The Raidersblog Podcast – Episode 1

In this relaunch of the Raidersblog Podcast, Taylor Armosino and Christopher Hansen analyze the new coaching staff, Tim Brown’s comments about Super Bowl XXXVII and the 2013 Senior Bowl.

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Implications of Salary Cap Rollover

To me, one of the most important yet least talked about changes to the Collective Bargaining Agreement that was signed in 2011, is the ability for teams to rollover any unused salary cap from one year to the next.

What this means is that if your favorite team is $5 million under the salary cap, they can notify the NFL that they want to take that amount and add it to the following year’s salary cap. Your most hated team only has $1 million in cap space and chooses to roll it over to the next year. Therefore, your team has $4 million more available to spend next year than your opponent. So you can see the benefits of being frugal already, right?

But let’s talk about why this even happened in the first place. In negotiating the current CBA, both owners and players were looking for compromises that would benefit them the most. This was a compromise that both parties agreed to willingly because it serves a benefit for each.

The players loved the idea because previously any unused cap space would go to waste when the NFL calendar changed seasons. That meant money that could have been paid to the players, wasn’t. The ability for teams to rollover unused cap space meant a more likely chance that the money would actually find the pockets of the players and not just end up as the angel’s share.

For teams, this was a better and easier way to manipulate the salary cap to their liking. Teams don’t HAVE to rollover unused cap space. They can choose to let it disappear at the end of the year if they choose to. This provides front offices with some flexibility. Front offices had the ability to manipulate the team’s cap number in the last CBA, but on a much smaller scale and with a lot more work.

In the old CBA, contract incentives fell under 2 categories: “likely to be earned” (LTBE) or “not likely to be earned” (NLTBE). LTBE incentives counted towards the cap for that season. NLTBE incentives did not count against the cap. However, should a player have a LTBE incentive in his contract that was not reached, then that cap space was “refunded” as an addition to the following year’s salary cap. This is how teams were able to manipulate the cap.

Teams could negotiate LTBE incentives into contracts late in the season that in reality would never be met. For example, with 1 game left in the season, the team would renegotiate with the backup QB (who had played zero snaps thus far) that if he threw 7 touchdowns in that season then he would get a $500,000 incentive. Seven touchdowns over the course of a season is an easy goal, and under the CBA, was considered “likely to be earned.” But as a practical matter, a backup QB with only 1 game left wasn’t going to throw 7 TDs. When the backup QB didn’t reach his incentive trigger, that $500,000 LTBE incentive would then be tacked on to the salary cap the next year. Confusing I know, but it worked.

The current rollover process just involves notifying the league office whether you wish or do not wish to rollover any unused cap space. Simple as that.

There is an unintended consequence to this new cap rollover element of the current CBA. There are far less late season renegotiations of contracts. Under the old CBA, because cap space was “use it or lose it,” teams tried to use it to effectively. In weeks 14-17, teams would really ramp up renegotiation efforts with players they wanted to re-sign. In the renegotiation, the team would add on additional salary to the current year, which used up cap space that would have been lost anyways. The player and agent would agree because it’s more money up front. But now, because teams aren’t losing that cap space, there isn’t any incentive to renegotiate and to pay players up front.

The current rollover situation provides teams flexibility in dealing with players, cash, and in cap space. However, there is one more log to throw in the fire. In 2013, the salary floor will be introduced. Basically, teams will have to spend at least 89% of the unadjusted salary cap number in 2013, and beyond. Remember that word “unadjusted.” It becomes very important in terms of the spending minimum in just a second.

The salary floor or “spending minimum” was introduced to make sure that teams couldn’t be overly frugal; i.e. CHEAP. Towards the end of the previous CBA, the NFL Player’s Association had begun to notice that some teams were taking advantage of all the spending room they had, while other teams (the Bucs are the first team to come to mind) were just fine with spending very little and fielding a non-competitive team.

The introduction of the spending floor is what will make the next few years under the current CBA interesting. The current salary cap is around $120 million. With an 11% differential between the cap and the floor, that means that teams only have about $13.2 million to play around with. I say ONLY $13.2 million because roster shuffling due to injuries and signings make that number a lot smaller than what it really is.

