Thursday, April 10, 2008

Get-out-of-Cap Jail Card Coming 2009!

The Mlive story on "dead money" on this year's cap, misunderstandings I see on how it works, and the national media stories on how close to the cap the Lions are, all prompted me to look into the cap situation of the Lions.

I started with Netrat's spreadsheet with the current cap figures for the Lions here.

Then I brushed up on how the cap operates under given circumstances here.

And looked at 2007 Salaries again here.

Finally, I stopped and thought about it for a while in the context of where the team was in the past, is at now, and should be at the end of the season.

Marinelli came in with a multi-year plan for Millen and the Lions (from any number of articles when he was first hired) on how to build a team, and the vision he had for it. It was a vision Millen could buy-in to and relate with, so he has supported Marinelli, IMHO, much more enthusiastically on his personnel and team-building moves than he did his prior two coaches. He's bought in to Marinelli's vision.

However, when you look back at history prior to Marinelli, the Lions were in a very deep hole. I don't know a single Lions fan who wouldn't agree the Lions were a disaster in all areas when Marinelli arrived in 06, and the cap is no exception. What I don't understand is the illusion that there is a magic "cap wand" Marinelli could wave to make mediocre players disappear without impacting the cap.

There are two way to get out of a hole like that -- make gradual changes so the pain is spread over a long period in little bits, or to push it as hard as possible, have a couple of painful years, and then be free to move forward unburdened by the past. Both Mornhinweg and Mariucci, when you look at the roster moves, essentially took route one. Sure, there were cuts, but nothing to the magnitude that has happened in the last couple of off seasons. Looking back at the Bobby Ross drafts, they were just as bad as the Pre-Marinelli Millen drafts, from top to bottom. (see the stories I did on evaluating the draft here and here for my current opinion on the Marinelli drafts)

Rod has nudged the Lions into the second way of changing. They have cut a large number of large salary players in the last 2 years, and it has effected the cap negatively. This year especially they have tried to get the hardest hits out of the way. While it did hamper free agency, if you look closely at the players who are hitting the cap with Dead Money this year, only Kalimba Edwards was designated post June 1st, and is the only one who will count on next years cap right now. So, of the $15.2 million in dead money this season, only $2 million right now is there next season. That will be added to if players are cut, but not by a whole lot. This is in main part because the players they have been signing as band-aids for 1-3 year contracts have small signing bonuses. Couple this with shorter contracts that have already accelerated most of those bonuses into current seasons, and they will count very little to next year's cap if they are let go. In the past, the huge contracts given to mediocre guys meant that when the Lions got rid of guys, or even when they lost them in FA like Duckett, and Woody with his re-worked contract and voidable years, saw the accelerated bonus money hit the cap really hard. As more contracts have been worked differently, you see that the Lions are in more cap-friendly contracts with their current roster than in years past.

BTW - got a couple of emails on Woody -- as the ask-the-commish article points out, players who void years are treated as if they were immediately released or traded. This means all uncharged SB money is charged to the cap immediately. Had Woody remained with the Lions, his SB form his original FA deal before it was shortened, and his reworked deal, would have been charged over the duration of the original and reworked contracts. However, as he did void them they all hit this year for about $3 million. Because they traded S. Rog, same deal. Kennedy, Bryant, and KJ - same deal. Since the amount charged was less than the amount of their salaries, the Lions gained cap space to sign FA.

The Lions also have accelerated some of CJ's bonus money into the cap this year, for a negative impact of over 5 mil. Added in with the dead money, that is over 20.2 million - or 17.41% of the total cap.

Who is the best draft-day trade fodder? McDonald to 49ers for their early 5th. He has a +1 mil cap value (meaning the Lions would gain a million on the cap) and an early 5th would be very useful - to pick up a developmental DT/LB or a KR/PR or to use with our 3a to get back into the 2nd round for a targeted player. I know we'd miss all those negative YAC, but I think I could live with it. Nolan is desperate, and doesn't have time for his other WR to "learn the system". This is a trade that makes so much sense I look for it not to happen!

"DetFan1979, where is to good news?" you shout! I'm getting there...First, Rod has gotten this team to the point that, with a good draft, all of the positions on the team will, for the first time in about a decade, be filled with at worst average/above average NFL starters at every position! Not kidding -- I will do a positional breakdown after the draft. The Lions are in position to be middle of the pack next year, and, if guys step up and with a little luck they may even make the playoffs. Now, lets Fast Forward to the off season in 2009. The Lions are looking to get to the next level -- out of the middle of the back, and into the upper echelon of teams, and possibly position themselves for a Super Bowl run. Roy Williams' contract will be up. The team will be looking to upgrade from average/good players to a few pro-bowl type players who can put them over the edge. Guys like Simms will be nearing the end of their rookie contracts, and the Lions will be looking to lock up their guys who have developed (Peterman, Scott, Bradley, Simms et al) long term. Do they do that or go into Fa with the buying power to bring in 1st and 2nd tier players versus? How about both!

