Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

07 Oct 2005

Chargers Primed for Long Run of Success

Our new colleague at FOXSports.com, Jay Glazer takes a look at which teams have the best and worst cap situations going into 2006. The Chargers rank third in expected cap room (although this doesn't yet count Drew Brees) and can be very active in next year's free agent market. But even better for San Diego is the fact that Oakland, Denver, and Kansas City rank as three of the five teams with the least amount of expected cap room. Say goodbye to some of those veteran Kansas City and Denver offensive linemen. The Jets will have some pretty tough choices to make as well.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 07 Oct 2005

20 comments, Last at 10 Oct 2005, 3:40pm by ElJefe


by Joey (not verified) :: Sat, 10/08/2005 - 12:47am

You start to buy into the stories about Arizona finally being serious about turning it around, then you see stories like this about how much money they have to spend...but haven't.

Good enough article, but somewhat frustrating. It singles out the Chargers, apparently simply because they made a good lead coming off the NE game. Strangely, the Bengals who are unbeaten and also in the top 5 with money to spend, barely get mentioned. Had the article been just a bit longer, they could have covered all the teams involved equally. Did the writer run out of time?

by Kibbles (not verified) :: Sat, 10/08/2005 - 1:10am

As a Denver fan, I was under the impression that the only veteran O-lineman who might be gone next year was Nalen, and that would be for retirement reasons.

by ElJefe (not verified) :: Sat, 10/08/2005 - 1:11am

I might be tempted to say the Eagles are in better shape than anyone on the Fox list.

They are ~$22 Million under the projected cap of $90 Million for 2006, with 48 players signed. The only significant free agent they have is Brian Westbrook, and the only two other starters that are UFA's are Jon Runyan and Keith Adams.

The most significant restricted free agents are the punter and the 3rd (or 4th) CB.

by Aaron (not verified) :: Sat, 10/08/2005 - 1:30am

The Chargers are highlighted rather than the Bengals because Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Baltimore don't appear on the "five teams most over the cap for 2006" list. Oakland, Kansas City, and Denver do.

by james (not verified) :: Sat, 10/08/2005 - 2:53am

Wow, the whole fuckiing(mailbag joke, good article FO) division is gonna be over the cap except S.D.

Christmas comes in September next year. Like the city of San Diego needs anything good to happen to their sports teams.

You f'ers. Isn't 80 degree year round weather enough.

by mikeabbott (not verified) :: Sat, 10/08/2005 - 6:41am

The correlation betweeen cap space and future success seems like an obvious target for F.O. style analysis.
The same sort of study that came up with the 'last years third down success rate' insight would be interesting to see applied to cap space.
How many more ,if any,wins/losses can we predict from being over/under the cap by X dollars?
Division play is important enought that divisional rivals might need to be factored in as was pointed out regarding the AFC west.

by Scott C (not verified) :: Sat, 10/08/2005 - 10:06am

As a former San Diegan, I learned one thing about that team: NEVER underestimate the ability of the Spanos family to screw up the Chargers. It'll happen, sooner rather than later.

by lk6 (not verified) :: Sat, 10/08/2005 - 11:08am

I could swear I read "The Sopranos Family" in the post above.

by Clod (not verified) :: Sat, 10/08/2005 - 11:49am

Wouldn't a more statistically honest way to look at this be to divide the cap room by the number of players needed to fill the roster? I don't see how the Cardinals with 32.2m left but with 19 spots to fill, could be better off than the Bengals who have 24.1m left but only 10 spots to fill. So lets take the teams listed with cap room and divide that by the number of open spots required and give them a stat, Cap Space Per Open Roster Spot, or CSPORS.

Bengals: 2.41m CSPORS
Browns: 2.27m CSPORS
Cardinals: 1.7m CSPORS
Chargers: 1.7m CSPORS
Vikings: 1.62m CSPORS

So in essence that is the average in millions that each of those five teams could spend per required roster spot against there cap room.

Wish I had the numbers for the rest of the teams with room...

by elhondo (not verified) :: Sat, 10/08/2005 - 11:49am

Re: #7

I think every fan feels that way about the owners of their favorite teams. At least San Diego has cap room and good skill positions. Contrast that with Arizona's and Washington's owners....

by kleph (not verified) :: Sat, 10/08/2005 - 12:04pm

notice to FO staff: this story has used up the FOXSports quota of "whoppings" for the month.

by Pat (not verified) :: Sat, 10/08/2005 - 1:03pm

ElJefe's right. If you would put the Eagles on the list of Clod's "CSPORS", they'd be far and away at the top. $21.9M with 5 open roster spaces. That's 4.38M per roster spot.

