Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday Funday - Ryan Braun's Contract

On May 15, 2008 the Milwaukee Brewers and Ryan Braun agreed to an 8-year, $45 million contract. At the time, Braun had only 600 career major league at-bats but Doug Melvin saw Braun as a franchise player which lead him to offer such a long-term contract. Braun's contract contained a modest $2.3 million signing bonus and these annual salaries:
- 2008: $455,000
- 2009: $745,000
- 2010: $1.3 million
- 2011: $4.3 million
- 2012: $6.3 million
- 2013: $8.8 million
- 2014: $10.3 million
- 2015: $12 million

Braun's contract is one of the most club friendly contracts in Milwaukee Brewers' history and will forever be known as the Anti-Jeff Supppan Contract. To put into perspective how little Braun is earning this season, he is the 16th highest paid player on the 2010 Milwaukee Brewers. There are not 15 better players in baseball right now, which shows you just how underpaid Braun is at this point. Just to drive the point home, I grouped the 15 Brewers players getting paid more than Braun into 3 categories and gave each a quick accompanying comment:

Understandable: these guys are worth what they are getting paid.
- Prince Fielder ($11 million) might be his last season in Milwaukee and might be the only player more valuable than Braun on the 2010 Brewers irrespective of salary.
- Trevor Hoffman ($7.5 million) may be the greatest closer of all-time, just his influence on the bullpen alone is practically worth his salary.
- Craig Counsell ($2.1 million) even if doesn't produce this year his salary can be chalked up to back pay for his impressive 2009 campaign.
- Todd Coffey ($2 million) not only has he been a reliable reliever since joining the Brewers, he runs so fast to the mound from the bullpen that he is a blur.

- Randy Wolf ($9.25 million with $4 million deferred) the three-year, $29 million contract he signed in the offseason makes me think of Jeff Suppan's contract...let's move on.
- Doug Davis ($4.25 million) the Brewers 9th left-handed starting pitcher.
- Dave Bush ($4.22 million) is coming off an injury riddled season. The Brewer had to bring him back but so far this spring Bush has done nothing to earn the 4th spot in the starting rotation.
- LaTroy Hawkins ($3.5 million) hopefully something other than wine gets better with age.
- Rickie Weeks ($2.75 million) 50/50 whether he will be healthy at the all-star break, when does his "potential" turn into results?
- Gregg Zaun ($1.9 million) if he hits half of what he did in the spring Doug Melvin will look much smarter than he should for letting Jason Kendall leave via free agency in the offseason.

- Jeff Suppan ($12.75 million) it took a lot but passed Jeffery Hammonds last season as the worst free agent signing in Milwaukee Brewers history.
- Bill Hall ($7.15 million) not only are the Brewers playing Hall to play for the Boston Red Sox, it isn't until 2013 that Braun will have an annual salary higher than Hall's 2010 salary...yikes.
- Corey Hart ($4.8 million) is fighting daily with Suppan for most hated Brewer.
- David Riske ($4.5 million) never a good idea to sign a relief pitcher with the last name Riske.
- Jody Gerut ($2 million) would much rather have Anthony Gwynn than Gerut.

Unfortunately for Braun, the Brewers cannot tear up his contract because starting next season his salary starts to jump in line with what he should be paid. Assuming Braun stays healthy over the life of his contract the Brewers will get roughly 5,000 at-bats for $45 million. The Brewers and Braun both took a huge gamble on May 15, 2008 and right now it looks like the Brewers won the lottery.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tweet Beat...The Prince and Clay Matthews Showing Maturity

As always, these are tweets from today (March 25, 2010) sent by native Cheeseheads or transplanted Cheeseheads. For this installment of "Tweet Beat" I wanted to highlight two young, up and coming players from the Milwaukee Bucks and the Green Bay Packers:

The Buck - The Price (Luc Richard Mbah a Moute) recently tweeted about giving his time to others, which shows he is selfless on and off the court:

Tweet #1: "Got done with practice... Ready to go to the children's hospital and hang with the kids...."

Tweet #2: "Next time u think things are not going ur way or u having a bad day, think about the kids who are going thru cancer and their families...."

If you want to follow The Prince on twitter, click here.

