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Falcons and White Agree to New Contract Extension

July 24th, 2014 No comments
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Roddy White

The Atlanta Falcons announced what ESPN’s Adam Schefter first reported, in that wide receiver Roddy White has agreed to a new three-year contract extension. White, who was entering the final year of his contract agreed to ink a four-year deal worth reportedly $30 million this morning. Other parameters of the deal including $10 million in guaranteed money, with $11 million payout this year and $18 million over the next two years, a substantial increase from those that I predicted Tuesday.

White will turn 33 this fall and this deal should lock him up in Atlanta through the end of his career. White, originally a first-round pick of the Falcons in 2005, is alongside defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux as the currently oldest tenured Falcons on the roster now that they are entering their ninth seasons with the team.

White is coming off an injury-riddled 2013 season where he missed three games. However, White did not appear fully healthy until the Falcons Week 13 matchup against the Buffalo Bills, where he caught 10 passes for 143 yards. White finished the year with 63 catches for 711 yards and three touchdowns, his lowest production totals since his second season. Prior to 2013, White had caught over 80 passes for at least 1100 yards and six touchdowns in six consecutive seasons from 2007-12. A four-time Pro Bowler, White has been considered one of the premier wide receivers in the league over the past seven years.

The Falcons had indicated as early as last November that they wanted to extend White’s contract rather than let him hit free agency next offseason. Contract talks were tabled at one point this offseason due to the team allowing White to deal with family issues stemming from the murder of his brother in May.

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Predicting Roddy White’s New Contract Extension

July 22nd, 2014 No comments
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Roddy White

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White is up for a contract extension, and it’s potentially the last deal he could sign from an NFL team before his career is over.

Because of this, it’s likely that Roddy’s people will try to get as much money as they possibly can. At the same time, the Falcons will likely be attempting to pay the least amount of money possible given White’s age and the expected decline in production that will occur from this point forward. These two conflicting leverage points could hold up negotiations, although my expectations that they won’t be insurmountable obstacles for both parties to reach an agreement.

The issue that White faces is mainly his age. White will turn 33 in November and unless he signs an extension will be poised to become a free agent after the season. White only has to look at recent contracts signed by other receivers that were at similar ages to know that the market is not kind to older wide receivers.

In 2012, the Indianapolis Colts re-signed a then 33-year old Reggie Wayne to a three-year contract worth $17.5 million with $7.5 million guaranteed. This past offseason, a 34-year old Steve Smith signed with the Baltimore Ravens for a three-year deal worth $11.5 million with $3.5 million guaranteed. A 33-year old Anquan Boldin inked a two-year extension worth $12 million with $9 million guaranteed to remain with the San Francisco 49ers this past spring as well.

All three of those deals suggest the market value for a 33-year old wide receiver is no more than $6 million/yr. with less than $10 million in guaranteed money. Contrast that to deals signed by other wide receivers this offseason:

  • DeSean Jackson, Washington Redskins: 27 years old; four years, $32 million; $16 million guaranteed
  • Eric Decker, New York Jets: 27 years old; five years, $36.25 million; $15 million guaranteed
  • Golden Tate, Detroit Lions: 25 years old; five years, $31 million; $13.25 million guaranteed

White would be hard-pressed to get deals that approach those on the open market, which gives the Falcons a considerable amount of leverage.

But at the same time, it’s doubtful that the Falcons would significantly lowball White. White has been a fixture in Atlanta for a number of years, and I’m certain the team wants him to retire a Falcon, no different than recent players like Hines Ward in Pittsburgh or Donald Driver in Green Bay. The team has also made no secret their intention to give White a contract extension since last November.

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FalcFans Weekly – July 20, 2014

July 20th, 2014 No comments
US PRESSWIRE

Julio Jones

Once again recapping the highlights that was the past week of the Atlanta Falcons.