It makes me wonder how illusory the list of most cap space available is.

by Larry (not verified) :: Sun, 10/09/2005 - 12:38am

I hate reading articles like this where it is obvious the writer has the data for all 32 teams, and chooses only to let us know about 8 of them. I understand writing it up requires a focus, but why not link to a page with all of the info. They did the research, and it is the web, there's no space limit. Frustrating. Grrr...

by Erik The Red (not verified) :: Sun, 10/09/2005 - 4:58am

@#5 Dude, 80 degrees is too hot! Fortunately, things stay around 75 here year round. And no, that's not good enough for us. Deal with it. Stop being such a crybaby.

@#8 Yeah, could you imagine the Sopranos owning a franchise? I almost fell over laughing.

by Kibbles (not verified) :: Sun, 10/09/2005 - 8:39am

Also, cap space is misleading because it doesn't address whether that's actually what's being spent, or whether that's what's on the books. For instance, Denver has been in cap trouble for a couple of seasons now. The big difference is that last year, they had something like $18 million in dead money, and this year they have less than $1 million. That means there's more live money to make restructuring easier, and it also means that they have more talent on their team than a team with a high cap value mostly due to dead money (Tennessee and San Francisco spring most readily to mind).

I was actually shocked to hear how far Denver's dead money number had dropped. I figured teams needed to do a roster purge to clear the dead money off the cap, but Denver managed to cut the dead money down to virtually nothing (as a point of reference, I think NE is carrying almost as much dead money just from cutting David Terrell this offseason) without any significant losses.

by Flux (not verified) :: Sun, 10/09/2005 - 9:28am

I'd guess they featured SD for the AFC West tie in, becuase they just beat NE, and because they were a headline-grabbing, 12 win team last year. In other words, they're in the news and fans have some confidence that they might continue winning, and are therefore worth paying attention to... Compared to the Bungles, who are not news worthy for all of the reasons listed above. At least not yet this season; hot start not withstanding.

Also, imagine if SD weren't wasting top dollar on a backup QB who throws like the ball is a shotput? (Rivers looked truly dreadful in the preseason action I saw.) And had instead put that money into 1 star or 3 or 4 quality players at other positions?

Then again, to shoot an obvious hole in my argument, I'd bet every team has at least 1 or 2 obvious contract albatrosses (albatri?) that would single or double-handedly turn their cap situation around if they could be magically-transformed.

by Tally (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2005 - 1:54am

Re #5:

Just being associated with such illustrious sports franchises as the Clippers, Padres, and Chargers is punishment enough for San Diegans.

by Independent George (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2005 - 10:34am

#1: I'm not saying this is the case in Arizona, but I think that it's often better to NOT splurge on FAs for the sake of using up your cap space. Case in point: Washington. Remember when they signed Wilkinson and Stubblefield, drafted Arrington, then realized they didn't have any money left for anybody else? Do you think Oakland's going to be any better next year when they clear half their roster to cover Moss & Jordan's salaries? It seems like the better strategy is to slowly build up the no-name positions on the OL and the defense, become a decent team with some potential, then start spending on one or two big-timers at the skill positions each year.

Where's Carl? This is right up his alley.

by Josh (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2005 - 12:31pm

Did anyone notice the caption to the photo? "LaVar Arrington helps the Redskins lead the league in dead money." He still plays for the Redskins; he's not dead money. Not yet, anyway.

If they released him before next season, the cap hit would be almost $13 million. If they kept him, the hit would be $12 million.

by ElJefe (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2005 - 3:40pm

Judging the state of the team by cap space remaining is rather tricky: It doesn't just depend on how many players are under contract (or $/roster spot to fill), but also on the identity of the players under contract.

If a team has $20 MM in cap space and only has to sign 10 players to fill out the roster, that sounds pretty good. Except if the 10 players not under contract are the starting QB, both starting OTs, a starting CB ... A very different situation than having to replace guys on the back of the roster.

That's the primary reason I thought the Eagles are in such good shape for the 2006 season: Only 3 starters not under contract (I missed N.D. Kalu), and two of them are the types of players the Eagles typically don't pay starters' money to at free-agency time. (Fungible DE (Kalu) and over-30 player (Runyan).)

It gets even better considering the Eagles have ~$12 MM remaining under this year's cap, so they'll be able to roll a bunch of 2006-7 salary cap charges into 2005. They could have almost $35 MM in cap room for the 2006 offseason, and that's good. Because judging by their performance yesterday they'll need about 35 new players. :(

Earlier this offseason, Carl was advocating that the Eagles were trouble with the salary cap in the short-term future. I'd love to hear his explanation of that statement, because the numbers I see don't indicate that at all. I think he might have meant that the Eagles were going to be getting less "new money" from the new stadium, so would have to spend less actual money/year, but I don't know.