Value approach to roster management

Value approach to roster changes

Here is a list of the amounts. The first figure is the franchise tag amount. The second figure is the transition tag.






This basic information about the cost of each position provides the basis for managing a team roster based on cost. There are several strategies that one can employ to lower the cost of a team’s roster.


The rookie salary schedule is based on slotting. So, all other things being equal, it makes sense to draft high cost positions and use FA to get lower cost positions. After all if the salary is fixed then to draft a high cost position gives a better ratio than for a low cost position. I call this the Von Miller effect.

High cost position/slot > Low cost position/slot

Means that high cost positions are better than low cost positions for the same draft pick. One should draft a tackle and sign a FA guard.

This works for multiple positions too. For example if a team has two needs – a tackle and a guard. If a tackle commands a higher salary than a guard, [and they do] then to draft a tackle and sign a FA guard will be a better deal than to draft a guard and signing a FA tackle.

The really good players will get their money in their second contract regardless of position. Yet for several years the team with high cost position players on rookie contracts will get a bigger advantage over teams that get really good players at lower cost positions. Those really good players at lower cost positions will also get a good second contract and the team will still save money but not as much.

Yet all things are not equal. Other factors include

How long it takes to learn and succeed at a position. Even the best CB will make mistakes, rookies make mistakes but rookie CBs definitely make mistakes. OCC showed that even first round OL guys take several years to do well.

The success rate at each position. The draft charts are based on the premise that every pick is a risk, but the probability of success goes up the earlier one picks. Birddog has noted that there are different success rates by position. Yet this must be looked at with more detail. Guards have a higher rate of success because only the very best are drafted in the first round. Yet there will be many more DE taken each year. The real question is will the 3rd or 4th DE be worth the first guard.

Need and depth at the position on your team. The greater the depth at a position means that a team can afford to wait for a player to develop.

Risk propensity of a team. Teams may choose a player with the highest ceiling [highest potential] or the highest floor [ready to play now]. High ceiling guys have a greater risk of failure than those with high floors, who are by definition ready to play. Yet those high floor guys may never get any better.

Supply and demand of FA for specific skills not just position. For example, do you want a press versus zone cover CB or the speed versus possession type of WR?

These are broad categories. We know that tackles are more expensive than guards or centers, and halfbacks are more expensive than fullbacks. There are several approaches to how to draft covered elsewhere

Free Agents

There are several kinds of FA available. Generally, drafted players are cheaper than FA. So teams want to develop their own players. In order to draft the best player available then teams must have no needs. So teams should fill holes with mid-range mid-dollar role model FA. The idea is to use FA for SHORT TERM needs while you develop your own.


Schemes matter from a cost point of view. With the old franchise numbers I explored the difference in the 3 4 from the 4 3 defense just on cost. In essence, one is trading one LB for a DT. LB are now more expensive than DT, that was not always the case.


Teams benefit from stars. Stars increase the marketing value of a team. This was recognized by the CBA in free agency. The union wanted everyone to be able to change teams. Yet, the CBA notes that teams can control a few contracts, the franchise and transition tags, that are exceptions to the FA. To minimize the use of these contracts, they have a defined high cost.

Further, we know that the NFL is a star system, where just like in Hollywood the stars get the lion’s share and the rest try to get by. The difference in the best players, as shown in the franchise numbers, from even the better than average players is striking. This difference is bigger than the difference from the better than average player and the merely average.

Some of this difference is merely time lag between the most recent contracts and those signed years ago. There is a ratchet effect as each new contract sets the new going rate and those who have signed several years ago fall behind.

DAT effect

The salaries do not go up in a straight line, instead it is a curve. Yet in a cap constrained there is a way to reap value. I have called this the DAT effect. The idea is to get a better than average player but not the best.

DAT was among the best, but never the biggest name or the highest cost LB. So the team got good value out of him as a better than average LB, but could spend the difference in cost from the very best LB on other areas of the team.

Best player > better than average player but Best player/salary < better than average player/salary

Yet this does not carry all through the ranks of player talent

Better than average player/salary > average player/salary

Further, spending money on the very best players is more risky. Teams that spend too much money on stars, tend to skimp on quality backups. When the inevitable injury occurs, there are holes that other teams can exploit.

OTOH, teams that have more better than average players instead of a few stars across the board can afford to have better depth. This has several advantages

* Filling in for injuries without having holes that other teams can exploit

* Giving starters more rest to be better in the late part of games

* Developing backups to start

* Competing at practice makes everyone better

* Letting stars leave in FA if they get too expensive.


Knowing when to harvest a player is important. I have noted that teams have to let players go if they get too expensive, even if they have talent left.

Yet letting players walk means that the team gets nothing in return. So a team better have a long term plan that evaluates

* every player and

* every position and

* the depth at that position for talent, cost, where they are in talent, potential and development

Teams should try to trade high cost players before they reach the end of the contract. Yet with the salary cap the timing is important. The best time is one year before the end of the contract. There will be a small cap hit, but the team gets something in return. Trading with many years left on the contract is more desirable to the new team but the old team then has a bigger cap hit.


The cost of coaching is not covered by salary cap. Teams ought to spend as much as they can to get the best coaches possible. Similarly the scouts are not covered so a team ought to invest as much as possible.

These are value strategies are based on value. Yet the true value is in the performance of a team.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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