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NFL North Nuggets - A Little Schadenfreude

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NFL North Nuggets - A Little Schadenfreude

The other members of the NFC North division have been having their difficulties.  Below are a few things I have noticed, mostly with some glee.

Chicago Bears:

Back in March (just prior to the legal tampering period), Chicago Bears GM Ryan Pace decided to convert $13 million of Khalil Mack's 2019 base salary to a signing bonus.  That freed up $10.4 million in cap space.  The Bears also converted $3 million of Eddie Goldman's base salary to free up $2.25 million in cap space around the same time. 

Many observers assumed that the Bears were going to make a big move or two in free agency.  However, the Bears allowed Bryce Callahan leave and replaced him with Buster Skrine, even though the savings was just $1.5 million per year.  GM Pace also let Adrian Amos walk, but did manage to replace him for a lot less by signing Clinton-Dix.  For reasons that elude me, Pace also signed Cordarelle Patter for $5 million AAV.  Time will tell how that works out.

Many observers suggested that signing Mack would strain the team's cap.  At the moment, the Bears have over $17 million in cap space per Overthecap, but are estimated to have a negative $4.4 million in cap space for 2020.  However, Chicago figures to roll over in excess of $13 million into 2020 since Pace has not spent heavily in 2019.  So far.

The decision on Mack, while it frees up space this year, puts his cap hits firmly in quarterback territory going forward: $26, $26.6, and $27.15 million from 2020 to 2022.  2023 is the first year Mack's dead money hit drops below $12 million, although due to his enormous cap hits, there are some cap savings. 

Minnesota Vikings:

There were reports that the Vikings were interested in extending Kyle Rudolph, but I suspect that is a euphmism for lowering his $7.625 million cap number.  It might well actually mean that the team wants him to take a straight paycut since he has no dead money and his compensation is all cash this year. 

At any rate, as one astute reader recently noted, the Vikings have just $664,266 in cap space (per the NFLPA) and thus cannot sign its first round pick until the team generates some cap space.  Nothing like giving a mediocre quarterback top money and then 100 percent guaranteeing it to boot, while also overpaying for Anthony Barr. 

2020 looks even worse.with a negative $3.2 million in estimated cap space, per OTC, and with no prospect of any rollover from 2019.

Detroit Lions:

Lots of interesting things are happening in Detroit.  Last year there were grumblings from unnamed veterans about Matt Patricia's stricter rules and how intense his practices were.  The Lions responded by bringing in four players with ties to New England: Trey Flowers, Danny Amendola, Justin Coleman, and Rashaan Melvin.  Lions GM Bob Quinn even mentioned as a plus the experience these four former Patriots have with the "demands of the program," meaning Patricia's program.

Detroit's plan with its free agents is also odd.  Trey Flowers ($18M AAV) has a $6.4 million cap number for 2019.  That decision means that he will still have a large negative cap savings number (-$6.85 million) in the third year of his contract.  Quinn also signed Justin Coleman ($9 million AAV) but assigned just a $2.84 million 2019 cap hit.  The Lions signed Jesse James ($5.65 million AAV) but assigned just a $2.28 million first year cap number. 

Even more bizarrely, the contracts of both James and Coleman have fifth years that void automatically. That allows the Lions to spread the signing bonuses over five years instead of four (also leaving built-in dead money), but to what purpose?

The three newly signed free agents have a combined first year cap hit of $11.54 million.  Their combined 2020 cap hit balloons to $31.05 million.  Their combined cap hit comes in at $37.45 million in 2021 and $41.45 in 2022.

It looks to me like Detroit is in "win-now" mode based on these contract structures.  While I like several players they drafted and these free agent signings seem okay if a little pricey in the case of Flowers and Coleman (who is described as the highest paid nickel back in the NFL), I do not think the team is a legitimate contender.

The Lions are not in any cap trouble.  According to Overthecap, the Lions have a comfortable $23 million in 2019 cap space, and over $20 million for 2020 (which should be increased by a sizeable rollover of unused cap space from 2019). 

Perhaps the GM is contemplating another move or two this season.  Time will tell if it works out for Detroit, but it sure seems odd.  

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (16) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Jonathan Spader's picture

"At any rate, as one astute reader recently noted, the Vikings have just $664,266 in cap space (per the NFLPA) and thus cannot sign its first round pick until the team generates some cap space.  Nothing like giving a mediocre quarterback top money and then 100 percent guaranteeing it to boot, while also overpaying for Anthony Barr."