How a front office manages that 11% will likely mean the difference between a dynasty and a dumpster fire. The brightest general managers and salary cap managers will shine.

My first question when I heard about the ability to rollover any unused salary cap was, “Is it compounding?” Meaning, if we rollover $5 million this year and don’t use it next year, can we roll it over again? The answer is yes.

My next question was, “Is there a limit to how much you can rollover?” No, there isn’t. A team can continuously rollover as much as it wants and build up as much of a bankroll as it pleases.

A lot of fans may have a problem with a team being cheap for the first few years of this. But being “cheap” now, will allow them to be rich later. Much richer because the savings basically grow exponentially.

Say the Browns only spent 90% of the $120 million salary cap in 2013, giving them $12 million to rollover. For ease of calculation, let’s say in 2014 and beyond, the NFL keeps the salary cap at $120 million. This is the cap number that all teams are given to work with. That salary cap number is then adjusted to reflect any rollover cap from the previous year.

Remember when I said to remember that word, “unadjusted?” This is where it becomes important.

Even though the Browns were able to add $12 million to their salary cap number, the salary floor is still only 11% of the UNADJUSTED cap number. This means that the Browns have increased their ceiling, but the floor hasn’t moved. The Browns could still lowball and come in at 90% of the 2014 unadjusted cap number (again, $120 million) instead of the cap plus their adjusted $12 million.

Now the Browns have more cap space than anyone else in 2014 because they we so “cheap” in 2013. The first benefit to that is more flexibility because the gap between the floor and the cap is now a lot larger than other teams. The second benefit is that they can grow their cap space exponentially now. They can turn $12 million in 2013 into $24 million in 2014. If their cap usage is still only at 90% of the unadjusted cap, then the Browns will have $36 million EXTRA cap space in 2015.

Being able to spend $36 million more than most teams is quite the competitive advantage, isn’t it? If planned correctly, a team could position itself for a very long run of success simply because it has more resources to work with.

Now, extra spending ability is worth nothing if a team has a poor scouting system and spends that extra money on bad players. So while a team can be great with its money management, it can still be awful on the field.

It’s still necessary to continue thinking this through because if a team doesn’t it could cripple the organization financially for years.

Bank robbers are usually great at devising ways to get into banks. But the stupid ones only plan to get into the vault and don’t consider how they’re going to take that money out of the bank and get it to a safe place. They lack the exit strategy. For teams that consider going this route, I urge them to plan their exit strategy.

Returning to our previous example, if the Browns stack up $36 million in extra cap money they will obviously go spend it on players. Let’s say the Browns sign every major free agent on the market that year and eat up $32 million of that extra cap space in 2015.

So while the Browns are now paying out $152 million in salaries ($120M + $32M they just signed) they only had $4 million to rollover, which means their salary cap is only at $124 million. Oops. Now they have $28 million they have to get rid of. They can’t cut any of the guys they just signed because that will accelerate all the signing bonuses into that year which only exacerbates the problem. Instead, they have to then cut other players they wanted to keep just to get under the salary cap.

It’s important to note here that the league office would likely flag the big free agent contracts and report back to the team that by agreeing to this contract the team would be over the salary cap for next year. The league office almost never rejects these types of deals but will alert teams when they see something of issue. It’s also completely possible it could be overlooked (seen it happen).

This is why it’s so important to understand every word of the collective bargaining agreement, rulebook, etc. A team can make or break its success by knowing the accounting processes of the salary cap, which obviously has nothing to do with schemes, playbooks, or film.

Personally, I don’t think being completely cheap is the way to go. I do think a smart team will be tighter with its money this year and next to allow it some flexibility later on. This especially goes for younger teams that are a couple of years from developing into contenders. Those teams could use extra cap space in a couple of years to really make a run at the Super Bowl.

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2012 NFL Strength of Schedule



Some strength of schedule models calculate strength of schedule based on the opponents the team has faced to date.  My model calculates strength of schedule based on all the opponents on a team’s schedule.  The reason for this is because it reduces weekly fluctuations.

