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PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2013 7:11 am    Post subject: 2014 FA Outlook Reply with quote

With our playoff hopes fading, now is a good time to take a peek at what the offseason holds for the Chargers. This is not a mock, though I will make some projections regarding cuts and re-signings.

First, let's take a look at where the Chargers stand in terms of the 2014 cap. From what I've read, the NFL is currently in a three-year period of a flat cap. What this means is that the % of revenue that goes toward player salaries is staying constant. The cap rose last year, but only a small amount in comparison to before the lockout. This rise was because the league made more money, so the players' slice of the pie was bigger because the pie itself was bigger. Assuming a similar rise for next year, that puts my estimate of the cap at $125M.

I'm using the contract figures from Over the Cap (overthecap.com) for this next part. The Chargers have 47 players under contract in 2014 with $118.654M on the books. Dead money, primarily from Gaither and Meachem, factors in an additional $7.778M.

So, the Chargers currently have committed $126.432M. Now let's factor in the adjustments that are not represented in that figure.

4th Year Bonuses: This one is not obvious if you're just assuming the online figures for contracts are correct. It turns out that there is something called a proven performance escalator. Players that were drafted in the 3rd-7th rounds see a salary increase in Year 4 if they played in 35% of the offense/defense snaps in two of the previous three years. I don't have a PFF subscription and Football Outsiders does not have data for 2011, so I don't know if Vincent Brown meets this requirement. However, they can also earn the escalator if they play in 35% of the total offense/defense snaps over the previous three years. Vincent Brown does appear to be on pace to meet that, though it will be close. On the other hand, Shareece Wright does not appear to meet either requirement. The time he's missed this season due to injury has him on pace for a close miss. The escalator is important because it increases that player's salary to the amount of the lowest RFA tender that year. Since RFA tenders increase by 5% minimum per year, that puts Brown's new salary at $1.389M, an additional expense of $0.744M on the cap.

LTBE Adjustment: Another silver lining to injury this season comes from Dwight Freeney landing on IR after Week 4. Freeney had per-game roster bonuses in his contract for both 2013 and 2014. This bonus is based on playing time, so it falls under the designation of LTBE (likely to be earned). LTBE bonuses count fully against the cap based on conditions determined by last year's performance. Since Freeney played in 14 games last year with the Colts, the Chargers overpaid against the cap. Any error like this is charged or credited to the team's salary cap the following year. This gives the Chargers a $0.313M windfall. Additionally, the figure from Over the Cap for Freeney's 2014 salary assumes that he played in all 16 games this year. That reduces his 2014 cap figure by $0.750M because he only played in 4 games.

Voidable Year: Although it was reported that Larry English is a free agent, that is not entirely true. English is under contract for 2014, but it's a voidable year. That means the Chargers will still carry some dead money, but his $1.542M salary is cleared in the highly likely event that the contract voids (or he is cut).

Factoring in the adjustments, that puts the team at $124.571M for 46 players. This figure is important only because of the timing of the events in the offseason.

Now let's factor in some expenses that the Chargers will have to account for...

Draft Class: Right now the Chargers have all of their seven picks in the draft, no others, and are not projected to earn any compensatory picks. For convenience, I'm assuming that the Chargers will end up with the same (original) draft spots that they had last year. I'm also assuming a 5% increase in the cost to sign rookies. Using the cap figures from this year, that costs $5.646M assuming that all 7 picks make the team. I'm not counting any UDFAs, although in any situation, a UDFA making the roster displaces a more expensive player.

Practice Squad: Straight up math on this one. Practice squad players are paid $6,300 per week X 17 weeks X 8 players = $0.857M that counts against the cap.

Emergency Fund: Remember when Rivers re-structured his contract before the season? It's a good thing that he did. With so many players going on IR, the Chargers have not only been left paying for those players this year, but also their replacements. After that re-structure, the Chargers came into the season with just under $5M in cap space. According to the NFLPA's constantly-updated figures, the Chargers now only have $2.4M in cap space remaining. It turns out that this is a pretty significant phantom cost. The Chargers have to assume the possibility of suffering the same amount of season-ending injuries next year, so I'm accounting for a $2.926M cushion to the cap figure. The number seems oddly-specific because I'm aiming for a round number...

So, this gives the Chargers a 53-man roster including rookie draft class and practice squad that costs $134M. That will require them to clear $9M in cap space in order to stay afloat.