In case you missed anything on FalcFans.com this past week, here are all the links to catch you up:

Matthews to Play Right Tackle in 2014, Left Tackle Beyond

May 9th, 2014 Comments off

The Atlanta Falcons made Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews their top selection in the 2014 NFL Draft last night, making a significant splash to upgrade their offensive line. Matthews brings a certain pedigree to the unit that has been certainly missing over the years, being the son of NFL great Bruce Matthews, and hailing from a football family that includes three active members in the NFL and more to come.

But with the selection of Matthews comes the question of where he will play immediately. The Falcons took him with the sixth overall pick, and given the track record under Thomas Dimitroff and Mike Smith, first-round picks are expected to play and start immediately. So where will Matthews wind up? We got our answer late last night from Jay Adams of Atlanta Falcons.com:

This decision makes perfect sense. Matthews began his career at Texas A&M as a right tackle, starting his first 33 games there over the course of three years. The reason for that was largely due to the fact that across from him was Luke Joeckel, a three-time all-conference player, that ultimately was selected second overall in the 2013 NFL Draft. Once Joeckel was in the pros, Matthews made a seamless transition to the left side and started 13 games there as a senior.

A similar transition will probably be made for Matthews in Atlanta, eventually. But he’ll be penciled in right away to play right tackle over the likes of Lamar Holmes, Mike Johnson, Gabe Carimi or Ryan Schraeder.

Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

Jake Matthews

While it could be argued that Matthews could potentially represent an upgrade at left tackle over Sam Baker given the latter’s erratic play over the past six seasons, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to move Baker. Baker has played his entire career at left tackle dating back to his beginnings at USC a decade ago. When the Falcons moved him to right guard briefly in 2011, it was to disastrous results. While Baker could possibly kick over to the right tackle position, he’s a very unknown commodity there. And the Falcons don’t want to run the risk of him losing a battle to Holmes or someone else, and now have a $41 million anchor on the bench.

Frankly if for nothing else but to protect their investment, the Falcons won’t mess with Baker at left tackle in 2014. The hope will be that Baker will play at a level comparable to his performance in 2012, where he was a decent to good starter for most of the year. If that is the case and Matthews has a good rookie season at right tackle, then that would represent the best combination they could have at the tackle spots.

If Baker has a solid 2014, then he should be relatively safe for 2015. Per Over the Cap.com, Baker is set to count $7.3 million against the Falcons 2015 salary cap. If he is released, he will assume a dead money hit of $9.2 million, meaning the Falcons will take an extra $1.9 million hit on their cap if Baker is gone. If Baker is bad in 2014, then I believe the Falcons will eat that dead money and release him in order to plug Matthews in at left tackle. In that event, the Falcons would likely designate Baker a post-June 1 release, and potentially lower the amount of dead money they would have to eat in 2015. However if Baker is decent to good this season, he should be kept for 2015 with Matthews projected to take over in 2016.

2016 is really the first year in which the Falcons can cut Baker and not take a major cap penalty, as his release that offseason before June 2 could net them about $1.65 million in cap savings. So essentially Baker is playing for his job beyond this year.

That should give Matthews at least a year or two to acclimate himself to the NFL as a right tackle. Such a transition from right to left tackle is relatively common in the NFL. It’s expected that Joeckel will make that transition this year in Jacksonville. The Falcons did it in the past with Bob Whitfield manning the right tackle position for three seasons before taking over for long-time Falcon great Mike Kenn at left tackle. Jammal Brown, Michael Roos, Jordan Gross and Joe Staley are all recent examples of players that began at right tackle and made the eventual switch to the left side. If Matthews follows a similar career path as some of those players, the Falcons will extremely happy with this pick.

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Takeaways from Last Week – May 5, 2014

May 5th, 2014 Comments off
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Clowney, Clowney, Clowney, Clowney

Only a few more days until the 2014 NFL Draft and the wait is agonizing.

The draft was moved back two weeks this year due to the fact that Radio City Music Hall, the draft’s permanent home since 2006, was hosting an Easter celebration the weekend that the draft normally happens. That show was subsequently cancelled.

