Extra Points
News and commentary from around the Web

2021 Free Agency and Trade Discussion

Kenny Golladay
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

This is our annual open thread to discuss all the free agent movement, trades, cuts, and other news for the first few days of free agency, starting with the "legal tampering period" that begins at noon Eastern on March 15.

SUNDAY 4PM

Green Bay re-signs RB Aaron Jones for 4 years, $48 million with $13 million signing bonus.

Houston trades LB Benardrick McKinney to Miami for ER Shaq Lawson. 

New England trades OT Marcus Cannon to Houston for pick swaps in three different rounds of the 2021 draft. 

MONDAY 9AM

Baltimore signs G Kevin Zeitler for 3 years, $22.5 million.

San Francisco re-signs FB Kyle Juszczyk for 5 years, $27 million.

MONDAY NOON

Arizona re-signs ER Markus Golden for two years, $9 million.

Detroit re-signs ER Romeo Okwara for three years, $39 million.

New England signs TE Jonnu Smith for four years, $50 million with $31.25 million fully guaranteed.

Tampa Bay re-signs ER Shaq Barrett for four years, $72 million with $36 million fully guaranteed.

MONDAY 3PM

Jacksonville signs DT Roy Robertson-Harris for three years, $24.4 million with $14 million in guarantees.

New England signs ER Matt Judon for four years, $56 million with $32 million guaranteed.

New England signs FS/CB Jalen Mills for four years, $24 million with $9 million guaranteed.

New England signs DT Davon Godchaux for two years, $16 million.

San Francisco re-signs CB Jason Verrett for one year, $5.5 million plus incentives.

MONDAY 4:30PM

Cleveland signs FS John Johnson for three years, $33.75 million with $24 million guaranteed.

Kansas City signs G Joe Thuney for five years, $80 million with the first two years guaranteed at $32.5 million and Year 3 converting to a guarantee if Thuney is not cut before the second year.

Los Angeles Chargers sign C Corey Linsley for five years, $62.5 million.

New York Jets sign LB Jarrad Davis for one year, $7 million.

San Francisco signs ER Samson Ebukam for two years, $12 million plus incentives.

MONDAY 6:30PM

Las Vegas signs ER Yannick Ngakoue for two years, $26 million.

New England, going crazy today, signs WR Nelson Agholor for two years, $26 million.

MONDAY 9PM

Denver signs CB Ronald Darby for three years, $30 million with $19.5 million guaranteed.

Jacksonville signs RB Carlos Hyde for two years, $6 million.

Jacksonville signs FS Rayshawn Jenkins.

Los Angeles Chargers sign G/T Matt Feiler for three years, $21 million.

Los Angeles Rams re-sign ER Leonard Floyd for four years, $64 million.

New England signs WR Kendrick Bourne for three years, $22.5 million.

New England signs DT Henry Anderson.

New Orleans re-signs QB Jameis Winston for one year, $12 million.

New York Jets sign ER Carl Lawson for three years, $45 million with $30 million guaranteed.

New York Jets sign WR Corey Davis for three years, $37.5 million with $27 million guaranteed.

Tampa Bay re-signs TE Rob Gronkowski for one year, $10 million.

Tennessee signs DL Denico Autry for three years, $21.5 million with $9 million guaranteed.

Tennessee signs ER Bud Dupree for five years, $85 million with $35 million guaranteed.

TUESDAY 9AM

Cincinnati signs ER Trey Hendrickson for four years, $60 million with $32 million guaranteed.

Minnesota signs DT Dalvin Tomlinson for two years, $22 million.

New England, which just won't stop, signs TE Hunter Henry for three years, $37.5 million with $25 million guaranteed.

Washington signs QB Ryan Fitzpatrick for one year, $10 million.

TUESDAY 3PM

Cincinnati signs Chidobe Awuzie for three years.

Baltimore signs Tyus Bowser for four years, $22 million.

Jacksonville signs CB Shaquill Griffin for three years, $44.5 million, $29 million guaranteed.

Jacksonville signs DT Tyson Alualu for two years, $6 million.

TUESDAY 4:30PM

Las Vegas cuts C Rodney Hudson.

New York Giants sign DL Leonard Williams (who had been franchised) for three years, $63 million, $45 million guaranteed.

Pittsburgh signs OT Zach Banner for two years, $9.5 million.

Tennessee cuts CB Adoree' Jackson and OT Dennis Kelly.

WEDNESDAY 7:30AM

Detroit signs RB Jamaal Williams for two years, $7.5 million.

Los Angeles Rams trade DT Michael Brockers to Detroit for 2023 seventh-round pick.

San Francisco signs OT Trent Williams for six years, $138 million with $55 million guaranteed.

San Francisco signs C Alex Mack.

Washington signs CB William Jackson III for three years, $42 million with $26 million guaranteed.

WEDNESDAY 3PM

Buffalo signs WR Emmanuel Sanders for one year, $6 million.

Las Vegas signs WR John Brown for one year, $3.75 million.

Miami signs DT Adam Butler for two years.

Miami signs CB Justin Coleman for one year.

New England signs C Ted Karras for one year, $4 million.

Arizona signs A.J. Green for one year, $6 million.

WEDNESDAY 6PM

Tennessee signs LB Jayon Brown for one year, $5.25 million.

Indianapolis signs RB Marlon Mack for one year, $2 million.

Houston cuts G Zach Fulton.

Detroit cuts CB Desmond Trufant.

Las Vegas trades C Rodney Hudson to Arizona.

THURSDAY 10AM

Cincinnati signs DT Larry Ogunjobi.

Cleveland re-signs WR Rashard Higgins.

Las Vegas trades G Gabe Jackson to Seattle for a 2021 fifth-round pick.

Minnesota signs CB Patrick Peterson for one year, $10 million.

New England signs LB Kyle Van Noy.

New England SS Patrick Chung retired.

Washington signs WR Curtis Samuel for three years, $34.5 million with $24.5 million guaranteed.

Comments

290 comments, Last at 28 Mar 2021, 11:22am

3 I have experience rooting…

I have experience rooting for a team that was recently (like the Texans are doing now) on the Faux Patriots team-building approach.  Here are the steps:

Step 1: Alienate your best players.

Step 2: Trade for, or sign ex-Patriots players.  Make sure that you overpay for them in free agency, or that their best years are behind them.

Step 3: ????

Step 4: Super Bowl

24 IDK

McKinney is a pretty good LB if healthy. Age wise and health wise, Houston probably got the better end of the deal. I guess this signals Miami won't take a LB with that second first round pick. With their cheap pick up of a T too, Miami's draft choices are really up in the air.  

62 Yeah perhaps

In reply to by johonny

Guess last year was just a career low 58.2 pff grade. Might just be an outlier. Depends on the pick swap I guess, as their salaries are essentially washes too. 

23 It's a Dallas-type move and puzzling.

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

A notoriously stingy franchise overpays for a RB in an era where RB's are fungible.  I don't understand it given the team's needs elsewhere.

Another WR, defensive help or O-line help?

This move came out of nowhere and I can't help but harken back to those GB whispers that JJ Watt was out of their price range.  Well, that doesn't make much sense with this signing, does it?

 

38 We discussed this previously, I was waiting for your reaction

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

You put enough o's in Nooo...

The Packers put in one 0 and three years too many in the contract.  Should have told him, "Thank you for your excellent work in GB" and take the comp pick.

The contract ended up almost exactly in the middle of my $40M and your $58M.  My $40M was way way too much to begin with.

So that projects to 2 Wins over Replacement that the Packers just bought over 4 years.  I wonder how many losses they just picked up over 4 years by not spending that money elsewhere.

I listed 5 teams previously as the smartest/best over the past two decades (in no particular order, but these clearly are the best 5 in my opinion):

Patriots:  2018 use (waste) 1st round pick for Sony Michel

Ravens:  2020 use (waste) 2nd round pick J. K. Dobbins

Saints:    2020 sign (waste) $75M on Alvin Kamara for 5 years with an escape route after 4 years

Packers: 2021 sign (waste) $48M for 4 years on Aaron Jones although the cap hit in 2021 is only $5.25M.  This is still too high for me, but there is still hope for the 2021 Packers.

Steelers: At least they have ignored the RB position, Connor at a meager $700,000+ 

As for the Chiefs mini-run

Chiefs:    2020 use (waste) 1st round pick for Clyde Edwards-Helaire

Analytics refuses to yet win out in football, we still have many of the best of the best focusing on the RB position.

 

 

63 $58 was Spotracs

I let them do the heavy lifting as they seem to put in good market value analysis. What they actually get depends so much on how much theyre asking for. 

We got year 1 cap hit on the Jones deal already? Couldn't find any earlier. 5.25m sounds about right either way.

With 32 teams, there will ALWAYS be one team. After 3 teams drafted a RB in the 1st (top 31 to be exact) in 2018, the league seemed to have caught on to not drafting them that high, at least a little. Always one team that splurges and later regrets it (Raiders 19, Chiefs 20, probably Dolphins/Jets/Jags 21). That's all it takes. Good for them though. Their guises of value is massively more impressive than any other skill they have. And I mean that as a compliment! So much evidence yet they always get their prey to fall victim. Good on em. Couldn't be me though.

69 Jones update/ALWAYS one team/Guises of value

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

I should have read more carefully, it is a possible contract structure.  Here is the theoretical Jones contract:

 https://www.acmepackingcompany.com/2021/3/15/22331610/what-aaron-jones-new-contract-with-the-packers-might-look-like 

Their guises of value is massively more impressive than any other skill they have.  GREAT LINE!!!!  What a great skill to have!!!  

There is a sucker born every minute, I can not believe that some of them grow up to be NFL GM's paying this kind of money to a RB or drafting a RB in round 1 or 2.  

Analytics MUST win eventually.  There IS ALWAYS one team.  True, but why?  There WILL NOT ALWAYS be one team.  This can not last forever. 

There are no teams left in the NBA that do not understand about the value of shooting 3's or shooting in the paint.  There are no teams left in baseball that do not use the shift.

We should all live to see the day when the following occur:

1.  RB's are dumped after their rookie deal or get little more than their rookie deal.

2..  RB's are not drafted in rounds 1 or 2.

