Top Ten and the Martz Legacy

I was looking at the Bears cap numbers the other day and we look to be in pretty good shape for now.  We have about $5mm to spare as far as cap space goes, and I have a feeling that will go up as camp moves along.

I was reminded of a couple of things as I was looking at the cap numbers.

1)  There is an upper class of athletes in the NFL and a crapload of guys scrambling to get a contract.  The middle class is almost non existent.

2)  Nothing happens in a vacuum as far as the cap is concerned.

I will speak on point one first.  As of today, the top ten guys on the Bears take up 54% of the available cap money.  They are, in order:

Cutler, Marshall, Forte, Bushrod, Briggs, Bennett, Jennings, Houston, Tillman, and Allen.  On that list, I imagine we won’t be seeing Forte, Briggs, and Tillman around for too much longer.  So, the whole rest of the team is scrambling for the other 46% of the cap dollars.  This is indicative of the NFL in general.  I ran the numbers for a few other teams as far as what percentage of their cap dollars are taken up by the top ten players.

Bengals – 50.6%, Falcons – 47.4%, Ravens – 60.5%

The Ravens have a ton of high cap number players that aren’t really worth squat, but that is the penalty, if you want to call it that, for winning a Super Bowl.  The Bears seem to be in the middle of the pack as regards this top ten number.  It doesn’t change or really mean too much, but it is something to think about once in a while when you are hearing about the upcoming cuts and moves to the practice squad.

Point two is a real beauty.  Brandon Manumaleuna just got an injury settlement out of the Bears for $250k and that will go on the books against the cap.  This guy was Mike Martz’s bright idea and in 2010 Manumaleuna signed a five year deal and then got cut in 2011 after doing NOTHING. It is important to understand that it takes several years to unwind these terrible contract decisions that were made under Angelo and the previous coaching staff.

League Minimum

Carl dropped a comment in the previous thread about Gabe Carimi that I was going to comment on but it was getting too long and morphed into this post.

Per Spotrac, here is the league minimum:

0 $420k $435k $4450k $465k $480k
1 $495k $510k $525k $540k $555k
2 $570k $585k $600k $615k $630k
3 $645k $660k $675k $690k $705k
4-6 $730k $745k $760k $775k $790k
7-9 $855k $870k $885k $900k $915k
10+ $955k $970k $985k $1M $1.015M

YOE = years of experience.  YOE is an interesting topic and the calculations for what exactly constitutes a YOE are mind blowing.  Sometimes when you see a guy get cut inexplicably, you can look at their YOE – likely a team did it because they didn’t want to give an underperforming vet an automatic raise.

Our buddy J’Marcus Webb signed a one year deal with the Chefs at $730k, league minimum for his YOE.  You can say a lot about Webb, but he has remained healthy and will be a serviceable backup for pretty much any team that needs a large body – and will help in camp when guys start going down.

But signing veterans to the league minimum sometimes has a useful benefit.  If you think you can squeeze some good play out of a guy for minimum, there is the Veteran Minimum Salary Benefit rule – again from Spotrac:

When qualified, a player with more than two years of NFL experience can earn his total minimum salary, but have a cap figure that reflects two years of experience – or in 2014, $570,000. The contract must be for only one year, and must not contain combined bonus money (signing, roster, workout) that exceeds $65,000.

For instance, Shayne Graham recently re-signed with the New Orleans Saints on a 1 year $955,000 contract. With more than two years of experience (12), and a 1 year contract, Graham qualifies for the cap hit benefit. His 2014 cap figure will be $570,000 in New Orleans.

Had he received a signing bonus of the maximum $65,000, he would have received a $1.02 million contract, with a $955,000 base salary, a $65,000 signing bonus, and a cap figure of $635,000 (570+65).

With plenty of veterans being released, or not signed back thus far in 2014, the use of the Minimum Salary Benefit Rule becomes useful both for older players looking for jobs, and teams looking to minimize their cap dollars.

This is exactly why Webb’s cap hit for KC will only be $570k this year even though his salary will be $730k.

In an odd bit of salary cap math, the cap hit for the BEARS in 2014 will be $907,918 on Carimi.  I am going to try to email a few salary cap masters as to why that is.  The solid money says a dumb contract structure (again!) from the Angelo days is the reason, but I will find out for sure.

