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Foster prays for good health in Miami

Foster prays for good health in Miami

Arian Foster‘s emergence as a star was almost as sudden as his (likely) exit. An undrafted free agent in 2009, Foster rushed for 100 yards in his first start — in week 17 of the ’09 season. Then, in 2010, he led the NFL in both rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, beginning a five-year stretch of dominance.  A ruptured Achilles tendon ruined Foster’s season in 2015, and he signed with Miami yesterday; at 29, it’s fair to wonder if Foster has much left in the tank.  A one-year, $1.5M contract is a sign that the NFL isn’t too optimistic about his future.  But that doesn’t make his past any less incredible.

From 2010 to 2014, Foster played in 70 games. But in two of those games in 2013, injuries limited him to just 9 combined snaps. And in the season finale in 2014, a hamstring injury caused him to exit after 10 snaps. In those three games, Foster had a total of 9 carries for 34 yards. [click to continue…]

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Charles Tillman announced his retirement on Monday, marking the end of a remarkable career. From a game-saving interception (video here) during his rookie season to stop a Daunte Culpepper game-winning touchdown pass to Randy Moss, Tillman was known for delivering big plays in key moments for the Bears. But he will always be remembered for doing something cornerbacks don’t really do: or, given the rate at which he did it, maybe he should be remembering for intercepting passes at an abnormally high rate for a player who forced so many fumbles.

From 2003 to 2015, there were 49 players who recorded 20+ interceptions. During those same years, 52 players recorded at least 15 forced fumbles. Tillman had 38 interceptions and 44 forced fumbles.  To put that remarkable figure in context, take a look at the graph below, which shows all 95 players with either 20+ interceptions or 15+ forced fumbles from ’03 to ’15: [click to continue…]

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Happy Independence Day, folks. July 4th, 1776 was the day our forefathers declared independence in a remarkable document that’s worth your full read. We at Football Perspective wish you a very happy, and very safe, Fourth of July.

153 years after America declared its independence, Al Davis was born. On January 30th, 1960, the AFL awarded Oakland the last franchise for the new league. Then, in early April, the team was named:

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 9.27.30 AM [click to continue…]

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2017 Super Bowl Odds

With free agency and the NFL Draft behind us, it’s a good time to take stock of the NFL landscape. Over at ESPN, Bill Barnwell is recapping each division, starting today with the AFC East. I thought I’d post the latest Super Bowl odds, courtesy of Bovada, along with the odds from the end of season (February 8th) and after the first rush of free agency (March 14th).

All odds have a vig associated with them; for example, the Patriots, at 7/1, would have a 12.5% chance (1 divided by 7 + 1) to win the Super Bowl if there was no vig; but if you take the odds of all 32 teams, they sum to 124.8%, not 100%. As a result, every team’s implied odds are divided by 1.248 to get their vig-adjusted Super Bowl odds, shown in the last column. [click to continue…]

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In 2003, Larry Fitzgerald caught 16 touchdowns in Pittsburgh’s first 8 games, making him one of only three players to reach those marks since 2000. The second was Texas Tech’s Michael Crabtree, who had 17 as a freshman in ’07 through eight games. That was eclipsed — by three whole touchdowns — last year, when Baylor’s Corey Coleman caught 20 touchdowns through 8 games. At the time, Coleman had 58 receptions for 1,178 yards and 20 touchdowns. Unfortunately, his numbers tanked after that, thanks (i) to injuries to first starting quarterback Seth Russell and then backup Jarrett Stidham and (ii) the schedule getting significantly harder.

As good as Coleman’s numbers were, though, he didn’t even lead the country in receiving yards at that time. TCU’s Josh Doctson had 71 receptions for 1,250 yards and 14 touchdowns through eight games. In game 9, Doctson had six catches for 64 yards against Oklahoma State before suffering a wrist injury in the second quarter that effectively ended his season.