But I heard a year ago on Rich Eisen’s podcast that a May draft has always been the goal of the NFL because it will better mesh with sweeps weeks to bolster ratings and subsequently advertising dollars.

Will the draft move back to late April next year? Who knows? The fact that the league is mulling over expanding the draft to four days from three indicates that fan feedback isn’t what is driving their decision making. Almost no one likes the extra two weeks of waiting and the idea of a four-day format just sounds exhausting.

The three-day format is already long enough. While the opening night is exciting, any fervor is dramatically reduced by the time the third day rolls around and you’re about a round or two into the draft.

Adding another day would be akin to pulling teeth by the time the seventh round rolls around on either Saturday or Sunday.

But again, feedback isn’t driving the bus. Fans and media personalities can moan and decry a four-day May draft, but it’s not going to stop them from watching. It’s certainly not going to stop me.

I can’t remember the last time I did not watch the entirety of the draft from start to finish. I just can’t get enough of it.

This year will probably be the first time in many years where I won’t thanks to my sister-in-law graduating from grad school this Saturday. That will consume much of my afternoon. But if I had a choice about supporting her or just mindlessly watching as players I’ve never heard of get drafted in the fifth round on Saturday, I’d choose the latter.

Ultimately, until fans are willing to turn off their television sets when it comes to the draft, there is going to be no incentive for the league itself to not keeping going down this path. Eventually, the draft could be in June and last a full seven days, one per round, and it would still likely be the highest-rated television event for that week.

But I can’t wait for Thursday and Friday night this week as the 2014 NFL Draft will finally be upon us. I’ve gotten fatigue in writing about what the Falcons will do week after week, and most of it involving the decision to trade up for South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.

Will the best defensive prospect in years wind up a Falcon? That has been the big question of the offseason, and it seems that everything they’ve done so far will be easily eclipsed if the answer is yes.

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FalcFans Weekly – May 4, 2014

May 4th, 2014 Comments off
Getty Images from Yahoo! Sports

Julio Jones

Here are some of the more interesting reads from the past week involving the Atlanta Falcons:

Dave Choate writes about making peace with the draft class. I agree, serenity is the path to salvation. I may not ultimately agree with every selection the Falcons make come draft day, but I still tend to give them all the benefit of the doubt. The draft is such a crapshoot, and which players actually work out versus those that don’t is too much of an unknown to be overly positive or negative towards the picks.

Generally, my reaction to every pick is one of the following three:

  1. “Wow, I love this player! I hope he lives up to his potential.”
  2. “Alright, he’s a decent player. I hope he lives up to his potential.”
  3. “Meh, I’m not in love with this player. I hope he lives up to his potential.”

Notice the common thread in all of those reactions, since those things are really unknown. But all that is involved is the hope that a player stays healthy and goes on to have a successful NFL career.

***

Now that Julio Jones is locked up through 2015, the next step is getting a contract extension signed according to ESPN’s Vaughn McClure. McClure writes that it’s possible that a long-term deal for Jones could average around $11-12 million per year. I think that is very much an underestimation when all things are said and done. If Jones signs for less than $14 million/yr, I will be shocked. It might even exceed $16 million annually, matching the two biggest contracts for wide receivers currently in the league: Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald.
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Falcons Exercise Fifth-Year Option on Julio Jones

April 29th, 2014 Comments off
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Julio Jones

Jay Glazer of FOX Sports tweeted this afternoon that the Atlanta Falcons were electing to exercise the fifth-year option on Julio Jones’ contract. As such, Jones’ 2015 base salary will become the average of the top 10 wide receivers in the league, projected at $10.176 million.

The fifth-year option was instituted in the NFL’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement enacted in 2011, where first-round picks could be kept for a fifth season rather than the standard four. Teams would have until the end of the players third season and May 3 before his fourth season to exercise the option. Thusly, the fifth-year salary would be guaranteed for injury only. If Jones is on the Falcons’ roster on opening day of 2015, however, his salary will be fully guaranteed for skill, cap and injury. Terms of the option are non-negotiable and automatically included in the contracts of all players selected in the first round.

