In the aftermath of these contracts being handed out on the fist days of free agency, I’ll bring you back to a comment/question I asked way back last month.
At the time it was largely ignored. How could Vic Beasley be worth $12.81M? And then yesterday, Dante Fowler…a player whose original team had given up on him, who in 4 seasons has accumulated 16 sacks – secured a 1 year $14M contract. And all of a sudden – whoa, we may not be on the Beasley train in terms of him being productive in 2019, but if you’ve shown an ounce of productivity in your career…I guess this is the going rate.
And that got me thinking about the economic structure of today’s NFL.
Let’s look at the career earnings of both Vic Beasley and Grady Jarrett to date, including what they are scheduled to make. Both were drafted in the same year.
Beasley – signed a 4 year deal with an $8.8M signing bonus. His salary structure during the next 5 seasons has been/will be as follows:
So if you look at Beasley’s contract as a 5 year deal, it really comes out to a 5 year $27.305M contract. As a Top 10 NFL Draft Pick. Obviously the 5th year option was picked up by the Falcons, but that decision was completely the Falcons decision to make.
Now let’s turn to Grady Jarrett. Jarrett was a 5th round pick – Day 3. His signing bonus was a measly $248K. And his salary compensation was as follows:
2015: $435K (with a $97K incentive)
All told – a 4 year $3.826M contract – and to be fair, Jarrett earned a bump in 2018 pay via performance-based pay distributions…but the league minimum salary was still likely in the $700K range. However, Jarrett had played so well, that he earned a franchise tag designation @ $15.21M. Certainly it’s not expected that a 5th round pick plays so well that they get this consideration. But at the end of the day…for the most part Jarrett was powerless to stop it save for accepting a deal mostly on the Falcons terms. So if you apply the $15.21M to his career earnings, what you get is a 5 year $19.036M contract.
So Beasley…as a Top 10 pick: 5 years $27.305M. Jarrett as a 5th round pick…5 years $19.036M.
That’s not really that dramatically different.
Now the Falcons were fortunate in some sense that Jarrett had played SO well, that it made sense to place the franchise tag on him. But consider Kwon Alexander. Perhaps 15-20 minutes prior to being drafted, Alexander went to TB as the 124th pick.
Alexander showed some very encouraging flashes as well as a Day 3 pick. But a torn ACL stunted his career momentum a bit. To that extent, out of a possible 64 games, he played in 46. Would TB liked to have been able to keep him? I don’t know…new coaching regime, tough injury to come back from. But low and behold, he makes it to the open market and there is a 4 year $54M deal waiting for him with $27M in guarantees. Signing bonus numbers aren’t available for his deal yet…but with $27M in guarantees, the up front money is likely in that $17-20M range.
…and that’s where the rub comes in.
If you’re a first round pick…you’re under team control for 5 years. Outside the first round - 4 years. It may not seem like much, but it is 25% longer.
Let me ask you this question. Calvin Ridley was the 26th pick in the 2018 draft. If we lived in an NFL where a player after his first season could become a free agent, what type of contract would he yield? $12M/year? $15M? $20M?
We just saw a run of the mill slot WR in Jamison Crowder get $9.5M AAV. For the next 3 seasons, we have one of the great bargains in the NFL in Ridley because there is nothing he can do contract wise to consider other professional options than the Falcons. And here is the kicker. His 5th year option? Anybody care to venture a guess at what the 5th year option is worth for the 26th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
…it’s a ridiculous steal. It provides the Falcons all the leverage in re-negotiations because by the time 2022 comes around…the Jamison Crowder’s of the world are going to be earning A LOT more than $9.5M AAV. How do I know?
Let’s rewind back to 2015. The highest paid FA LB of that class was Pernell McPhee and he secured a 5 years $38.75M contract ($7.75M AAV). 5 off-seasons later, we see CJ Mosely get signed for $17M AAV. To be fair, Mosely is considered a top tier player vs McPhee who was simply seen as a good one. But the top of the market at that position FA wise has grown at a compound annual growth rate 21.7%. The 5th year option for the 26th pick in the NFL draft (and what I would assume to be all 1st rounders)? 14.5%.