Now, neither player is being projected to go in the top half of the first round. That maybe isn’t too weird, given the inflated offensive numbers for Big 12 offenses. In a mock draft on November 2nd (which is right before the seasons went downhill for Coleman and Doctson), Matt Miller had Doctson going to Dallas at 12 while Coleman wasn’t even in Miller’s mock (I don’t know if it was because Coleman was a junior or if Miller had him going in another round). A November 16th mock by Dane Brugler had Coleman getting drafted at 29, with Doctson not being selected in the first round. A November 19th draft at the San Diego Union Tribune had the duo going in the back third (23/31) of the first round, although the same author had them going 15th and 23rd a week earlier. [click to continue…]

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The 2016 NFL Schedule

The color-coded schedule is back!

Download the Excel file here

That Excel file contains full page and wallet-sized copies of the schedule, in both color and black and white. On the wallet-sized copies, the line between weeks 8 and 9 has been enlarged — that is where you want to fold the paper in half to put in your wallet.

iPhone 6s page: http://www.footballperspective.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/nfl-2016-iphone-6s.png

Go to that page on your phone, then hit your power and home button at the same time to take a photo (or hit the button on the middle of the Safari browser and click ‘save image.’) The schedule has been formatted to fit an iPhone 6s screen, so you can always carry the schedule with you.

Go to that page on your phone, then hit your power and home button at the same time to take a photo (or hit the button on the middle of the Safari browser and click ‘save image.’) The schedule has been formatted to fit an iPhone screen, so you can always carry the schedule with you.

2016 nfl schedule_final

Commentary to follow, but for now, enjoy! And, of course, please report any bugs you see.

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Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan was hired a year ago and given the enviable position of a lot of cap space. He used that to sign Darrelle Revis to a blockbuster deal, but he also made a couple of smart trades, adding Brandon Marshall and Ryan Fitzpatrick for a 2015 5th and 2016 6th round pick, respectively (while also getting back a 7th round pick later traded for Zac Stacy). There were six veterans who switched teams between 2014 and 2015 that wound up producing double digit points of AV last year; half of those were acquired by the Jets.

The table below shows the 44 veterans who changed teams in 2015 and produced at least 7 points of AV: And, courtesy of Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap, the table has been revised to include each player’s 2015 cap hit and $/AV: [click to continue…]

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Yesterday, the NFL approved a one-year rule to kickoffs to change the spot of the snap after a touchback to the 25-yard line. Last year, 56% of all kickoffs were not returned, and the average starting field position following kickoffs was heavily impacted by the 2011 rule change that moved kickoffs from the 30 to the 35 yard line:

kickoff fp

This change goes in the other direction, albeit with competing interests. On one hand, this provides a significant incentive for kickoff returners to take a knee. Many kickoffs are boomed several yards into the end zone; at this point, the odds are pretty low that an average return five yards deep will make it out ahead of the 25-yard line. [click to continue…]

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The Jets Sign Matt Forte

The Jets lost Chris Ivory to Jacksonville, but may have improved the offense by going in the other direction and adding Matt Forte. Ivory is one of the most one-dimensional running backs in recent memory: he has the 4th most rushing yards of any runner since 1990 who has 10x as many rushing yards as receiving yards. Forte, meanwhile, is one of just 12 players in history in the 4,000/8,000 club, and there’s a good chance he joins Tiki Barber, Marshall Faulk, and Marcus Allen as the only members of the 10,000/5,000 club before he retires.

The move makes a lot of sense for a Jets team that had the most two-dimensional passing attack in the NFL last year. Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker were outstanding and historically great at scoring touchdowns, but they combined for 61% of all Jets receiving yards last year. That was the most in the NFL in 2015, and the 8th highest rate since 2002 among teams with at least 4,000 receiving yards. [click to continue…]

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This week at the Washington Post, an ironclad, inarguable ranking all 106 players on the Broncos and Panthers. The list is a combination of best players, most valuable players, and also most important ones. For example, two players who maybe aren’t quite as good as these rankings imply have a pretty critical role on Sunday:

11. Michael Oher, T, CAR
Oher, who started for the Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII, joins Harry Swayne (San Diego, Denver, Baltimore), Jon Runyan (Tennessee, Philadelphia), and Fred Miller (St. Louis, Chicago) as the only offensive tackles to start in Super Bowls for different teams.

