Under The Cap
FO's Salary Cap Analyst looks at the economics of the NFL

Under the Cap: NFC North Cap Overview

Under the Cap: NFC North Cap Overview
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Brian McIntyre

Football Outsiders is taking a division-by-division look at the salary cap situations of all 32 NFL teams. We're reviewing estimated cap spaces -– since cap situations are fluid and actual adjusted cap figures for 2012 remain unknown –- restricted free agents, unrestricted free agents, which players are candidates for the franchise tag and which players are headed towards the chopping block. Last week, we hit on the teams in the AFC.

We conclude our trip around the NFL with the NFC North.

Chicago Bears

Estimated Cap Space: $25-$28 million

Unrestricted Free Agents (13): Zack Bowman, Kellen Davis, Matt Forte, Corey Graham, Caleb Hanie, Israel Idonije, Tim Jennings, Chris Massey, Josh McCown, Brandon Meriweather, Amobi Okoye, Craig Steltz, Roy Williams

Restricted Free Agents (1): Kahlil Bell

Bell had a career-high 337 rushing yards with 19 receptions, 133 yards and his first NFL touchdown out of the backfield. Most of his work came as an injury replacement for Matt Forte. An original round tender ($1.26 million in non-guaranteed base salary) to be the No. 2 back behind Forte again in 2012 is expected.

Franchise Tag Candidate: Forte has not ranked higher than 20th in either DYAR or DVOA during his four-year career -– and ranked 36th and 40th in those categories in 2011 -– but his overall production and importance to the Bears' offense makes him a no-brainer candidate for the franchise tag if a long-term contract cannot be reached by March 5. The franchise tender for running backs is projected to be worth around $7.7 million.

Potential Cap Casualties/Restructures: The Bears are in good shape cap-wise, but could clear more space by extending Brian Urlacher's contract. The 33-year-old linebacker is scheduled to earn $8 million in total compensation ($7.5 million base salary, $500,000 roster bonus) and has a $9.7 million cap number in the final year of his current contract. Defensive end Julius Peppers has already restructured his mega-contract and could do so again after his $8.9 million base salary became fully guaranteed on the second day of the 2012 waiver period. Nearly $6 million of 2012 cap space could be created by lowering Peppers' base salary to the league minimum ($925,000) and converting the remaining $7.975 million into a signing bonus.

Detroit Lions

Estimated Cap Space: Less than $2 million

Unrestricted Free Agents (20): Cliff Avril, Jeff Backus, Bobby Carpenter, Erik Coleman, Leonard Davis, Rashied Davis, Isaiah Ekejiuba, Andre Fluellen, Ben Graham, Chris Harris, Jerome Harrison, Shaun Hill, Brandon McDonald, Maurice Morris, Don Muhlbach, Kevin Smith, Drew Stanton, Maurice Stovall, Stephen Tulloch, Eric Wright

Restricted Free Agents (4): Sammie Lee Hill, Corey Hilliard, DeAndre Levy, Ashlee Palmer

Of the four restricted free agents, DeAndre Levy is the only one who is a regular in the starting lineup, but the other three have been key contributors who will likely receive qualifying offers, provided the team has the cap space.

Franchise Tag Candidate: If a long-term contract extension cannot be reached before March 5, the Lions fully intend to use the franchise tender on Avril, who has 19.5 sacks and seven forced fumbles over the last two seasons. The franchise tag for a defensive end will be around $10.6 million, which is more than twice the $4.245 million Avril made over his first four seasons in the league, but less than a third of the guaranteed money that Charles Johnson received from the Carolina Panthers last offseason.

Potential Cap Casualties/Restructures: To tender qualifying offers to their restricted free agents and use the franchise tag on Avril, the Lions will need to clear considerable cap space. The first order of business figures to be a long-term extension for Calvin Johnson, who ranked first in receiving DYAR in 2011 and has a cap number of $21.081 million in 2012, the final year of his rookie contract. The Lions may also seek to restructure the contracts of quarterback Matthew Stafford ($11.5 million base salary, $17.098 million cap number) and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh ($9.25 million base salary, $12.72 million cap number). Fellow defensive tackle Corey Williams turns 32 in August and has a $5 million cap number ($4.9 million base salary and $50,000 workout bonus) that could be restructured or wiped off the books if he were to be released.

