open market unless the Cardinals extend him again. Must be nice......


Welcome to Inside The's my hope that, through the leveraging of my background in the NFL's Salary Cap and Player Contracts and the number of contacts I've been able to make in the NFL as a result of this background, that this blog can serve to provide you, the die-hard fan, with insight into the multi-million dollar deals you hear and read about over the course of the NFL season and off-season.

In the coming weeks, months, and years, I'll breakdown player contracts and provide you with the information that I've provided to league officials in the past. I'll also provide you with the results of research studies that I'll conduct regarding Player Salaries, Roster Construction, and other pertinent issues of the day in the NFL world.

I make no apologies for being a bit of a football/statistical geek, but hopefully I can provide you with interesting and insightful information on the sport that we all love. The game of football, and specifically the NFL.

So here we go.......