12. Mike Remmers, T, CAR
Given the Broncos’ league-best pass rush, the pressure will be on Oher and Remmers to contain Denver’s terrifying edge-rushers. Remmers, an undrafted free agent in 2012 who has been with six franchises in four seasons, could be the key to the game — for both teams.

You can read the full article here.

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Courtesy of Bryan Frye, let’s look at some graphs of the four quarterbacks in the conference championship games. The stat we will be using today is Total Adjusted Yards per Play, which is like ANY/A on steroids.

First, let’s start with Cam Newton. His Total Adjusted Yards per Play is in blue; the average TAY/P allowed by his opponent each week is in black. As you can see, in 6 of 17 games, he was below-expectation, but he’s been above-expectation in five of his last six games. (Note that for each quarterback, the bye week is included, and the division round matchup is plotted below as Week 18.) [click to continue…]

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The Rams Return to Los Angeles: How Will They Do?

It’s now official: the Rams are heading back to Los Angeles, home of the team from 1946 to 1994. The Rams played in Cleveland during the team’s first decade of existence before heading the league’s westward expansion after World Warr II. The Rams played in Memorial Coliseum from ’46 to ’79, before moving to Anaheim Stadium from 1980 to 1994. It is still unclear where the team will play in the short term, although a return to the Coliseum seems likely. But beginning in 2019, the team will play in Inglewood, California.

A three-year period at an interim stadium is an interesting phenomenom to analyze, and will probably be worthwhile to examine in say, three years. In general, teams have only a minimal home field advantage during year one in a new home, so a three-year window at the Coliseum could hurt the Rams on-field product a little bit (and the same goes for the 2019 season at the new stadium). But for now, let’s look at the bigger move across the country. [click to continue…]

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Pre-Week 17 WP: Awards Banquet

This week at the Washington Post, I hand out my 2015 awards, including my thoughts on the Carson Palmer/Cam Newton debate.

Most Valuable Player: Tie (Cam NewtonCarson Palmer)

Choosing between Newton and Palmer is an exercise in pickin’ nits. The two have drastically different styles and playing in very different offenses, making it difficult to compare the two players. Arizona would be worse with Cam Newton, and Carolina would be worse with Carson Palmer, so both teams should be happy that they have the co-most valuable players of the 2015 season.

You can read the full article here.

As always, please leave your thoughts in the comments. One point to open up the discussion. Is declaring the MVP vote a tie akin to fence-sitting and worthy of criticism? Or does it make sense to acknowledge that football is a far too complicated game to try to derive meaningful bits of information out of minute differences?

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As I wrote on Sunday, the college football playoff looks pretty clear, absent any big upsets on Saturday.

One spot will go to Oklahoma, the 11-1 champions of the Big 12.  The Sooners have been an early favorite of the SRS: OU ranked 2nd in the first edition, produced after five weeks, and regained that #2 spot three weeks later, despite the loss to Texas in the interim.  The Sooners finished the regular season as the #1 team in the SRS.

Alabama, at 11-1, is the 2nd-ranked team in the SRS.  The Crimson Tide represent the establishment in college football, and that title is well-earned.  Alabama is great every year, and this season is no different.   A win against Florida in the SEC Championship Game seems predestined: the SRS makes ‘Bama a 13-point favorite, while the Vegas line is up to 17.5 points (likely because Florida is playing worse now than it was in the beginning of the year, with an eligible Will Grier). [click to continue…]

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This week at the Washington Post, a look at the most indispensable non-quarterbacks in the NFL.

 

Todd Gurley, St. Louis Rams

Since entering the starting lineup in week four, the Rams rookie has averaged 22 carries a game for 131 yards, producing an exceptional 5.85 yards per carry average. No team has thrown fewer passes in the league this year or gained fewer passing yards than St. Louis. Incredibly, Nick Foles has failed to hit the 200-passing yards mark in any of his last seven games, despite throwing at least 20 passes in each contest; that makes him the first quarterback to meet those marks since Matt Hasselbeck in 2008. Gurley is the Rams offense, making him the most indispensable running back in football.

