A look at 12 Eagles contracts as evidence of how the Eagles planned for years to have extra cap space specifically in 2011

A man with a plan.

During my daily check in on my buddy Brian Solomon’s great Eagles blog McNabb or Kolb (or Vick), I was alerted to another article written by Judy Battista of the NY Times, who had recent chatted with Jeffrey Lurie and Joe Banner, with Brian identifying the money except:

The structuring, it turns out, began not long after N.F.L. owners decided in the spring of 2008 to opt out of the collective bargaining agreement. The Eagles examined the rules that would be put in place and realized the 2011 free-agency period, if it happened at all, would present an extraordinary buyer’s market.

Because players who would usually have been unrestricted free agents in 2010 were tied up instead, two free-agent classes would be rolled into one, at the same time as teams would again have to work within a salary cap after having none in 2010 — meaning some teams would not be buyers because they were close to the cap number.

So began the meticulous preparation for what finally came to fruition in the last two weeks. In contracts they made late in 2008 and 2009 — including those for Asante Samuel and Jason Peters — the Eagles purposely made the 2011 cap numbers the lowest of the contracts, which is unusual because most contracts have their lowest cap numbers early in the deal.

“You’ll have twice as many players available as usual, and we’re either locked out or there is a reduced cap,” Banner said. “You don’t have to be a brilliant person to figure out there’s going to be huge opportunity. You can’t have increased supply and reduced dollars and not have it. We didn’t know the names, but we did it to take advantage of what was clearly going to be a very team-friendly marketplace. There was a strategic element to this. There was luck as well. Frankly, it turned out better than we hoped.”

Brian then suggested to look at eaglescap.com in case you were skeptical:

I suppose, if you’re unwilling to trust Banner, you could be skeptical that the Eagles really planned so far in advance. But the Samuel and Peters contracts are intriguing evidence. Check out Eagles Cap if you don’t believe the team structured their contracts this way from the beginning.

Well, I did.  And it appears the planning is very evident indeed.  Here’s a list of 12 Eagles that have gotten new deals as recently as 2008, with their 2011 cap numbers highlighted:

2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Kevin Kolb 7,327,530 6,742,000
Leonard Weaver 1,750,000 5,300,000 2,600,000 3,100,000
Jeremy Maclin 1,339,000 4,138,530 2,015,780 2,351,370 2,953,000
Jason Avant 3,910,000 1,960,000 2,210,000 2,710,000 3,960,000
DeSean Jackson 633,250 1,114,585 808,250 893,250
Brent Celek 3,727,825 2,547,825 2,490,000 3,184,000 4,531,000 4,075,000 4,800,000 5,000,000
Jason Peters 12,700,000 14,890,000 6,250,000 8,250,000 10,750,000 10,000,000
Jamaal Jackson 1,556,720 1,350,000 1,725,000 1,575,000 1,775,000 1,875,000
Brandon Graham 1,690,000 2,119,780 5,025,620 2,965,620 3,386,120 3,215,620
Trevor Laws 657,500 747,500 1,244,500 917,500
Asante Samuel 9,145,000 10,000,000 9,995,000 9,335,000 9,500,000 11,500,000
Joselio Hanson 3,900,000 1,955,000 2,235,000 3,255,000 3,655,000

(Cont after the jump)…

Also of note, to me at least, was this quote from Joe Banner:

“ ‘All in’ to me implies a short window, and that’s the only thing I object to,” Banner said in a recent interview. “Because we are going to do everything we can to win the Super Bowl, that’s accurate. But all in implies right now, bust if it doesn’t happen. We have structured this so it will be sustainable, and that’s a big difference between what we’ve done and what we’ve seen others do.”

Sounds familiar.

Yes, the Eagles killed this offseason.

19 Comments

  1. Jay Walker says:

    The inner workings on this are spectacular. Its really an unbelivable that our guys saw the way this would fall, planned for it, enacted the plan, and then followed through so brilliantly.
    And as Banner says, there was some luck involved. But I think that the better you plan, the more frequently luck falls to your side.

  2. Tracer Bullet says:

    All I noticed is that Peters will make about $27 million over 2010 and 2011. Lord, why couldn’t I have been a better athlete? This “aptitude for writing and language” isn’t worth SHIT.

