Monday, June 16, 2014

Salary Cap 101 Carryover Salary Cap in the NFL

This year the NFL is allow teams a "carryover" salary cap in which unspent 2013 salary money can be spent in 2014.  Last year Joe Banner of the Cleveland Browns underspent the salary cap by $24 million dollars which gets added to the Browns 2014 figure.  So all the NFL teams are allotted $133 Million dollars this year, but the Browns can actually spend an additional $24 million, or up to $157 million, if they want to.  In other words, the rules are set up to allow the Browns to overspend in 2014 because they underspent in t 2013.   

However, the Carryover money is sort of like a savings account.  Once you spend it, it's gone.  If they were to spend $157 million this year, they would be obliged to cut back to $133 million next year.   I think they are going to wait until they feel that they are legit Super Bowl contenders.

     It might also be mentioned that if players and their agents knew that the Browns were going to underspend in 2013, probably free agents would have been less inclined to sign with them. They got away with it once, but in my view it was the right thing to do to let Banner go, otherwise what free agent would ever trust the Browns again?

Would the Browns be able to sign a Free Agent like Paul Kruger, if he had known in advance that they planned to tank the season to the tune of some $24 Million?

As it is, right now (June 2014) they are about at $133 million, which is their annual salary cap "allowance."  They could try to sign a player or two if there are some guys who are cut by other teams with cap problems.  The Browns could carry an expensive player if they want.  They could also create some additional room by trading Ahtyba Rubin, who is a very good player, but who also has a very big salary, with most of it not being guaranteed.

     The Browns have fared very well this year because their GM, Ray Farmer, has understood the rules better than his rivals.  For example, by giving Andrew Hawkins a front loaded deal as a restricted free agent, the Bengals could not match it because they did not have the 2014 salary cap room.  

Browns GM Ray Farmer has been brilliant this off-season, by manipulating the salary cap rules in favor of the Browns.  

    Similarly, Farmer was able to get a multiyear deal done for Pro Bowl center Alex Mack, by manipulating the Franchise Tag (or Transition Tag) rules.  At the beginning of the off-season, the sportswriters were saying there was no way that the Browns could sign Mack to a multiyear deal.  


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Salary Cap Math 101: Salary Cap Effect on Trades

       This article discusses the basics of the NFL salary cap, as an aid to the armchair analyst in the Hot Stove League.   I'm just a fan and don't necessarily know that much, but I do know that the salary cap affects the moves that each team can realistically make.  
     Even professional sportswriters sometimes make the mistake of believing rumors that absolutely violate common sense.  
     Here's what you need to know:
     1.  Every team in the NFL has a limit to how much salary they can spend in a given year.  It should be obvious that good players are usually paid more money than less talented players, so if your team is spending a lot of money on player salaries, that is usually a good thing

    2.  There is a huge difference between salary  and bonus (guaranteed) money.  For example, if a player has a five year contract for $50 million dollars with 20 million guaranteed, then the annual charge is $10 million dollars for each year ($6 M salary and $4M guaranteed bonus).   However, suppose the team decides to trade the guy after year 1.   In this case the team clears $6 M of salary in year 2, but ALL of the remaining bonus gets charged to the cap or $16 M). It's not a fine that the owner can just write a check for.  The team has to actually CUT $16 worth of payroll in Year 2 which is a disaster for that year.  See below: 
Case i:  Player plays out his contract as planned.
Year 1  Year 2   Year 3  Year 4  Year 5
$10 M   $ 10 M    $10 M $10 M   $10 M

Case ii:  Player is traded after year 1.  
Year 1  Year 2   Year 3  Year 4  Year 5
$10 M   $ 16 M     $0 M    $0 M      $0 M

Year 3 and out are ok because the obligation to pay the guy is over, but basically in Year 2 the team is going to have to cut some really good players to cover the trade.  In this example they have to clear 16 million dollars in salary spending just to get rid of the guy.   

So in other words if a guy has bonus money in his contract, the team that trades him is going to get a big salary cap penalty for the year in which  the trade is made.   Got it? 