 

You can read the full article here.

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WP: Pre-Week 9 – Midseason Awards

This week at the Washington Post, a look at some unusual midseason awards.

Unsung Rookie of the Year: Offense – Stefon Diggs, Minnesota Vikings

With the types of seasons being had by a pair of SEC stars in Georgia’s Todd Gurley and Alabama’s Amari Cooper, there is little hope for Diggs — a fifth round pick out of Maryland — to bring home any hardware at the end of the season. But after being inactive during the first three games of the season, the Vikings wide receiver has been the model of consistency since then, catching six or seven passes each week for at least 87 yards. Over the last five weeks, Diggs ranks fifth among all players in receiving yards despite the Vikings bye week taking place during that stretch.

You can read the full article here.

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Here are the SRS ratings as of this morning — that is, through seven weeks and the Patriots/Dolphins game last night. The formula here was pretty simple: I took the difference between each team’s points scored and points allowed in each game, and added 3 points for home field, and that was it. The Patriots have a HFA-adjusted average margin of victory this season of 16.1, against a schedule that (after iterating) has been 0.5 points below average. That gives New England an SRS of 15.7.

RkTmGMOVSOSSRS
1NWE716.1-0.515.7
2ARI713.3-2.410.9
3CIN610.0-0.59.5
4NYJ67.31.38.6
5GNB69.5-2.47.1
6PIT74.32.36.6
7PHI73.71.85.5
8CAR68.7-3.45.3
9DEN67.2-2.64.5
10ATL76.6-2.34.3
11SEA74.10.14.2
12STL6-1.83.71.9
13NYG71.0-0.50.5
14BAL7-2.62.60.0
15BUF7-0.40.3-0.1
16MIN63.7-4.0-0.3
17KAN7-2.71.5-1.2
18NOR7-3.01.3-1.7
19OAK6-1.5-0.3-1.8
20DAL6-6.24.1-2.1
21WAS7-3.31.2-2.1
22MIA7-1.9-0.5-2.3
23SDG7-5.11.2-3.9
24CLE7-4.60.3-4.3
25IND7-4.3-0.4-4.7
26TEN6-4.3-2.9-7.3
27SFO7-11.44.1-7.3
28CHI6-9.81.8-8.0
29DET7-9.11.0-8.1
30HOU7-6.0-2.6-8.6
31JAX7-8.6-0.8-9.3
32TAM6-6.5-4.0-10.5

[click to continue…]

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The Patriots are 6-0, while all other AFC East team has at least two losses. Given that New England is the best team in the division and already has a large lead, the odds of the Jets, Bills, or Dolphins winning the division are really, really low. But considering the rest of the AFC — the South has zero good teams, the West has one, and the North has two if Roethlisberger is healthy — it’s pretty likely that the AFC East will send a second team to the playoffs. Right now, 538 has the Jets playoff probability at 59%, Buffalo at 16%, and Miami at 15%. [click to continue…]

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This week at the Washington Post, a look at how the Jets built an offense the “wrong” way.

Fitzpatrick is the team’s leading passer, Ivory the leading rusher, and Decker and Marshall the two leading receivers.

It’s very rare for a team’s top passer, top running back, and top two weapons in the passing game to all come from other teams. In fact, the 2015 Jets will become just the second team in the last 10 years to meet those criteria, and just the 12th since 1970. The question now is how well this core can sustain this high level of play. As you can see from the table below, which illustrates the first 11 teams that featured out-of-house core fours, success isn’t that common for teams of this type.

You can read the full article here.

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Punting, Kicking Games Power Luck-less Colts

The Indianapolis Colts won a game without Andrew Luck in week four, but that doesn’t mean the defense is any good or that the offense can survive without Luck.  In fact, this was the rare game where the Colts got outplayed on both sides of the ball and still win.  It sure helps to have two All-Pro specialists on the team.