3   A punt on 4th and 1 or 4th and 2 in the fourth quarter when trailing does not happen (Tennessee actually punted in a playoff game this year on 4th and 2 and never got the ball back)

4.  A team always goes for two in the fourth quarter when scoring a TD cutting the 14 point lead to 8

5.  No one kicks a FG up 3 on 4th and short with approximately two minutes left in the game.

Bill James wrote about baseball analytics in the early 70's.  Forty plus years later, his analytical writings became common practice on the field.

FO started in 2003.  Maybe by 2043 NFL coaches and GM's will all understand basic analytic practices.  By the time some simple analytic practices are always used, we should have another 40 analytic practices to implement.

 

 

70 There will always be outliers

Someone always will want to be different and think they can make it work. They'll do it in more subtle ways. NBA players still take mid range shots. It's just the elite guys now. Unfortunately NFL RBs are just limited by the rules and there has yet to be a true game changer. They think they're guy is different and they can manipulate stats to look like it but the basic premise is still there. 

Oh well. Teams will learn the hard way. And then forget about it 10 minutes later.

149 Is Kamara really a poor…

Is Kamara really a poor extension choice, though? Given the general success of the past few years,not given the post-Brees rebuild.  I get they could have used the money elsewhere, but at which specific positions would they have done better?

Odd that there have been no rumors on extensions yet for Nick Chubb, who has never and probably will never hit the "370 curse" due to the team's by-committee approach. 

Browns were able to make one of the few clear good RB extensions with Kareem Hunt, who is making arguably half of what he "should," on limited years, due to past off-field issues.

154 McCaffrey comparison

There have been a number of posts and comments throughout the year about the loss of McCaffrey to the Panthers and how little of a difference that it made.  I can not think of a more comparable comparison to Kamara.  The Saints will monumentally notice the loss of Drew Brees, if Kamara went elsewhere, say good bye its been great having you.

The best proof point was an article posted by I'm New Around These Parts showing the relative value of positions.  I have it on my computer but it will not repost.  If he reads this hopefully he could repost it.  He is a Packers fan and you can see from his posts here that he is not at all pleased with the Packers signing of Jones.  Basically the article shows that GB just paid 48M to Aaron Jones to win two more games over 4 years over having a replacement level RB.  48M could have gone elsewhere to other positions to get more wins added.  The same goes for Kamara in my opinion.  Kamara continues to perform, what if this is the real Zeke Elliott?  Many running backs disappear from greatness in a hurry.

 

219 Kamara was also not that noteworthy

when Taysom was starting. 

10th/18 on his team in Y/Tgt. 11th/22 in Y/Tch. 6th/15 in YPC. 11th/18th in YPR. It's like that for essentially every RB. Not ideal that that efficiency is 1st on the team in targets (and touches of course but that's the nature of RBs for ya). Now some of those guys efficiency would likely go down the more they became the focus but many of them just play an inherently more efficient position. That's the best way I can put it in laysmans term before bringing up more indepth stuff like PFF WAR. Simply just look at (N)Y/A passing vs running any single year of pro football since like 1933. Passing is king and RBs aren't getting enough on a per play basis, even when you factor in their catching, which is the more valuable aspect and why Kamara is great. Still not getting as many yards as slant boi on average. RBs sure do help in end of half situations though. 

Saints also losing their 2nd (Cook) and 3rd (Sanders) most targeted players this year. And since RBs are heavily influenced by the players around them, AK probably won't be as great this coming year. Or least not enough to matter with a dip in QB play (even if Brees arm fell dead).

The link Joey provided is correct. 

5 Packers re-sign Aaron Jones…

Packers re-sign Aaron Jones. 4 years, 48 mil but only 13 mil guaranteed.

Interested to see how they’re making the cap space for this, I thought he was a goner. Either they’re kicking the can down the road with the contract structure, they’ve already got a commitment for an extension with Davante Adams, or a significant restructure of Rodgers’ contract.

6 Tom Silverstein suspects the…

Tom Silverstein suspects the significant restructuring will come on Za’darius Smith’s contract. Said on Twitter he thinks it will happen in the next day or so.

If they can extend Davante too (a total no-brainer) that can give them some cash to play with in FA but otherwise they’re probably limited to their draft picks and in-house development.

9 Didn't see that at first. …

Didn't see that at first.  13 mil guaranteed seems a lot better.  However, the best case scenario is that he continues to be good....but then the Packers are still using a ton of cap space on a running back.

15 If they franchise tag him…

If they franchise tag him they take that full hit to the cap this year. Don’t think that’s worth it in their eyes. This way, the guaranteed money is spread over 4 years. His cap hit this year is likely to be lower than the franchise tag

16 Of course.

The signing bonus is spread out 3.25m each year making it harder to move on each year when we know RB lifespans aren't long. Cash flow will be over 13m regardless of when they move on as this year is essentially guaranteed. May save a few bucks this year at the cost of future space at the least valuable (offensive) position. This was the chance to save money instead of essentially relying on the draft to fill CB2, etc. 

17 If they’re going to pay…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

If they’re going to pay Jones, I’d rather they did it this way than repeated franchise tags. Limited cap hits in the present and presuming the cap gets back to normal in future then the cost is fairly reasonable. It’s a more team-friendly contract then any of the stars RBs so far.

But to be honest I’m surprised they signed him at all. Thought they’d move on from him. It was probably the smarter move. I suspect given the limited skill talent outside of Adams they were reluctant to let a star player get away.

18 No one said anything about repeated tags.

That'd be asinine. But it's not as "good" (they're all bad) as the younger Joe Mixons. Cap going up again doesn't matter too much since it usually goes up (aka didn't stop the Rams from cutting Gurley, etc).

There's such a wide gap between Adams value Jones due to position skill sets. But hey, not that anyone was telling them to draft a WR or anything last year. Dont know if that's a good reason to lock into a RB. I suppose if your QB is on a rookie contract like Burrow (still not really though). Which I guess the Packers have...but they also have Rodgers. Oof. I guess it's not CMC money? Hooray?

20 Mixon’s was slightly more…

Mixon’s was slightly more team friendly but he’s also not as good as Jones. Overall, I don’t hate it. Teams give more than $13 million to way way worse players than Aaron Jones. Blake Martinez got $19 mil guaranteed just last year, for crying out loud. Not saying WR is the same value, I’m saying they looked at the roster, realized if they lost Jones they’d have a single established skill player worth hanging a hat on, and decided to pay a reasonable amount to keep him.

I think this plus the other restructures signals that they are going all-in on 2021. They’ll extend Adams, restructure Smith, and end up with a little cap space to sign draft picks and perhaps a veteran corner. I think they’re trying to avoid restructuring Rodgers because of the signal that would send about Jordan Love’s future.

22 LB is more valuable than RB

And Blake got <half the signing bonus while the rest of the guarantees were in the first two years. Pretty standard. Standard for RBs is the problem. They're more replaceable. So they still only have skill player worth it. 

Going all in with a RB is as about depressing as it gets. Going all in with essentially the same team that's come up short twice now. And not even the most important UFA (Linsley, who I also would've let walk but plays a more valuable position at least). If they wanted really go in they'd restructure everyone including Rodgers but they don't want to make the 2020 draft look any worse. 

25 Yeah that 2020 draft.... I'm…

Yeah that 2020 draft....

I'm really starting to question Gutekunst. I thought the point of Dillon being over drafted was so that they could move on from Jones and Williams this year. Maybe they keep one of them if they could keep them cheap, but instead they over draft a RB in 2020 and then they overpay a RB in 2021. This signing makes that 2020 draft look worse. So maybe they will do the Rodgers restructure after all.

I get that the LeFleur offense does work better with a legit threat to run the ball, and I enjoy watching this offense a lot as I've said before. Even ESPN is questioning this signing though. That says something that one of the last bastions of "Run to Win!" mentality is even saying, hey paying running backs hasn't really worked out well. You also have to factor in that in 4 seasons Jones has been healthy enough to play all 16 games once, in 2019.

I really hate this signing. I like Jones, he is a good running back, but 7% of the cap good and taking away at least one of the slim reasons to be OK with the 2020 draft in that it would make it easier to deal with both of your running backs being free agents in 2021? If he averages 6 ypc (so at least .5 ypc better than last year), kick his success rate up to at least 65% (he was 59% last year) is healthy for every game and has positive receiving DVOA (something I don't think he's ever had, Williams has always been the better receiver) then I'll be OK with this. That's how much better he needs to be than he has been in the past to make this worth it.

29 7% of the cap? The $13 mil…

7% of the cap? The $13 mil doesn’t all hit the cap this year. I think it’s highly likely when all is said and done that his cap hit this year is under $10 million. Possibly well under depending on how they structure it. If they structured it as they usually do, the guaranteed money will be mostly stacked on this year and next, and then they’ll be fairly free to cut him after 2022 if they want.

Am I in love with the signing? No. Is it a team breaker like David Johnson, Todd Gurley, etc.? Also no.

They’re going all in on Rodgers while they’ve got him, and that means having a star RB. Which Jones is, undeniably. The guy ran for over 1,100 yards and caught another 350 on 52% of the snaps. That is incredible.

32 That's what we all thought.

It's good to admit mistakes. But to follow up with another similar mistake? 

Dont think they'll restructure Rodgers because the egg on their face (is already huge and) would implode. PR nightmare. If they do though it'll be a last resort I bet. It would the correct way of admitting a mistake (Love), in the hopes of winning chip this season (but upon winning it homers would say the Love was great even if he never played).

I personally just don't like locking into a RB on a second contract (aka big raise) for an extended period of time. I was hoping he get paid, just not by us. Might be some hard feelings when he's cut in 2 years. That and hard on the cap. And no sweet comp pick (abuse that system yall). 

Just checked and, surprisingly his only year of + DVOA receiving was 2018. Some questionable process regarding the RB position lately. Dillon pick was still bad process but it'd look at least a little better had they not done...this.

47 RB Contracts Agreed. Teams…

RB Contracts
Agreed. Teams should abuse the rookie contracts for running backs and then move on. I know that my cap hit percentage for 2021 was high, but he still needs to increase performance to justify the pay in my opinion. I also can't see this being a contract they can get out of after 2 years either, especially since the cap hit isn't this year. If 13 mil is the signing bonus then they have at least 4.25 mill in cap hit every year for it. If Jones maintains performance they have overpaid by a lot and history isn't on the side of even maintain performance on a big 2nd contract.

