Salary Cap

NFC Notes: Poles, Eagles, Garoppolo

It has been a slow offseason for the Bears with plenty of losses and misses, but new general manager Ryan Poles isn’t panicking. According to Courtney Cronin of ESPN, Poles is preaching patience to the franchise. Patience is something of which Chicago-fans have likely run plum out, but, with the current state of the Bears’ roster, it’s a wise path to take.

We’ve seen other rebuilding franchises take wild stabs through trades and free agency, making expensive, headline-grabbing moves that leave them little room to work with when addressing other roster holes. The Rams won a Super Bowl making flashy moves, but did so when those moves were the difference between winning or losing a Super Bowl. Teams like the Bears and Jaguars currently have too many holes on their roster for one offseason-worth of moves to elevate them to a Super Bowl-level.

Poles won’t let moving star pass-rusher Khalil Mack or losing defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi to a failed physical or watching the Bills match the offer sheet on guard Ryan Bates force him into desperately grasping at whatever other players are available. He’ll continue to stick to his plan and his assessments. He’ll wait for an appropriate time, like the Draft or the post-June 1 period, to utilize the team’s accumulated cap space. Poles may just have the patience and demeanor to lead Chicago out of the NFC North basement.

Here are a few other notes from around the NFC, starting in the city of brotherly love:

  • The Athletic’s Sheil Kapadia enlisted the help of salary cap and contract expert Jason Fitzgerald, who operates OverTheCap.com, to help her analyze confusing offseason moves from each franchise. When they got to the Eagles, Fitzgerald had some interesting things to say. Fitzgerald asserted that Philadelphia is doing something no other NFL team is. The Eagles have been employing void years in contracts to push salary cap charges to future years. Essentially, if a player holds a $10MM cap charge, the team will eventually pay the $10MM cap charge. By using the void years, the team can take part of that $10MM and move it to later years. Say they take $5MM of that cap hit and move it to the following year. They’ll still be applying that $5MM to their cap space, but, after the league raises the salary cap (as they do every year), that $5MM will represent a smaller percentage of the total cap space in the following year than it would in the current year. The Eagles’ manipulation of the constantly inflating salary cap is nothing short of genius and soon other teams will likely catch on and follow their lead.
  • Earlier this month, Mike Sando of The Athletic went over some of the moves each franchise made this offseason. His take on the 49ers was centered on their handling of the future of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Garoppolo’s shoulder rehabilitation, combined with a 2022 base salary of $24.6MM, made it hard for San Francisco to move the former starting quarterback. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Garoppolo and the 49ers mutually agreed to have him rehabilitate his shoulder off-site, away from the team, so, at this point, second-year quarterback Trey Lance has effectively taken over as the team’s first-string passer. Sando asserts that the best solution would be a compromise wherein Garoppolo would stay for the time-being on a guaranteed deal with some “dummy years” added onto it, either until San Francisco knows for a fact that they can move forward with Lance or until they know they can get a better value out of moving Garoppolo than they’re getting right now. This would provide the opportunity for the 49ers to reinsert Garoppolo back into the starting job they know he can handle if it turns out that Lance can’t.

Patriots Rework Deatrich Wise’s Deal

The Patriots have converted $2.85MM of defensive lineman Deatrich Wise’s base salary into a signing bonus (Twitter link via Field Yates of ESPN.com). The adjustment will carve out $1.9MM in additional salary cap room for the Patriots. 

[RELATED: Patriots Trade For D. Parker]

The move will allow the Pats to absorb the salary of wide receiver DeVante Parker, who came from the Dolphins — along with a 2022 fifth-round pick — in exchange for a 2023 third-round choice. Parker’s deal calls for a $5.65MM base salary in 2022 and $5.7MM in 2013, though there’s zero guarantees remaining on his deal. For the Pats, it’s a thrifty WR upgrade after missing out on more ambitious targets like Odell Beckham Jr.

Wise Jr., 28, has blossomed into a quality edge player who can also moonlight at defensive tackle. Last year, the 2017 fourth-round pick was rewarded with a four-year, $22MM deal. This revision probably won’t impact his bottom line much, but it will give the Patriots the flexibility they need in 2022.