Green Bay Packers

Estimated Cap Space: $10-$12 million

Unrestricted Free Agents (8): Jarrett Bush, Jermichael Finley, Matt Flynn, Ryan Grant, Howard Green, Patrick Lee, Erik Walden, Scott Wells

Restricted Free Agents (0): None

Franchise Tag Candidate: As much as the Packers would like to retain the rights to Matt Flynn, and trade him for a few draft picks, the Packers lack the cap space to use the franchise tag on Flynn, particularly after signing tight end Jermichael Finley to a reported two-year, $15 million contract extension. To franchise Flynn would require a cap commitment of around $14.4 million, which means the Packers would have to do some serious trimming to protect his rights. The highly-respected Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel suspects that center Scott Wells and the Packers will part ways this off-season, though that could change with Finley's extension. Franchising Wells would cost the Packers nearly $9.5 million in cap space while the two sides work towards a long-term extension to reduce that number.

Potential Cap Casualties/Restructures: Cornerback Charles Woodson is due $11.5 million in total compensation, comprised largely of a $6.5 million base salary and a $4 million roster bonus in April. The 35-year-old could considerably reduce his $11.5 million cap number by agreeing to a contract restructure. 37-year-old wide receiver Donald Driver ranked 17th in receiving DVOA in 2011, which was fourth among the immensely talented Packers receiving corps. Though a restructure is possible, the Packers could clear $5 million off the cap with his release, money that could go towards a long-term extension for Greg Jennings, who is scheduled to earn $4.61 million in overall compensation and has a $7.423 million cap number in the final year of his contract. Left tackle Chad Clifton played six games in 2011, turns 36 before training camp and is scheduled to earn nearly $5.75 million in compensation in 2012, all of which would be cleared off the books with his release.

Minnesota Vikings

Estimated Cap Space: $8-$10 million

Unrestricted Free Agents (16): Husain Abdullah, Xavier Adibi, Devin Aromashodu, Greg Camarillo, Fred Evans, Letroy Guion, E.J. Henderson, Erin Henderson, Tyrell Johnson, Matt Katula, Jim Kleinsasser, Scott Kooistra, Jarrad Page, Sage Rosenfels, Benny Sapp, Visanthe Shiancoe

Restricted Free Agents (2): Lorenzo Booker, Kenny Onatolu

Kenny Onatolu has 40 special teams tackles in 48 games over the last three seasons and will likely be back on a right of first refusal tender worth $1.26 million in non-guaranteed base salary. Booker was the Vikings' No. 3 running back and primary kick returner over the first half of the 2011 season before losing those duties with a costly fumble in a Week 11 27-21 loss to the Oakland Raiders. With younger options Caleb King and Jordan Todman behind Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart, the Vikings may opt to not devote $1.26 million of their off-season cap space on Booker.

Franchise Tag Candidate: Without much cap space, the Vikings are unlikely to use the franchise tag in 2012. Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe would possibly be an option, but his production has dropped in recent seasons. Shiancoe ranked second in DYAR and third in DVOA in both 2008 and 2009, but ranked 33rd in those categories in 2010 and was 35th in DYAR and DVOA in 2011. With the Vikings using a 2011 second round pick on Kyle Rudolph, $5.5 million in guaranteed base salary for a 31-year-old Shiancoe would not be a good value. A possible short-term free agent option for the Vikings is John Carlson, a 2008 second round pick by the Seattle Seahawks and Litchfield, Minnesota native who missed 2011 with a torn labrum and will be an unrestricted free agent in March.

Potential Cap Casualties/Restructures: Defensive end Jared Allen ($11.619 million base salary, $14.203 million cap number) and defensive tackle Kevin Williams ($7 million base salary, $8.417 million cap number) could be asked to restructure their contracts to free up additional cap space. Running back Adrian Peterson's $8 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed on March 13 and could be reduced with the remainder converted to a signing bonus and prorated over five years to reduce his $12.705 million cap number. Left guard Steve Hutchinson is due $7 million in total compensation in the final year of his seven-year, $49 million contract from 2006. Hutchinson hasn't been the Pro Bowl since 2009 and has missed seven games over the last seasons with various injuries, including a concussion at the end of last season. Right guard Anthony Herrera turns 32 in June and releasing both guards would clear $9.75 million in cap space. Blowing up the cornerback position by releasing Cedric Griffin and Antoine Winfield would free up $6.65 million in cap space and save over $7 million in cash.