This astute reader sounds like a pretty smart guy!

Coldworld's picture

The Bears will be paying Trubitsky or going through the next QB hunt. If they do keep him they are going to be paying big money. Will they be getting better value than Minnesota? That’s when the Mack cap hit gets interesting.

17 million under is in reality much less if you subtract earmark the rollover amount need to carry forward. Unless the Bears want zero cap space next year, the rollover amount has to be considerably more than the currently projected deficit. Even without that, 17 million under is nothing for a team with a QB on a rookie deal.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Yeah, I didn't want to overly encourage that particular reader, LOL. I did read your comment JS about MN not being able to sign their first-round pick due to the cap. I have noticed some interesting contracts for other teams but was just focusing on the NFC North today.

MedicMike's picture

The Vikings signed their first round pick and restructured Kendricks to make the necessary cap space.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Thanks for the update. Kendricks allowed $2.1M of his $4.15M base salary to be converted to a signing bonus as reported on Monday or Tuesday. I did the research over the weekend and wrote this article mid-week.

Everson Griffith renegotiated his deal and signed the new deal a bare 10 minutes before the new league year to get MN under the cap limit. Griffith took a straight cut of base pay from $11.5M to $8M. Griffith now can become a free agent in 2020 if he has 6 sacks in 2019 or plays 57% of defensive snaps.

So Chicago and MN are having to disturb contracts to kick cap hits down the road (always bad for a team) and Detroit is doing just plain weird things with its free agent contracts.

flackcatcher's picture

tgr, the lions front office has been a rolling train wreck even before the former(now current) broadcaster took them over. Far worst than the wreck IAMGUTE is dealing with. Only way out for Detroit, is a complete turnover of the roster within the next two years. Bears watching....

TheBigCheeze's picture

bears will NOT win the division this year.....BOOK IT !!!!!!

wildbill's picture

Nice article, it’s always important to know what the other division teams situations are going forward as it’s the off season and we love to play the “what if” game as we wait for the football to start

Old School's picture

I think it's always about winning the division, because if you win the division you get a home playoff game. Rather than looking at the 31 other teams in the league, if you just focus on being better than the three in your division I think it gives you a better perspective.

The Bears are the team to beat. They're the current division champions and there's no reason to believe they won't be good again this year. Yes, they have to play a first place schedule and they might have some bad luck with injuries but this is still a good team.

Detroit.....Stafford was the worst QB in the division last year. If that doesn't change then they're going nowhere.

Minnesota.....they were a .500 team last year that didn't beat a single team with a winning record and I don't think they've improved themselves much this off season. Their QB, Cousins, had the highest QB rating in the division and yet they only went 8-7-1.

MarkinMadison's picture

Good Lord. I knew the Bears were up a creek with Mack's salary, but whoever is managing things in Minne absolutely needs to be sacked. Not now. Yesterday.

Rak47's picture

Bite your tongue! I like the Queens front office just like it is thank you.
Mr. Spielman pay these fans no mind and keep overpaying those FA's guaranteed money. It will all work out in the end, trust me.

mrtundra's picture

I disagree, MarkinMadison. I say we pay the manager in Minnesota, on the side, so as to continue what he believes is a great job being done there.

Nick Perry's picture

"The decision on Mack, while it frees up space this year, puts his cap hits firmly in quarterback territory going forward: $26, $26.6, and $27.15 million from 2020 to 2022. 2023 is the first year Mack's dead money hit drops below $12 million"

I know there were a lot of ticked off Packers fans when they "lost out" on Mack but did they really? I was never one of those crazy for signing Mack and the money was the 2nd issue, the draft choices the Packers would have had to trade away was the first. Maybe giving up two 1sts, 3rd, and 6th round pick wasn't too much for some, but THAT kind of money for a guy not playing QB? No thank you!

Don't know about you guys but watching the Bears try to navigate this cap hell they've created is going to be fun. Not to mention they've traded away 2 future players who would have been on 5 year rookie contracts for a guy who WILL begin to fade BEFORE they can cut him in 2023 and STILL have dead money around $12 Million... HAHA I love it!

IceBowl's picture

Nice article and info.

I would have liked to see a comparison or where the Pack fit into the whole cap comparison. But no problem.

mrtundra's picture

In the meantime, with all the other NFC North teams scrambling to find cap space by freeing up dollars, lets go out and win the Division! What a great way to add to the woes of da Bears, da Loins and the Queens!

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