Take a look at the boxscore from the game.  The Colts won by 3 points, and PFR provides an expected points summary of many aspects of the game play.  By definition, the sum of those values have to equal +3 for the Colts, and -3 for the Jaguars.  On offense, the Colts were 3.57 points below average, and therefore, the Jaguars were 3.57 points above average on defense.  Indianapolis had a similar performance on defense, where it was 3.23 points below average, and Jacksonville was 3.23 points above average. [click to continue…]

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Last year, Atlanta won its fourth game of the year in week eleven.

Last year, Carolina won its fourth game of the year in week fourteen.

This year, both the Falcons and Panthers have started the season 4-0. But both teams have feasted on some pretty easy schedules. Which gets us to the real question: how good are these teams, really?

For Carolina, it’s easy to buy into the idea that this 4-0 streak is mostly a mirage. The Panthers have beaten Jacksonville, Houston, New Orleans, and Tampa Bay. Those four teams are 4-12 this year, after the Saints defeated the Cowboys in overtime on Sunday Night Football. And two of those wins came against each other! Carolina may very well have gone 4-0 against four teams that won’t win 20 games combined this year. [click to continue…]

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For most NFL fans, the book on Andy Dalton has been written in permanent ink.  But this week at the Washington Post, I write why 2015 may in fact be his breakout season.

So, through three weeks, it’s easy to dismiss the great numbers that Dalton has produced as the product of a small sample size. On 94 passing drop backs, he’s thrown for 866 yards and 8 touchdowns with just two sacks and one interception. That translates to a 10.32 Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt average, the best in football through three weeks. But is there any reason that Dalton, who has had hot streaks before, can maintain this level of play?

You can read the full article here.

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What am I looking to watch today? Some quick thoughts on each game.

New Orleans Saints @ Carolina Panthers

Luke McCown last threw a touchdown pass on December 30, 2007.  Cam Newton was a freshman at Florida, and this was three weeks after Tim Tebow just won the Heisman Trophy.  It was a long time ago, although we will stretch back a few weeks earlier later in this preview.

The Panthers are on track to become one of the worst 3-0 teams in a long time. A win over Jacksonville is the best trophy on the wall, matched up against wins vs. a Ryan Mallet-led Texans team and whatever you want to call this version of the Saints. The Panthers are banking wins, though, and could get to 4-0 next week courtesy of a visit to Tampa Bay.

Carolina 20, New Orleans 6

Oakland Raiders @ Cleveland Browns

The last time the McCown brothers both started on the same day? December 9, 2007. But let’s not focus on Josh McCown or even Johnny Manziel: Derek Carr appeared to have his breakout game last week. Can he keep that up against a Cleveland defense that was very strong against the pass in 2014, but has been inconsistent so far this year? [click to continue…]

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Instant Analysis: Jets Top Browns In Week 1

fitzmagicFor the fourth straight year, the Jets have opened at home. Each time, the Jets have been blessed with the good fortune of getting to face one of the weaker teams in the league. And each time, the Jets have emerged victorious. Given that I spent half of my Sunday at the game, my week 1 analysis is going to be limited to the wonder that was Jets/Browns.

The optimistic view is that over 60 minutes, the Jets were pretty clearly the better team. New York averaged 4.3 rushing yards per play with 9 first downs, while holding the Browns to 3.7 rushing yards and just 5 rushing first downs. And, frankly, that’s pretty misleading, because Cleveland’s top two rushers were the team’s quarterbacks, who gained 58 yards on 8 carries, carries which came with a large cost: three fumbles. Cleveland running backs had 20 carries for just 46 yards. [click to continue…]

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TTaylorTyrod Taylor was a sixth round pick of the Baltimore Ravens in 2011. Since then, he’s thrown just 35 passes over four years, before signing with the Bills as a free agent in the 2015 offseason. Now, after beating out Matt Cassel and EJ Manuel in training camp, Taylor will be the Buffalo Bills opening day starter in 2015.

