Saturday, May 31, 2008

Election to Void the CBA


According to John Clayton of, on May 2oth, the owners officially opted out of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). In March of 2006, the NFL and the NFLPA agreed to an extension to the CBA through the 2012 season, with a salary cap in effect through the 2011 season. The last year has always been uncapped and has always included some poison pills in an attempt to get the owners and the players to agree to extensions early. This last agreement included an option for either the NFL or the NFLPA to opt out of the deal early. With the owners electing to void the CBA early, the CBA will expire following the 2010 season, the salary cap will remain in effect through the 2009 season and the 2010 season will be uncapped and the final college draft would take place in April of 2011. The owners had until November of this year to make the decision, but elected to do it early in an attempt to get the ball rolling on negotiations.

Pat Kirwan of, Jason Cole of Yahoo Sports and, all wrote detailed articles explaining what will happen if an extension to the CBA is not reached in the near future. Judging from the contrasting points in all the articles written above, the media doesn't even know entirely what is going to happen if the CBA expires and neither do I, but from what I understand, this is how the expiration of the CBA could effect the Lions.
  • Until the Lions are positive or at least pretty certain of what is going to happen with the Collective Bargaining Agreement, I wouldn't expect Roy Williams to sign a long-term contract with the Lions. He'll be a free agent after this season (he has the option to void the 2009 season, which he'd be stupid not to). The Lions will franchise him and keep him if they want him to remain on the team or trade him if they don't, but they'll get decent value for him if they trade him. If no agreement is reached before the 2010 season, Roy will be franchised again (120% pay increase over his 2009 franchise salary of probably around $9M). Again, he'll either remain with the team if that's what the Lions prefer or they'll trade him and get decent value for him.
  • After the 2008 season, Jason Hanson, Paris Lenon, Stephen Peterman, Stanley Wilson, Langston Moore and Shaun McDonald are the only significant players that are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents (other than Roy). I'd look for the Lions to lock up Hanson this summer and the rest depending on how they perform in 2008. The ones who perform well during the season will likely be given an extension near the end of the year or early in 2009 (provided that the Lions choose to keep them), the others would be in a "wait and see" position.
  • Daniel Bullocks is the only significant current player that would have become an Unrestricted Free Agent in 2010, but would qualify for Restricted Free Agency if an extension to the CBA is not reached before then.

If an agreement isn't reached before March of 2011, most people believe that the Owners will lock out the players, basically barring them from participating in free agency. The owners from the small market teams can not afford to pay high end players without a salary cap that includes revenue sharing. Salaries for the top end players will sky rocket as the high market teams (Dallas, Washington, New England, etc) will pay top dollar to entice players to sign a contract and low market teams that depend on revenue sharing (Minnesota, Indy, Atlanta, etc) won't be able to compete. If they aren't able to compete, they will vote to lock out and the owners of the high market teams will vote with them because they need to protect themselves from themselves. All in all, what has been a win/win situation for both the owners and the players, will become a lose/lose situation for both the owners and the players. They will get a deal done to extend the CBA and keep the salary cap intact, it's in the best interest of everyone concerned (high market teams, low market teams, mid market teams, high caliber players, average players, minimum pay players).

Friday, May 30, 2008

May Transactions


The Lions have made a couple of moves in the 2nd half of May, but their roster remains maxed out at 80 players. Recently signed players have about one more month to impress the coaching staff as nine players will be released to free up roster spots to sign the recently drafted rookies. Recently drafted rookies receive a roster exemption until they sign a contract.

The Lions signed Greg Lee (WR) and UDFA Shemiah Legrande (DT) to one year contracts for the league minimum ($295,000). They also released Clark Harris and Isreal Route. They had both originally signed contracts on the 1st of January. The above transactions have a minimal effect on the Lions salary cap (less than $10,000).

Kalimba Edwards - When Edwards was released by the Lions in March, he was designated as a June 1st release. On Monday, June 2nd, the Lions will reap the rewards of that designation when they get an additional $4M of cap space for the current year with $2M of dead cap in 2009. The freed up cap space will be used to sign the bulk of the rookie draft picks.