The Packer - Clay Matthews tweeted about hunting which proves that even a California boy can be converted to a Cheesehead in no time:

Tweet #1: "Just shoot a bow 4 the 1st time and it was everything I imagined... That arrow was hummin!!"

Tweet #2: "Note to self... Keep a bent arm as the wire will slap the *#;? outta ur forearm... OUCH!!!"

If you want to follow Clay on twitter, click here.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

NFL Changes Overtime Rules

On the heels of the New Orleans Saints winning the NFC Championship Game in overtime without the Minnesota Vikings even touching the ball on offense, the NFL owners voted 28-4 (Buffalo, Minnesota, Baltimore, and Cincinnati voted against the measure) to change the overtime rules ONLY for the playoffs for a one year trial period. Here is a breakdown of the new playoff overtime rules according to the NFL:

- Both teams must have the opportunity to possess the ball once during the extra period, unless the team that receives the opening kickoff scores a touchdown on its initial possession, in which case that team is the winner.

- If the team that possesses the ball first scores a field goal on its initial possession, the other team shall have the opportunity to possess the ball. If the second team scores a touchdown on its possession following the first team's made field goal, the second team is the winner. If the score is tied after both teams have a possession, the next team to score is the winner.

- If the score is tied at the end of a 15-minute overtime period, or if the overtime period's initial possession has not ended, another overtime period will begin, and play will continue until a score is made, regardless of how many 15-minute periods are necessary.

A few reasons cited by the owners for making the change to the playoff overtime rules are:

#1) Since 1994, the team that wins the coin toss won the game 59.8% of the time.

#2) Since 1994, the team that won the coin toss won the game on the first possession of the game 34.4% of the time.

#3) In 1994, the kick-off was moved from the 35 yard line to the 30 yard line giving the receiving team better starting field position.

#4) The field goal kicking accuracy has dramatically improved in recent seasons.

The new overtime rule is an improvement over the old rule but I have two problems with the new rule:

#1) The new overtime rules only applies to the post-season not the regular season. The owners reserve the right to extend the rule to the regular season at their meeting in May but if they like the rule so much why not make it applicable to both the regular season and post-season right away? Owners cited player safety as their reason for not extending the new overtime rules to the regular season. If the owners are so worried about player safety, why are the owners trying to add two regular season games to the NFL schedule (would increase the regular season from 16 games to 18 games)?

#2) The new overtime rule still does not guarantee that both teams touch the ball on offense in overtime. I am not a huge fan of the current college football overtime system but at least both offenses get to touch the ball. Under the new NFL playoff overtime rules, it takes a touchdown on the first possession for only one team to touch the ball, which still deprives the opposing offense from getting a chance in overtime. Even if a team scores a touchdown on the first possession the opposing team should get a chance to match that touchdown, then the game can go to sudden death.

My Solution:
If any regular season or post-season NFL game goes into overtime, play a 15 minute overtime period. Treat the overtime period like the 4th quarter of an NFL game with a two-minute warning except each team gets 3 time outs and all challenges are initiated from the booth. The team with the most points at the end of the period wins. If the game is still tied at then end of one overtime period, then go to the new overtime rule that was just adopted.

Owners and players would say to this because of the increased exposure to injury but if you want to please the viewer the NFL should adopt my overtime rule. Every team that wins the toss would choose to receive the ball but after that there would be a ton of strategy. How much time should teams take off the clock before scoring? Should teams go for it on 4th down in certain situations? Trust me, no mater the score, viewers would not change the channel because anything can happen...the strategies involved are endless.

I know my overtime rule will never see the light of day but at the very least the owners should make the regular season and post-season overtime rules consistent.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Details on Clifton, Collins, Pickett, and Tauscher Contracts

Chad Clifton, Nick Collins, Ryan Pickett, and Mark Tauscher recently signed big contracts with the Green Bay Packers so I thought I would give the details of each contract along with my thoughts.

Chad Clifton signed a three-year, $19.4 million contract:
2010: $7.5 million = $6.4 million roster bonus, $855,000 base salary, and $250,000 workout bonus

2011: $6.2 million = $200,000 roster bonus, $5.75 million base salary, and $250,000 workout bonus

2012: $5.7 million = $200,000 roster bonus, $5.25 million base salary, and $250,000 workout bonus

Paying Clifton a large amount of up front guaranteed money means that if the salary cap is reinstated, the Packers can cut Clifton after the 2010 season without any salary cap charges. If the Packers draft a left tackle of the future in the 2010 NFL Draft, 2010 might be Clifton's last season in Green Bay despite just signing a three-year extension.

