Dynasty Fantasy Football: Future Salary Cap Casualties
March 30, 2014 | Rich Hribar
Last week we went through some future free agent planning for the 2015 season to give you a heads up on which players have a window to increase their fantasy value while also being able to be currently acquired cheaply. We’re going to keep one eye fixated on the 2015 offseason, looking at three potential candidates who could be future salary cap casualties and the replacement assets that will take over for those current incumbents. Also, hopefully letting you get out from under those players starting now before their value is completely sunk.
One of the most interesting questions about how contracts are handled is when does a team decide that it’s worth more to them now to lose immediate equity? In other words, when the guaranteed money owed of a contract is greater than what that player’s current cap hit is for that season or nearly equal. An immediate example is how the Carolina Panthers handled the Steve Smith situation.
Releasing Smith and factoring in the replacement cost of signing Jerricho Cotchery was a nearly lateral move in cap and roster space over the next two seasons, something neither (cash and wide receivers) were in surplus of. There is quite the Pandora ’s Box of real answers to that question. For the purposes of not getting too outlandish in assumption, we’re going to avoid those types of situations for our methodology here. We are only looking at clear-cut cap saving situations, and not the cheap kind either.
As of now, Lynch is on schedule to have the fourth highest cap hit of any running back in 2015 (third highest once the Titans inevitably release Chris Johnson). He turns 28 years old this April and will enter 2014 with 2,084 career touches including the postseason. 1,094 of those touches have come over the past three seasons. Before catching his second wind in the playoffs a season ago, the tread was looking pretty thin for Lynch as he dealt with back issues and Seattle themselves had a mash unit offensive line.
In the final six games to close out the regular season, Lynch carried 110 times for 386 yards (3.5 YPC) after totaling 4.6 YPC through the first 10 games, topping 70 yards rushing only once. He got hot once again in the playoffs, so all was forgotten.
Keeping Lynch on at that current salary would really hamper Seattle, since Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman’s contracts expire after this season and Russell Wilson will be able to negotiate an extension. Waiting in the wings behind Lynch is combine superhero Christine Michael, who was given the keys to the car prematurely last season by fantasy hopefuls and will likely be no more than a handcuff at best in 2014. 2015 will also be the final season of Robert Turbin’s contract, so the path for his freedom seems to begin after this season.
Michael is still highly regarded in most leagues, so his services won’t come cheaply. If Lynch gets off to a hot start next season however, an owner may become frustrated into thinking he could be potentially holding the next Ben Tate, another back who posted salivating athletic measurables but never was released from the shadows of Arian Foster until now. If that’s the case, keep prodding at the owner of Michael to see if you can’t constantly chip away at that price tag.
I know what most of you are already thinking. No way the Bears would ever let Forte go, right? Well to start, Forte will be 29 this season, a year that will put him over 2,000 touches for his career. Pass catching running backs have shown recently that they can extend their shelf life, so there’s a pro in his corner.
While Marc Trestman carries the title of the “QB Whisperer”, his offenses have also created reception juggernauts out of his running backs. If he can take and stabilize the career of Jay Cutler, he can surely create near replacement production in his offense for Forte, no matter the skills the then 30-year old possesses. In fact, see how Forte’s 2013 season stacks up against prior backs in Trestman’s system:
That isn’t exactly a gallery of excellent players. With Forte already becoming a declining asset by age and current league wide value of the position, he may be expendable at that cost. Brandon Marshall is also up for free agency after this season,a player who is more valuable than Forte is. The Bears may decide to free up all of that money to spend on their defense and move forward with youth in the backfield.
The only other current back on the roster is second year back Michael Ford. Ford put up impressive vertical and broad jump scores at the combine a year ago, with a respectable 4.5 forty. It’s likely that explosion was a contributing factor in what translated into the Bears letting Devin Hester walk as Ford is expected to handle kickoff returns this season. Ford is worth a deeper stash, but Chicago will very likely be adding another back in this draft. If he comes with more pass catching acumen than Ford did in college (eight career catches at LSU), that’s the guy you’ll want to latch onto.
Gates will be turning 34 years old this June and is carrying the third largest cap hit for all tight ends for 2015. He was one of seven tight ends to have 100 or more targets last season even though he was one the most inefficient players in the league.
He’s currently blocking the path of Ladarius Green, whose stock, believe it or not, can possibly get higher than it currently is. Green was one of the most underutilized players in the league last season, something that may speak to his learning curve, but peripherally appears to more coaching related.
Over the final eight games of 2013, the Chargers were a dead even 50/50 run-to-pass team, protecting their defense and shortening games. Green played sparingly besides a three week stretch when Eddie Royal was out, catching nine passes for a gaudy 206 yards and two scores. Once Royal returned, he played fewer than half of the offensive snaps in three of the final four weeks.
Green had only 29 total targets last season, which ranked 48th in the league for tight ends. Those targets were fewer than Jim Dray, Clay Harbor, Anthony Fasano and more. On those 29 targets, Green generated 27 points for Philip Rivers’ fantasy output, meaning Rivers averaged almost a full fantasy passing point per target to Green. Only Vernon Davis and Joseph Fauria were better.
Green is 6’6” and 237 pounds and did not receive even a single target inside the opponents’ 10-yard line last season. Really. None. Zero. A player that converted 32 percent of his college red zone opportunities into touchdowns. Do you know who led the Chargers in targets in that area of the field? Danny Woodhead with 12 (only three were touchdowns). Eddie Royal and Vincent combined for ten targets as well. No matter how you slice his personal development, the Chargers had no clue how to properly use him effectively and still may not.
I’ve already mentioned their play calling mentality to play keep away over the second half of last season. This offseason they’ve signed run blocking tight end David Johnson, re-signed guard Chad Rinehart and running back Donald Brown. The arrow is pointing in the direction of them maintaining that philosophy, likely preventing Green from seeing the breakout usage owners are craving.
In a season that will likely be very frustrating for impatient owners, similarly to Christine Michael in Seattle, owners may be willing to come down on his current sky high value as the season progresses. Barring an injury to Gates, The Green Monster will likely be nothing more than a sporadic commodity short term.