Before the move, the Patriots were near the bottom of the league in available cap space. They’re still in the cap cellar, but they’ll likely restructure other veterans in the coming weeks to clear up the books.

Wise finished 41 tackles, three sacks, and one forced fumble last year while starting in nine of his 16 games played.

Dolphins, CB Byron Jones Rework Contract

The Dolphins are working to keep one the league’s most respected cornerback tandems together in Miami while retaining a bit of spending ability under the salary cap. According to Field Yates of ESPN, cornerback Byron Jones agreed to a reworked contract today to help create some cap space. 

The Dolphins converted $13.26MM of the base salary due to Jones in 2022 into a signing bonus. Along with clearing $750,000 of cap space by reworking the contract of safety Clayton Fejedelem, Miami was able to create $11.35MM of cap space. With the release of offensive lineman Jesse Davis and wide receiver Allen Hurns yesterday, the Dolphins have cleared $17.55MM of cap space in the course of two days.

The new available spending money makes the recent additions of tackle Terron Armstead and wide receiver Tyreek Hill (who was extended after his trade from Kansas City) a bit easier to stomach. Jones was able to joke about helping the team acquire such talent, tweeting out clown-faced emojis meant, in his words, to depict “(him) restructuring (his) contract just to have Tyreek Hill burn (him) everyday in practice.”

The Dolphins’ focus will now likely shift to the other side of the secondary with cornerback Xavien Howard. Howard is reportedly seeking an increase in salary and a reworked deal could kill two birds with one stone: getting Howard a new and improved deal while creating a bit more cap space for Miami.

NFL Announces 2019 Draftees’ Fifth-Year Option Values

The NFL’s second offseason under its new fifth-year option format now includes dollar figures. Here is how the 2019 first-round picks’ 2023 base salaries on the fifth-year option look, should teams decide to exercise those respective options by May 2.

After first-rounders’ options were guaranteed for injury only from 2011-20, the 2020 CBA protected future draft classes by fully guaranteeing the options. It implemented a tiered system based on Pro Bowl invites and participation level. Players chosen in the 2019 first round who have been to two Pro Bowls will see their options come in at this year’s respective franchise tag prices.

  • Quarterback: $29.703MM
  • Running back: $9.57MM
  • Wide receiver: $18.419MM
  • Tight end: $10.931MM
  • Offensive linemen: $16.662MM
  • Defensive end: $17.859MM
  • Defensive tackle: $17.396MM
  • Linebacker: $18.702MM
  • Cornerback: $17.287MM
  • Safety: $12.911MM
  • Kicker/punter: $5.229MM

Players chosen in the 2019 first round who have been to one Pro Bowl will see their options come in at this year’s respective transition tag prices.

  • Quarterback: $27.186MM
  • Running back: $8.034MM
  • Wide receiver: $16.782MM
  • Tight end: $9.392MM
  • Offensive linemen: $15.348MM
  • Defensive end: $16.012MM
  • Defensive tackle: $14.716MM
  • Linebacker: $15.783MM
  • Cornerback: $15.167MM
  • Safety: $10.817MM
  • Kicker/punter: $4.701MM

Players who have participated on 50% of their team’s offensive or defensive plays over the course of their first three seasons represent Tier 3 of this new-age setup. Here are those prices:

  • Quarterback: $22.384MM
  • Running back: $5.73MM
  • Wide receiver: $13.413MM
  • Tight end: $6.85MM
  • Offensive linemen: $13.202MM
  • Defensive end: $12.407MM
  • Defensive tackle: $10.753MM
  • Linebacker: $11.706MM
  • Cornerback: $11.983MM
  • Safety: $7.901MM
  • Kicker/punter: $3.856MM

Lastly, the players to have not met that participation rate reside on the lowest rung of this option hierarchy.