With the CJ bonus paid, and the dead money off the books, plus an increase in the cap to an estimated $123 million, plus the changes to salaries and SB charges -- the Lions as of right now would be an estimated 27 million plus under the cap. That is enough to lock up a few guys long term, keep developing through the draft, and still manage to pick up some quality FA ala Dwayne White and Dan Campbell that other teams don't get locked up.

The keys are that the Lions willingly burdened as much as possible this season under the cap to free up space for the future. As long as they keep having what appear to be productive drafts, and improve in that area this year and beyond, they will have the cap space to keep the draft picks they are developing and still get the FA they need to be perennial post-season participants, and even make a SB run or two.

Fire up the Percolator fellows. The Lions are brewing a nice batch of dark roast coffee -- and it's getting close to done. Smell that deep, invigorating aroma... *ahhh* can't wait for that first sip - can you?


Anonymous said...

Great post DetFan.

I'm not sure how much the possibility of a McDonald trade has been discussed lately on the blog, but here's some of the reasoning I think could be used to justify it:

1. Furrey already makes a great slot receiver and as a bonus, even knows how to cross the first down marker every now and then.

2. While I believe Colletto mentioned that they plan on keeping the 4-WR sets, I can't say I buy it. With Campbell back (as well as Fitzgerald) they have a decent receiving tight end to include which minimizes the necessity of a strong 4th receiver (I'm not saying it isn't important, just that it's a bit less important without Martz around).

The biggest reason NOT to get rid of McDonald...?

Age. Period.

He's fairly young (27 in June), and 4 years younger than Furrey (who will be turning 31 in May). That may be enough for the Lions' coaching staff to hold on to him...and it's not necessarily bad reasoning if he doesn't ask for a huge contract later on down the line.

Just know that the Lions run the risk of needing a slot receiver in a few more seasons if they ship off McDonald, Furrey's definately not getting any younger

However, that being said, if I could get a 5th rounder out of him I'd take the chance.


ClusterFox said...

I see alot of mock drafts were Harvey,Williams and Mendenhall are gone @15. This raises the likelyhood of your Dallas scenario. Two thoughts,1)If we package Roy with our 1st(and maybe a second day pick)could we possibly be looking at both Dallas first rounders? I'd think that would help them more than the players they could get with their two picks, and It sets us up for our choice at LB and the second group of RBs.2) Would that trade be detrimental to our current cap situation?( how would trading Roy affect our cap)
Before I get to far, Do you think some of the recent comments about Roy not being traded have anything to do with CJ "still feeling" things in his back. Or is it all a ruse to get the most out of a Roy trade. I just don't feel that this multi-year plan that Marinelli has consists of rolling the dice and having Roy play the last year of his contract.
Which trade is more likely, Mcdonald cause SF needs him more than us or Roy so we can get alot of value while we can?

JJLions20 said...

Good post DetFan1979,
I viewed the Lions Cap situation exactly the same. inflict the pain now that you can live with, and to allow for the building of the team in the future. This tell you something about the security Rod has with WCF.

I think there is an overall plan, and when the Lions made the commitment to keep Roy, the decision was made to bite the bullet on the cap this year. It was the only way to keep Williams, Simms, and others.

As far as McDonald goes.... I think that has to do with what they envision with the offense. If they plan on increasing the number of plays with a FB, then Mc Donald could be made available. Four starting caliber WR's are too many if there will be more 2 WR sets. I'm not sure if Martz in that need of a WR that knows the system because I thought he signed Bruce. But McDonald plays the slot, so maybe he does need him. Yes, Nolan is desperate. I also believe Martz' is. He needs to show his offense has potential, because if they fire Nolan then Martz gets the HC job.

I'd like to see something higher than a 5th rounder, but even a 5th rounder would help. In this case the lions could package one 5th rounder with a 3rd rounder and get back into the 2nd round. The package the other 5th rounder with the 4th rounder and get back into the 3rd round. That would give the Lions 1-1st rounder, 2-2nd rounders, 2-3rd rounders. The beauty of this over the Jacksonville or Dallas trade scenarios posted on this site, is they are still picking at #15, which I think they get either Harvey, Mendenhal, or one of those big OT’s. The MLB will come in the 2nd round.

DetFan1979 said...