$4M will not be enough to sign all of the rookie draft picks. Look for the Lions to make at least one significant move to free up cap space before training camp, either in the form of a significant cut, an extension for a player like Jason Hanson, Roy Williams or Dominic Raiola or a contract restructure of Cory Redding. One way or another the Lions will need to free up some cap space before they sign all of their rookie draft picks.

As of Monday, June 2nd, the Lions are about $3.9M under the salary cap.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Trying to find a diamond in the rough . . .


This is the time of year where teams are looking for guys that could make an impact on their team. Every team would like to find an undrafted free agent that could make an instant contribution to their team, but at this time, what teams are looking for are players that they can develop. They will look at these players during the minicamps and training camp and sign to the practice squad the ones that show the most potential. The hope is that one of these UDFA's will turn into a diamond in the rough.

The Lions have reached their roster maximum with some recent signings and releases. None of the signings will effect their current cap status. Over the past several days, they signed four players that were players invited to tryout for the team. Matt Butler, Justin Sanders, Stephen Howell and Buck Reed all signed one year contracts for the league minimum, $295,000. The Lions also signed 2nd year DT, Jonathan Lewis, to a one year contract for $370,000 and 4th year CB, Ronyell Whitaker, to a one year contract for $520,000.

The Lions also released two players, Bobby Williams and Pacino Horne. Williams was an undrafted rookie that just signed a three year contract a couple of weeks ago. Horne signed a two year contract in early January.

The net effect of all of these transactions will likely have less than a $10,000 effect on the salary cap status for the current year.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Evaluating Marinelli . . .from a Salary Cap perspective


During the off-season, I've seen many posts in the RoarReport Forum and other places that question whether Rod Marinelli is the right man for the job. I've responded to a few, but since a good portion of my answer has to do with the limits of the salary cap, I decided to post a blog entry.

When Rod Marinelli came here in January of 2006, he had a roster of about 70 "Men". Since that time, he's completely overhauled the roster, with only 15 guys remaining since he took over a little more than two years ago. Four starters (Backus, Raiola, Redding, Williams), Three special teamers (Hanson, Harris, Mulbach), and Eight Backups (DeVries, K. Smith, Wilson, Orlovsky, Lewis, Cody, Fitzsimmons, McHugh). By the time of our first regular season game, I could see as many as another third of those guys gone.

Did it need to be overhauled to the extent that he has done it? I can't answer that. I think it obviously needed to be overhauled, but I'm not sure as to what extent. There were only four guys that are gone that had some substantial value to other teams (S. Rogers, Bly, Woody, Bailey). They all signed multi-year contracts with their new teams and/or we got some significant trade value for them. However, most of the guys from the 2006 starting roster have signed minimal salary contracts or are out of football.

There are several problems with overhauling a roster to the extent that it's been overhauled. The biggest is the "dead cap" that is associated with cutting/trading so many players. For a more detailed breakdown of the consequences as it relates to the Lions, refer to my Dead Cap blog entry, where I outline the $50M plus that the Lions have wasted since Marinelli has taken over. I think the bulk of it needed to be done, but none-the-less, it's wasted money and salary cap.

Many people have suggested that Marinelli should have overhauled the roster in one year and been done with it. Here's the problem with doing that. If on June 1st of 2006, the Lions went ahead and cut or traded everyone that is not currently on today's roster. They would have had in excess of $33M of dead cap in 2006 and in excess of $45M of dead cap in 2007, but everyone would be off the books as we were heading into 2008. Technically, it could be more than that, if you factor in guaranteed payments, which is information that I only have limited knowledge of.

