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24 Feb 2010

Under the Cap: Pre-Combine Moves

by J.I. Halsell

Why would the Eagles announce the termination of Brian Westbrook over a week before actually terminating him?

On Tuesday, the Philadelphia Eagles announced that they will be parting ways with running back Brian Westbrook. It subsequently was reported that Westbrook’s termination would not be official until March 5, the first day of the 2010 league year. My first thought when hearing this peculiar piece of information was that perhaps the Eagles were trying to avoid a Joey Porter situation.

Earlier this month, the Miami Dolphins tried to release Porter, but the transaction was reversed by the NFL Management Council. The Dolphins have $4.1 million in 2009 cap room, and the Porter termination would have been considered a 2009 league year transaction. Accordingly, by virtue of being terminated in February, the Dolphins would have had to take on an additional $4.8 million in signing bonus acceleration in 2009. Given their $4.1 million cap room, the February Porter termination would not fit under the cap.

With Joey Porter in mind, I thought that perhaps the Eagles did not have enough cap room to take on the acceleration associated with terminating Westbrook in 2009. However, as I found out, the Eagles have $4.2 million in cap room, and by terminating Westbrook, would have incurred $1.5 million in acceleration. So the Eagles clearly could have made the termination effective on Tuesday, but it appears that the Eagles are looking to use that $4.2 million in cap room for other purposes. Perhaps the Eagles are looking to use that cap space to release other players in 2009 or simply would prefer to take on Westbrook’s dead money in 2010 rather than 2009.

Why would the Saints hope that Darren Sharper gets a lucrative contract elsewhere?

It appears Saints safety Darren Sharper will hit free agency without being precluded by the $6.5 million safety franchise tag. Last offseason, 35-year-old Denver safety Brian Dawkins signed a five-year contract with $5.8 million in guaranteed money and an average per year of $3.4 million. Just like Dawkins, most people believe the 34-year-old Sharper has remained a productive player as he approaches his mid-thirties -- although Bill Barnwell disagrees -- so it would be reasonable for him to expect at a Dawkins-like contract. Not to mention, teams may be willing to pay a premium for Sharper because signing one of the stars of the Super Bowl champions is sure to ignite the fan base.

If Sharper were to leave, one would expect the "Who Dat" nation to question the prudence of such a departure. However, keep in mind that the Saints, Vikings, Colts, and Jets are the most restricted teams in free agency by virtue of the Final Eight Plan. As part of the Final Eight Plan, the Saints cannot sign an unrestricted free agent until they lose an unrestricted free agent, and the first-year value of the acquired UFA by the Saints cannot exceed the first-year value of Sharper’s contract with his new team. The Saints could be hoping a team overpays for Sharper, which would allow the Saints a lucrative one-for-one UFA match at their disposal. The newly acquired UFA to replace Sharper does not have to be a safety. It could be a linebacker possibly to replace Scott Fujita or, if Malcolm Jenkins will replace Sharper at safety, it could be used on a cornerback such as Dunta Robinson or Leigh Bodden which could allow the Saints to have three strong cornerbacks in a pass happy league.

Clarifying the "Upgraded Tender"

We recently discussed the upgraded tender’s impact on restricted free agency. One question that came up about the upgraded tender was this: Do all former first- and second-round restricted free agents for a certain team receive at least their respective draft-round tender if one player on their team does? Here's an example to explain: If the Redskins tender former sixth-round pick defensive tackle Kedric Golston at the first-round level, then the Redskins must tender quarterback Jason Campbell and cornerback Carlos Rogers at a minimum of the first-round level if they hope to receive a first-round pick in return for a Campbell or Rogers departure via restricted free agency. Under the same scenario, in which Golston gets tendered at the first-round level despite the upgraded tender, former second-round pick linebacker Rocky McIntosh could be tendered at the original round level and the Redskins could still receive a second-round pick for McIntosh. Golston’s upgraded tender of a first-round pick only has an impact on the club’s former first-round picks. If the Redskins were to extend a second-round upgraded tender to another one of their restricted free agents, then McIntosh would have to be tendered at the second-round level.

Regarding undrafted players who are restricted free agents and who receive a tender higher than the low-level, right-of-first-refusal-only tender, the CBA is not clear as to whether or not an undrafted player who receives a second-round tender equates to an upgraded tender. The language of the CBA in defining the upgraded tender refers to "Restricted Free Agents originally selected in a draft round lower than the first round." For example, if the Colts tender undrafted safety Melvin Bullitt at the second-round level, then the letter of the CBA says that the club could tender former first-round pick Marlin Jackson at the original round level and still receive a first-round pick in the event of his departure. The interpretation of this scenario will have to be determined by the league, but the spirit of the rule would seem to indicate that, despite the actual language, the Bullitt tender should be considered an upgraded tender and accordingly Jackson should be tendered at a minimum of the first-round tender.

Follow J.I. Halsell on Twitter: @SalaryCap101

Posted by: J.I. Halsell on 24 Feb 2010

16 comments, Last at 26 Feb 2010, 10:52pm by Brendan Scolari


by C (not verified) :: Wed, 02/24/2010 - 9:58pm

Good stuff and good points with Westbrook and Sharper. I hate the grammar police as much as the next guy but you said Sharper plays "safet".

If you are associated with the Redskins I'd do everything in my power to tell Daniel M. and Shanny that Jason Campbell is not the answer.

by The Ninjalectual :: Wed, 02/24/2010 - 11:38pm

I'd say you're already doing everything in your power to tell Daniel M. and Shanny that Jason Campbell is not the answer.

"Just look at that pumpkin."
-John Madden, looking at the moon.

by Brendan Scolari :: Thu, 02/25/2010 - 3:36am

I know you don't like Campbell and perhaps this was just an offhand comment but I don't really get your point here other than to dump on Campbell again.