Nick Collins signed a three-year, $23.4 million extension:
2010: $14 million in compensation

2011 - 2013: $12.7 million in compensation for an average of $4.23 million a year

Nick Collins played nice by signing his tender instead of holding out for a long-term deal and the Packers rewards Collins' loyalty in a big way. The specific details of Collins' extension were much harder to find but I will do my best to break it down.

The basics of the deal are that this extension will keep Collins under contract in Green Bay through 2013. Collins restricted free agent tender which would have paid him $3.3 million this season and then Collins would have become and unrestricted free agent after the 2010 season. As a result, the $23.4 million extensions was added to the $3.3 million tender, which pushes the total value of the deal to four-years, $26.7 million.

This is a great deal for both sides. Collins is one of the best safeties in the NFL and now he is getting paid like that. Since Collins signed only a four-year deal, he can still become a free agent at age 30 and sign another mega-deal unless he re-ups before the end of 2013.

Ryan Pickett signed a four-year, $24.925 million contract:
2010: $9.9 million = $6.4 million roster bonus, $2 million signing bonus, $1.2 million base salary, $200,000 workout bonus, and $100,000 likely to be earned incentives

2011: $3.3 million = $2.7 million base salary, $200,000 workout bonus, and $400,000 likely to be earned incentives

2012: $4.8 million = $4.5 million base salary, $200,000 workout bonus, and $100,000 likely to be earned incentives

2013: $5.7 million = $5.4 million base salary, $200,000 workout bonus, and $100,000 likely to be earned incentives

The Pickett family is getting paid in 2010. As a point of reference, the Packers placed the franchise tag on Pickett earlier this offseason, which would have been a one-year, $7.03 million fully guaranteed deal had Pickett and the Packers not reached the aforementioned four-year accord. With all that up front money in 2010 and a relatively low salary for 2011, Pickett will play for the Packers at least through 2011. The development of Raji, the resolution to Jolly's legal troubles, and what the Packers do in the next few drafts will determine if Pickett plays out the entire four years of his new deal. If you check my math I have $1.225 million unaccounted for in Pickett's extension. If I get more details on Pickett's deal I will pass that information along.

Mark Tauscher signed a two-year, $8.28 million deal:
2010: $3.7 million = $1.4 million base salary, $2.1 million roster bonus, and $200,000 workout bonus

2011: $4.58 million = $4.1 million base salary, $280,000 roster bonus, and $200,000 workout bonus

Mark Tauscher's deal is similar to Clifton's deal in the sense that if the salary cap is re-instated in 2011 the Packers can cut Tauscher before the 2011 season without any salary cap ramifications. Whether Tauscher plays for the Packers in 2011 depends on the development of T.J. Lang, Breno Giacomini, and Allen Barbre (and to a lesser extent whether the Packers draft a right tackle in the 2010 or 2011 NFL Draft).

The Packers committed $79 million to four players, $35.1 million of which will be paid out in 2010. I like that Ted Thompson is trying to capitalize on the uncapped year, but I wonder whether Collins or Pickett might ask for more money towards the end of their deals despite how much money they were paid up front.

These extensions show that Thompson is not afraid to spend money. Some have quested why Thompson doesn't spend more money in free agency but as the Washington Redskins show every year, NFL teams can't be built solely via free agency.

Congrats to Chad Clifton, Nick Collins, Ryan Pickett, and Mark Tauscher for getting go earn your money fellas!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

2010 Packers Offseason So Far...

Unrestricted Free Agents:
The Packers put the franchise tag on defensive tackle Ryan Pickett which left them with 4 unrestricted free agents:

Chad Clifton (LT):
For a quick background on how nice of a guy Clifton is and how much he wanted to stay a Packer, check out former Green Bay Packer front office executive Andrew Brandt's recent article about the last contract that he negotiated with Clifton. As always, Brandt provides a great look at the inter workings of the Green Bay Packers from his time there.