Thompson had his own set of issues as GM, but he was good at maximizing draft picks, and part of that was picking up comp picks. He may have been too all in on draft and develop and maximizing picks, but he was good at it at least. May not have always used the picks well, but if you assume it's mostly a lottery that isn't so bad. It was rare when he traded back and picked up extra picks that he missed out on a big difference maker either. So, I got a bit excited that Murphy/Gutekunst (since Murphy does have that weird expanded role I shouldn't leave him out) combo was still going to be good at maximizing the number of picks while shoring up the FA market deficiencies that TT had, but I'm just not sure on that. 

"All In for 2021" thoughts
To address other posts that point to this as part of an all in on 2021 strategy. As has been pointed out, if they were all in on 2021 I would have preferred to see this money go to JJ Watt. It's been the defense and lack of a 2nd consistent receiving threat that has been the bigger issue in failing in back to back NFCCG. This money doesn't help either of those. Yes, as I did point out in several threads the 2020 defense with 3 INTs in the 2nd half did mostly make up for it's failures in this years game. Though had it not failed at the end of the first half, the Packers win the game too. But improving the D could still have majorly changed the complexion of that game. Having another solid WR could have also changed the complexion of that game. Jones/Williams/Dillon were all pretty much interchangeable during that game. Right now they are still counting on the draft and basically two years removed from playing a game Devin Funchess to shore up the receiving options. Everything else is a known quantity now, and while I loved watching Tonyan last year I will be floored if he keeps up the 88% catch rate.

Though I do like what they did with the Preston Smith contract after they failed to get JJ. They basically cleared as much cap as if they would have cut him and then put in a bunch of incentives that let Preston get paid like he would have before the restructure and even more if he gets into the 14+ sack range. Players don't tend to agree to those types of deals, but it does make me feel better about him. They also got Funchess to agree to drop all his incentives and take a base pay cut as well to free up some space, so maybe if Preston fails again they can do the same to him.

OL depth is another 2021 worry. They did a great job dealing with injuries last year and shuffling the line around, but Bak might have made a difference in the NFCCG too. I'm not sure I want to see them playing that game again and the money to Jones also doesn't help that.

I also have my doubts that the draft will really have a lot of 2021 impact. This front office seems to draft for a year or two down the road. Which isn't a bad idea when you have a solid team and want to keep it going, but when you're on the doorstep and can't get through you generally want splash, not solid.

Jones and Catching the Ball
Another note on the Jones receiving DVOA 2018 was the only year Williams had a negative DVOA receiving as well, which is odd. Jones is just not a great RB receiver. Part of that is that his hands are good enough that Rodgers does dump off to him at times when things break down and it puts him in bad situations. On designed passes I think he does probably have a slightly positive DVOA, though he doesn't run routes as well as Williams when on them, and at 5'9'' he is easier to cover than the 6'0'' Williams as well. He can't really make things happen for himself in the passing game, just take what is given. Williams actually can create, despite not being as agile, or having as good of direction change with the ball.

59 3.25m* to be exact.

RB Contracts

At least 9.75m dead if cut after one year. 6.5m after two. 3.25m after three. Those are the lowest the dead caps could be after each year without touching the contract again (since the only guaranteed money we know of right now being the signing bonus). 

Ted at least let Lacy go. He probably could've been more aggressive in targeting street (compensatory) free agents but realized that unrestricted free agency isn't usually worth the time. Get free picks to NOT (over)pay dudes? Especially at low value positions like RB? Where you can find multiple good replacements in the draft? On day 3? And that's what he did in 2017, thankfully. 

All In

Agreed all around man. Watts cap hit will be 4.9m this upcoming year. That's gonna be roughly Aaron Jones too. Both 4 year deals. Yes Watts last 2 are void but Jones isn't likely to last that long either so it'll end up likely being the same. Oh and don't think it should be too controversial that Watt plays a more valuable position.

Funchess will now make the roster after taking a pay cut but like you said this will be homies first game in like 2 full years. I fear they're gonna rely on him like they did this past year in the draft. Missing out on another stacked class. 

Tonyans efficiency is a heavy bet to regress too but they still need to tender him. And it'll likely be a 2nd round one which idk how I feel about that yet when we still need the cap space. 

Preston did take a pay cut this year but 3.25m is pushed into next year (the consequences of restructuring but so be it, we should be trying to win). Think he got a bad wrap this year though. Not great by any means but Pettines usage of him was weird. 

Wish they would've given Jon Runyan an actual shot at OT before kicking him inside. Hanson I liked and thought would be Linsley replacement but getting cut after your 1st camp is a death sentence. Dont care at this point. Stepaniak was essentially hurt all year (and we knew that when we drafted him, instead of someone like KJ Hill, ugh). I think they can replenish like they have. They've seemed to found a good formula for them though.

I get that we were likely to regress going from 2019 to 2020. But they really seemed to believe weren't anywhere near NFC finalists which I just cant get down with. The crazy part about the draft is you can draft to try to win now and down the road. It's crazy because they sign multiyear contracts. The same retort of a rookie WR not being able to help year 1 (is stupid first of all) sure would help this coming year. And the next. And the year after that too. But now if you look at it, all our WRs are free agents next year. Not ideal! Sure extend Adams (3 years should be the sweet spot)...ok that's one. Again, it...is...a...passing...league. It can't just be him. They CANT go another deep class saying "but they cant help year 1!" Even Adams was surprised they picked Love over a WR. Homie was desperate for some solid help. Honestly they need to use their power as players to ask more directly for things (cough Brady cough), but that's a-whole-nother convo.

Jones catching

To be fair I think Jones receiving is a little better than DVOA lets on, but it certainly is not other wordly. Which is what it'd have to be, to be worth this contract. Unfortunately no RB does...yet. So until I do see them catching like and as often as a WR or TE, these contracts will always be bad process. No matter how many people tell you it's actually a 2 year deal (most 4 year UFA contracts are, thus no margin is gained). 

84 I also worry that the…

I also worry that the Packers are going to over-prioritize Jordan Love's future rather than just treat the 1st round pick like a sunk cost. But so long as there are other players like Zadarius and Adams that they can extend first, it probably makes sense either way to wait until totally necessary to restructure Rodgers' contract given that he's entering his age-38 season.

It's hard to get a read on what they're thinking so far. The fact that they're doing these restructures and bringing back Jones certainly seem like "win now" moves that might indicate they're going to try to add a few more pieces in FA and that they'd be willing to restructure Rodgers and firm up their commitment to him for at least 2 more seasons. However, it's a special cap situation - more teams than not are having to push cap charges back right now. And the line of coaches that LaFleur comes from (Shanahan, McVay, Kubiak...) have liked to spend a lot of money and resources at the RB position in a variety of circumstances, "all in" or not.

111 Another consequence of deals

and being over the cap; unnecessary extensions. Im fine extending Adams (but hate being forced to do it because of the cap) but I want to wait on Z. Would much rather restructure Rodgers 1st than extend Z (just restructure Z actually). But I don't think the team feels the same way. I bet they feel like they can keep a great team around both Rodgers and Love which it won't really matter if Love isn't good (and he wasn't in college).

251 OK now that I've see the full details

With the details out, I don't dislike this signing anymore. It does fit in a bit with the whole "win now" narrative. Since the system tends to use multiple backs it means Dillon should get at least the snap count levels the Williams had the last few years. There are still issues with it, but it's a lot better than I first though. It also pushes a lot of cap down the road, which almost every team is doing this year as well.

It's 2.4% of the cap this year ($4.475 million), and $9 million next year which should be in the 4-5% range. I can live with those numbers. He will not be on this contract in 2023 though because that would be a $19.25 million hit and even with cap growth that's over 8%, so lots of nope. So it's basically a $6.5 million dead money hit in 2023 which will probably be in the 3% of the cap range. So it's about 3.5% of the cap over the next 3 years for 2 more years of play.

I can almost just call the dead money portion the price of doing business after the COVID cap crash.

So the 2021 pay is very in line with production for me. The 2022 will be high without improvement but not awful.

I'm eating some crow for how harsh I was on it. By OTC valuation it's a great contract, but that valuation is of course based on what teams actually pay running backs, and I'm firmly in the camp that most running backs are overpaid and teams just haven't abused the system that is set up to work in their favor enough yet. But that's a bigger argument as well. The league really screws over players in general, that's not what I'm arguing. My argument is that by the rules the league operates under and the results on the field and availability of players that running backs are pretty much all overpaid. 

8 Aaron Jones contract

If they were planning on paying Jones, why did they bother with the AJ Dhillon pick?

11 ThEy CoMpLeMeNt EaCh OtHeR

In reply to by Joey-Harringto…

For a team that let Lacy go, picked some randos on day 3, watched Lacy flame out in a year and found two nice ones of the three drafted, you'd think they'd have learned. Guess that was a Ted thing. Alas...I wish they would've just full on franchise tagged him if this was the alternative (getting a sweet comp pick would've been the 1st choice).

85 If GB does want to add more…

If GB wants to add more players in FA, it makes sense that they didn't tag Jones because they can use every dollar they can save on the 2021 cap compared to the 1-year charge. For example, Allen Robinson's (much larger) cap hold is significantly constraining the Bears right now unless or until they can work out an extension.

I don't want to be too negative about the Jones re-signing even if it's a bad move on the merits - at the end of the day I've loved watching him play for the Packers and I'm happy that he's being paid. I think ultimately the resources being placed into the RB room right now is a LaFleur thing. Even though they're very sharp in a myriad of ways, we've also seen McVay and Shanahan use quite a bit of money and high draft picks on multiple RBs in the last few seasons.

94 They're still over the cap

And I'll reiterate, this just isn't striking the right balance of win now and later. The cash flow will be higher and the dead cap larger. All just to keep the most replaceable offensive position and watch the more valuable one sign for something similar. And another kicker was there was already depth at the position we re-signed (Dillon, Patrick Taylor) as opposed to the one we didn't (Jenkins/Patrick move?, Hanson already cut). 

The one time coaches should believe in their ability to coach a position up and they get scared of RBs leaving. 

 

102 The 1st-year cap charge will…

The 1st-year cap charge will be lower than the $8 million tag number for 2021 (otherwise the extension makes even less sense), and whether the contract is structured this way already or they would need to make another move, they'll have complete flexibility to push cap charges back again next year to keep his cap number lower than whatever the 2nd tag would have cost - $11 million or so.