How rare is this? Taylor was in the NFL for at least four seasons and never started a game in his NFL career; now he’s his team’s opening day starter. Since 1970, there are just four other quarterbacks who meet that profile. In reverse order… [click to continue…]

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38 Questions: A Football Perspective Contest

Below you will find 38 pairs of numbers. In each case, you tell me which number will be bigger. One point for each correct answer. Most points wins.

Ties — and I expect there to be a nontrivial number of them — go to the side that had fewer votes. For example, here is a pair:

Number of wins by the Lions
Number of wins by the Ravens

Let’s say 41 people take the Lions and 54 take the Ravens. If the Lions and Ravens end up with the same number of wins, then each Lions-backer will get a point and each Ravens-backer will not.

GRAND PRIZE: the main prizes will be (1) honor and (2) glory. There will also be some sort of trinket to be named later. By the time this thing is over, more than five months will have passed, so that gives me some time to scrape something together. But you probably shouldn’t enter unless honor and glory are sufficient.

MORE RULES:

1. Everyone is limited to one entry per person. This will be enforced by the honor system. If caught breaking this rule, you, your children, and your children’s children will be banned from all future FP contests.

2. I won’t enter the contest myself, which will allow me to arbitrate any dispute impartially. Any ambiguities in the rules will be clarified by me in whatever way causes me the least amount of hassle.

3. While there are quite a few items that refer in some way to the NFL postseason, unless specifically stated, all the items below refer to regular season totals only. For example, here’s a pair:

Margin of the Titans biggest win.
Number of Passing TDs thrown by Marcus Mariota.

This one will be decided based on the Titans regular season and Mariota’s regular season numbers. I’d hate for there to be confusion when Tennessee wins a playoff game by 28.

4. If you try to get cute and complain that the Titans one-point win over the Colts was actually their “biggest win” even though it wasn’t their win with the biggest point margin, see rule #2. Ignoring your comment is generally my hassle-minimization strategy of choice.

5. You may enter until 1:00 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday, September 13th, 2015. However, you can earn a bonus of two (2) points if you enter before kickoff of Thursday’s game.

6. In the event that the contest ends in a tie, the winner will be the person whose entry was submitted first.

HOW TO ENTER: Cut-and-paste the list of questions below into your editor of choice, delete the choices you don’t like (thereby leaving the ones you do like), and then cut-and-paste your 38 answers into the comments of this thread. Do not worry about whether the players are linked to their PFR page or not. Please do not edit the text in any way other than deleting half of it. If you want to leave non-entry comments, you are free to do so either at the very end of your entry or in a subsequent comment, but please do not put commentary in the body of your entry. [click to continue…]

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Consecutive Week 1 Starting Quarterbacks

There are 12 starting quarterbacks in week 1 that were not week 1 starters last year. We can group them into a few buckets:

  • The Rookies: Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota will be the week 1 starters for the two teams that went 2-14 last year.
  • The Returning Starters: Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewaters, rookies last year, were not week 1 starters but the main quarterbacks for Jacksonville and Minnesota last year.  Cam Newton missed week 1 due to injury, but is obviously returning as Carolina’s franchise quarterback.  And in the continuing tire fire that is Washington football (both in general and as it specifically relates to RG3), Kirk Cousins will be the new starter in Washington over RG3.
  • The New Starters: Buffalo will have a new starter, with Tyrod Taylor beating out both Matt Cassel and EJ Manuel. Philadelphia and St. Louis traded quarterbacks, so Sam Bradford and Nick Foles will be new faces. In addition, the Browns (Josh McCown), Houston (Brian Hoyer), and the Jets (Ryan Fitzpatrick) added veteran quarterbacks in the offseason.

[click to continue…]

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Cam disingenuously listening to his head coach

Cam disingenuously listening to his head coach

Four years ago, I noted with some annoyance that the Carolina Panthers signed Olindo Mare to a 4-year, $12M deal, while at the same time signing Cam Newton to a 4-year, $22M contract. I was not a fan of the way rookies were treated under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, and the Mare/Newton situation was a perfect example of the problem. With the new rookie wage scale, the NFL had taken money that was going to go into Newton’s pocket and placed it into the wallets of players like Mare.