JJ - you are right on with what I am thinking, but take it one step futher -- if the top CB Dallas likes falls to 15, they may give #22 and #61 for no additional pick, or even #28 and #61, plus an additional 5th for #15 -- I need to look at teh value chart, but why pay for the Dallas #22, when the player they would take is going to be there at #28?

If they do, they would ahve the following:

#28 rnd 1
3 - 2nd
2 - 3rd

That would rock. I also have a double-trade idea scenario with Atl and Dallas involved...I'll post a separate blog on it.

Streetworm -- I hear you on age, but Furrey ahs better ahnds, and slot guys can play to 35-36, so there is plenty of time to replace him. McDonald is entering his last contract year, and it likely won't be worth what it takes to keep him, so value now would be good.

clusterfox -- Yes - Roy has more unpaid bonus than he has salary remaining, so a trade would hit the cap; I have the numbers at home, not here. McDonald to SF by far makes more sense.

Don't forget, if Roy has a great year, the Lions will NOT lose him next year for nothing -- they can Franchise him, exclusive rights. Then they either A. Keep him one year, B. Sign him long term, C. Trade him D. Someone else signs him and they get 2 1st rnd picks.

Playing his contract year is a win-win-win all around. they don't have the cap to extend him this season, so forget about that.

CHIEFGER139 said...

hes way too good for a 5th rd pick and i think hes much better than furry-he seems to always get open-the running backwards after a catch can be corrected and mc donald has the speed to take it all the way-furry doesnt-remember furrys just a converted defensive guy -and check last years stats between the 2 of them-furrys good year was on a team with no talent-kind of like a superstar in basketball-looks great when hes the only guy but when others come in look at how there production went down-even roys went way down last year and it wasnt from cj-it was from mc donald-now a blockbuster/kitna/mc donald deal-naw it wont ever happen-need kitna for at least next year anyhow-hey but the following year-maybe it could happen-this salary cap thing really had me down in the dumps yesterday-but if we can sign our draft picks we will be fine
lions great in 2008-playoffs and beyond!!

Anonymous said...

First of all, Detfan1979 this is an awesome blog. Every since I started reading it, I have been impressed with you and everyone else who comments.It is nice to read the insightful opinions without plowing through all the hate and ignorance. Your "hobby" is by far better than others' chosen professions.

As to the salary cap, I thought I read it before(last yr maybe?) that your scenario was exactly what the Lions were doing by voiding Woody's contract and rearranging Johnson's bonus. I was therefore somewhat confused when everyone made a big deal about the small cap space. As in the real world, garbage does not magically disappear. It is nice to be able to see a master plan being implemented.

As to Mcdonald, I agree it would be better to trade Furrey instead but I think people should consider the other teams. If another team is willing to trade, the are going to want what's best for them not what will be best for the Lions. For the same reason everyone wants to keep Mcdonald, those are same reasons to trade for him over Furrey. IMHO, I think either will be traded and I'm OK if it's for a 5th. I do agree with all that Martz will want to trade for either one if only to make himself and his offense look good to the 49ers owners and thereby making him the next coach (IMO, the next 49ers coach will be Singletary).

I do hope the Lions trade down from #15 because this draft seems perfect to fill most of their needs if they got more picks.

Anyway, please keep up your great posts and comments. Thank you DetFan1979.


stv364 said...

New to the blog & I like it a lot. Are we allowed to say Fire Millen here? I hope so, because even a 16-0 season with a Super Bowl victory wouldn't get the taste of Millen bile out of my mouth.

Thank you,


DetFan1979 said...

LionFaninPA - thanks for the compliments to all! Nice to know when what you are doing is appreciated -- and that goes for all who post here!

stv364 - while no one here is a real Millen fan, I prefer that "Fire Millen", "Sell the Team" (please no! Who would buy it and keep it in Detroit???) etc don't get posted here. Not saying most of us don't agree on some level with many of those, but they add nothing of value to the balanced analysis I am striving for on this blog. I also think that if Rod/Millen took the Lions on a 19-0 SB you, and all of us, would totally forget the Millen mistakes while he was learning.

Wha tI'm trying to say is that while I welcome you to the blog, this is not a forum to vent random anger -- try the for that type of thing.

As I said in my first post (which you can go back and check out) -- I want to foucs on the intelligent analysis and conjecture that is certainly not done on the Lions at a national level, and is too often overshadowed by bitterness and negative people attempting to draw attemtion to themselves.

I look forward to seeing what you, and all of the blog readers, have to contribute to the Lions topics of interest.

Thanks again all!!

DetFan1979 said...

BTW - LionfaninPA -- you are not wrong. I do remember hearing rumbles of that last season that they were pushing as much onto the 07 and 08 cap as possible to clear up space for a good solid playoff run and foundation building in 09 and beyond.