25 comments, Last at 15 Oct 2012, 2:36pm

1 Re: Under the Cap: NFC North Cap Overview

You guys have the Bears with a little more cap space than the Tribune reported. It looks like my hope of a signing a major receiver free agent is not too crazy.

7 Re: Under the Cap: NFC North Cap Overview

There are a couple of releases that the Bears can make to free up some more room. Lets start with Frank Omiyale (as fast as humanly possible), they will get $2m of cap room back as soon as his ignominious tenure on the roster comes to an end. Similar for Marion Barber (and I'd rather have a rookie in the third spot behind Forte and Bell).

Also Tillman is on the last year of his deal and has a $3m payment categorised as 'likely to be earned' on special teams that he will not earn and it makes his cap figure rather inflated. I would love them to extend him but not too much as he is no spring chicken but enought to get rid of the dumb bonus.

Then go get Mario Williams and Vincent Jackson (I can dream can't I).

2 Re: Under the Cap: NFC North Cap Overview

I've enjoyed reading these cap overviews. If anyone is looking to experience some of this stuff from their own desktop, I recommend Front Office Football. It's a football simulation that focuses-- as the name implies-- on front office stuff more than on-the-field stuff. One of the main aspects is a) drafting, and b) managing your cap. It's tremendous fun to be the GM for a team and try to find ways to keep both your star QB and star pass rusher while still fit under the cap. You end up doing the crazy stuff that you accuse your ACTUAL team of doing-- like extending the contract of an aging veteran to a point way past his prime just so that you can give him the signing bonus he's demanding and not have it give you a crippling cap number.

I don't think that the designers have updated the game for the new CBA, but it should play the same more or less.

*Note: I've no connection to the game or its designers, so I'm not a paid shill. Just thought I'd mention it for people who might be interested.

19 Re: Under the Cap: NFC North Cap Overview

I'm also a big fan of FOF and love it. Would recommend to anyone. It's a little troubling that it has not been updated or revised in over a year and the developer seems to have vanished into thin air. As is, the game is great, no question. Whether it will continue to be updated and upgraded is the question.

I'm not connected to the game either but have been playing it religiously since 1998.

3 Re: Under the Cap: NFC North Cap Overview

The Lions are really in a tough spot - just holding the key contributors of that roster together will not be easy. I think Corey Williams has to be released, and possibly Burleson as well? Also, there's that rumor going around that Jahvid Best will be forced to retire.

10 Re: Under the Cap: NFC North Cap Overview

I don't think it's anywhere near that bad. The only key contributor who's an unrestricted free agent is Avril; the rest are under contract. Most of their free agents are either low-visibility players who shouldn't demand high salaries, or replacement-level players who can be, well, replaced. All three of the young, high-salary players should be willing to restructure to keep Avril and some of the better FAs. Now, if Johnson doesn't want a cap-friendly contract, there could be problems, but I can't see that happening. He suffered on some really bad teams - I would think what he wants more than anything else is to be on a winner, and the Lions can certainly give him a long deal with the money he deserves.

Will that put Detroit in a tough position a few years down the road? Sure. The cap deals they make now will come due, they'll have real depth (hopefully) other than at defensive line which means they'll have real FAs to retain, and there will still be expectations of contending. But that's so much better than the problems they had during the Dark Times.

4 Vikings Corners

I fully expect Griffin to be cut, but Winfield's contract allows for reduced pay if he doesn't start. Winfield will likely stay, but only play in nickel packages.

5 Re: Under the Cap: NFC North Cap Overview

I'm as good a candidate for the franchise tag as Shiancoe. He's never been a top tier player even as a pass catcher, because he has never had good ball skills. I really have enjoyed wayching Herrera, a guy who has squeezed as much productivity out of his talent as anyone, but it is time for him to go. If Hutchinsom won't restructure, it is time to cut a guy who seems to be on the wrong side of the injury/age curve. Kevin Williams may have a chronic foot condition which will hamper him for the rest of his career, so that situation has to be examined carefully.Griffin will be cut.