For example, when a team plays their Week 17 game, in the traditional model their strength of schedule would change by 31 games…their Week 17 opponent’s 16 games plus the additional game played by each of their prior 15 opponents.  In my model, when a team plays their Week 17 game their strength of schedule will only change by 15 games…one additional game for each of the opponents on their schedule.

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Raiders Talk with Chris Hansen and Taylor Armosino

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Week 11 NFL Power Rankings 2012

I made some improvements to the power rankings this week. Let me explain some of my reasoning and method.

First, I decided that power rankings look at what teams have done and not what they will do so there is no projecting values. Second, these are totally unaltered rankings after I created a formula to judge a team’s “power” compared to other teams.

The rankings have four components. The first two are‘s offensive and defensive simple rankings. When combined they for PFR’s simple rating system. I chose to treat offense and defense separately for one reason: I think offense is far more important in today’s NFL.

How much more important? After playing with the numbers and seeing how teams landed using different numbers I decided on 25 percent. That is, offense is 25 percent more important than defense. This is arbitrary, but it gave me results that I looked fair to me. These are my power rankings after all.

I ordered each team by their simple rating system and gave them a point from 32 to 1. This effectively stripped the simple rating system out of the equation and gave me a rating, which is what I wanted. I didn’t want some measure of how good a team was based on margin of victory and strength of schedule because a 50-point win and one-point win are equal and a win against the best team and the worst team are also counted equally.

I also decided it wasn’t fair to punish an over-performing team that was winning. Unlike quarterbacks, I think you can judge a team on wins and losses so I included win percentage in the equation. This is weighted heavily, since record is what gets teams into the playoffs and ultimately what we care most about.

The resulting formula was Overall Power = (Offensive Ranking+ Defensive Ranking*0.75)*Winning Percentage

56.0 is a perfect score, 25.0 is a typical division winner (although there will be some that fall below this line and some wildcard teams that are above it) and a typical playoff team would be 18.0 plus. Realistically a team below 8.0 has a very slim chance of making the playoffs. For the teams below 18.0, the closer they can get the less luck they will need to get in. You will notice teams between 8.0 and 18.0 are are flawed in some serious way. They might be just starting a rebuild or something like that.

If you look at the teams below 8.0, almost all of them have a coach and/or GM on the hot seat. The Raiders are unique here because they just started a rebuild and had to do a lot of roster purging in the offseason. You would expect each year of a rebuild a team would jump up one tier. The Seahawks, Redskins, Vikings and Bengals are all good examples. In the case of the Bucs, they jumped faster because they already had a quarterback. The Colts jumped up quickly thanks to Andrew Luck.

If I stick with this, these rankings might be a good measuring stick of the progress of Oakland’s rebuild. By my estimation, by 2014 the Raiders should be in the upper white or lower light green area. For comparison sake, the Raiders were a 8.9 at the end last season so the Raiders really haven’t taken as much of a step back as it may seem.

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Week 10 NFL Power Rankings

Green: Elite
Light Green: Very Good
White: Good
Hot Pink: Average
Red: Bad
Dark Red: Very Bad

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Week 5 Raiders Talk With Lincoln Kennedy

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Videocast: Raiders Talk With Lincoln Kennedy

Lincoln Kennedy will be talking about the Raiders on Spreecast today at 3 p.m. PST with Taylor Armosino (@tarmosino) and me (@ChrisHansenNFL). Come check it out.

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Oakland Raiders: Year in Review

Three-hundred-and-sixty-three days have passed since the Raiders opened the 2011 season against the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football, and at the time many believed the Raiders were finally back on track. Penalties were going to be a thing of the past, bullies were being built, and the only injury known to man was a “nic.” Just one year ago the Raiders were about to usher in the Hue Jackson era, and fans were hyped to see this newly created “bully” in action. Everything seemed to be falling into place for the Silver and Black and the team was poised to make a serious run at the playoffs for the first time since 2002, except the season began unfolding as if it were being scripted by the writers of Lost.