I also agree with you on Furrey/Mcdonald -- although I said I'd prefer to keep Furrey as McD is in his last year, and don't feel the Lions will pony up to resign him anyways.

I do NOT think that he is better than Furrey -- just that Martz used him more last year than any other WR. Who knows why. I also think that is why SF would be the best trade partner. If Furrey and McDonald are both on the team come april 28th, I'm cool with that too.

Anonymous said...

Again with the twin mind power.
I agree that McDonald is more likely a candidate than Furrey to be traded. Furrey has assimilated to Rod, McDonald is still loyal to Mike.

And yes, Martz is looking to "turn-Brutus" on Mike Nolan. Look for the quick offense that drains Nolan's defense and see if he can spin that into a job. I think Martz may have tried that here in Detroit, saying that Rod wasn't ready for the head coaching gig.

And yes, I knock Millen from time to time. Choo-choo's, African Congos, crayons, milk and cookies and th like, but he HAS gone out and gotten whatever/whoever his head coaches wanted. They all brought the bit/role players from their former teams (Jeff Garcia, Blaine Saipaia, and everyone else). He hasn't done horrible in drafts either. Believe it or not, we did a study last year and found Millen to be middle-of-the-pack when it came to percentages of players that stuck on th team, and players that were still in the league. The glaring boners are the first round wide receivers that are now smoking chronic in the CFL.

Streetworm (great thought) about McDonald staying as opposed to Furrey. But (Chiefger) missed it. The fundamental things about football are in-grained, not taught. McDonald has to know where he is on a football field before he makes his cuts on third down. That's high school ball. Furrey gets it all the time. McDonald doesn't. Paris Lenon doesn't get it. Fall on the ball. Game over. Cover the TE over the middle (he ate him up all game). I still hate thinking of that game. I think of those, just like the false starts. are very right about Kitna. He won't be going. And I also agree they Lions shouldn't give up either McD or Furrey.

Lion Fan in PA - Yes. That was talked about twice in the last year. Right now, Killer is killing space and dead air and just re-hashing an article. He does this from time-to-time. There is only so much stuff you can write about. Last year, he did an article on every player on the roster going into camp. I thought that was very cool. Some of the guys who slept in their cars in the parking lots because they couldn't afford rooms. Those were good, gut-wrenching stories and really gives you perspective of what these kids are trying to accomplish, and at what odds. I hope that continues, it was very good.


CHIEFGER139 said...

have a question for you all-does anyone beyond the 5th rd make a differnce-yeah we hear about brady-but what about others?? we ameturers ignore that-hard enough to keep up with the 1st 4 rounds-like your oppinion on this-maybe thats where they fet all the kickers/special teamers-dont know

Anonymous said...

Hey you got me spoiled with something new to read that I really enjoy. It was a daily thing. Now it has been 3 days with no new articles. I'm bummed. Take pity on an old man.

Anonymous said...


Absolutely the last couple of rounds matter. Most starting fullbacks, punters, and kickers come from there. Very few are drafted before the fourth.

Remember the Marinelli saying that got plenty of play; something to the effect that the bottom ten guys make your roster.

Mr. Irrelevant was on the roster, then cut, then practice squad, then cut, then practice squad, then signed. Near the end of the season, he played (due to injury). Not just special teams. He was a Tony Beckham away from starting (and maybe should have after watching Tony play).

Ramzee isn't a starter in this league. Robinson will never be THAT guy. But he was important last year for depth.

Frank Davis was undrafted. He's the backup guard. One injury away from being your Sunday starter. Their jobs aren't glamorous. They get beat on by starters everyday in practice (especially in the beginning of camp). Most never know their name. But guess who might be the gunner on special teams putting his hat on a ball forcing a fumble. It may be the play that changes the game. The winning touchdown. All because you knew that Dweedil McDee was .2 of a second faster than someone else two years ago in April during round 6.

Like Pacino's charecter in "Any Given Sunday". You fight for inches, but they're only important if you'd die for them. Life is lived in fighting for those inches. If you stop fighting you die."

That's the difference in player A and player B. Some guys will beat players to the play because they are faster. Some players learn quicker and react quicker and may beat someone to a play because they react faster. That's the difference between talent and performance. Talent is what you were blessed with; performance is how you use it.

Rod doesn't want talented people, he wants performers who love to perform. The more talented they are, the better.

You may have the best talent in the world, but if you rest on your laurels, what good are they.

That's what a sixth rounder gives you. Look at the New York Giants running backs this past year. They had two starters (one for them, and one they traded to Green Bay). Those guys were no namers.