  3. BSH EricT says:

    One way to look at whether this is just random is to look at other teams. Let’s start with another extremely well-run team that spent in FA — take a look at http://www.patscap.com/capfootnotes.html

    Whereas the Eagles have Weaver, Maclin, Avant, Celek, Peters, Jackson, and Samuel all making less in ’11 than they did in ’10 or will in ’12, Brady was the only one on the Patriots who I could find who was in that position. Everyone else had a pretty steady year-over-year increase, so I don’t think this ’11 dip looks like something that happens by accident in typical contracts.

  4. Brian says:

    Nice job pulling out the Eagles Cap data. Clearly Asante and Peters are the big ones, and their cap decreases outweigh basically everyone else’s fluctuations.

  5. Sam says:

    A lot of those deals don’t really qualify as planning. Laws and Maclin had one time bonuses in their deals. Most 1s and 2s have those clauses. They are realized when the player hits like 35% of snaps, then paid out the following season. Deals signed last year were front-loaded into the uncapped year — most teams did that.

    You are missing the big one on Asante Samuel though: part of that cap number is a phony LTBE bonus. That will disappear.

    1. Why is Maclin’s bonus money in year two? Wouldn’t they typically be the rookie season?

      1. Sam says:

        If it was paid in year 1, it would have counted against the rookie cap. So first round picks had second-stage “performance” bonuses that were paid in year 2 to get around the rules. If they didn’t meet the threshold, by the way, the team had to pay out the money anyway in a different form. It was all a big dodge to allow teams to pay more than the rookie cap would allow them to.

        Obviously, that has been gutted in the new CBA.

    2. Ah, gotcha on Samuel, so his 2011 number is more like $7M?

      1. Brian says:

        Eagles Cap: “2.335M LTBE incentive in 2011”. I say subtract that from Samuel’s total.

  6. One.Cool.Customer says:

    Ok. I get it. The Eagles “purposely made the 2011 cap numbers the lowest of the contracts”. But how exactly does that differ from other teams who chose to restructure the contracts later?

    The end result is exactly the same.

    And by the way, for 8 of the 12 players listed, 2011 is not the lowest number on their contract.

    1. “But how exactly does that differ from other teams who chose to restructure the contracts later?”

      Typically, the lower cap numbers of deals are at the beginning of the contract, and the escalate as the years go on. In the case above, the Eagles took cap hits early and got them out of the way. Look at Peters as “exhibit A.” In a case where teams choose to restructure deals later, they’re simply pushing off the burden to future years. It’s a big difference.

      “And by the way, for 8 of the 12 players listed, 2011 is not the lowest number on their contract.”

      True, but even in those four cases (actually, six):

      – Weaver, Jackson, and Maclin have a small 2011 number sandwiched in between two larger numbers.
      – The Eagles got a nice chunk of Jackson’s, Hanson’s, and Laws’ cap number out of the way in 2009, 2009 and 2010, respectively, when typically, contracts escalate each year.

      There may be some coincidence sprinkled in, but you can see a pretty obvious effort to keep the 2011 low, correct?

      1. One.Cool.Customer says:

        “But you can see a pretty obvious effort to keep the 2011 low, correct?”

        Oh, absolutely, I didn’t want to dispute that at all. My point is just that what may have been right for the Eagles may not have been right for other teams.

        Miles Austin ($1.15 M) and DeMarcus Ware ($4.5 M) for example have by far the lowest pay of their $57 and $79 contracts in 2012. This could lead me to conclude that the Cowboys brilliantly structured their contracts in anticipation of some serious dead money accruing in 2012. Makes sense, no?

        A similar rationale could probably be made for most other teams as well.

        1. Euler says:

          There would probably have to be some evidence which predicts favorable market conditions occurring in 2012. The salary structures alone aren’t what make the argument.

  7. Dan in Philly says:

    Wow, is DeSean underpaid! Like, amazingly so…

    1. slandog says:

      You’re just realizing this? Have you been under a rock?

  8. AndrewM says:

    JEEZ Asante and Peters are making a load of money. Hard to wrap your head around the fact that this is the “down” year for them.

    How do you think the Eagles sold this to the players/agents. Cause dont most contracts have the down years at the front?

    1. Players and agents are always going to be more than happy to get money sooner than later. Easy sell.

      1. RogerPodacter says:

        definitely. i’m sure the years before this were structured in such a way that gave us the room to negotiate deals this way too.

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