ETA: So the 5th year option figures are different values with Top 10 picks v picks 11-32 with different values by position. So let's take the example of Star Lotuleili - he was the 14th pick in the 2013 draft. He played with CAR under the 5th year option in 2017 @ $6.757M. The 2018 5th year option for DT's was $7.154M. Which means that the increase was even lower than 14.5% - it was 5.87%!!!
The exact rules for 5th year options are cut & paste here...The salary for the Fifth-Year Option is also different for two types of players: those selected in the top-ten picks and all other first-round selections.
The option for top-ten picks is set at an amount equal to the salary of the Transition Tender (set in Article 10, Section 4 of the CBA) for the player’s fourth contract year. This salary is calculated, to put it simply, by finding the average of the top ten highest Prior Year Salaries for players at the same position. Positions are defined by where a player spent the most plays during the previous season (Sec. 7, (a), 31), unless you ask Jimmy Graham.
For players selected between 11th and 32nd in the draft, the same calculation is used to compute their salaries. The difference lies in what is averaged; rather than the top ten, the 3rd-25th highest Prior Year Salaries for the player’s position will be used.
What this tells me? Once upon a time…it was the Day 2 pick, the 2nd round particularly, that was the most cost-effective resource to build your franchise. Now that paradigm has shifted to the late first rounder.
Think about this…the 27th pick in the 2015 draft – Byron Jones? His 5th year option is worth $6.266M. Less than half of Vic Beasley’s $12.81M. Jones is a pretty solid player in his own right…he just watched a player drafted after him – Landon Collins sign a deal with a $14M AAV with I’m sure a large chunk of up front money. Kareem Jackson just got $11M AAV.
Jones could hold out and look to become a UFA in 2020. But he’ll do so for a pittance in 2019. Or he could compromise a bit and negotiate now – recognizing that he’ll sacrifice some total earnings for long-term security. And that’s if the Cowboys want him.
Here is another element to consider. If you were to ask the NFLPA…what one of the key issues you’ll be negotiating for in when the next CBA comes around for renegotiation? I have to think it will be quicker access to Free Agency so those 4 year with a team 5th year option contract structures for 1st rounders…? I have to think that’s one of their top priorities to rectify.
As such, the clock is ticking for NFL teams to catch on to this line of thinking. And obviously as a Falcon fan…I’m looking at the DVC value of our 2nd/3rd round picks (645) and seeing how that correlates to what the end of the 1st round looks like (29th pick = 640)…and from a purely economic POV, it really makes sense to consider a trade up.
When you factor player success rates into the equation…that adds another dimension. Now again – to be fair, the data in this article is dated, 4 years old to be precise. But in terms of being ‘in the neighborhood’…it should give some context to what expectations should be for incoming draft picks.
Use the above more of a guide and not gospel…but I think we all operate under the assumption that a 1st rounder is more likely to develop into an impact player than one drafted later. And obviously with the chart above including 1st rounders at the top of the draft…it skews the numbers. But remember, at the same time – while the success rate at the top of the first round is likely higher than the bottom – the contract structure at the bottom is VERY MUCH more advantageous. Not just in terms of 5th year option, but also in terms of bringing said player to the negotiating table.
In Calvin Ridley’s example – in 2022 his 5th year option is $10.9M. Come time for the 2022 season…good WR’s could be getting $20M/year AAV (If Sammy Watkins for $14M last year…$20M might be conservative). Is he going to want to play at a figure that is a pittance of his value? Or will he want to negotiate?
In Grady Jarrett’s case…because he was able to take advantage of the franchise tag number…he could be more staunch in his stance of ‘Aaron Donald money’. But a late first rounder…on a 5th year option…it’s the best deal going in the NFL.
I mean, if it’s proven to be of enough value to keep Vic Beasley…?
With all these insane contracts given out, trading any picks in 1-3 rounds looks stupid now. You need to draft talented replacements years before rookie contracts are up.
BB has it nailed down. You trade picks 5-7 rounds for older players that don’t hurt your comp and sign released players only.
Keep drafting well and more picks is more chances at drafting good players. Trading for guys like Levitre and Ty with 5-7ths is great.
Hold on to every 1-3rd round pick you can get and trade extra picks to get more 1st-3rds
Honestly the whole 2016 I thought he was a bust. He never controlled a game that mattered and the fact he completely disappeared in the Super Bowl was a concern to me. We all see how he has fared since then.