Yes, I know it's still a bad move...

105 Yes, it'll be lower than the franchise tag

It has to be. The main retort is that it's really a two year deal (most are). So restructure to kick the can down the road again? Two tags would amount to $19,041,00 cash flow and then the potential for a comp pick. They're gonna pay more than that then cut him. Or kick the can down the road.

Don't like those options for a running back. But hope for the best for him. Hopefully we don't hurt his feelings down the road. But I'm sure McVay did Gurleys.

12 They complement each other,…

In reply to by Joey-Harringto…

They complement each other, but non-sarcastically.

The Packers have been one of the best rushing teams around for the last few seasons, and being able to mix-match Jones' more agile style with a big guy who just runs into people is part of the reason why. Not the whole reason, but part of it. Dillion is a straight-up Jamaal Williams replacement (although it's not entirely clear if he's actually be cheaper than Williams will be in free agency - I guess they'd argue he's got more tread on the tires, at least).

But more to the point, I don't think they were planning on paying him, until they found out he was willing to sign for a significantly below-market deal. Rosenhaus even passive-aggressively called him out for not waiting for bigger offers - I don't remember ever seeing that happen before. But it makes sense: Jones basically is the guy Ezekiel Elliott is reputed to be, and his new contract is half of that one - it was just too much of a bargain to pass up. If he left in FA they were almost certainly going to sign a replacement "smaller shifty guy who can catch"-type RB anyway (someone like Kenyan Drake maybe) so I'm not sure this even blows up their budget that much.

19 This assumes

Saying this is below market assumes that RB market value is determined based on "whatever some idiot (over)payed a comparable back".

21 That's exactly what the…

In reply to by OmahaChiefs13

That's exactly what the definition of market value is, for running backs or anything else. Jones could've chased a paycheck in Miami or somewhere worse, instead he chases a ring by staying with Rodgers.

26 Correct.

In reply to by OmahaChiefs13

Value is determined by the team, not necessarily the open market.  

It's an overpay by any estimation.  Also, the Packers were never getting Kenyan Drake, so forget that.

It was a matter of overpay or roll the dice in the draft, but I think the Packers chose wrong here.

NFL teams make the same mistakes over and over thinking it won't happen to them.

David Johnson, Zeke, et al.

 

(PS:  Those baby Chiefs are going to have a rough road this year.  No AFC CG this go around.)

64 This isn't that conversation

In reply to by DIVISION

(PS:  Those baby Chiefs are going to have a rough road this year.  No AFC CG this go around.)

I'm aware that's your opinion....it's probably not necessary to squeeze it in every time you see me comment.

I didn't think this was that kind of site.

93 I just must be crazy.

In reply to by AnonyRuss

I don't find his commentary mean spirited. He's an obvious homer who loves to name call in his replies - though I just regard it as a quirk. He's not as poignant as RaiderJoe(who is?), so that's why his schtick isn't as funny. 

The one time I had an issue was when he flagrantly brought up a political angle to a football related post where none was necessary. 

As homer's go, there are far worse. As troll's go, even on this site, I have seen  a lot worse. 

As goofy agenda's go, I've definitely seen worse and happily we have been spared this season from a certain someone. 

Am I in the minority with this guy? 

 

106 Yes

Name calling is pretty much mean spirited by definition. It shows a lack of respect for the other person and generally is regarded as a way of bullying - especially when it is pretty much constant. ("Hey, come on, I'm just playing around. Just teasing, y'know. Don't be so sensitive!" ... No, you're just an insulting, rude bully. Call me by my name.)

The homer stuff isn't as bad as it could be, true, although I was certainly glad to see that the FOMBC was able to kick in before the playoffs.

109 Fair enough. I guess his…

In reply to by LyleNM

Fair enough. I guess his schtik doesn't bother me personally but that isn't the point. If you want to be taken seriously by other commenters, you should ere on the side of being respectful, especially if others don't like it.

164 I don't mind a little…

I don't mind a little antagonism, it can liven things up. But the name-calling is puerile and unnecessary; well below the standard of discourse normally found on these boards.

He was conspicuous by his absence whilst his favorite team was floundering down the stretch last season, which is fairly clear evidence of trollish type intent. 

160 I don't necessarily find it mean-spirited

I don't immediately think "mean-spirited". I honestly haven't put a ton of thought into whether it's meant to be tongue-in-cheek, or willfully malicious...text format is still as sketchy for that kind of judgment as it ever has been, and it kind of doesn't take me anywhere useful, you know?

That said, I do find it mildly irritating, in the sense that it's just kind of a waste of space, and not what I come here for...I come to FO for discussions that rise above normal fan behavior. If I wanted that, I have a wealth of options available.

The first time it happened, ok, fine...I have a username that opens that door, so sure, we can have a chuckle about the Chiefs, and fandom generally, whether it was supposed to be humorous or not.

The second and subsequent times? Now we're just wasting everybody's time.

163 Frankly, as soon as I see…

Frankly, as soon as I see his name, I skip down to the next post.  If I see his name a lot, the thread is dead to me.  It's just ruined for the purpose of actual discourse.  There's only been a handful of posters like that over the decades, so I guess that's not bad.  Who knows -- Maybe I'm that poster to at least one reader?  But it's why I suggest "ignore feature" every time FO asks for suggestions for future enhancements.

169 He’s not the worst poster in…

He’s not the worst poster in my 10 years of following FO (there have been a handful who have been far worse.  But I’m on the same page as you.   Along with a comment reply notification and “like” button, a mute feature would be a great addition to the FO message boards.

177 Pushing the Narrative.

In about a year, we'll be talking about the regression of the Chiefs and asking why they didn't try to get better.

If I'm wrong, I'll gladly admit.

Waiting for the prop bets!

41 +1 to OmahaChiefs13 with a comment

In reply to by OmahaChiefs13

Maybe the RB market becomes the inverse of the QB market, with each subsequent signing getting less than the last.  We are still far from a normally valued RB free agent market at this point.  

27 Juice

My shout-till-someone-listens take on all of Kyle Juszczyk's contracts is that there is no FB market, so they instead use blocking TE contracts as comps. Last time it was Delaine Walker (the APY was within a couple hundred thousand). This contract ranks about 15th among tight ends, and is comparable to Blake Jarwin and TJ Hockenson's rookie contract. 

When Juszczyk went down for a few games, the niners moved from largely a 21 team to a 12 team, and just slotted in a backup TE in KJ's role. Schatz documented this last year: it didn't go well. 

35 I appreciate you shouting…

In reply to by jimbohead

I appreciate you shouting this!  Thanks for helping us non 21 team fans understand juz and the fb market.

68 Tell that to the Steelers…

In reply to by jimbohead

Tell that to the Steelers who signed Derek Watt to a 3y, 9.75M contract. 

Only to then go full-shotgun and eliminate all play action from the playbook. 

After 0 carries in the regular season he made his worth by carrying the ball 2 times against the Browns in the playoffs, for a total of 2 yards.

179 Jimbo Fisher.

I don't know any 40yo guys buying dune buggies.   We tend to buy expensive European imports because we can afford them.  If I ever sell my VW's, I'd probably only buy Audi or Volvo.  

Regarding the Steelers, they're a sunk cost team.

Another year of Big Ben means they'll be in the mix, but they won't win the AFC North and I see some regression.

They'll lose some offensive weapons and their defense isn't good enough to compensate.

 

28 Baltimore signs G Kevin…

Baltimore signs G Kevin Zeitler for 3 years, $22.5 million.

The Browns trading him away for Olivier Vernon ruined their 2019 season and jeopardized their entire rebuild, and now may continue to haunt them for years. Gotta love it. 

37 Well, they had a couple…

Well, they had a couple other things going on too. Don't get me wrong, I like Olivier Vernon, but trading away a good guard when your QB is 6'0 and not very mobile will get you a season of lowlights. Luckily they got some great coaching on board to make things work last year.

61 Ok

But I'm gonna push back on that height...ist comment. He's closer to 6-1 anyway to be exact.

31 Interesting...

He's not Thuney, whom the FA Offense projections said was the only guard worth targeting, but Baltimore made sure they wrapped him up first thing.  Any ideas why, FO staff?

48 I think Smith is leaps and…

I think Smith is leaps and bounds better than Clay was.  Sometimes, when your alternative is to roll out the same non-productive TE group yet again, one needs to overpay.  He'll certainly get every opportunity to showcase his skills as a featured option.

55 Eh. Low usage. Hard to tell…

Eh. Low usage. Hard to tell. By DVOA he's likely top-10 over the past two years. We said similar things about Wes Welker when they got him, although obviously Miami was a worse offense.

The money doesn't matter that much, as obviously New England's got money to burn on getting preferred toys. But it is surprising as I figured most markets would be depressed due to lack of suitors. New England's other signings are pretty reasonable, but Smith's contract looks like they were in a bidding war.

77 Uh... 50th? I mean, that's…

Uh... 50th? I mean, that's ludicrously obvious - there's a bigger gap between it and the next-closest year than the full span of the others. The other three average to 16: that year has a pull more than all the others combined, and twice as large as the second-highest one (obviously the 6 year).

Ranking's always a bit weird, though. He went -31%, -1.8%, 25.6%, 7.5% by DVOA, with slightly heavier usage in 2020 than 2019, putting the DYAR in the two years pretty close. But again, fairly light usage in the two recent years. By DYAR you'd probably guess his production on the Titans would be like, 50+/-25 DYAR/year or so.

It doesn't look like a good signing, mind you: it's the freaking 4th highest TE contract average per year adjusted for cap inflation, and by his performance he totally doesn't deserve it. That being said, however, a lot of the top contracts for TEs are recent - valuation of tight ends has been growing rapidly recently. Like I said, it looks like the Patriots got in a bidding war with someone and overpaid.

72 Yes agree that of the…

Yes agree that of the Patriots signings, this is the one that raised my eyebrows. But that is possibly because I trust Belichick way more when he's evaluating defensive players. 

Smith is an elite athlete, but he's coming from a stacked Titans offense who (stupidly) did not throw the ball very much, so I agree, it's hard to evaluate. But they simply had to sign some receivers. Smith and his agent clearly knew that. Addressing needs in free agency is costly, but there's no way this doesn't improve the team. 