The Falcons traded up 21 spots in 2011 to draft Jones. He is coming off a year where he only appeared in first five games due to a foot injury. But at the time of his injury, he was leading the NFL with 41 receptions. He was also second in the league at that time with 580 receiving yards, and also had a pair of touchdown catches. For his career, Jones has played in 34 games with 33 starts and caught 174 passes for 2,737 yards (15.7 avg) and 20 touchdowns. He earned a spot in the Pro Bowl in 2012.

Under the terms of his original contract signed in 2011, Jones is set to count roughly $5.15 million against the Falcons’ salary cap this season. His salary is fully guaranteed.

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Draft Needs: Should Falcons Add More Depth at Guard

April 29th, 2014 Comments off

The Atlanta Falcons stabilized their right guard position with the signing of former Kansas City Chiefs starter Jon Asamoah this offseason. There had been a revolving door at the position since the team opted to let Harvey Dahl go following the 2010 season.

Asamoah joins Justin Blalock as the most proven of the team’s five projected starters, making the interior of the line a potential strength.

But as the injury-riddled 2013 season showed, shoring up the depth at a strong position is a smart move. However, the Falcons do have some internal options.

The loser of the battle at center between Joe Hawley and Peter Konz could serve as a backup at that position. However, both Hawley and Konz were major contributors to the instability at right guard over the past three seasons since both are much more natural as centers. Moving forward, they should only be returned to the position as a last resort.

The team got solid production from Harland Gunn towards the end of last season, relative to what they saw earlier in the year. They also added Gabe Carimi this offseason, who showed promise in 2012 as a guard for the Chicago Bears. Both could prove capable fill-ins in the event of an injury, although neither are proven candidates as of yet. Gunn is a bit undersized for the position, and despite earlier promise, Carimi struggled in three starts at left guard for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2013.

The team could also move backup right tackle Mike Johnson back to guard, particularly if they wind up using a high pick on an already cluttered offensive tackle position. Johnson has spent the past two summers working at right tackle after failing to earn his way onto the field at guard his first two seasons.

So the Falcons could get by with the players currently on their roster. While solidifying guard depth may not pay immediate dividends this season, it could prove worthwhile down the road.

Blalock has a cap hit that exceeds $7 million this year as well in the final two years of his contract thereafter. He is coming off arguably his best season since joining the Falcons in 2007, but if he is unable to maintain that level of play it’s possible he could find himself playing elsewhere. The Falcons can save nearly $4 million in cap space if they cut him next offseason, and $6 million the following spring. That could be enticing savings if there is any slip in Blalock’s play. Tyson Clabo was 32 when the Falcons cut ties with him, and Blalock will turn 31 at the end of 2014.

Adding a developmental guard that could potentially be in the mix to replace Blalock down the line would be a smart move by the Falcons, in case none of the current players on the roster earn that opportunity. You could expect such a player to be found on the third day of the draft given more pressing needs at other positions.

Categories: Draft Central Tags: , , ,

Draft Needs: Do Falcons Really Need Upgrade at Tackle?

April 29th, 2014 1 comment

Offensive tackle was a position that plagued the Atlanta Falcons throughout the 2013 season, and has been one long designated as an area that could use improvement.

So the answer to the question of whether the team needs an upgrade at the position in yes. But a better question may be, does the team need to use a high pick in order to make that upgrade? Particularly when looking at the right tackle spot where Lamar Holmes is expected to line up.

Holmes struggled throughout most of 2013, but there were points during the season where he was decent when he was filling in for an injured Sam Baker at left tackle. There was a seven-game stretch between Weeks 4 and 11, where Holmes only allowed one sack and four pressures according to Moneyball reviews. That sort of production over the course of an entire 16-game season would indicate that Holmes is more than capable of holding down a starting job permanently.