Let's consider a real example.  This year this was a rumor that the Cowboys were trying to trade Tony Romo in order to move up in the NFL draft.  Could that be true?  What you do is look up Romo's salary cap situation from a site like, and you find the following line  (  ):



Rom was paid a preposterous bonus, meaning that if the Cowboys were to cut or trade him this year, it would lower their salary cap in 2014 by an incredible $29,908,000.  That's how even amateurs like me knew that the Cowboys simply could not trade Romo no matter how much they might want to. They simply can not absorb the salary cap hit that they would take.  Hence any trade rumor involving Romo is 99% likely to be false unless Tony decided to restructure his contract to facilitate the move. Even then, it is nearly impossible in 2014 given the magnitude of the money involved.   Romo would basically have to give back 20 or 30 million dollars to get traded.  That's not very likely.  

Jerry Jones is one of the dumbest GM's in history, and loves to give guaranteed money away, which is great for guys like Tony Romo.  But you should disbelieve any rumor that Romo is going to be traded because that is almost impossible due to the salary cap.  

If you look at the Salary Cap, it is easy to see that the Cowboys are the worst managed team in the NFL.  Hopefully, Browns' owner Jimmy Haslam 3 will see how Jones has screwed up his team and avoid the same temptation.   

In any case,  for a trade to go forward, the principals have to have a relatively small amount of money tied up in signing bonuses (i.e., guaranteed money).  Either that or the trading team would have to be way under the cap.  For example, the Browns or Raiders could trade away a major player if they chose to because they can absorb the current year salary cap penalty.  At the same time they are able to pay large (non-guaranteed) salaries in 2014 because of their low payrolls compared to the cap limit. 

One guy that might be available from the Browns is Ahtyba Rubin, even though he is a very good player who can play end or tackle in either a 3-4 or 4-3 alignment.   The Browns could save $6.6 million dollars versus the cap if they could trade him (versus his total salary plus bonus of 8.2 M this year).  Or, because they have the cap room, they might just keep him or try to renegotiate him down.

Ahtyba Rubin has a big salary cap number, and might be used in trade even though he is a very good player.  

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Joe Nuxhall's Debut with the Reds, 70 Years Ago Today.

Today June 10 2014 marks 70 years since Joe Nuxhall made his debut with the Cincinnati Reds as a 14 year old schoolboy.  Back in 1944, talent was a little thin, owing to the fact that everyone was fighting Hitler and Tojo.  So the Reds decided to try out a guy who was too young to go to the Army.  Joe came from Hamilton High, where my Dad and many other friends and family members also attended.  Joe was a big strong farm kid, and threw very hard. What the heck, lefthanders don't grow on trees!

Joe got into a game when the Reds were being slaughtered 13-0.  He only lasted 2/3 of an inning giving up two hits and five walks. After that they sent Joe down to the minors and the following year he returned to high school. 

After completing High School, he persevered in the minor leagues for a few and made it back to the bigs in 1952.  He played ball for 16 years at the Major League level, and then he was the Red's announcer for many years.  I remember he was also the batting practice pitcher for the Big Red Machine, and could throw for hours every day.

One time I used Joe as a sermon illustration to tell the story of David and Goliath.  My point was that a farm kid with a good arm is not to be trifled with, and thus the Biblical account is not so ridiculous.  I figured that David knew what he was doing, selecting aerodynamically smooth stones from a brook rather than rough stones from the ground.  He could probably sling those stones at 120 miles per hour or so, enough to fracture a person's skull. David was probably aiming for his nose and missed by four inches, hitting him in the forehead.   Goliath had no chance! 

Joe Nuxhall and Marty Brennaman.  

I used to like it when The Old Lefthander would interview a new player being brought up to the big leagues for the first time.  It was kind of like a Dad interviewing his son.  Joe would give fatherly advice, in the form of an interview question.  Like,

"Do you have to just relax and let your natural abilities take over?"

"Do you need to trust in your catcher and let him call the game for you?"

"Are you going to enjoy every minute of your Big League career?"

I always thought they should have put Joe's statue in front of the stadium.  He was not the best player in Red's history, but I believe he was the most loved.