  • Quarterback: $19.646MM
  • Running back: $5.196MM
  • Wide receiver: $12.425MM
  • Tight end: $6.191MM
  • Offensive linemen: $12.604MM
  • Defensive end: $11.5MM
  • Defensive tackle: $9.594MM
  • Linebacker: $10.892MM
  • Cornerback: $11.215MM
  • Safety: $7.268MM
  • Kicker/punter: $3.607MM

2022 Franchise, Transition Tag Salaries

With the NFL setting the 2022 salary cap at $208.2MM, teams now know the precise amounts for franchise and transition tags. Some teams have begun doling out tags; the deadline looms at 3pm Tuesday.

Here are the franchise tag figures for each position:

  • Quarterback: $29.703MM
  • Running back: $9.57MM
  • Wide receiver: $18.419MM
  • Tight end: $10.931MM
  • Offensive linemen: $16.662MM
  • Defensive end: $17.859MM
  • Defensive tackle: $17.396MM
  • Linebacker: $18.702MM
  • Cornerback: $17.287MM
  • Safety: $12.911MM
  • Kicker/punter: $5.229MM

These numbers represent increases from 2021, when the salary cap declined for just the second time in history. Quarterbacks, wideouts, tight ends, linebackers and defensive tackles’ numbers increased by at least $3MM this year.

This does not set the franchise tag amounts for every player. If a team tags a player for the second straight year, he is entitled to 120% of last year’s tag figure. Players who have previously signed a veteran contract may also have a different tag price. The amount of the one-year offer can be 120% of the player’s previous salary, if that amount is greater than the league-assigned value. The Cardinals are unlikely to use their tag on outside linebacker Chandler Jones; his $20.2MM 2021 cap number would push that tag price to nearly $25MM.

Teams also have the option of deploying the lesser-used transition tag. Here are where those figures will reside in 2022:

  • Quarterback: $27.186MM
  • Running back: $8.034MM
  • Wide receiver: $16.782MM
  • Tight end: $9.392MM
  • Offensive linemen: $15.348MM
  • Defensive end: $16.012MM
  • Defensive tackle: $14.716MM
  • Linebacker: $15.783MM
  • Cornerback: $15.167MM
  • Safety: $10.817MM
  • Kicker/punter: $4.701MM

NFL Sets Salary Cap At $208.2MM

The long-rumored 2022 salary cap figure emerged Monday. The previously projected figure — $208.2MM — turned out to on-point. This will mark a record one-year jump for the cap, which came in at $182.5MM in 2021.

Last year’s number was a product of the COVID-19 pandemic heavily reducing attendance at some venues or eliminating fans from the equation entirely at others during the 2020 season. Fans returned to stadiums last season, and the league will begin to see the expected growth restored. The type of cap spikes that began kicking in years after the 2011 CBA went into effect figure to return. The impact of the most recent TV deals should be reflected in next year’s cap number, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets.

This is the first time the cap has come in north of $200MM. It promises to allow for a more normal free agency period compared to last year’s, which saw several higher-end talents accept one-year deals. Previously, the $12MM jump from 2005-06 ($85.5MM-$102MM) stood as the largest in cap history.

With the legal tampering period a week away, here is how the cap has grown (or declined) in recent years:

  • 2015: $143.28MM
  • 2016: $155.27MM
  • 2017: $167MM
  • 2018: $177.2MM
  • 2019: $188.2MM
  • 2020: 1982.2MM
  • 2021: $182.5MM

AFC East Rumors: Bills, Jets, Douglas, Jackson

On Friday, New York Governor Kathy Hochul made comments that all but guaranteed that an agreement for a new stadium for the Bills will be made soon, according to Mike Florio of NBC Sports.

Highmark Stadium (previously Rich Stadium, Ralph Wilson Stadium, and New Era Field) has been the home of the Bills since 1973. The Bills’ current lease on Highmark expires in 2023 and the franchise has been pushing with many government entities to build them a shiny, new stadium. The team has used the very real looming threat that there are plenty of other markets in the country that can support an NFL franchise.

Hochul commented on that threat saying, “That’s why we’re negotiating very intently, to make sure we have the right outcome for this community.” The new stadium will partially be funded by the public to the tune of about $850MM. The Governor claims that a deal will be done by April 1, in time for the annual budget.