All this franchise needs to do is draft seven above average starters this spring. Great time to be a Vikings fan!

6 Re: Under the Cap: NFC North Cap Overview

I think it's much more likely that the Packers and Donald Driver agree to a reduced salary, at least for 2012. He is a HUGE fan favorite and a contributes to the community. To lose him would be more than to lose the 17th best receiver (according to DVOA) in the league. Driver has said he wants to play 3-4 more years. I hope Thompson will keep him around as long as Driver wants to play (and can play well), but that does not seem to be Thompson's way.

8 Re: Under the Cap: NFC North Cap Overview

If I were Matt Flynn I would have the franchise contract signed as soon as the paper left the printer. Then I would refuse to come to a contract with another team. If the Pack want to screw him around I would not make it easier on them.

11 Re: Under the Cap: NFC North Cap Overview

That's pretty much an asshole move and a good way to make less money in the long run.

First of all, if you do that, you prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that money is all you care about. Secondly, it shows that you're probably going to be equally obtuse in future contract negociations and not someone that's capable of operating in a team enviornment.

If you want to be a starting QB in the NFL, why would you make it difficult on the team that can choose not to give you that opportunity? And he can make a LOT more money by establishing himself as a franchise QB and getting that long term contract for franchise QB money than he can by taking $14 million or so now and being a dick about it.

What's best for Matt Flynn is if he moves on. What's best for Green Bay is if he moves on. Making it difficult for the Packers to move him is simply a bad business decision. It's cutting off his nose to spite his face.

If I were Flynn's agent, and he were insisting that I take that course of action with him, I'd resign. He's entitled to every penny he can command on the free market, but he's not going to get it by putting the screws to Green Bay.

12 Re: Under the Cap: NFC North Cap Overview

If he wants to be a successful NFL starter then should he join in with Green Bay's attempt to extort a high draft pick off the team he's heading to? And why should he settle for Green Bay's involvement in choosing his team? Isn't his value diminished by another team having to give up a pick in return for him?

13 Re: Under the Cap: NFC North Cap Overview

If he want's to be a successful NFL starter, then why would he "refuse to come to a contract with another team?"

My issue isn't with whether or not he signs the franchise tender. That's just business.

As for "settling" for Green Bay's involvement, by signing that tender he no longer has a choice. He's giving them the right, per the CBA that he ratified as a union member, to trade him where they will and in exchange he's getting a huge salary, 100% guaranteed. If that control is important to him, then the smart business decision is to not sign the tender offer in the first place, negociate a deal, and then get out of the way while the two teams agree to compensation. Sure, he can WANT that compensation to be low all he wants, but it's not his decision to make and him taking an adversarial stance will only gum up the works.

At the end of the day, Green Bay owns his rights. He can be an adult about it - which would display the sort of maturity you want in a potential franchise QB - or he can be a little bitch about it - which suddenly sends up Ryan Leaf type flags. It's up to him.

I know if I were a GM and I was looking at acquiring a potential franchise QB and the guy suddenly started acting like a petulent child, I'd certainly have some concerns. There's guys on the beach with NFL arms - it's their heads (more specifically their maturity, leadership, and decision making process) that separates the successes from the failures.

15 Re: Under the Cap: NFC North Cap Overview

It is a professional endevour. Flynn is one serious injury away from never being able to get close to that money ever again. If he signs the tender he is guaranteed the money. If he hits free agency he gets to choose where he works for most of (if not all) the rest of his career - not an inconsiderable benefit. If he acts as I indicated he will hit free agency the year after considerably richer and have every chance of earning a starting job. It is that job that will define him not what he does under the cap.

Two time superbowl winners Eli Manning and John Elway strongly disagree with your argument. Flynn has tape in the nfl and is young enough to build a franchise around (I am not assuming that he is that good, lets wait and see on that one), an argument could be made that he is a safer pick than either Eli or Elway.