Even though Clifton is 33 years old, he is still a top 10 left tackle in the NFL. As a result, Clifton rejected the Packers initial offers and tested free agency briefly before resigning with the Packers. Clifton ultimately signed a three-year contract worth $19,387,500. The contract is very cap friendly because the Packers will incur no cap charges if they cut Clifton after 2010. The Packers can draft a tackle in the 2010 NFL Draft but will not be forced to play him immediately thanks to resigning Clifton. Here is the breakdown of Clifton's contract:
- 2010: $7,481,250 = $6,376,250 roster bonus, $855,000 salary and $250,000 workout bonus
- 2011: $6,203,125 = $203,125 roster bonus, $5,750,000 salary and $250,000 workout bonus
- 2012: $5,703,125 = $203,125 roster bonus, $5,250,000 salary and $250,000 workout bonus

Ahman Green (RB):
Batman might be in Packers' plans if they don't draft a game changing running back or sign a younger running back in free agency. Plus, the suitors for Green will be few if any because of his advance age and mileage by NFL running back standards. Basically Batman would be lucky to be wearing Green and Gold in 2010.

Aaron Kampman (DE/OLB):
The Packers asked Kampman to move from defensive end to outside linebacker when they switched from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense heading into 2009. Despite the fact that Kampman was in the last year of his contract, he obliged and played out of position. As the season progressed, it became painfully obvious that Kampman did not fit as an outside linebacker in the 3-4.

Knowing all of that, why did the Packers hold on to Kampman at the 2009 NFL Trade Deadline? Refer back to my post on October 20, 2009 where I made the case for trading Aaron Kampman at the NFL trade deadline here. Unfortunately Ted Thompson doesn't read the blog and the Packers held on to Kampman.

We all know the story, Kampman tore his ACL towards the end of the season and started to plot his exit from the only NFL franchise he has ever known. Oddly, I thought Kampman tearing his ACL would be good for the Packers because teams might be scared to commit any significant money to him coming off such a horrible injury. I was wrong, Kampman's torn ACL didn't hurt him in the free agent market at all. Instead, Kampman refused any overtures by the Packers, preferring to move to a 4-3 system. Kampman found just that with the Jacksonville Jaguars where he signed a four-year contract worth $25 million. Not too sure how much sense it makes for the Jaguars to give Kampman such a hefty contract without knowing how healthy he will be, take a look at the breakdown of the contract:
- 2010: $11.025 million = $10 million signing bonus, $1 million salary and $25,000 workout bonus
- 2011: $2.475 million = $2.45 million salary and $25,000 workout bonus
- 2012: $5 million = $4.975 million salary and $25,000 workout bonus
- 2013: $6.5 million = $6.475 million salary and $25,000 workout bonus

Mark Tauscher (RT):
Speaking of ACL injuries, Tauscher tore his ACL in 2008 around the same point in the season that Kampman tore his ACL in 2009. Tauscher was unable to play for the Packers until October of 2009 but once he re-joined the Packers, the offensive line settled and the team started to win more games. Unless the Packers are 100% committed to drafting an offensive tackle in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft they better bring back Tauscher. Furthermore, Aaron Rodgers expressed a strong desire to have Mark Tauscher return to the Packers in 2010...that should be reason enough to resign Tauscher.

If Tauscher wants a long-term contract, the Packers might look elsewhere. If Tauscher agrees to come back on a reasonable one-year deal, the Packers should sign him tomorrow. If it was up to me, I would resign Tauscher to a one-year deal ASAP.

Restricted Free Agents:
Since the 2010 season is being played uncapped, players need 6 years of NFL service as opposed to 4 years of NFL service to become an unrestricted free agent. As a result, any player with 4 or 5 years of NFL service would have been an unrestricted free agent in the past but now they are a restricted free agent. That rule change impacts 212 NFL players, including 9 Packers.

The new rules allow the Packers to "tender" their 9 restricted free agents a one-year contract at 4 tender levels: 1st & 3rd rounds, 1st round, 2nd round, and original draft position. Those tender levels determine the compensation the player would get if they sign the one-year tender and the level of draft pick compensation the Packers would receive if the players signs with another team.