Here are a few other rumors from around the AFC East, starting with a couple of notes that keep us in the Empire State:

  • The Jets are planning to use this offseason to add some weapons to the roster for quarterback Zach Wilson. They currently have Corey Davis and Elijah Moore sitting atop the depth chart. They would love to bring back Braxton Berrios as a fourth-receiver/gadget player and they haven’t yet given up on Denzel Mims. Still, New York will have ample opportunity to add a potential No. 1 receiver to the roster, according to SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano. The free agent market is home to many household names like Chris Godwin, Allen Robinson, Mike Williams, and, potentially, Amari Cooper. Players like Calvin Ridley and Cole Beasley have been rumored to be available via trade. The 2022 NFL Draft is also so rich in talented receivers that many believe some first round talent could fall to the second round where the Jets have two high picks, if they don’t choose to take a top prospect like Garrett Wilson or Drake London with the 10th overall pick.
  • That being said, Vacchiano also reports that, despite their vast spending ability, general manager Joe Douglas has been preaching the maintenance of financial flexibility. Though the Jets rank in the Top 5 in the NFL in salary cap space, Douglas rejected the notion that their $50-60MM in cap space will be dedicated to big spending in free agency. Douglas acknowledged free agency as just one of “a lot of different tools to improve your roster” and pointed to the Bengals as an example of responsible free agent spending. “I think Cincy did great in free agency last year,” he said. “They didn’t blow the doors off in terms of signing super high-priced guys. They brought in guys who fit exactly what they wanted to do.”
  • According to Mike Giardi of NFL Network, Patriots’ cornerback JC Jackson is likely headed for free agency with some lofty expectations. While Jackson still likes the Patriots, money is a big factor for the 26-year-old. Giardi claims that Jackson is strictly seeking compensation similar to Jalen Ramsey. New England won’t bring that money to the table and it sounds like they won’t be utilizing their franchise tag on Jackson, either. That information could lead to a tag and trade situation if other teams aren’t willing to shell out for Jackson in free agency.

QB Wentz’s Future With Colts In Question

Reports have been circulating concerning the future of quarterback Carson Wentz in Indianapolis. It started earlier today when ESPN’s Chris Mortensen went on “NFL Countdown” and stated that, “By March 18, (Wentz) will probably be traded or released.” 

The Colts traded for Wentz last offseason. Wentz played well for most of the year, throwing for 3,563 yards while tossing 27 touchdowns to only 7 interceptions. However, Wentz’s struggles down the stretch cost the Colts a playoff spot as they lost their final two games.

$15MM of Wentz’s salary for 2022 was guaranteed last March and the remaining $7MM of his 2022 salary will be guaranteed on March 18. March 18 is also the date that triggers a fully guaranteed roster bonus of $6.3MM for Wentz. So if the team were to cut Wentz before then, they would only be on the hook for the $15MM guaranteed last year and would save the $13.3MM due to him next month.

Joel Corry, who writes for CBS Sports on NFL contracts and salary caps, tweeted out some skepticism about releasing Wentz. He points out that the price the Colts paid to obtain Wentz last year (a 2021 third-round pick and a 2022 first-round pick) doesn’t point to a one-year rental.

The best case scenario is likely finding a trade candidate willing to take on Wentz’s full contract. They wouldn’t have much leverage in the negotiations, though, considering they’d be asking a team to take on a contract they don’t want to take on themselves. A more likely scenario would see the Colts include Wentz in conversations with a trade candidate wherein they can agree to a re-worked contract that works for both Wentz and the new team. That way, they can attempt to redeem some of the value they gave up to get Wentz last year while allowing them to move on from the sixth-year quarterback.

Whatever route they plan on taking, the Colts have a little over a month to navigate it. There are certainly some quarterback needy teams that would consider Wentz an upgrade and may have the cap space to take on a contract that would keep Wentz happy.

NFL’s 2022 Salary Cap To Reach $208.2MM

December 14th, 6:58pm: The NFL has officially informed clubs that the 2022 cap will indeed be projected at $208.2MM, per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero (via Twitter).