78 People are really…

People are really misunderstanding free agency this year. Normally you see a team like the Patriots go and grab a bunch of players in free agency and you say "what are you doing, you're trying to go all in this year?" because going crazy in free agency usually means you're mortgaging future resources relative to other teams.

The Patriots aren't. None of these signings really "hurt" long term. They're not trying to go "all in" - they're trying to figure out the cornerstones of a new team starting next year. If Smith ends up being mediocre, will it hurt the Patriots? Yeah, it'll hurt because they have a mediocre receiver. His contract sucks, but please - every team in the league has a ~$10M cap charge on their roster that isn't worth it.

I'm still guessing they trade up in the draft and go after a QB, with Newton being a bridge quarterback to give the rookie time while making the team look attractive to free agents next year. Which it better be - right now next year's team basically doesn't exist.

I mean, they're not the Steelers, who are hi-larious, and apparently plan to play two-way football next year. They're definitely going all in.

86 I think there's a good…

I think there's a good chance Belichick is thinking about Jones. I don't watch college ball but, from what I've read, Jones sounds like a Belichick quarterback. Plus, there's the Alabama connection 

As a Colts fan, I was hoping that Ballard wouldn't trade for Wentz, but that he'd sign Fitzpatrick as a bridge and trade up to draft Jones. From a team-building perspective, it's high-risk to sign a vet on his last legs in the hope of selecting the fifth quarterback of this draft when your draft slot is #21.

I am very interested to see where Jones gets picked. I feel like he could go much earlier than most people expect as of now. Quarterbacks always rise and there are teams in the early teens that could be interested. Wouldn't be surprised if Jones ends up as a top ten pick.

40 Is this only the second time…

Is this only the second time in BB era that the Pats have been this aggressive in free agency? The other time was in 2007 with Stallworth, Thomas, and Randy Moss.

 

 

98 They were awful by their…

In reply to by RickD

They were awful by their standards. By the end of the year they were worse than they were at the beginning. That's not what they expect for themselves.

The Jets exceeded fanbase expectations, but not organizational expectations. They were terrible, but the expectations were low.

 

117 No, the Jets were worse than…

No, the Jets were worse than expected by FO standards, fanbase expectations and organizational expectations.  FO had them pegged at last place in the division, but did not peg them as threatening the Lions and Browns for full season incompetence.  Although according to DVOA they weren't as bad as the 2016 Jets.

171 Honestly, I thought going 7…

In reply to by RickD

Honestly, I thought going 7-9 with that garbage roster was pretty impressive.  Imagine what Belichick can do with actual players, even with no Brady (9-7 or 10-6?).

46 The Pats are an interesting…

The Pats are an interesting team when it comes to free agency. I felt like they splurge on really top talent or go bargain basement hunting otherwise. Think Rodney Harrison or Gilmore.

This time they are paying for mid tier veterans. I've traditionally never been a fan of this strategy as it almost always leads to overpaid guys who end up as disappointments most of the time. 

166 Okay, Smith and Henry now…

Okay, Smith and Henry now. Judon looks pretty reasonable - the guarantee's a bit high, but the per-year average isn't that bad even for a 7-8 sack/year guy. Bourne's cheap. Godchaux's contract looks fine. Newton is obviously holy-hell cheap.

I'd even say giving the Agholor contract a pass wouldn't be horrible, it's actually pretty consistent with what other guys who've produced similar amounts would get. (Problem is most of those contracts came from bad teams or ended up being ones the teams regretted, so...) But it just looks like a normal risky decision.

But the Patriots just gave 2 of the top inflation-adjusted contracts of all time for a tight end in one offseason. What. The. Hell. I mean, it's fine to be like "the Patriots really value these guys" but who in the hell were they bidding against? Yes, tight end valuations are accelerating, but not that much.

The other weird thing is that the contracts are all backloaded. They barely have a team next year and now they've only got $44M in space. I thought this was a "let's get a bunch of guys and form the new core of a future team" but now it looks like "eff it, let's try to win this year." Is this Belichick's swan song attempt?

176 A lot depends on what…

A lot depends on what expectations are for the cap in future years. Also, presumably they will have a cost controlled QB for next 4 years unless Cam has an MVP year and demands a huge contract.

183 They have 33 players and …

They have 33 players and $164M committed (OTC's weird, you have to cut McCourty yourself to get the real value). Even if the cap's 225M (which it won't be, they still need to spread the COVID losses) they need to add 20 players for ~$3M/each. And of those 33 players, the only one who can be cut "for free" is Trent Brown. And that assumes they're OK with losing Gilmore and Hightower, too (and I'm assuming McCourty's done). With a more realistic ~205M cap, that's $1.24M each.

Basically all the new contracts they got accelerate hard in 2022. Agholor + Henry + Smith + Judon would take up 25% of a 225M cap. Which is just weird.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it's like, impossible or anything, it's just strange. They're leaving themselves without much flexibility next year, and it's hard to understand why. That's a lot of trust in those guys.

188 I don't know.  I mean I…

I don't know.  I mean I really do not know.  I know that Belichick knows more about economics than I do.  And I'm pretty certain he knows more about economics in the context of an NFL franchise better than just about anyone.  We'll have to see what the plan is.  It's folly to assume he doesn't have one and is just collecting talent for its own sake, as Tanier seems to postulate in his latest piece.

191 Belichick knows about…

Belichick knows about economics thats for sure. However, his decision making never seems to quite align with the stereotypical rational optimizer. 

He never seems to have a draft strategy or player profile imo. I guess he doesn't chase speed, but he also at times prefers jacks of all trades and then at other times prefers specialists. Also, I found it mindboggling that he of all people would take a running back in the first round. This is a coach who has won so many sbs with rbs off the scrap heap. Somewhere I know Deion Lewis is shaking his fist, but its true...

To me, Belichick's unique skill is getting the most out of his defense and special teams and offensive line. I think he flat sucks with wide receivers though.  

196 It seems that if he believes…

It seems that if he believes that a player can contribute on, at minimum, 3 downs over the life of the contract, BB puts a 1st round value on the player.  It certainly doesn't mean his evaluation is infallible -- he thought Laurence Maroney was one of those players, let alone Sony Michel -- but some all running backs are not created equal.  And there is a much better chance of finding a Adrian Peterson or LaDainian Tomlinson in the first round than in the middle or late rounds.  Sure, maybe you don't need that calibre and are just as happy to roll the dice on a Chris Carson or Aaron Jones late, but, like quarterbacks, those guys are more miss than hit.

I would say that if you have evaluated running backs in the draft, and you think you've found a guy that's going to be a three-down back for you for four years plus an option, go ahead and take him in the first if you don't love the other possibilities.  That's good value.

Just don't re-sign him to a second deal.

199 Your last point got me…

Your last point got me thinking.

Let's say you have some all time running back. Are you better off riding him into the ground for 5 years and then saying goodbye or putting him on a proverbial pitch count and trying to extend his longevity for as long as possible.

I understand the latter strategy requires a delicate balance of monitoring his usage while trying to keep the contract affordable

200 Dude, Belichick isn't like,…

Dude, Belichick isn't like, immune to making mistakes in free agency. He's made a bunch of big mistakes in free agency, with Adalius Thomas being the obvious one.

"We'll have to see what the plan is.  It's folly to assume he doesn't have one and is just collecting talent for its own sake,"

Mike's criticizing Belichick for entirely different reasons than I am. He's criticizing them for going on a spending spree. I totally think they should have! Positioning themselves to be the biggest player in this year's market was smart. Major kudos for that. Mike's justification in that sense is sketchy: this is not a normal offseason, so looking at what teams have done historically doesn't make sense.

What I'm criticizing him for is much simpler. They're the biggest market player in a depressed market. They should've easily been able to pick up players on sub-market deals, and instead they just signed 2 TEs to essentially market-setting deals. WTF. I mean, unless this is some sort of weird long game to destroy the multi-TE teams by spiraling the TE market out of control, I don't get it. 

Even if Smith and Hunter turn out to be top-end TEs (which is a big if) I cannot figure out who they were negotiating against on that. No market estimate of Smith and Hunter would've resulted in those numbers, so the only answer is that they're either 1) dumb (not likely) or 2) got into a bidding war. And, even weirder, they set new records on guaranteed fractions for a multi-year TE contract! That makes zero sense - it's an either/or: you either push the market on total value or guaranteed fractions, not both

To make it more clear, Spotrac's market valuations of the Patriots major picks are:

Henry ($12.5M/yr) $10.9M valuation
Smith ($12.5M/yr) $8M valuation
Judon ($13.6M/yr) $15.6M valuation
Agholor ($11M/yr) $9.7M valuation

You can see why it's so confusing: Judon's completely normal, no problem there. Agholor's, y'know, not great, but it's a short contract. Smith and Henry are just overpriced. There's no way around that. Add to that the high guarantee fraction, and it makes zero sense. It's like they decided "we have to have these 2 guys, no matter what" and just went out and got them. But, I mean... who the hell were they bidding against?

229 I don't necessarily disagree…

I don't necessarily disagree with anything you said.  As has been written several times over the last several days, Belichick has gotten significantly away from the team-building method that he's espoused over the last 20 years.  He's made significant free agent mistakes, and I could list a dozen without thinking.  There's virtually no way that all these signings are going to work out, and at least one probably won't make the final roster.  But that's not relevant to my point.

My point is that nobody in the game sees market inefficiencies, or anticipates the future state of play, better than Belichick.  There's a reason that he's gone this route at this time.  I don't know what it is, but it seems like a lot of people simply ascribe it to his taking crazy pills.

231 "There's a reason that he's…

"There's a reason that he's gone this route at this time.  I don't know what it is, but it seems like a lot of people simply ascribe it to his taking crazy pills."

It's not the route that he's taking that I'm talking about. The route is fine! I totally get spending this year. I even totally get grabbing multiple TEs. It's the cost. Imagine if Belichick picked up the 1st overall pick this draft. People would be like "damn, he's a genius, they're gonna get Trevor Lawrence and be awesome" and then he goes and picks a tight end first overall. Yeah, I could sit there and be "well, no one understands the game like Belichick! That TE must be awesome!" And the TE might be awesome. But it doesn't change the fact that he shouldn't have had to spend a 1st overall pick to get that guy.

