by Ryan Lasal and Anthony Grassi
Winston or Mariota? That was the question coming into the 2015 draft for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who held the Number 1 pick at the time. As the 2015 season ended, it didn’t appear there was a wrong answer to that question, but the Bucs seem to have gotten the better side of the debate. From a hopeless 2-14 to a hopeful 6-10, the Bucs seem poised to become legitimate contenders in a declining NFC South.
By Paul Wanecski
Remember when everyone was talking about how great the Dolphins were going to be last offseason? The brought in Suh, Jordan Cameron, Greg Jennings; it was all sunshine, roses and unicorns. Whoops. One head coach (and one interim head coach) later, Miami is sitting at the top of the draft and is projected to be over the salary cap (yes, even with the increase this offseason). New general manager Chris Grier has some serious cleaning up to do.
by Mario Granata
It’s hard to think that the 49ers were in the Super Bowl in 2012, and to 49er fans, that has to seem like light years ago. With a new regime come new parts, as the Chip Kelly experiment failed in Philadelphia despite having a winning record. San Francisco has questions all over the board, and ones that aren’t just going to be answered with the 7th pick in the upcoming draft. Through all the memes and all the jokes about Kelly, the 49ers feel that they have the right man going into 2016 to turn a once storied franchise around in a tough and ever-changing NFC West.
By Paul Wanecski
If you are the Baltimore Ravens, you knew this day was coming 3 years ago. They have zero salary cap space, a roster that might soon qualify for AARP and were absolutely destroyed by injuries at nearly every position. General Manager Ozzie Newsome needs to work a miracle. Therefore, the question becomes “where do you start?” and no better place than the NFL Draft, since you simply do not have the money to afford free agents.
By Mario Granata
Making strides to become competitive in the NFL is sometimes a painful process. Having a Top-10 pick in the NFL draft can help to aid in the growth of a team. Having a Top-10 pick every year since 2008, is something that no team wants to endure, however the Jacksonville Jaguars find that is exactly where they are. When you compound that with the fact that your 3rd overall selection in 2015 (Dante Fowler) doesn’t play a down, then you are forced to make adjustments and a young offense has to try to overcome some shortcomings of the defense. The Jaguars aren’t in a very bad place currently, and with the division that they are in, they could make a run at a playoff birth in 2016.
By Paul Wanecski
You can’t say that owner/general manager Jerry Jones doesn’t keep things interesting. The Cowboys had disastrous luck last season, losing top wide receiver DezBryant and quarterback Tony Romo, both top 10 players at their position when healthy. The wheels really came off the bus quickly when both went down. Now, is this a team that really deserves the 4th overall selection? They were pretty awful with Brandon Weeden and Matt Cassel under center, but, offense likely won’t be the focus of this offseason
By Paul Wanecski
As is no surprise, Cleveland is in the midst of another coaching change. Being labelled the “worst owners in the NFL” is a pretty tall order; however, you would be hard-pressed to find any fan of the team saying otherwise. Since Bill Belichick was fired in 1995 (to be fair, his record was 36-44 and the team relocated to Baltimore then next season), no coach has had a tenure of longer than 3 years (actually, only Romeo Crennel has had 3 complete seasons as head coach since that time). Recently hired Hue Jackson makes the 9th coach hired since 1999, which was when the league brought the Browns back via expansion. So, without exception, the Browns have perennially made awful decisions leading into 2016, but, with a new General Manager in Sashi Brown, is this the year they finally start to figure it out?
by Mario Granata
It’s very uncommon for a team to have a quarterback who throws for 300 yards per game, and 29 touchdowns and the offensive coordinator gets sent packing. Thus was the case with Frank Reich and the 2015 San Diego Chargers. Much of that could have been the fact that the Chargers finished 31st in rushing, and their 1st round draft pick, Melvin Gordon failed to find the endzone. Nevertheless, the Chargers have hired Ken Whisenhunt to man the controls for veteran Phillip Rivers and San Diego. Will he suffer the same fate as Reich if the offense cannot be more balanced?
by Mario Granata
The Tennessee Titans have secured one of the top 2 picks in the NFL Draft for the second consecutive season. They have played in a division that is wide open, but against teams that are on the rise with a wealth of young talent. By drafting Marcus Mariota last season they look to make a run at a wide open AFC South, but to do so they will need to make some additions to an already athletic roster. They have the funds to do so but do they have the right man calling the shots to make the next step?
By Paul Wanecski and Mario Granata
The NFL is all about value. Sometimes value is in a player. Sometimes value is in an opportunity to bring in a young, unproven commodity via the draft. Many things go into the business end of structuring an NFL roster, none more important than the dollar it takes to sign, keep or acquire new talent and the NFL draft is the most alluring way to rebuild a roster.
Players drafted in the NFL come with a base four year contract. The contracts that are offered to players have a slotted value, which is based partially off a Rookie Salary Cap Pool. Since the salary cap is based off the top 51 players contracts on the roster, it is typical that rookies drafted prior to the 3rd round will count against their team’s salary cap, while a player drafted in the 7th round will likely be making league minimum and may not make enough money to count against the top 51 contracts.
Understand the Selection
Drafting the best player available isn’t good enough for most teams. Jostling for draft position is among the most entertaining facets of the draft. Teams look to move up or down in an attempt to get the perfect player at the right price. Selecting a player isn’t just about how much they will cost or who they are; draft selection can also determine if a future contract option can be available. Players drafted in the first round (this is normally within the first 32 selections, however this year the New England Patriots are forfeiting their first round selection, so only 31 picks are available) come with a team-option for a fifth year. That option must be exercised prior the start of the player’s 4th year and will have a value based on when the player was drafted.
What is this Fifth-Year Option All About?
The First Round is divided into two segments:
-Top 10 selections
-Rest of first round selections 11-31
Top 10 Picks - Top 10 Selections are given a 4 year contract with a 5th year team option, which teams must exercise before that start of the players 4th year. This option allows the team to extend the contract of a player one additional year without the need to transition or franchise tag him. If that option is picked up, the player is paid the average of the top 10 players at his position.
For example, a player like Ryan Tannehill, who was selected 8th in the 2012 draft, IF the Dolphins were to pick up his 5th year option (he did sign a contract extension last season, so this is purely an example) from a financial standpoint, Tannehill would be paid the average of the Top 10 players at his position, or approx. 16 million dollars.
Picks 11-31 - The remaining players selected in the first round have a similar option. The exception is that the 5th year team option pays significantly less. The option year pays them the average salary of the 3rd-25th highest-paid players at their respective positions.
For example, EJ Manuel, who was drafted 16th in the 2013 draft, IF the Bills were to pick up his 5th year option, and not resign or restructure his deal, it would have to happen before the 2016 season (the 4th of his contract). More importantly, from a financial standpoint, Manuel would be paid the average of the 3rd-25th highest-paid players at his position, or approximately 12.5 million dollars.
Why is this important? Well, you will see a lot of jostling at the bottom part of the 1st round as teams try and navigate for that extra year of control. For a position like Quarterback, an affordable year financially in an option may be worth the cost to trade up if that player turns into a Franchise Quarterback (see Russell Wilson, as he is given the base 4 year contract as he was selected in the 3rd round and Seattle had no team option to exercise versus Ryan Tannehill who would be paid the average of the top 10 Quarterbacks in the league).
(Contract estimates provided by Overthecap.com):
If you are looking for the full contract estimates for the 2016 NFL Draft, use this link to view what overthecap.com has to offer on that.