One intriguing person I’ve worked with over the years is J.I. Halsell. He’s intriguing for a number of reasons.
No. 1, he turned his job in college stats into a job with the Washington Redskins, mostly on his own hustle (here’s that story). No. 2, he walked away from a successful job as an NFL agent with a big firm, primarily because he wanted to work closer to his West Coast roots. No. 3, he’s very entrepreneurial, and has actually turned his knowledge of the salary cap into something entertaining and profitable with his website, NFL Contract Metrics. If you haven’t checked out his site, which I’ve discussed in this space before, you’re missing out on a valuable resource for evaluating the NFL.
The salary cap is something I don’t pretend to fully understand, but that’s OK, because I have J.I for that. Occasionally, I wonder about certain things related to salaries and the running of a team, and I reach out to him for answers. Here are a few recent questions I had for him, with his responses.
In the offseason, the Seahawks signed QB Russell Wilson to a megadeal and acquired TE Jimmy Graham, who’s also making big bucks. How does this kind of ‘overnight bonanza’ impact a team’s roster? Where does this put pressure?
J.I.: “When one analyzes the Seahawks’ cap allocations, it’s not just Wilson and Graham who make their cap management a challenge. Pre-existing high-end deals for Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and the recent extension of Bobby Wagner have created a cap allocation composition that has proverbially ‘pinched’ the offensive line, and it has shown on the field through four weeks of the season. As the Seahawks entered Week 1, they had allocated just 8.9% (13.26M) of their 148.26M 2015 salary cap to the offensive line. Only the Lions (8.2%) have allocated less to their offensive line; not surprisingly, both clubs have struggled along the offensive line this season.”
Conversely, the Saints shed Graham. In your estimation, given the Saints’ cap situation, do you think this was primarily a financial move? Also, in your estimation, was it something the team had to do, given its cap situation?
J.I.: Graham’s 2015 cap hit to the Saints went from $11M prior to the trade to $9M after the trade (by virtue of his future-year signing bonus allocations accelerating into the Saints’ 2015 cap). Therefore, because there was not a significant amount of cap relief achieved by trading Graham, one cannot directly attribute his departure to the goal of improving the Saints cap situation. However, because the draft provides cheap labor and theoretically the quality of that labor is improved in the earlier rounds, the Saints indirectly took a step in improving their cap efficiency by using the first-round pick acquired in the Graham trade on ILB Stephone Anthony (not to mention the acquisition of veteran OC Max Unger via this trade to solidify a viewed position of need).