The 2006 roster would have only had 24 guys under contract (Kitna, Backus, Raiola, Scott, F. Davis, Roy, Campbell, Fitzsimmons, Furrey, Calhoun, Orlovsky, Sims, Redding, Lenon, DeVries, Cody, Bullocks, K. Smith, Wilson, Lewis, Cannon, Hanson, N. Harris, Mulbach) and we would have had $37M to sign 29 guys or about $1.25M per player. Guys like Paris Lenon, Jared DeVries, Shawn Bryson, Marcus Bell, Rex Tucker, Teddy Lehman and Barry Stokes would all fall into the ballpark of a "$1.25M" player. The even bigger problem come in 2007. If we cut all the players in 2006 (like many suggest) and acquired $45M of dead cap, we couldn't have signed all the players that we signed in 2007, we would have been in excess of $10M over the cap. We could have not signed, White, Furrey, Mulitalo and McDonald and been under the cap . . .but all of those guys were significant acquisitions. This is why a roster overhaul has to be done in phases. In the initial stage, you get rid of the guys that you a positive aren't right for the team that you want (Joey, C. Rogers, D. Wilkinson, etc.) and you give the others a chance to see what they can do. During year two, you clean out the bulk of the ones that need to go (Bly, J. Hall, M. Williams, M. Bell, etc.). Rogers needed to be given a chance in 2007, he was cheap ($1.5M of new money), which he was well worth. Same with Boss ($1.1M of new money), you're not going to get a starting LB for $1.1M.

It is very unrealistic to make over a roster in one year. Yea, it could be done, but I don't think it's the best way to do it. The strain that it places on the cap is one thing, but also you have to find guys to replace the ones that are shipped out. Right now, with the spike in the salary cap, it's harder to find quality guys in the free agent market as teams have more money to keep the plyers that they want to keep.

Miguel keeps track of the Patriot's salary cap. He knows what he is doing and probably keeps the most detailed and accurate salary cap records for any one team on the internet. Here's the link to his site,, if you look at his records, he has the Patriots with $5.1M of dead cap in 2006, $6M of dead cap in 2007 and currently $8.8M of dead cap thus far in 2008 for a total of $19.9M over the three year span. The Lions, on the other hand have had $52M of dead cap over the same time frame. So what would Billicheck and the Patriots have done if they would have had to operate their roster with and additional $32M of dead cap (52M-19.9M)? Well, it's hard to say. During the three year span, Tom Brady counted almost $36M against the cap . . .how would they have done if they didn't have Tom Brady and had to use Matt Cassel at QB? Or how would they have done without Randy Moss, Mike Vrabel, Adalius Thomas and Laurance Maroney . . .That's about the same amount of cap space to put the Patriots on the same playing field with the Lions.

I'm looking forward to seeing what Marinelli can do when he finally gets to spend the same amount of money as a Belichick or a Dungy, but unfortunately, it won't happen until 2009.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Lions allocated $4,815,910 for the rookie pool


According to John Clayton of ESPN, the Lions were allocated $4,815,910 for the Rookie Pool. The Rookie pool is a mechanism within the Collective Bargaining Agreement designed to limit salaries paid to rookies. Unfortunately, it is designed poorly and consequently doesn't work effectively.

The easiest way to understand the Rookie pool is to understand that it's a "Salary Cap within a Salary Cap". The Lions have a total of $116,729,000 of salary cap space and within that $116,729,000, they are allowed to use a maximum of $4,815,910 of salary cap space to sign current year drafted players and undrafted free agents.

Typically, the Lions and all other NFL teams, sign their lower round draft picks first and sign players in reverse order from when they were drafted. The rationale for signing the players in this order is because there is more flexibility in how you can allocate payments to a first round selection as opposed to a 7th round selection. A seventh round selection will get somewhere under $40,000 guaranteed money where our first round draft pick will get somewhere in the neighborhood of $8M in guaranteed money. It's a lot easier for a team to manipulate the salary cap with an $8M guaranteed contract than it is with a $40,000 guaranteed contract.

Look for the lower round draft picks to start signing in late June or early July, Jordon Dizon to sign a week before training camp and Gosder Cherilus to sign a day before or the day of training camp.

My initial guess is that the Lions will not use all of the allotted rookie pool cap money. They'll still use all of their salary cap money, but instead of using it on rookies, they'll use it on veterans. The Lions are already tight against the cap and if they were to use all their rookie pool allotment, they'd have to cut some veterans or restructure some contracts to free up the necessary cap space to use $4.8M.

The Lions are currently about $450,000 under the salary cap and will get an additional $4M of cap space on June 1st when Kalimba Edwards (designated as a June 1 release) officially comes off the books. Typically, the Lions enter the regular season with about $2M of cap space, this will allow them to sign additional players when injuries occur and to potentially negotiate long-term contracts with players with expiring contracts. Expect the Lions to renegotiate a player contract or two and/or extend a player or two. Candidates that have contracts that could allow the Lions to free up some cap space through an extension or a contract renegotiation are Cory Redding, Roy Williams, Jason Hanson and Dominic Raiola.