December 5th, 3:02pm: Back in May, the NFL and NFL Players Association met in May and agreed to a salary cap for the 2022 season of $208.2MM. There was some speculation that the numbers may change based on a few different factors, and while the official, final number has not been announced, Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero report that it’s expected to be revealed at the NFL’s annual labor seminar next week that the cap will indeed reach the all-time high mark of $208.2MM.

The league’s previous high was in 2020 at $198.2MM. The cap had shown consistent growth each year with an average annual increase from 2013-2020 of $10.74MM per year. This trend was disrupted by the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic which caused a loss of gate revenue and other income for the league. Because of those setbacks, the salary cap was reduced to $182.5MM for the 2021 season. The nearly $16MM cap reduction is not a complete reflection of the revenue lost by the NFL last year, since the NFL and NFLPA came to an agreement to spread out the anticipated losses over several years, as opposed to incurring it all at once.

The $10MM increase from the league’s previous high is about what the league expected the 2021 salary cap to rise to before the pandemic. This return to the expected increase doesn’t necessarily reflect a return to normalcy. It’s more of a sign of what may be to come as the losses from last year are already being offset by a potential increase in future revenue. The NFL is seeing, and will continue to see, an increase in revenue from the addition of a 17th game in the regular season, expanded playoffs, an influx of new gambling money, new TV deals, and many other new revenue streams.

It is even expected that the 2023 season will see another significant increase to the salary cap. The NFLPA is still recovering, paying back the league for what was essentially a low-interest loan that allowed players to continue making full salaries and bonuses last year, in addition to paying back players for benefits that were canceled in 2020, like performance-based pay, Pro Bowl pay, and tuition pay. But an increase is still to be expected when media “kickers” from the 2020 collective bargaining agreements are put into effect as money comes in from new TV deals. The “kickers” should increase the players’ share of revenue from 48% to as high as 48.8%.

The biggest takeaway from all of this should be that the moves and decisions made by both the league and the union show confidence that the league is done being affected financially by the global pandemic and that both sides are doing everything they can to protect the players from feeling that financial burden.

2021 Cap Space For All 32 NFL Teams

There are still plenty of quality free agents left on the board as we look ahead to training camp. Cornerback Steven Nelson, tackle Russell Okung, and longtime Legion of Boom leader Richard Sherman headline the list, along with accomplished edge rushers like Justin Houston, Melvin Ingram, and Olivier Vernon. That list will only grow larger, of course, as more teams shed veterans to redirect their funds elsewhere.

With that in mind, here’s a look at every NFL team’s cap situation, starting with the league-leading Jaguars:

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars — $32.7MM
  2. Denver Broncos — $28.9MM
  3. New York Jets — $28.5MM
  4. Cleveland Browns — $20.6MM
  5. Los Angeles Chargers — $19.9MM
  6. Detroit Lions — $17.9MM
  7. San Francisco 49ers — $17.8MM
  8. Cincinnati Bengals — $17.4MM
  9. Washington Football Team — $16.7MM
  10. Indianapolis Colts— $14.3MM
  11. Carolina Panthers— $14.3MM
  12. Minnesota Vikings — $13.5MM
  13. Pittsburgh Steelers — $13.1MM
  14. New England Patriots — $13.1MM
  15. New Orleans Saints — $11.4MM
  16. Arizona Cardinals — $11.3MM
  17. Buffalo Bills — $10.5MM
  18. Baltimore Ravens — $8.8MM
  19. Atlanta Falcons — $8.6MM
  20. Seattle Seahawks — $8.3MM
  21. Tennessee Titans — $8.3MM
  22. Kansas City Chiefs — $7.9MM
  23. Los Angeles Rams — $7MM
  24. Chicago Bears — $6MM
  25. Dallas Cowboys — $6MM
  26. Miami Dolphins — $5.3MM
  27. Green Bay Packers — $5MM
  28. Houston Texans — $5MM
  29. Las Vegas Raiders — $3.3MM
  30. Philadelphia Eagles — $3.2MM
  31. New York Giants — $2.4MM
  32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — $489K