Once the tenders are placed on each player, they have the right to speak to the other 31 NFL teams about a contract. If one of the 31 other teams signs a player to an offer sheet, the Packers have the right to match the offer. If the Packers decline to match the offer then they receive the draft pick compensation from the team that signs their restricted free agents. Here is a look at the Packers 9 restricted free agents and how I think things will play out:

Atari Bigby (S):
Bigby was undrafted in 2005 out of the University of Central Florida. The Packers tendered Bigby at the 2nd round compensation level which is a one-year contract worth $1.76 million. Despite Bigby being injured and somewhat inconsistent this was a smart tender. If the Packers gave Bigby the lowest tender (original draft position) then teams would have been jumping at the chance to sign him to an offer sheet because they would be getting a starting NFL safety for no draft pick compensation. Instead, the Packers have their starting safety under contract for a reasonable price since there is no chance a team would surrender a second round pick for Bigby.

Will Blackmon (KR/CB):
Blackmon was originally drafted in the 4th round of the 2006 draft out of Boston College. The Packers tendered Blackmon at his original draft position which is a one-year contract worth $1.176 million. Blackmon has shown flashes as a kick returner but has been placed on injured reserve almost every season. Blackmon will garner little interest on the restricted free agent market and will have to show he can stay healthy to even make the Packers roster in 2010.

Daryn Colledge (OG):
Colledge was originally drafted in the 2nd round of the 2006 draft out of Boise State. The Packers tendered Colledge at the 2nd round compensation level which is a one-year contract worth $1.76 million. There are conflicting reports on whether Colledge is salty about only getting a second round tender. From the fan's perspective there are no conflicting reports, we are all salty with his play.

Colledge just hasn't played that well for the Packers and is a good example of how the rule changes in the CBA have helped the Packers. In the past the Packers would have had to make a long term contract offer to Colledge in order to retain his services. This offseason, the Packers can wait and hope a team signs Colledge to an offer sheet because they would gladly take a second round pick instead of Colledge since there is a chance Colledge won't even make the roster in 2010 depending on who the Packers select in the 2010 draft.

Nick Collins (S):
Collins was originally drafted in the 2nd round in 2005 out of Bethune-Cookman University. The Packers tendered Collins at the 1st and 3rd round compensation level which is a one-year contract worth $3.35 million. Collins took everyone by surprise and recently signed his offer sheet as a sign of good faith to induce the Packers to negotiate a long-term deal.

First off, not too many people are feeling sorry for Collins earning $3.35 million next season if the parties fail to reach a long-term agreement. That said, Collins has earned a long-term deal. Collins is a two time Pro Bowler and the only reliable safety on the Packers roster unless you count 2012 Chuck Woodson.

Some people have used the contract Antrel Rolle signed with the New York Giants (five-year, $37 million with a $10 million first year payout) as a benchmark for what Colllins should get. That seems a little rich but the price is only going up. Of all the restricted free agents on the Packers roster, Collins deserves a long-term deal and I expect one to get done before the start of the 2010 season.

Johnny Jolly (DT/DE):
Jolly was originally drafted in the 6th round in 2006 out of Texas A&M. The Packers tendered Jolly at the 1st round compensation level which is a one-year contract worth $2.521 million. This was again a good move by Ted Thompson.

There was some thought that with the uncertainty surrounding Jolly's pending court case for drug possession that the Packers could have gotten away with tending him at only a second round compensation level. If they did, I expected at least one team would have taken a gamble on Jolly because he thrived as a combo DT/DE in the 3-4 last season.

Even with his legal troubles pending, so many teams are gravitating towards the 3-4 which would made Jolly very enticing for only a second round draft pick. Jolly is another example of how the Packers lucked out with the new rules. The Packers would rather see how the court case plays out before offering Jolly a long-term contract.

John Kuhn (FB):
Kuhn was undrafted in 2005 out of Shippensburg University. The Packers claimed Kuhn off waivers from the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2007. The Packers tendered Kuhn at his original draft position (undrafted) which is a one-year contract worth $1.176 million.

The Packers were stuck between a rock and a hard place with Kuhn. There is no way they could put a second round tender on him but they would also like to get some compensation for him. Unfortunately if any team signs him to an offer sheet and the Packers decline to match the offer, they get Kuhn without having to sacrifice a draft pick.