Does that make sense? It's the exact same thing here. I cannot figure out how the Patriots had to spend that much to get those 2 TEs. If I were an NFL GM and that was the opening offer an agent made me, I'd laugh and say "yeah, we can talk about a top TE contract after a few years of being a top TE." Or you say "okay, we can talk about that as a top value after performance escalators." Or you say "okay, but the guarantee's gonna have to be lower" (functionally the same as the last bit).

The only reason I can come up with is that they got into a bidding war and for some reason just decided to say "eff it." What I can't even figure out is who were they bidding against? Green Bay tendered Tonyan as a 2nd round pick and sub-$5M money. If there was someone else who was willing to pay, say, $12M/yr for either Henry or Smith, eff it, offer Tonyan $8M and force Green Bay to eat it or count the 2nd round pick as a $4M cost. It couldn't've been the Seahawks - they don't have the kind of cap space to offer a similar contract to Henry or Smith. The Patriots could've won that bidding war just with the increased guarantee fraction.

That's why I say I can't make sense of it. Not because I don't think that Belichick might've identified something in those players. That's fine. Whatever. I can't make sense of it because of the rest of the league

236 That ties in to something I…

That ties in to something I've suspected about Belichick and Carroll's approach to the draft, as well:  they waste draft capital by picking their guys earlier than they need to.

The problem with testing this hypothesis is the lack of information.  We don't know whether the former lacrosse-playing special team player NE grabbed in round 5 would have been available in round 7, because we don't know that no other team would have picked them.  So we can't say for certain that NE overpaid by using that round 5 pick instead of trading for a round 7 pick and another round 7 pick next year.  All we get is a suspicion that SEA probably overpaid when they grabbed in round 3 a guy that the draft board prognositicators had as a round 5 pick as best. 

The same applies to this year's signings: we don't know how much NE needed to pay these two TEs to sign them.  For reasons you point out, there are reasons to suspect that that they could have.  But just like when trying to buy a house, you don't always get to know you're in a bidding war:  sometimes you try to put in an offer you think will get you the house, because you're not sure you'll be given the option to raise your offer later.  Ideally, you don't get so set on a particular house that you overpay, but if you really want that house, you're more worried at the time about regretting not paying more than you are about regretting paying too much.

And what could be happening here is expert certainty, where Carroll/Belichick have confidence in the absolute value of a guy to them, and draft/pay based on that, rather than on how others may value them.  And that in itself is also understandable.  If you believe a guy's worth $X million and there are 31 other teams out there, there only needs to be 1 other who agrees with you for you to lose that guy by trying to get him for $X-1.  That can lead you to drafting too high and paying too much.  Ideally you'd have both an independent view of their worth an understanding of how everyone else values them, but with 31 competitors, that's a big ask.  Just being right that this guy really is worth what you're paying them is tough enough, even for experts.

238 Yup. Spot on. The thing is,…

Yup. Spot on.

The thing is, the cost of overdrafting a player in the draft is way overblown. I mean, you hear people say "they could've gotten that guy in round 2" when picking him in round 1. Whatever. The value delta between mid-round 1 and mid-round 2 pick isn't huge if you consider the miss risk. In terms of dollars it's equivalent to at most maybe $5M (and no, the Osweiler case isn't precedent, the Browns effed that up, they were planning on flipping Osweiler). Overdrafting just doesn't hurt you that much. And, in the draft, the market is much bigger: teams have very similar resources to begin with (ignoring trades, which is just resource shuffling).

"And what could be happening here is expert certainty, where Carroll/Belichick have confidence in the absolute value of a guy to them, and draft/pay based on that, rather than on how others may value them."

Well, in free agency, it could also be that the Patriots got fleeced by an agent. That's certainly possible, and definitely a difference between the draft and free agency - the draft is one-sided, whereas free agency is a negotiation. It's really weird they signed Henry and Smith so quickly. I mean, it's almost like they signed Smith first to push Henry's contract value down (as in, you're negotiating with the guy, and then you say, well, we just got this other guy, so we don't need you that much...) which is even more bizarre.

241 Well said. We don't know…

Well said. 

We don't know whether the former lacrosse-playing special team player NE grabbed in round 5 would have been available in round 7, because we don't know that no other team would have picked them.  So we can't say for certain that NE overpaid by using that round 5 pick instead of trading for a round 7 pick and another round 7 pick next year. 

Also feeding into this phenomenon is that Belichick only has about 55 guys in the draft he wants -- at any price.  So when 51 are off the board in the first 4 rounds, assuming you can't trade the pick, why not draft one of those guys in the 5th, even if you, or Mel Kiper, have a seventh round grade on him?  That's why teams invest millions in scouting departments.

242 Yeah, that's a separate…

Yeah, that's a separate difference between free agency and the draft as well - the resources go away if you don't spend them, so it doesn't matter if you spend them frivolously. Whereas actual dollars in free agency always matter, at least to some degree. (There's a slight caveat in that when you're still in top-51 land, signing guys who fall below that cutoff actually don't matter, but that's such a miniscule point it's not worth considering).

237 As a Jets fan, I have to say…

As a Jets fan, I have to say, I'm really enjoying watching the discussions of Pats fans trying to justify their team's free agency instead of the inverse as per usual.

Not to say that typical Jets fans are anywhere near happy with how relatively quiet they've been so far.  But I for one am glad they have avoided the trap of overpaying for second-tier-or-worse talent at top-tier prices.

222 Tanier

I have always been a fan of Tanier's writing - the wit, the goading of sacred cows, etc. Over the past 3-4 years though, before the last SB at least, he turned sour on the Pats - just relentlessly negative about anything they did, picking them to lose games that they clearly would win, taking cheap shots at Belichick, Brady, etc. It certainly hadn't been the case previously and seemed so unlike his normal manner of operating. After a while, I started to wonder, 'What exactly did Belichick say about Tanier's mom?'

186 I think it's a reach to say…

I think it's a reach to say they 'barely have a team'. They could easily go 10-6 next year. And the contracts are backloaded as the cap is due to take off in the next year or two with the next TV deal. Moreover, most of the players could be cut without a huge amount of dead money.

195 No, when I said they barely…

No, when I said they barely have a team next year, I meant they barely have a team - literally. Excluding the players they picked up this offseason, they had something like 6 players not on a rookie contract or essentially vet minimum for 2022. They're not the only team like this, mind you (the Seahawks are the worst, with like, 3 - not effing kidding, the 2022 Seahawks currently consist of Wilson, Wagner, their kicker, and guys on rookie contracts).

So with a bucket-ton of cap space this year, what I figured was that they would pick up a fair amount of vets at relatively front-loaded contracts, relying on the weak markets to get solid value right across the board. I did not expect them to go out and give 2 TEs some of the top TE contracts in history, and back loading them to limit themselves next year.

"And the contracts are backloaded as the cap is due to take off in the next year or two with the next TV deal. "

I just... I don't get this reasoning. The cap was $200M last year. It's $182.5M this year. It's gonna be like, $200M next year. Even if you believe the weird dream that it's going to be $225M (it won't, they've got to absorb those losses somewhere), that's 6% annual growth over those 2 years. Which is the historic average.

Now think about it. None of these contracts look smaller than previous years. Which means the contract value is growing smoothly at its normal 6%/yr rate. So backloading these doesn't do anything - the cap's only going to grow quickly relative to 2021's cap, but salaries aren't following 2021's cap.

So it's like you're double-counting the TV deal. The TV deal can either wash the COVID losses away, or it can jump the cap for a year or two past its 6% historical average. It can't do both. 

"Moreover, most of the players could be cut without a huge amount of dead money."

That's not true unless the OTC details are wrong.

205 Even if you believe the…

Even if you believe the weird dream that it's going to be $225M (it won't, they've got to absorb those losses somewhere),

I've seen estimates north of $250.

That's not true unless the OTC details are wrong.

Henry can be cut after the 2022 season with $10 mil in cap savings, $5 mil in dead money.

Jonnu Smith can be traded after June 1, 2023 with $11 mil in cap savings, $4 mil in dead money.

Judon can be traded after June 1, 2023 with $12 mil in cap savings, $4.5 mil in dead money.

Agholor can be cut after June 1, 2022, with $10 mil in cap savings, $5 mil in dead money.

 

230 I mean, I respect the fact…

I mean, I respect the fact that you can have your own opinion, but if someone's managed to sell you on the idea that it's going to be $250M in 2022, you've been totally fooled. There is z-e-r-o chance of that happening. The NFL's had a salary cap for nearly 30 years. They've had multiple new media deals over that time. The long term average growth is 6%/yr. Even if we assume COVID didn't happen, that would be a 20% acceleration, which has simply never happened. And COVID did happen, and the league's still carrying $30M in COVID losses. $220M is the highest it's going to be, and if I was betting I'd put it at $210M.

--

You also might want to brush up on how post-June 1 stuff happens. First, post-June 1 trades don't really help you: you actually have to trade the player after June 1. It's not like post-June 1 cuts, where you can early designate. Because the trade market's significantly cooler by then (it's after the draft), they rarely happen. And the idea of trading a player post-June 1 for cap relief is hilarious: you want to get rid of the guy because he's not worth his contract, so you think you can keep him on the team until June 1 and then find another team to grab him up?

Plus for any post-June 1 transaction you still carry the full charge until June 1, which means they do not help you to get under the cap at league start. And, of course, it doesn't change the dead money, it just moves it.

So it's completely pointless to look at post-June 1 numbers and say "look, it's not that bad!" Yes, you can cut Agholor as a post-June 1 cut and save $10M on the cap. Big whoop. You can also cut him as a normal cut, save $5M on the cap immediately, and do a simple restructure on someone else converting salary to a bonus and equally push the money forward without having to carry that player on the cap. Post-June 1 cut options are just cap management techniques. And they're not particularly good ones, unless you're ultra-screwed like several teams were this year. 

To be clear: every one of those 4 players will be on the Patriots through 2022, with the possible exception of Agholor if he's so bad they want to save $5M. Smith and Judon will almost certainly be on the Patriots through 2023. If things are so bad they get rid of them no matter what, they will have paid a ton of money to those guys.

57 Well, Belichick did win a…

Well, Belichick did win a Super Bowl with Jeff Hostetler at QB.

But so they probably aren't SB contenders, so what? They've won six Super Bowls in my lifetime. If they never win one again, they've already exceeded expectations. I'll be content with some more playoff appearances.