First of all, no one thinks Jason Campbell is "the answer", that doesn't mean he shouldn't be kept around. Do the Redskins have a better option? I hope you don't think 38 year-old Todd Collins is "the answer". And it'd be more than a bit misguided to think Colt Brennan is "the answer". Campbell's DVOA (-1.7%) was only slightly below average even with a crappy supporting cast, keeping a passable starting quarterback at a cheap price is not a terrible thing. And if you're suggesting that they should draft Bradford or Clausen, I'd keep in mind that it's highly unlikely they perform even as well as Campbell will next year. Beyond that, these two events are not mutually exclusive, they can keep Campbell and draft a QB in the first round, in fact that may be the best decision.

Otherwise, I'd love to hear your plan for who should be their starting QB next year, because I don't see a better option.

by C (not verified) :: Thu, 02/25/2010 - 9:25am


At the risk of hijacking this thread, I'm not going to go into the Campbell "only" has a -1.7% DVOA, because I've debunked that argument over and over and over again in painless fashion. The only reason I brought it up is because I believe the author works for the Redskins, and rather than just complaining about something to other fans, at least I'm complaining to somebody who might actually be able to do something about it. He also did mention tendoring their DT, and the implications it would have for Byron Leftwich 2.0

by commissionerleaf :: Thu, 02/25/2010 - 8:19pm

Campbell's DVOA probably overstates his value, given the tendency of DVOA to overstate the effectiveness of checkdown passing (although it isn't as bad as QB rating). He's just not a good quarterback, although I'd play him over Collins and Brennan just on the off chance he improves.

Besides, the Redskins need to fix their offensive line before they draft a quarterback of the future.

by jfsh :: Fri, 02/26/2010 - 2:01am

The problem with an average quarterback is that you need a great team around them to really be good. But then, if you have a great team around them... why are you wasting it on an average quarterback?

by Brendan Scolari :: Fri, 02/26/2010 - 3:33am

Because it's really hard to find or acquire above average quarterbacks?

by Jerry :: Fri, 02/26/2010 - 3:33am

While you'd rather have a great quarterback, you can win with an average one when the team around him is good enough. Ask Trent Dilfer or Brad Johnson.

by masoch (not verified) :: Thu, 02/25/2010 - 3:09am

"the Dolphins would have had to take on an additional $4.8 million in signing bonus acceleration in 2009. Given their $4.1 million cap room, the February Porter termination would not fit under the cap".

Does this mean that it's possible for the Dolphins to renegotiate Player X's contract for the 2009 year in February? Say it breaks down like this:

Player X current contract:
2009 1.5 mil
2010 2.0 mil
2011 2.5 mil

Could the dolphins renegotiate the contract, adding that extra 4.1 mil cap room, into something like:

2009 5.6 mil (paying him 4.1 mil guaranteed in a lump sum payment in February, long after the regular season is over)
2010 2.0 mil
2011 2.5 mil

Thereby giving a player (in this case) a nearly 1.4 million a year raise, essentially cap hit free? (Not sure it'd be too useful this year, but certainly in most capped years).

Do teams already do this frequently, and I've just missed it somehow?

by ElJefe :: Thu, 02/25/2010 - 1:33pm

No, there are rules against that. There is a date during the regular season (usually around week 13 of the season) that serves as a deadline for re-negotiating contracts to count against the current cap year. There is usually a mild flurry of activity at these deadlines that doesn't get too much press since most of the activity is just exercises in accounting.

But ... I suspect that if you signed a player who had been released before the new league year begins, you could (would have to) apply some of the contract against the current cap year. This is the more likely reason for the Eagles not technically releasing Brian Westbrook until next week, to not allow a team with existing cap room to work a creative contract which generates a much smaller cap hit in subsequent league years.

Overeducated Layabout

by ukwhodat29 (not verified) :: Thu, 02/25/2010 - 9:04am

Curious as to why you think Porter would be bumped to the nickel spot. He was pretty solid last year and I doubt many people would consider Robinson or Bodden much of an upgrade. Also, remember Porter has only just finished his second season, so his best is yet to come (hopefully). I very much doubt the Saints go after a CB if this scenario plays out.

If the Saints do lose Sharper, the position they need to look to get a replacement would be either DT or OLB, although I have to admit I'm not up to speed on if there are any DTs or OLBs worth looking at as UFAs.

by C (not verified) :: Thu, 02/25/2010 - 9:27am

You can draft linebackers, just look at two studs that came out last year like Clay Matthews, Brian Orakpo, or Brian Cushing.

by commissionerleaf :: Thu, 02/25/2010 - 8:11pm

1. The last two years have been strong at the linebacker position. Past returns are not an indication of future performance. Were the last couple of years good because it's easy to draft linebackers, or because all the linebackers came out and now we're in for a dry spell?

2. That's three studs. Well, two studs and a Redskin. Incidentally, Clay Matthews' Wikipedia profile includes the Chuck Norris-esque line:

"On the Packers team flight coming back to Green Bay after playing the St. Louis Rams Matthews beat teammate Brady Poppinga in a game of Connect Four in only three moves."

Wow. Not that I'd put it past Brady Poppinga to fail at spatial perception.

by commissionerleaf :: Thu, 02/25/2010 - 8:13pm


The Saints need a big, traditional DT.

by Mr Shush :: Fri, 02/26/2010 - 8:33am

Cody might conceivably still be there at #32. He's strictly a two down player, but he would certainly help keep the blockers off Vilma.

by Brendan Scolari :: Fri, 02/26/2010 - 10:52pm

A lot of people think he'll go even later than that.