The Packers already have two younger fullbacks on their roster so Kuhn is expendable. That said, the Packers carried 3 FBs for the entire 2009 season. In the end it would be a huge surprise to me if more than 2 FBs were on the 2010 roster and if one of them was named Kuhn.

Jason Spitz (C/OG):
Spitz was originally drafted in the 3rd round in 2006 out of Louisville. The Packers tendered Spitz at the 2nd round compensation level which is a one-year contract worth $1.76 million. Spitz has injury problems similar to Bigby and Blackmon. All three players show flashes of brilliance canceled out by long spells of injuries.

Similar to Colledege, the Packers would happily take a second round pick in the upcoming, talent laden draft for Spitz. But because of the aforementioned injury history, teams will likely shy away.

What will be interesting to see is if Colledge and Spitz (drafted the same year in the 2nd and 3rd rounds respectively) do in fact square off against one another for the starting left guard position next season. My money would be on Spitz to win in a land slide if he stays healthy but that is a big if.

Tramon Williams (CB):
Williams was originally undrafted in 2006 out of Louisiana Tech. The Packers tendered Williams at the 1st and 3rd round compensation level which is a one-year contract worth $3.043 million.

This was the most perplexing tender of the group. I thought Williams would get a 2nd round tender. Instead, the Packers blew right by that and the 1st round tender to give Williams the highest tender possible. There isn't a team in the NFL that is going to give up a 1st and 3rd round pick to sign Williams.

Although it is not an apples to apples comparison since Charles Woodson is much older, I am not even sure a team would surrender a 1st and 3rd round pick for Charles Woodson at this point and Woodson was the 2009 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

Williams looks to be the corner back of the future in Green Bay but he is still a work in progress. My friends over at Football Outsiders call Williams "Arm Bar" because of how many pass interference penalties he draws. In the penalty department Williams reminds me a lot more Ahmad Carroll than Charles Woodson...shoot.

DeShawn Wynn (RB):
Wynn was originally drafted in the 7th round in 2007 out the University of Florida. The Packers decided not to tender Wynn because of his lengthy injury history.

I have said it before and I will say it again, if Wynn stayed healthy in 2007 then Ryan Grant is either a journeymen running back in the NFL or a runway model. It was Wynn's injury in 2007 that gave Grant a chance to play. Grant parlayed that into a huge contract before the 2008 season.

If you want to read how lucrative of a contract Grant actually got in 2008 while the Packers were dealing with the Favre saga click here to read my past post.

Exclusive Rights Free Agents:
This is what the aforementioned Ryan Grant was in 2008. These players are the exclusive rights of the Packers so they basically have to take what the Packers offer or sit out the season:

Spencer Havner (TE):
Havner was originally undrafted in 2008 out of University of Cudahy by the Lake Almost. The Packers offered Havner a one-year deal worth roughly $500,000. Not a ton of money by NFL standards but Havner has no leverage.

The Packers already have two TEs ahead of him on the depth chart (Jermichael Finley and Donald Lee) although really only one should be since Lee is really only good at dropping wide open TDs at this point. Havner caught 4 TDs this year and made an even bigger contribution special teams. The Packers will welcome back Havner with open arms for $500,000 this season unless they get a couple special teams mavens in the draft.

Jeremy Kapinos (P):
Kapinos was originally undrafted in 2007 out of Penn State. The Packers did not offer Kapinos a contract, which shows you how little they think of him. Kapinos would have earned between $400,000 and $500,000 next season but the Packers didn't even think he was worth that and they were right.

The Packers punting game has been in shambles since letting Craig Hentrich leave via free agency a million years ago. Kapinos was not the answer, he was last in the league in net punt average...don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Other Moves:
The Packers released Michael Montgomery (DE) and Matt Giordano (S) on March 5th at the start of free agency.

Montgomery, a former 6th round pick from the 2005 NFL Draft, lacked the size to play defensive end in the 3-4. Add in that Montgomery was scheduled to make $1.5 million next season and the decision was pretty easy for the Packers.

Giordano was signed during the 2009 season but never really made an impact for the Packers. Despite lacking depth at safety, keeping Giordano would have cost the Packers $850,000 which would have been a little rich.