58 NE picked up 5 players today

Patriots picked up 5 players today, and traded 1 for a move up in rounds 4-6 in the draft.  This is mind boggling.  As you say, they have a QB problem. Although difficult, you can win a Super Bowl with a mediocre QB.  Looking at Newton's DVOA/DYAR for 2018-2019 he has been far from mediocre. 

We are past the days of winning a Super Bowl with Jeff Hostetler and Trent Dilfer.  Those are good comparable QB;s to where Newton is now.  Is the 7 seed really exciting?    This AFC season was a fluke in that it had 7 teams 11-5 or better.  We will be seeing a lot more 9-7 teams in the playoffs, and some like the ever exciting Chicago Bears at 8-8 this year.

73 Belichick hasn't got many…

As Pat has said above, the money paid isn't eyebrow raising, other than in the case of Jonnu Smith. And that was a desperate need. The others all look like very typical Patriots signings; either returning players, or mid-tier players seemingly identified to fit a very particular role. 

Belichick hasn't got too many years left. He already spent last year basically half-tanking to set up this 'splurge'. As a fan, why would want more of his last remaining years to be spent speculatively trying to set up the team for the next decade? Often when a team splurges in free agency one suspects it is a case of a weak coaching/front office trying to save their asses in the short term. But in this case the short term is about maximizing the remaining years of one of the greatest coaches in history. 

I'm a little tired of the 'tear everything down until you have an elite QB' mantra anyhow. We're a year removed from Jimmy Garrapolo almost winning a SB, Jared Goff before him, and Nick Foles actually did win one the year before that. Winning a SB with a bad QB feels increasingly unlikely , but winning with an average one is perfectly within reach with a great supporting cast and coaching. New England have the latter; they are trying to acquire the former. Meanwhile Cleveland followed that mantra and ended up with an average QB anyway. Fortunately they managed to acquire a seemingly excellent coach, but they may still be on the path to purgatory. Who knows what will become of the Dolphins and Jets. 

It seems like many would prefer their teams to be out hunting for the next Peyton Manning. Belichick is out there trying to win.  

80 At first I was really…

At first I was really getting "WTF?" on the Patriots offensive signings, what with Smith + Bourne + Agholor, but I think this is a case of bad reporting. It looks like they're stacking the crap out of the contracts with escalators.

Obviously the Newton signing was massively overreported: the Bourne contract looks like it's being about 50% overreported (3 years, $15M sounds way more reasonable), and there aren't details on the Agholor/Smith contracts yet. If they're also incentive-laden, they look a lot more reasonable.

168 Nope, Agholor/Smith's…

Nope, Agholor/Smith's contracts look as reported. It's a bit high for a player like him (and contracts like that haven't worked out well or were bad teams making them) but not wacko.

Smith and Hunter are wacko. Those just don't make sense.

173 TE is a stratified skill…

TE is a stratified skill position in the NFL, where there just aren't many guys above "replacement level".  So I get paying up to get some potential value out of this position.

The interesting thing is paying for two such guys.  Typically, you'd expect diminished returns from the second guy on the roster.  So why pay for two?  Possible reasons:

  • standard risk diversification - if Hunter's hurt (again), you can still play Smith.
  • two pass threat TE formations - instead of diminishing returns, can you actually get enhanced returns from both players if you put them on the field at the same time?

It's the potential for the latter that's most interesting to me, as it flips conventional thinking on it's head.  I'm not sure it's true - and almost certainly won't be if D's can adjust to it - but can you make your top TE even more productive by pairing him with a second quality TE?  It's analagous to the edge rusher position, and the potential that fielding two top guys gets you more than 2x the value of fielding one.  Except that because it's an O position instead of a D position, you may be better able to realize any such multiplier effect because you dictate the play call?

 

185 I mean, if both of them were…

I mean, if both of them were like, say, Ertz or Hooper level (~$10M/yr, ~52% guaranteed), I could see it. Waller would be even more reasonable (~$7.5M/yr, ~55% guaranteed), although he's way underpaid at this point.

But they're both literally top-tier TE contracts to players that just have not performed at the same level of the guys around them in terms of inflation-adjusted valuation. No way around that. The guys around them are Kittle, early Graham, early Gronk, Kelce, mid-career Witten, mid-career Gonzalez. Those were guys who had multiple years as unquestionable top-3 or so TE.

And then, right below them in adjusted value, also there's Julius Thomas, who was quite possibly the worst TE signing in league history. Which this feels a whole lot like.

I get the value of having multiple TEs, but this is a huge premium they're paying. Based on performance it's easily like a ~$25M premium total that they're paying (with a lot of that guaranteed). I know it's a tight market for TEs unless you want to toss draft picks around, but I don't see the logic in maneuvering to be the big player in free agency and then burning most of that on a position that's already overpriced due to limited supply.

210 It's worth noting that both…

It's worth noting that both Smith and Henry significantly out-performed Hooper last year - although of course, if he continues to stink they could save some money by cutting him next year, unlike with those two now.

Maybe this is galaxy-brained, but I like the two TE deals better combined than either one separately. Because it signals that they're going to run a lot of 12 offense, which they've had a lot of success with in the past, and which seems like a good fit for Cam Newton's (lack of) abilities at this point. Moreso than Agholor at any rate, although I agree that in a vacuum that deal is more reasonable.

With that in mind, the strategy makes sense: they need two good TEs ("good" meaning competent at both blocking and receiving), they have zero, and these are the only two good ones available. So they pay the premium, ridiculous as it is, because the question at hand isn't how these guys stack up to historical TE contracts, it's whether or not the Patriots want to have a functional offense in the next couple of years. And the premium is palatable because they'll be paying quite a bit below-market for QB during that span (between cheap Cam and/or presumably a cost-controlled draft pick in the next two years): assuming OTC numbers are up-to-date, in aggregate they're paying a middle-of-the-road sum for what looks to be a middle-of-the-road offense, which may not be super sexy but it pretty much as efficient as you can reasonably hope to do in free agency.

The salient question of course is whether there was a better path to offensive competence than signing two "pretty good" TEs to "great" TE contracts, and... well, weird as it sounds, I'm not sure there was. The receiver market was deep but none of them were franchise-changers (except maybe Godwin, who re-signed), and signing a bunch of the top receivers available would be more expensive in absolute terms (and they got one anyway, plus Bourne); obviously no RB is going to move the needle that far; and the only way to get a major QB upgrade involved/s trading a pile of picks, and the rest of the roster isn't good enough to withstand missing out on that influx of talent, regardless of who the QB is. So it was this or, like, gambling that Sam Darnold finally unlocks that theoretical potential. I honestly might have gone that route (he's still very young! he occasionally looked quite good for several throws in a row!), but I get why they went the way they did, even if it meant paying Jonnu Smith Travis Kelce money (and counting on Henry's health, which might be the biggest problem with this strategy).

235 "It's worth noting that both…

"It's worth noting that both Smith and Henry significantly out-performed Hooper last year"

You're misunderstanding. Hooper's contract value was set in 2019. He signed the contract in 2020. In 2019 he put up 130 DYAR and 787 yards and 6 TDs on 97 catches. That performance was better than Smith and roughly equivalent to Henry. Hooper has underperformed his Browns contract, but the contract itself was market-value for that performance. Smith and Henry in 2020 both underperformed relative to 2019, so Hooper's contract should be in some sense a ceiling for Smith and Henry, in terms of market value.

"The salient question of course is whether there was a better path to offensive competence than signing two "pretty good" TEs to "great" TE contracts, and... well, weird as it sounds, I'm not sure there was."

Why did they need to offer them "great" contracts? Who else was gonna pay Smith and Henry $10M/yr? No one's tried to pry Tonyan from the Packers, for instance, and the only other TE signing's been Gronk (and please, their bidding war partner wasn't Tampa) and a couple of low-end TEs. And Gronk got signed for slightly under market - so no one tried to pry him from Tampa, either (although that might've just been Gronk taking whatever to stay with Brady).

And there are a bunch of still highly-performing vets out there who haven't been signed yet. Cook and Rudolph should still be 1-2 year options. And there are a few cheap guys who had infrequent good years if you want to buy low, plus possible reclamation projects (Ertz). Note: I'm not saying any of these guys are better options - I'm saying the fact that we haven't seen any action there suggests the market isn't that hot for TEs. If the Patriots had competition to sign Smith/Henry, then the losing team should be out there picking someone up, and they aren't. But if it's not that hot, how the heck did they have to overpay?

It's not the football part that's questionable. It's the market part that is.

82 I think the Browns are a…

I think the Browns are a great example of why the tear everything down approach is probably a bad one. They got to hilariously awful depths and drafted as well as you could have reasonably hoped and they still aren't any kind of perennial contender. 

I think the strategy should be to build a good roster as best you can and try your hand at qb when you can. I'm not in favor, however, of overpaying big for QBs. 

266 Mayfield was ranked 16th in…

Mayfield was ranked 16th in DYAR last season, 17th in DVOA. I'd say that was average, yes. 

I only said they "may" be on the path to purgatory. Because unless Mayfield can improve significantly, once he signs his second contract, their path towards becoming an elite team becomes increasingly difficult.

Look, I'm sure as a Browns fan you are happy enough with life right now. There's reason to feel positive with this coaching staff. But it is still a long way from the promised land, given all the suffering you went through to get to this point. 

83 Is the 7 seed really…

Is the 7 seed really exciting? 

Well, speaking frankly as a Patriots fan, nothing is really exciting anymore after the last 20 years. I just want some respectability and watchable games going forward. Another SB wouldn't just be gravy, it'd be fifth dessert. It's fine, but not worth years of awfulness to get.

If you offered me a choice between a) 9-7 and a first-round playoff exit the next four years and b) records of 3-13, 4-12, 5-11 followed by a SB appearance, and $1000 cash, I'd take the first without a second thought. I saw enough bad Patriots football in the 90s to last me a lifetime.

92 1) Props for being a fan of…

1) Props for being a fan of them back in the early 90s (they were decent once Parcells got there), or even late 80s which was really bad for them, and 2). I'd take the stimulus money and not bother to watch them the next couple of years.

220 Not All Darkness

I've been a Pats fan since the 70s and there were some excellent years in the midst of the drudgery. The '85 team that had the misfortune to encounter an historic Bears team, the Plunkett team that got jobbed in the playoffs against the Raiders (revenge really was served cold - temporally and climatically). The problem was an inability to sustain anything because of venal ownership and some terrible luck.