18 Re: Under the Cap: NFC North Cap Overview

The issue isn't with whether he signs the tag or not. There are legitimate reasons to sign or not sign and that's a business decision he would have to make.

The issue is with him "refusing to come to a contract with another team."

And your comparisons of Elway and Eli aren't accurate. Both informed specific teams that they were not interested in playing for them. In your case, you're stating that he should inform every team.

And again, it's betting against himself. He'll make more money in the long run by being an adult about the situation. If he thinks he's going to get injured or step on his crank in 2012, then he should take the money. If he has a particular aversion to a team, he should privately and professionally convey that to Green Bay and that other team. But what he should not do is be a diva about it.

21 Re: Under the Cap: NFC North Cap Overview

Why does he have to agree to a contract with any team that he doens't want to play for? Just because you want him to. You are applying made up rules to his behaviour. He has a right to maximise his financial rewards over his career and I would strongly argue that this is best achieved through hitting free agency. So if you get tagged, just play for the money and start again next year. $14m without taking a hit, that is a good deal for any player. Still young enough that one year waiting will not affect his value, if he has another couple of good games it might even increase it.

The team he is not cooperating with him is the Pack, no one else and he won't be playing for them anyway (unless something catastrophic were to happen to Rodgers).

20 Re: Under the Cap: NFC North Cap Overview

The CBA works both ways. The tag guarantees the recipient $14m (for a quarterback) in exchange for him being prevented from hitting the free agent market. Absent the use of the tag the Packers do not own his rights (or as you would put it do NOT own his rights). The tag isn't designed for gaining compensation for the loss of back up players who have no hope of earning the franchise compensation on the open market.

I don't think it's helpful to describe him as being a 'little bitch' or a 'petulant child', why shouldn't a player act in his own interests? He only has one career and the second round pick his new team gives up could end up being the left tackle that protects him for most of it. There is no way he earns $14m per year on the open market, he'd hit free agency a year later with the cash in his bank account. You suggest that the adult thing to do is to accept the tag and then negotiate a deal, I suggest that he is entirely within his rights to inform the Packers that he would like to be a free agent but if they tag him he would accept $14 million as fair compensation for backing up Aaron Rodgers for another year.

You suggest that GMs will be put off. That makes little sense to me. The team he wants to go to has its own incentive not to give a draft pick to the Packers, he'd be on Flynn's side and he's the only Gm that matters.

23 Re: Under the Cap: NFC North Cap Overview

It's all just business. There is nothing petulant in telling a person across the negotiating table that theIr expected course of action is wholly unacceptable to you, because you prefer a different outcome, and you will maximize the cost they will endure if they take that course. Who will be most willing to endure painful outcomes is a very common question looming over negotiating parties, and there isn't a single thing childish about it.

24 Re: Under the Cap: NFC North Cap Overview

Yes, with the caveats that a) complaining about how unfair life is in this area is neither a generally effective negotiating tactic nor a good public relations move; and b) scorched-earth negotiating easily leads to prisoner's dilemma scenarios, where they-can't-get-away-with-that/calling-your-bluff tactics can lead to the outcome nobody wants.

Basically, Flynn should make his wishes known privately, and if that isn't enough to get everyone what they want, then you decide what to do so you do get what you want.

On the flip side, Rodgers had concussion issues in 2010, and plays a position with a target on its back. Being a highly paid backup QB doesn't mean he won't see significant time with the Packers in 2012 anyway, no matter how good Rodgers is.

25 Re: Under the Cap: NFC North Cap Overview

There are a couple of releases that the Bears can make to free up some more room. Lets start with Frank Omiyale (as fast as humanly possible), they will get $2m of cap room back as soon as his ignominious tenure on the roster comes to an end. Similar for Marion Barber (and I'd rather have a rookie in the third spot behind Forte and Bell).
Also Tillman is on the last year of his deal and has a $3m payment categorised as 'likely to be earned' on special teams that he will not earn and it makes his cap figure rather inflated. I would love them to extend him but not too much as he is no spring chicken but enought to get rid of the dumb bonus.
Then go get Mario Williams and Vincent Jackson (I can dream can't I).evim şahane-mobilya modelleri-bedava chat-chat-islami rüya tabirleri-mynet