This figure does not include re-signing any of our free agents, or signing any new free agents. The situation looks bad, but... remember when I mentioned earlier that there was a figure that was important because of how the offseason events took place?
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2013 7:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Not all of this money has to be cleared right away. It turns out that the rookie pool is not part of the salary cap. That means that the figure for signing the rookie draft class does not count until the Chargers actually sign their rookies, in May or June. The figures for the practice squad and the emergency cushion don't take effect until the season starts. So, the Chargers can make an initial wave of moves, spend money, and then make a second wave of moves to cover the remaining costs.

Another thing to keep in mind is that during the offseason, only the top 51 salaries count toward the cap. That allows teams to sign many low-cost players to compete for roster spots without being penalized.

First Wave of Projected Moves

Cut FB McClain: According to Football Outsiders, McClain has played on 12% on offensive snaps this year. That's not to say that the position is not important, but it doesn't make sense for a FB to be a highly-paid player unless they have a big role elsewhere. $2.5M savings

Cut WR Royal: The torrid start was exciting, but he hasn't established himself as a top target for Rivers that this contract demands. He carries a $6M cap hit to be the #3 WR, which makes him an obvious choice to be released. On top of that, this is yet another season that he's been injured, though he hasn't missed playing time. It's possible (and the same applies to McClain) that the team could re-structure or cut-then-re-sign him at a more reasonable salary. $4.5M savings

Cut OL Clary: I get why he has kept. They needed four new starters on the OL, and that's a difficult ask in one offseason. And, considering the net savings had they cut him last year, it was at least worth the slim chance to see if he could excel inside at guard. I think it's safe to say that it hasn't worked out, and Clary's time here is finally done. $4.5M savings

All three of these are immediate releases, no waiting until June 1st to take effect. The impact of these three moves gives puts the Chargers at $11.9M to spend on 8 players. If you're wondering how the figure jumped so high, that's because I'm assuming a couple of other moves are going to pay for the rookies, practice squad, and emergency fund. The cuts would leave them with 43 players under contract, so the 8 players fills up the top 51.

Free Agency

Fortunately, the Chargers have a very short list of free agents this year. But, there are three that stand out as players that must be re-signed.

Darrell Stuckey: Maybe not the name you were expecting to top this list, but an important one nonetheless. Stuckey has stood out as the Chargers special teams ace and would be a big loss. Projected 3-year, $4.5M deal with first year cap hit of $1.25M; contract comparison: David Bruton

Chad Rinehart: I expect some disagreement on this. My stance is that Rinehart has been a very good starter, rarely makes mistakes, and fits the scheme, much like Vasquez used to be. Retaining him is not likely to be as expensive as Vasquez, and paired with Troutman gives the Chargers a good young pair of guards. Additionally, this team has a few needs (immediate and near future) that are both best addressed via the draft and would likely require a Day 1 or 2 pick to address. Going into the draft needing a starting guard takes away from one of those other needs. It's possible that the coaching staff is eyeing some other under-the-radar free agent, but I can't assume that's the case. Projected 4-year, $13M deal with first year cap hit of $2.75M; contract comparison: Kraig Urbik

Donald Butler: This one gets tricky...

You might notice that I left out the cap rollover the in the first post. The $2.27M the Chargers currently have (official figure) will carry over into next year if they don't use it. In some manner I expect this to get used on Donald Butler. We know that they have been in contract negotiations with him, but there won't be a resolution until after the season. If the Chargers re-sign Butler during the playoffs, they can give him a signing bonus right away that starts on the books for the 2013 season, reducing the rollover.

I'm going to assume that his contract doesn't start until next year. What also makes this tough to project is that it's going to be a big contract and can be structured in various ways. I'm going with a projected 5-year, $35M deal with a first year cap hit of $3.15M. The contract comparison is Dannell Ellerbe. In the case of Ellerbe, the very low first year amount is due to the Dolphins cutting their previous ILBs, taking on a lot of dead money this year. In the case of Butler, it's insurance against this year's performance. Butler's contract year has been injury-plagued, and even when he's been healthy, he hasn't looked at all like his usual self (this seems to be a trend for our entire defense). I'm projecting the low first year figure as a built-in prove it year with a likely spike down the road for a possible re-structure, like Ellerbe's contract. Additionally, this is how the Chargers structured Derek Cox's contract, so there is some precedent with Telesco.