#14- IOL Cody Ford- 6'4 329 = Massive guy with athletic play. He can lock down RT, but I would play him at RG and let him dominate.
#45- CB Amani Oruwariye- 6'2 205 = Looks the part, has decent length our staff covets, high-ceiling guy who excels in zone and press- and is physical. If Tru doesn't rebound, then it also provides us another outside option.
#79- IDL Renell Wren- 6'5 318 = Has size, length, and good first step quickness. Is a bit raw, but shows flashes of high potential specifically pushing the pocket and in the run game.
#117- IOL Terrone Prescod- 6'5 331 = Why didn't this guy get an invite to the combine?! He's another massive guy. Read this from The Draft Network, "Has the power to move people against their will and put them on their back. Uproots defensive lineman out of their gap and creates space in the run game. Very intentional about body positioning and taking advantage of blocking angles. Blends technique and power well." He also has vast experience in the zone blocking scheme, seeing as that's primarily what they run at NC State. Plug and play LG. (Our interior is now solidified with Prescod, Mack, and Ford.. Free and Ryan are salivating at this point)
#137- LB Ben Burr-Kirven- 6'0 230 = He's a small but instinctive guy. A tackling machine, who plays whistle to whistle. Competitive Toughness is considered his "best trait" and he's productive. "He earned first-team Associated Press All-American and the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Award after leading the country with 176 total tackles (ranking third with 94 solos) and also posting 5.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, two interceptions, six pass breakups, three fumble recoveries and four forced fumbles." -He's LB depth in the middle and weakside and a ST guy from day 1.
#152- TE Foster Moraeu- 6'4 253 = "Really competes as a run blocker, fires off the ball and looks for blood." He's a feisty blocker who possesses some athleticism. (4.66 40, 36.5 vert, 121 broad) His comp on NFL.com is Logan Paulsen..
#172- OT Tyree St. Louis- 6'5 305 = Played primarily at RT through career in Miami. (moved to LT senior year) Has a stocky frame, long arms, and good foot quickness. "St. Louis is an intelligent blocker that diagnoses stunts and blitzes from the defense well and has the reactive athleticism to shut them down." He's not a finished product but would offer competition at RT.
#186- WR Hunter Renfrow- 5'10 184 = Reliable, sure-handed slot receiver who uses shifty route running and technique to create separation. He always seems to come in clutch in big situations. While a total opposite in stature compared to Sanu, offers a similar "security blanket" who can move the chains.
#230- EDGE Jonathan Ledbetter- 6'4 280 = Not overly explosive, but has good inside and outside versatility. Has a good frame, length, and motor. Feel like this is a guy Quinn could work with along the line.
Vic has been the main topic the last few weeks... and of course after the news that we intend to keep him on the $12.8mil 5th year option this board has gone into meltdown mode.
Given the Cap situation, could this just be a smokescreen from the front office? This time of year teams play their cards very close to their chests... Could we be waiting to see how the FA market sets itself before making a move and deciding upon his future?
The likelihood is I am miles off the mark... but even on a 5th year option Vic still retains some trade value albeit a late round selection for a team hungry for a situational pass rusher. Or quite simply we can cut ties with him when FA hits. There are several pass rushers hitting FA who could be acquired at a cheaper rate whilst also offering similar production. I will be flamed for this suggestion... but Dante Fowler Jr looks set to hit the market (and although having past injury concerns) is a player who has worked with Dan Quinn and offers similar pass rushing ability at a likely much cheaper price. Fowler remains only 24 years old and was a player we coveted the same year we drafted Beasley but was selected at #3 by Jacksonville.
It would be stupid of the FO to cut ties with Beasley before knowing what will become available in FA. Why create an additional hole without having a strategy or a plan to fill it. I believe this is the main reason why Schraeder still remains on the books as they decide what options we have as a replacment swing tackle.
I suspect I am completely wrong, but the FO WILL have to make a move at some point as we head to FA, lets see what they do.
His tape doesn’t matter. He’s extremely small for what we need. He will be a weaker version of Vic. We need nasty bulky lineman that can whoop some tail up front. No matter who they sign I want Oliver or Wilkins.