Last week, former NFL agent and Redskins cap guru J.I. Halsell answered a few questions about how NFL teams spend money and how cap decisions often lead to personnel decisions. It was very well-received, so I wanted to bring him back to answer a few more questions. Got something for J.I. to answer here? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On to the questions.
We’ve seen successful teams constantly work around player contracts, pushing against the cap due to a couple of big contracts paid to key players. Is this wise? How long can a team generally pursue this strategy before it strangles them?
What once use to be the hallmark of the Redskins’ cap management tool kit has now become the hallmark of the Steelers cap management approach. The risk with pushing cap allocations into the future is that a club increases the amount of dead money that they can be on the hook for if they terminate the player whose contract they have continually pushed cap dollars out on. With the Steelers, a player like Antonio Brown, who shows no signs of decreased productivity, while having his cap dollars pushed out in each of the last three seasons, is the perfect candidate for pushing cap dollars, but a veteran player with diminishing skill level and multiple years left on his deal is a risky candidate due to the likelihood of the club having to part ways with him sooner rather than later. The obvious reward in pushing cap dollars out is the immediate cap relief garnered by this move, and presuming significant increases in the salary cap in future years provides comfort that the money pushed out into the future will not reduce the club’s cap flexibility as it continues to build its roster.
Which teams have the most cap space tied up in 2-3 players?
The Lions lead the league in percentage of cap allocated to 3 players, with WO Calvin Johnson, QB Matt Stafford and, interestingly, DT Ndamukong Suh’s dead money hit all accounting for 33.3% of the Lions’ 144.3M salary cap. Following the Lions are the Panthers with 30.0% of their cap tied up in DE Charles Johnson, QB Cam Newton and OC Ryan Kalil.
Make sure to visit J.I.’s website, NFLContractMetrics.com, and follow him on Twitter. You won’t find a more insightful, easier-to-understand breakdown of the money behind the game than you’ll find in J.I.’s work.