Factoring in the full cap carryover, that gives the Chargers $7M to spend on 5 players. The figure for a player signed on veteran minimum is roughly $0.6M, so that actually leaves some room for the Chargers to make one big splash. They could also opt to sign multiple bargain free agents like they did last year.

Second Wave of Projected Moves

Post-June 1st Cut LB Johnson: This one is not a sure thing. I expect that the Chargers will part ways with either Jarret Johnson or Freeney. However, the X factor is in how the (hopefully new) DC uses Melvin Ingram. Like others have suggested, Ingram is a logical fit to play as a LB in a 4-3 or 4-3 under, and he can be moved inside in nickel/dime packages. That opens up the possibility of requiring two edge rushers on passing downs, not including Ingram. So, I'm choosing Freeney to stay over Johnson, with Freeney playing the role of a pass rush specialist. Additonally, while the net savings is roughly equal for the two players, the cap savings of $4.0M is greater. That figure pays for the rookies (they displace some players from top 51, and in final cuts) and the practice squad.

Re-structure Weddle: The Chargers are in a tough position when it comes to finding players they can re-structure. One stands out as a very logical choice, and that's Eric Weddle, for a few reasons.
1. his cap figure jumps above $10M this year and next, which is higher than market value for an elite safety
2. the Chargers paid him $25M over the past 3 years, so a re-structure would not be cheating him out of money, so to speak
3. he is a 7-year vet, so adding a few more years to his contract is logical for both sides
4. the market for an elite safety has changed very little since Weddle signed his contract; they can tear up the current contract and give him a new one at approximately the same value, but with immediate cap relief
I'm projecting a conservative re-structure for the first year here, with a cap relief of $3M that essentially covers the cost of the emergency cushion the team will need during the 2014 season.

Not as bad as you thought, huh? They won't be big players in free agency, but they won't have to make drastic cuts and don't have too many players to re-sign. It should be a fairly quiet free agency filled with bargains and perhaps one splash, like they did last year. This should be exciting to those of you who are big proponents of building through the draft. I expect there to be little turnover among the starters on both sides of the ball. The gains the Chargers make will need to be through getting the most of their young starters.


Last edited by Neutral on Wed Nov 20, 2013 12:13 am; edited 1 time in total
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Boltstrikes


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2013 10:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cut Clary. Solves about 30 problems.
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But I do feel Alex is better than Rivers and we may as well not even argue over it here because I am pretty sure neither will change the others mind.
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charger-man


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2013 10:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This cliffhanger is of the Lost-level sit on your edge of your seat type of stuff. Bravo Neutral, really enjoyed the cap breakdown (especially the 4th year bonus stuff, which I was not aware of)
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2013 12:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's going to be ugly, AJ made some horrible deals. There's almost $8mil in dead money going in, and everybody that will be cut still has a bonus. I think Rivers, Weddle, and Gates will all at least be asked to restructure. Clary is the 4th highest paid. If he's on the roster next year, I quit.
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2013 10:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I can see every free agent AJ signed in 2012 getting the boot(JJ, McClain, Royal, Brown).
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The LBC


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2013 11:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

MrDrew wrote:
It's going to be ugly, AJ made some horrible deals. There's almost $8mil in dead money going in, and everybody that will be cut still has a bonus. I think Rivers, Weddle, and Gates will all at least be asked to restructure. Clary is the 4th highest paid. If he's on the roster next year, I quit.

Sadly, I'm supremely confident that Clary at least makes the roster going into camp next season. The guy's got alligator blood and has managed to bewitch three different coaching staffs into keeping him around when all he ever seems to offer is that he "tries really hard" and, Hardwick aside, he has the best knack for not getting injured among the starting OL. This at the very least is likely going to get him kept through camp and the preseason, and unless someone flat out beats him for his starting spot (at which point then management would likely step in and say that he's simply too expensive to keep as a reserve), he's likely going to be allowed to play out the remainder of his contract. It sucks the big one, but it is what it is.

Rivers will/should restructure because after this season he doesn't have any more guaranteed monies on his contract. The same is possible as well with Gates, but I believe he still has some remaining cap hit; I think in both cases we're more likely to see "extensions" that are more or less restructures, but also tacking on more years to the deals thus allowing for greater proliferation of the cap-hits into years where, even if one (Gates) has retired by that point, the salary cap should increase as the new media contract for the league kicks in and increases revenue. Ultimately, I think if we want to re-sign Butler we're probably going to have to give him more guaranteed money (and possibly a slightly bigger deal) than Sean Lee got in order to get the benefit of a truly low/team-friendly first year of the deal.
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 20, 2013 12:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

UPDATED

The LBC wrote:
Rivers will/should restructure because after this season he doesn't have any more guaranteed monies on his contract.