After managing to stumble to a 2-2 record to start the season, shock waves rippled through the franchise as news broke that legend and Raiders owner Al Davis had passed away.  With plenty of mixed emotions, the Raiders had a game to play the next day against the Houston Texans. They went on to win that game in the final seconds, honoring the man who had led them for the nearly 50 years.

As the dust began to settle the Raiders still had a season to finish and the hits didn’t quit coming. In the very next game, starting quarterback Jason Campbell broke his collarbone leaving the Raiders with only Kyle Boller at quarterback. Without Davis to call the shots as he had done for so long, no one was quite sure what was going to happen. The answer came two days later, when Hue Jackson was given the authority to pull off a stunner of a trade that sent a first and second-round draft pick to the Bengals for retired quarterback Carson Palmer.

As everyone tried to digest what had just taken place, there were only a few days left to prepare before the Raiders faced the division rival Kansas City Chiefs. Trying to forget what they had to give up to get him, the Raiders now had a quarterback who they thought could lead the team to the playoffs. It was just a matter of getting Carson Palmer up to speed with the offense while leaning heavily on one of the best rushing attacks in the NFL, right?

While that plan seemed to make sense at the time, Kyle Boller was quickly proving to everyone why he has not been able to hold a job in the NFL and the Raiders were hit with even worse news: Darren McFadden suffered a Lisfranc injury against the Chiefs that would cause him to miss the rest of the season. Hue Jackson contended that McFadden was “close” to returning on a weekly basis, but he never did.

Carson Palmer was left trying to pick up the pieces of a season that started out with so much hope. Unable to stay true to his word,  Jackson did not fix the penalty issue and his team set a record for the most penalties in a single season. Still, the Raiders managed to be in position to win a very weak AFC West, but failed to beat San Diego in their final game, and once again fell short of the playoffs for a ninth-straight season.

Fast forward to January 2012.  Mark Davis took over for his dad as the team’s owner and he hired Reggie McKenzie to be the next general manager. The situation seems equal to that of Aaron Rodgers replacing Brett Favre. McKenzie is replacing a legend, but he is not trying to become the next Davis. He will have to make his own name and do things his own way. Change is a process and takes time and patience which is something Raiders fans are starting to run out of after nine-straight seasons without making playoffs.

Many moves made by McKenzie and some moves he will make in the near future will be met with skepticism. That is not uncommon according to Saul Alinsky, “Change means movement. Movement means friction. Only in the frictionless vacuum of a nonexistent abstract world can movement or change occur without that abrasive friction of conflict.”

McKenzie’s road to success will not be easy, but that will not temper any existing expectations. At this point in time it’s anyone’s guess how much or how little success he will have in Oakland. However, in order to more clearly understand what is being judged, its important to be aware of the obstacles and decisions McKenzie faced upon becoming the new general manager of the Raiders.

Like most new general managers, the first order of business for  McKenzie was deciding who he wanted to have coach his team. That is not a choice you want to take likely and could ultimately decide his success early on. He was well aware of the rotating door Oakland has had with their head coaches and he needed to find a guy he trusted to help bring the Raiders back to excellence, even if immediate success was impossible. Unfortunately for Hue Jackson, he was not that man. Could the argument be made that Jackson didn’t get a fair shot? Sure, but the NFL is a business and business is not about fair.

After 18 days of searching and countless interviews, McKenzie found his guy in Dennis Allen. “When I talk about the guy I was looking for, I’m looking for a guy that could lead these men, that was passionate about the game, that was passionate about teaching, passionate about the Oakland Raiders.”  McKenzie said when introducing Allen at his press conference. “Guys, not only did coach Dennis Allen do that for me, he exceeded those expectations.”

One of the reasons this decision was so important was because McKenzie believes in giving his head coach full power over hiring his staff. That is something past head coaches in Oakland did not have, they may have had input, but it was Al Davis who made the final decisions on hiring or firing. McKenzie also noted that he and Allen will always have open communication, but  it was up to the head coach what schemes would be run. That is certainly a change of pace in Oakland.