Chris Patrick - Patrick was a tryout player at the Lions rookie mini-camp. He signed a one-year contract with the Lions for the league minimum and likely got a signing bonus of a couple thousand dollars. His current year salary cap cost is less than $300,000 and would not effect the Lions current salary cap status.

Friday, May 2, 2008

The Draft and Rookie Minicamp

3:00pm EDT

The Draft - During the College draft, the Lions drafted 9 total players. Until they sign a contract, they are exempt from the 80 player roster maximum. For salary cap purposes, they count $295,000 against the cap (the league minimum for players with no NFL experience). Under the rules of the CBA, until the 1st regular season game, the top 51 player salaries count against the cap and in the Lions case, the minimum salaries will not effect the Lions cap status. Typically, the Lions begin signing their rookie draft picks in late June or early July, with Dizon and Cherilus likely to be signed just before the start of training camp in mid to late July. The following players were drafted by the Lions, don't occupy a roster spot and count $295,000 against the salary cap.

  • Gosder Cherilus, OT
  • Jordon Dizon, LB
  • Kevin Smith, RB
  • Andre Fluellen, DT
  • Cliff Avril, DE
  • Kenneth Moore, WR
  • Jerome Felton, FB
  • Landon Cohen, DT
  • Caleb Campbell, S/LB

After the draft, the Lions made a couple of Roster moves, by releasing Ben Noll, signing Artose Pinner and releasing Derek Morris.

Ben Noll - Noll spent the entire 2007 season on the Lions practice squad, signed a two year contract on 01/01/08 and was officially released on 04/28/08. The contract was for the league minimum and did not include a signing bonus. Therefore, the Lions will have no dead cap or any other salary cap consequences associated with Noll's release.

Artose Pinner - Pinner was originally drafted by the Lions in the 4th round of the 2003 draft and was waived by Marinelli before the start of the 2006 season. On April 30th, Pinner signed a one-year contract for $605,000. No other financial details were disclosed. Pinner signed for the league minimum for players with four accrued seasons, likely had no signing bonus and his contract will qualify for veteran minimum treatment with the NFLPA subsidizing $160,000 of his contract. Pinner's current year cap cost is $445,000.

Derek Morris - Morris was signed to a two-year contract on 01/01/08 and was officially released on 05/02/08. The contract was for the league minimum and did not include a signing bonus. Therefore, the Lions will have no dead cap or any other salary cap consequences associated with Morris' release.

Undrafted Free Agents - College players that are not selected in the NFL draft are designated as Undrafted Free Agents (UDFA). They are free to negotiate a player contract with any NFL team. The Lions have signed six UDFA's. These players likely signed a three year contract for the league minimum and received a small signing bonus (likely less than $10,000, but some UDFA's can command a larger amount if enough teams are interested). The following UDFA's signed a contract with the Lions in the days following the draft. None of their salaries will count in the Top 51 calculation.

  • Darrell Blackman, WR
  • Allen Ervin, RB
  • Rudolph Hardie, DE
  • Carroll Madison, G
  • Tyrone Pruitt, LB
  • Bobbie Williams, CB

Since Rod Marinelli has taken over as coach of the Lions in 2006, he has held the rookie mini-camp the week after the draft. He brings in a full 53 man roster so that he can run a full practice with the rookies. Players participating in the rookie mini-camp include, the 9 drafted players, 6 UDFA's signed by the Lions, 6 1st or 2nd year players currently on the Lions roster and 31 other UDFA's. The other UDFA's are college players that have not signed a contract with any other NFL team, including the Lions. They are brought in and allowed to compete with the other players and hope to sign a contract with the Lions. If my calculations are correct, we could sign up to 5 of these tryout players. We could sign more and release someone or we could sign less and find someone else to sign, but either way, the Lions will be at the 80 player maximum within a few days. Frank Davis is a former UDFA tryout player that ended up signing an UDFA contract and eventually made the Lions Active Roster. For a complete list of players participating in the rookie mini-camp, visit the Lions website, Rookie mini-camp participants