97 "If you offered me a choice…

"If you offered me a choice between a) 9-7 and a first-round playoff exit the next four years and b) records of 3-13, 4-12, 5-11 followed by a SB appearance, and $1000 cash,"

This is the part I don't get. Show me a team with a solid coaching staff + front office/etc. that's gone 3-13/4-12/5-11. Do you have any idea how hard that is to do? Players have to be bad in order to do that. They're not going to like, drop balls you throw to them on purpose or anything like that. Players screw up and accidentally score even when they've been told not to! And if you're obviously tanking, players hate you for it - because you depress their free-agent value.

Imagine Belichick being like "well, we're gonna suck this year, so screw it, I'm just gonna play rookies and hand playcalling off to a random fan in a raffle to try to get a good draft pick!" Huge amounts of the team are free agents next year. If you prevent them from having a good year intentionally, they're gone. They'll never stick around. No chance.

The Steelers had no QB under Cowher for like, oh, his entire career. They literally floored out at 6-10. Schottenheimer and the Chiefs floored out at 7-9. Andy Reid's only season down below 6-10 after his first was his final one in Philly. Literally the only example I could think of is Jeff Fisher and the Titans, and, well, there's now a ton more evidence that Fisher is, well, not a good coach

Good coaches/teams don't need to lose big to turn things around - because the teams that do lose big are badly managed, and good teams aren't actually competing against them. 

104 Jeff Fisher

I think the question of whether Jeff Fisher is a good coach is interesting. There is certainly evidence he was bad, but there's also a ton of evidence to suggest he was good. Someone in the Drew Brees thread noted we almost need to split up QBs into more than just 2 eras (modern / not-modern), but rather a third even more recent one to reflect when passing numbers started to really take off. Perhaps Jeff Fisher (and other coaches) should be evaluated similarly.

Is it possible Fisher was a good coach, the game changed, and he didn't adjust accordingly. Yes, making adjustments is part of being a good coach, but it's also not necessarily fair to assume the same person who was among the 20 or so best in the entire world during one era would also be among the same elite company in another era. Afterall, not everyone can be Belichick. 

Didn't it just seem like the game had passed Fisher by and he couldn't adjust to life in a pass-crazy offensive environment, particularly with poor quarterbacks of his own?

112 Yeah, that person would be…

In reply to by rageon

Yeah, that person would be me. :)

"Is it possible Fisher was a good coach, the game changed, and he didn't adjust accordingly."

I mean - I think I'd probably say that Fisher was a coach out of his time. I don't think even when Fisher was "at his best" that he was actually doing a good job. McNair was a top-5 QB in 01/03, and Fisher just wasn't using him. I honestly think it's not a huge stretch to say that a huge portion of the reason the Patriots won the Super Bowl in 2003 was because Fisher just had no clue how to use McNair.

But that's also stressing my point, in that the only way that the Titans were going 4-12 in 2005 was because of Fisher. McNair in 2005 was a decent quarterback. 12th in DYAR. Middle of the pack in DVOA. Only way they were going 4-12 is because Fisher had no interest in using the only functional part of his offense.

119 At the same time, his…

At the same time, his stretch from 1995-2003 (which included a move from Houston to Tennessee) was a genuinely great run; how often do bad coaches stay that consistently successful? Guys like Norv Turner and Wade Phillips managed to look pretty good with talented rosters for a while before the RNG caught up to them, but never for that long.

I think his point was a good one - for about ten years, Fisher was a genuinely good coach - maybe not great, but certainly a good one. While "I have no idea how to use a QB or run an offense" seems like a pretty major deficiency in a head coach, he managed to make it work longer than I would expect from pure randomness.

Of course, his other defining characteristic was that his best teams were also widely regarded as the dirtiest in the league, so the NFL cracking down on that right around when he seemingly stopped knowing how to coach is a pretty good strike against him, too. 

123 While "I have no idea how to…

While "I have no idea how to use a QB or run an offense" seems like a pretty major deficiency in a head coach, he managed to make it work longer than I would expect from pure randomness.

I mean... I just... How are you characterizing Fisher's run from 1995-2003 as "great"? From 1995-1998 he had zero winning seasons (3 8-8 seasons in a row!), and over the whole span you've got like, 2 years where he's actually near the top of the league in DVOA, plus a couple of lucky years where his record was way better than the team. And in 2003 he utterly squandered the best player on the team! That's 8 years with 2 great teams. I mean, that's like Mike Martz!

Add in the fact that he was a defensive coach and the fact that over his full span he had an above-average defense less than half the time (his only consecutive years with a good defense were 2007-2008) and it looks a lot like pure randomness from a coach with a great QB.

Fisher's career's really weird, honestly. He pretty obviously wasn't an offensive guy - basically everyone gets that. But his defenses were generally garbage, but like, came out of nowhere every once in a while to dominate the league. Freaking weird. I mean, maybe that is the example of a guy tanking for a while to load up. Who knows.

(But... I mean, maybe the Mike Martz analogy is apt...?)

126 Probably because (1) I value…

Probably because (1) I value consistency much more than you do, and (2) I consider 8-8 above average rather than replacement level. Even accounting for survivorship bias, most head coaches can't consistently attain 8-8. Think about the head coaches over the same period that might qualify as 'replacement level'. Herm Edwards? 54-74 over eight full seasons, peaking at 10-6. Rex Ryan? 61-66 with two winning records over eight full seasons.

The best comparison I can think of is maybe Ron Rivera? Three seasons with double-digit wins (peaking at 15-1 with a super bowl loss) plus a bunch of 6-10 or 7-9 seasons in between. And yes, I think he's at least an above-average coach, too.

Marvin Lewis (.513 over sixteen full seasons) is another guy whom fans hated, until you look at the Bengals' record before & after his tenure. I also have a high opinion of Lovie Smith (81-63 over nine seasons in Chicago, before going 8-24 in Tampa). 

Norv Turner is 114-122 on his career, but he had a deceptively good record in San Diego (where he largely squandered a loaded roster), and a terrible record under Snyder & Davis. 

You're right that 'great' is probably a overstating things, but two 7-9 seasons, three 8-8 seasons, and four seasons with 11+ wins should count as well above average.

132 One also has to look at…

One also has to look at outside factors.  Marvin Lewis was stuck coaching the cheapest franchise in the NFL, where he may have been putting hours in as a GM as well as a coach.  While I dislike Jeff Fisher due to dirty play, which continued in his coaching tree, Fisher was also stuck dealing with a franchise moving from one city to another.  Bill Belichick wasn't able to survive a similar situation (Granted, the Browns owner was a fool for replacing him).  Herm Edwards had a stable GM situation (the Jets had the same guys running the team from 2000 or earlier to 2008, at least) and an owner who would spend money.

172 Bud Adams was low key one of…

Bud Adams was low key one of the worst owners in the league.  He may not have been cheap, but he was certainly meddlesome (he has a large part in squandering one of top 5 most talented rosters in the league in the early ‘90s).  

When the Oilers had to blow everything up after being utterly unprepared for the salary cap, the mid 90’s Oilers were an utter disaster, so 7-9 bullshit with ‘95 Oilers (when fans didn’t show up to home games after the move was announced, and Chris Chandler was the quarterback), and then 3 straight .500 seasons was actually pretty solid.

137 So, to be clear, part of the…

So, to be clear, part of the reason that I'm down on Fisher is I can't even tell what the heck he was good at. Like, Lovie had up and down years, and yeah he had no idea about modern offenses either. But the guy knew defenses. From 2004+, he had *one* below-average defense. One! Do you have any idea how hard that is?

Whereas yeah, Fisher had great years when the defense was epic. But they were flashes in the pan. *Most* of his years were bad defenses propped up by poorly-run offenses. The guy was a DC, and his *best* years were from defensive brilliance, but they never lasted. So how do I give him credit for limping through garbage defenses by misusing his best asset? It's just weird.

It's funny because most of the guys you mention, I understand what they were doing as coaches. I may not agree with their priorities (and history's mostly shown that right) but I *saw* what they were doing.

Fisher's just weird. Can't give him credit for those defenses without noting how *bad* most of them were. Can't give him credit for the offense without noting how misused it was. Just weird.

152 I pretty much agree with…

I pretty much agree with this assessment in its entirety. Granted, Fisher's heyday is mostly from the time before I got serious about watching football, so my most vivid memories of his teams are from when his highest aspirations seemed to be a 7-9 record every year. Nevertheless, that early record is what it is, and it's just too large of a sample size for me to dismiss as luck.

Regardless of what I think of the latter half of his career, the success of the first half is an objective fact. Given the defining characteristic as a coach was his stubborn resistance to change (well, that and cheap shots), I have to assume he was the exact same Jeff Fisher back then. So he had to be doing something right early on that just stopped working. And if you say Faustian bargain, I can produce zero evidence to suggest otherwise. 

Also: I saw a lot of Lovie, and I think he was a genuinely good head coach that desperately needed help (from someone not named Martz) on offense. Besides those consistently good defenses, the Bears also had consistently good special teams. It wasn't just Hester - the oft-overlooked punt and kick coverage were excellent year in and year out. 

165 Do I give Fisher credit for…

Do I give Fisher credit for putting together those teams? Why? Floyd Reese was the GM for nearly Fisher's entire time with HOU/TEN - after Reese left, four years later, Fisher was gone and never had success again. And again, those teams were more talented than successful - doesn't it make more sense that Reese was the cause for the average-ish floor?

My point is that Fisher's Titans look like underperformers for most of his time there. The best player on offense (McNair) was one of the least-used at his position in the league, and one of the heaviest used (George) was one of the worst.

So you couple those two facts together - mediocrity (and then awfulness), the whole Reese issue, and the total instability at the side that Fisher was supposed to be good at, and it seems a lot more like Fisher just didn't know how to properly use the teams he was given. Oh, and it looks like he actually wasn't a good defensive coach, either.

131 I mean, that's like Mike…

I mean, that's like Mike Martz!

Not a bad comp, but then to echo the above, I find the question whether Mike Martz was a good coach interesting. Is it possible that he was a good coach who failed to keep up with the times?

Fun fact: Mike Martz' winning percentage as head coach is 25th all-time.