Allen proceeded to hire Jason Tarver to run the defense, who comes with a very aggressive and multiple look defensive style which is very different from the base 4-3 man defense that had been a Raiders staple for as long as anyone can remember. Greg Knapp is back to run the offense under Allen, which means Jackson’s power blocking scheme and trickery are out and the West Coast Offense and zone-blocking scheme are in. Learning completely different schemes on both sides of the ball in one offseason is much harder than most people realize.

The hard part for McKenzie was just beginning . Now that he had a head coach, he next had to figure out a way to get the roster under control, which would be no easy task. Starring him in the face was $145 million dollars in salary for 2012 ($25 million over the salary cap) and $16 million more than the Carolina Panthers who had the next highest salary total. It was no secret that in the latter years of Al Davis’ life he was operating in a “win now” mode, which often times meant the only thing that mattered was getting who he felt was the best players he could at whatever cost was necessary. That meant a lot of traded draft picks and back-loaded contracts, many of which were well over market value.

McKenzie was left to sort it all out, trying to find a way to cut at least $25 million in salary for 2012 as well as give himself a little breathing room for free agency and signing draft picks. McKenzie had to do this while trying to maintain a competitive roster and preventing the same situation from happening next offseason. Easier said than done, especially when you are without your first, second and third-round draft picks due to roster moves made before you took over.

During that process, McKenzie was faced with difficult roster decisions on some of his core players. He wasted no time in weeding out the “out of whack” contracts and cut ties with Stanford Routt on February 9th, just over a month after he was hired. This sent a message to everyone inside and outside the organization, nothing would be handed to anyone anymore.

The year before Routt was released he was given a five-year, $54.5 million contract. No matter his opinion of Routt’s skill as a player, McKenzie knew he was not worth $10 million per year. Another major decision was how to proceed with Kamerion Wimbley, who was the Raiders best outside pass rusher. WImbley carried a contract of five years, $48 million. If Wimbley was on the roster by the start of the new league year (March 17th), he would have been owed $17.5 million in guaranteed money (including $11 million in 2012). If cut, the Raiders were only on the hook for $6.5 million, but would also lose their best edge rusher and would be in a tough spot to try to replace him.

After refusing to take a pay cut, Wimbley would eventually be released. This left the Raiders having to pay $6.5 million in dead money for 2012, but relieved them of Wimbley’s remaining contract. Kevin Boss and Cooper Carlisle were also later released, but McKenzie was able to re-work the contracts of Carson Palmer, Michael Huff, Richard Seymour and Aaron Curry to keep them on the roster. Carlisle later resigned with the Raiders at a much lower rate.

McKenzie mentioned shortly after he was hired that each position would be evaluated from front office personnel to players on the field. He said that at the right time, the appropriate changes would be made. Holding true to his word, on February 16th it was announced that long-time Senior Executive John Herrera would no longer work for the new Raiders front office. Known in many circles as Al Davis’ “yes man”, John Herrera—mostly known for denying every media report regardless of truth—represented the exact image that McKenzie wanted to change. Zak Gilbert was later hired as director of Media Relations and Mike Taylor was hired as Director of Pubic Affairs going forward. As many have noted, the Raiders have since become much more open and media friendly.

McKenzie’s next major moves came in the form of re-vamping the football operations personnel. Shaun Herock (son on Ken Herock) who worked with McKenzie in Green Bay was hired as the director of college scouting and Reggie’s twin brother Raleigh was also hired to help in the scouting department. McKenzie also brought Joey Clinkscales from the New York Jets to work as director of personnel. Clinkscales served as the V.P. of college scouting with the Jets and was a college teammate and childhood friend of McKenzie.

Tonight, the Raiders will open the 2013 season against the San Diego Chargers with a new general manager, new front office personnel, new media relations, new scouting department, new coaching staff, new offensive and defensive schemes and 23 new players on the 53-man roster. The Raiders are truly starting fresh is 2012. It’s almost mind-blowing how much change has taken place in such a short amount of time.

Only time will tell how successful year one will be for the new-era Raiders. Most fans seem to agree that this team is just as good, if not better than a year ago which is a pretty incredible feat considering the circumstances.



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Live Blog: Lions @ Raiders

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