Much of the outrage over what rookies made under the old Collective Bargaining Agreement was due to the fact that “unproven” players were making so much money. Even look at the comments to my old article: there are several who expressed the idea that proven players should get rewarded at the expense of unproven players, and Newton would benefit from that scenario once he became a proven player.

Well, that’s sort of true. I assume that most everyone would agree that Newton is now a “proven player” or else that is a term without any meaning. This week, Newton signed a five-year contract extension worth an additional $103.8 million. According to Over The Cap, Newton received a $22.5 million signing bonus and $7.5 million roster bonus upon signing the contract, and you can read Jason’s full article on Newton’s new contract here.

The contract extension Newton signed is pretty close to a “market value” contract for Newton, although I do think he’d make more on the open market than what he just received.  Newton’s leverage was slightly limited by the fact that Carolina had him under contract for $14.66M in 2015, and could use the franchise tag on him in ’16 (which would probably cost Carolina around $20M).

But the real issue is the lack of any “catch up” payment.  Newton lost real dollars on his rookie contract due to the new structure, and he’s never going to get to make those up. The rookie wage scale has always been B.S., and I’ve said so much from the moment it was instituted.  But the new system was, by some, argued as an improvement because only the “proven players” would be rewarded. Sure, a rookie might make less now, but he’d get to make more in the future. After all, if teams weren’t forced to pay so much to rookies, there would be more money to go around for the “proven” veterans, right?

But that logic doesn’t work once we look at Newton, who has been the Panthers most valuable player over the last four years, and will probably be the team’s most valuable player over the next six, too.  As a rookie, Newton was grossly underpaid, with a salary cap value of $4M while the salary cap was $120M.  As a result, Carolina was able to lock up Newton for just 3.3% of the cap, which enabled the team to overpay players like Mare.

In 2012, Newton’s cap hit only rose to $5M, or 4.2% of the cap.  In 2013, his cap hit became $6M, or 4.9% of the $123M cap.  And then last season, Newton’s contract reached $7M, which was 5.3% of the $133M cap. It goes without saying that the Panthers received quite a deal over the last four years.  On average, Carolina devoted 4.4% of its cap from ’11 to ’14 to Newton.  This season, he will cost the Panthers $13M salary cap dollars, or 9.1% of the cap.

Let’s assume that the salary cap will increase by $7.5M per year over each of the next five years. And let’s assume, naively, that Newton will play out his entire contract.1  In that case, he will take up about 12-13% of the Panthers salary cap from ’16 to ’20.  But that still means that over his first ten seasons in the NFL, Newton will, on average, only take up about 9% of his team’s salary cap.

In the table below, I’ve shown Newton’s salary cap hit, the NFL salary cap, Newton’s percentage of the cap in that season, and Newton’s career average (in terms of percentage of cap hit) through that season. In each case, I’ve assumed a $7.5M yearly cap increase beginning in 2016. Here’s how to read the ’16 line: That year, Newton will have a cap hit of $19.5M, while the salary cap will be $150.8M. That means Newton will take up 12.9% of the Panthers cap, but will have only taken up, on average from 2011 to 2016, 6.6% of the Panthers cap dollars over the course of his career to date. As you can see from the last entry in the table, Newton — if he reaches the end of his contract — will only take up about 9% of the Panthers salary cap over the first decade of his career.

YearNewton CapNFL CapSingle Yr %Career Avg %
2011$4,004,636 $120,375,0003.3%3.3%
2012$5,005,795 $120,600,0004.2%3.7%
2013$6,006,954 $123,000,0004.9%4.1%
2014$7,008,113 $133,000,0005.3%4.4%
2015$13,000,000 $143,280,0009.1%5.3%
2016$19,500,000 $150,780,00012.9%6.6%
2017$20,166,000 $158,280,00012.7%7.5%
2018$21,500,000 $165,780,00013.0%8.2%
2019$23,200,000 $173,280,00013.4%8.7%
2020$21,100,000 $180,780,00011.7%9.0%

The $7.5M increase is just an estimate, but it works well enough for our purposes. If the salary cap continues to increase by about $10M per year, then that percentage will drop, but only to 8.8%. If instead the cap increases by an average of just $5M/year, Newton’s percentage will only rise to 9.3%. In other words, the Panthers will be able to lock up the first overall pick for a decade and pay him an average of just about 9% of the team’s salary cap.