The premium at the offensive tackle position comes on the left side, with NFL teams investing considerably more in their left tackles than they do in their right ones. Looking at the grades on premium website Pro Football Focus, I looked at all the tackles that played at least 500 snaps in 2013 and broke them down based on what round they were drafted in. I then also looked at those who finished the season with a positive grade according to PFF’s metrics as they appear in the following tables under the “Good” category. Here’s how left tackles and right tackles broke down separately:

Left Tackles by Round

Round
Total
Pct.
Good
Pct.
1st1544%1362%
2nd618%314%
3rd39%00%
4th39%15%
5th00%00%
6th00%00%
7th26%15%
Undrafted515%314%

Right Tackles by Round

Round
Total
Pct.
Good
Pct.
1st824%633%
2nd618%422%
3rd26%16%
4th26%211%
5th412%16%
6th00%00%
7th26%16%
Undrafted927%317%

The numbers clearly delineate how much more NFL teams invest in left tackles than right tackles, with nearly half the regulars at left tackle in 2013 being former first-round picks. They also show how that teams that invest high picks (first and second-rounders) in either position tends to pay dividends with better production. In both cases, more than 70 percent of the regular tackles on both sides that were first or second-round picks wound up receiving positive grades from Pro Football Focus. It became much more hit and miss thereafter.

It suggests that if the Falcons want to upgrade either tackle position, they would be smart to invest a first or second-round pick in them.

But the better question may not be whether the Falcons should invest a high pick in a right tackle to upgrade Holmes, but rather whether they should be looking to improve the left tackle position. Sam Baker has been anything but reliable over the past six years, missing a combined 26 games due to injury. That trend cannot continue, and a first-round pick at tackle could go a long way to address that problem.

But the Falcons invested a significant contract in Baker last offseason and are seemingly stuck with him for at least another season. If he doesn’t rebound this year, then the team may be forced to part ways with him next offseason. So the best strategy for the Falcons may be using a high pick on a player that can be plugged in immediately at right tackle, but eventually move to the left side. That could give Holmes more time to develop and hone his skills. And also give the team a very good insurance policy in case Baker does not bounce back and have a good year in 2014.

The Falcons cannot cut Baker without eating a significant amount of dead money until 2016. But if a rookie tackle shows promise his first year, the team might decide to take that penalty and move on in 2015. The chances of that happen increase exponentially if the Falcons take a tackle in the first two rounds of this year’s draft.

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FalcFans Weekly – April 20, 2014

April 20th, 2014 Comments off

On this fine Easter Sunday, let’s recap some of the news and stories surrounding the Atlanta Falcons over the past week:

The subject of fifth-year options for 2011 first-round picks became a popular subject this week. The Falcons have yet to exercise their option on wide receiver Julio Jones, and have until May 3 to do so.

The fifth-year option will be equivalent to the top 10 salaries for his position group in 2015, which according to ESPN’s Vaughn McClure will give Jones a salary of $10.176 million next year. That money will be guaranteed, but for injury only.

It is very likely that the Falcons will exercise that option. The only reason not to is because they want to sign Jones to an extension before the start of the 2014 regular season. That certainly is a possibility, but unless progress on talks are pretty far along, it really doesn’t hurt the team to still exercise the option in the meantime.

Jones has a cap hit of roughly $5.15 million in 2014, which means that if the option is exercised, he will make around $15.3 million over the next two years, with roughly-two thirds of it guaranteed.

Comparatively, Mike Wallace signed a five-year contract worth $60 million last offseason, with a $27 million payout in his first two seasons, all of which was guaranteed (according to Spotrac.com). It’s certainly possible that Jones could receive substantially more money in his eventual extension from the Falcons. Through the first five games of the 2013 season before his season-ending foot injury, Jones was leading the league in receptions (41) and second in yards (580) behind only tight end Jimmy Graham (593).

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