I didn't include Rivers in this projection because the market for franchise QBs has increased significantly the past few years. Although Rivers counts for a high figure compared to earlier in his contract, it's on par with the other top-paid QBs. I'm sure they can come up with a new contract for Rivers if they want, but it's hard to project. With Weddle, they can basically sign him to the same deal he signed three years ago.
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 20, 2013 12:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

game3525 wrote:
I can see every free agent AJ signed in 2012 getting the boot(JJ, McClain, Royal, Brown).


I wonder if they'll do an extension with Royal that cuts down on his cap figure since he's looked decent in the offense.
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The LBC


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 20, 2013 12:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Neutral wrote:
UPDATED

The LBC wrote:
Rivers will/should restructure because after this season he doesn't have any more guaranteed monies on his contract.


I didn't include Rivers in this projection because the market for franchise QBs has increased significantly the past few years. Although Rivers counts for a high figure compared to earlier in his contract, it's on par with the other top-paid QBs. I'm sure they can come up with a new contract for Rivers if they want, but it's hard to project. With Weddle, they can basically sign him to the same deal he signed three years ago.

At this point in his career, assuming Rivers decides he wants to retire a Charger, I wouldn't be shocked to see him work out a deal similar to what Brady did with the Pats. By and large, substantial-sized signing bonus (i.e. guaranteed money and a cool ~$30 million straight to his bank account) and in return he affords the team a annual cap-hit that's below the league average for a QB of his ability (Brady averages just over $14m/yr over the life of his current contract, whereas Rodgers averages just over $18.5m/yr over the course of his). Just comparing to Brady's extension he signed this year and adjusting for inflation (and that's if Rivers pushed for the same money as Brady or there-ish), that's still saving ~$2.5m off of Rivers' current 2014 cap-hit.
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 20, 2013 12:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

JammerHammer21 wrote:
game3525 wrote:
I can see every free agent AJ signed in 2012 getting the boot(JJ, McClain, Royal, Brown).


I wonder if they'll do an extension with Royal that cuts down on his cap figure since he's looked decent in the offense.

Maybe. Honestly at this point, Vincent Brown hasn't shown he can carry Royal's jock and appears to have regressed since his rookie season. As such, I'm not so sure I feel terribly comfortable with just cutting Royal and gifting Brown the slot spot (or a rookie - as rookie receivers are notoriously ineffective).

Same argument can be made when those try to say we ought to let Floyd walk and sign DX to the vet minimum as the filler. For a player with as many accrued years of service as DX has, the vet minimum is realistically only about $1.5m less than Floyd is set to make in 2013 - and then we're talking operating on the prayer the DX can do what he's shown over-and-over in his pro career that he can't do, which is stay healthy for an entire season.

I think ultimately if we do draft an early OLB, JJ becomes a prime candidate for a post June 1st cut. He may be more luxury than we can afford. Ingram would start at SOLB, some combination of Williams as the starter, maybe Freeney if he doesn't retire - at WOLB, and the rookie rotating in on passing downs.
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 20, 2013 3:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I wouldn't be surprised if they took a WR early, possibly in the first round.

Without Royal, there's only three WRs on the roster. There's a strong possibility that two of those, Floyd and Brown, will be gone after next season. That leaves just Keenan Allen, and not even any depth behind him. Even if they re-sign Royal, they could still use a starter opposite Allen.
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 20, 2013 9:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think they should receive Danario to a 1 year with some incentives. He'll cost peanuts and whatever he's healthy for, he should be extremely dangerous as a weapon for Rivers. We need a deep threat, that's for sure.
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 21, 2013 5:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Any chance we admit a mistake, cut Cox and go after Talib, Grimes or either one of the Bears FA corners. Just a thought. Im not convinced that Cox is that bad yet, I think it has alot to do with our coverage/system. Pagano really knows how to make CB's look bad. Brought this up because I read that Cox doesn't have any gauranteed money after this year.
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 21, 2013 6:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If the next D-coordinator is a guy who uses press, keep Cox around. If not, then don't. His salary isn't dreadful I don't think.
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