Is that right? Well, that’s not the correct question to ask.  The correct question, I think, is “is that market?” And the answer there seems pretty clearly “no” to me.   If the number one pick is a quarterback who turns out to be a success and even he is only getting 9% of his team’s cap space over the first ten years of his career, that seems very out of whack with actual market value.

Perhaps nobody cares or will care, because why should people care whether Newton makes $140 million or $180 million? But I do think it’s worth recognizing that the NFL gas screwed over rookies with the new CBA, and part of the narrative was that it came with the promise that if those players weren’t busts, they could make up that money in their second contract.  Looking at Newton now, that doesn’t seem to be the case.  If a top draft pick is merely okay (but not a bust), a team will likely avoid having to pay serious dollars to that player, as it could always just replace him with a rookie at a fraction of the cost.  That’s the obvious downside to the rookie wage scale for veterans: cheaper replacement labor is now available. But there’s another downside to the rookie wage scale for veterans: even if that player turns out to be a success, he’ll only receive market value for about half of his first decade with the team, and he’ll always be chasing the dollars he lost.

Of course, everything above applies even more strongly to Russell Wilson. That will be another contract worth watching, but don’t expect the Seahawks to give Wilson a bump just because the team got to ride his low-salary contract for years.

  1. In reality, he will be cut if he under-performs and see less money, or likely restructure the deal with an extension towards years four or five if he is successful. []
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Yesterday, the NFL announced the extra point will be moved to the 15-yard line (although two-point conversion attempts will stay at the 2-yard line). What will this mean?

Probably not too much. You can expect the extra point conversion rate to go from a hair shy of 100% to say, 95%. On field goal attempts from 31 to 33 yards (assuming the average XP will be a 32-yarder), kickers were successful on 96% of attempts last year, 96% in 2013, and 92% in 2012. This rule change would have made a much bigger impact … well, just about at any other time in NFL history. The graph below shows field goal success rates from 31 to 33 yards since 1960: [click to continue…]

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As you know by now, Tom Brady has been suspended for the first four games of the season. This seems to have sparked outrage among everybody because that is what we do in 2015. But let’s try to take a logical approach to things.

Do you think the Patriots intentionally deflated footballs?

The answer to this one seems to be almost certainly yes. The numbers bear that out, as does the very lengthy Wells Report. There has been some confusion about the Wells Report findings, so let’s try to clear that up now.

What exactly did the NFL ask Wells and his team to do? To “conduct an investigation… pursuant to the Policy on Integrity of the Game & Enforcement of Competitive Rules.” The very first footnote in the Wells report reads

Under the Policy, the “standard of proof required to find that a violation of the competitive rules has occurred” is a “Preponderance of the Evidence,” meaning that “as a whole, the fact sought to be proved is more probable than not.”

So the NFL asked Wells to determine if it was more probable than not that the Patriots violated the rules. Here was Wells’ conclusion:

For the reasons described in this Report, and after a comprehensive investigation, we have concluded that, in connection with the AFC Championship Game, it is more probable than not that New England Patriots personnel participated in violations of the Playing Rules and were involved in a deliberate effort to circumvent the rules.

Wells’ report did not say he thought there was a 51% chance the Patriots violated the rules. In reading the report, it seems pretty clear that Wells thought it very likely that the Patriots violated the rules. But that wasn’t the question he was asked. He was asked if he thought it was more probable than not that the Patriots deliberately circumvented the rules, and to that he answered in the affirmative. At this point, I don’t see any rational argument to be made to the contrary, given the duration and depth of Wells’ investigation. Sure, it’s theoretically possible that the Patriots did not intentionally cheat, but that seems to be very unlikely. [click to continue…]

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