If you need some good “on the toilet” reading, here is a BASIC primer on the cap with some definitions.  With just a basic understanding of the cap, you can immediately tell when the talking heads on the cable networks are making mistakes.

UPDATE:  I did get clarification on why the Bears are taking a cap hit for Carimi.  From my (reliable) source:

That’s money that was left over from the signing bonus that Carimi received from the Bears back when he was a rookie. He was traded last season to
Tampa after June 1 so the Bears took cap charges in both 2013 and 2014 rather than all in 2013.

I still say that Carimi was correctly selected in that draft.  One of the few things I won’t bash the previous Bear regime for.


15 Or So

In my previous post I said that there are maybe 15 teams that have a chance of winning the college football championship.  I decided to fact check myself and look at what the guys who know say, at the Vegas futures board.  Looks like I was about right, but there are some interesting things there that I would like to note.

After the top 15 teams, the odds are 50-1 or greater.  You get the field at 75-1.  This is interesting as usually the field has the highest (i.e. worst) odds, yet in this futures board, there are 28 teams with worse odds than the field.  So in reality, you can get Illinois at 75-1 (chuckle) but Texas A and M is 110-1.  That is wacky to think about, but if you look at the conference that TAMU plays in, it makes a bit more sense.

I like Utah State in there at 500-1.  The chances of any team from any conference out of the big five getting into the playoffs are miniscule at best, and these odds show it.

You can actually get a number on 49 teams, and the rest are the field.

Why is UCLA up there at 15-1?  They finished last year ranked 16 in the nation last year so that is no big shakes.  And their schedule is absolutely brutal.  Huh.

See Wisco at 30-1?  The reason they are so high up is that they got supremely lucky with the reshuffling of the Big Ten divisions and are in a laughably weak set of teams now.  Pair that with an extremely easy out of conference schedule and they are set up pretty well.

You can get a number on 12 of the 14 teams in the SEC.  For Arkansas and Kentucky you gotta play the field.

For the Big Ten, you  can get a number on 6 teams – even Northwestern at 300-1, again a result of that hilariously weak division.

Florida State is favored to repeat at 6-1.

So I guess this proves that my guess of 15 teams or so having a chance of winning it all is pretty close.  But still, some of those teams even over 20-1 are very long shots.

And don’t forget, in the field bet you get Ron Turner’s FIU Panthers!

No Need For Trophy Case Expansion Plans At Illinois

Below is a photo of the new national championship football trophy for college:

trophyYea, it’s no Stanley Cup, but it will do.  I like how there is still space on the pedestal for the eventual sponsor.  The Frito Lay NCAA football championship trophy.  Not bad.

Anyway, this is about as close as you or I will ever get to seeing the thing, since there is NO WAY EVER in my lifetime that Illinois will even get close to sniffing the aroma of this thing.  We literally will never have a shot at getting into the playoffs, ever.  And that is sort of sad, but that is the fact, Jack.

However, we have plenty of company.  Realistically, of the 130 or so teams in Division 1-A college football, there are maybe…maybe…15 or so that actually have a chance of someday, somehow, getting their hands on this thing.

That figure of 15 might be generous, but I think it is pretty close.  The conferences are smart for revenue sharing, as the top dogs need the doormats to feast on year after year.  Honestly, the big four or five conferences need to just set up an upper division so the lower division teams from conferences like the Mountain West, CUSA, MAC and others get a decent chance to win…something.

And the beat of change rolls on.

The Heat in Denial

Over here at Fire Everybody we follow a few other sports, although not as closely as Bears / Illini football. Being from Chicago everybody remembers the heyday of the Bulls and the titles MJ brought us, as well as the dark years afterwards.

A Bulls GM said about the dumbest thing in the world when MJ retired – he implied that the Bulls championships were part of a “system” and that they could just pick up the pieces and be successful without MJ. HA HA HA HA HA. Not a chance. When MJ left, the hopes of the Bulls for a championship went into a permanent deep freeze.

Thus the Heat recently lost LeBron. I was happy to see San Antonio beat the Heat, mostly because their coach is such a dick to the media and the system (stuff like resting his players on prime time games as a protest against the endless NBA season and grinding 7 game playoff series…) and really knows what he is doing. Now that’s a system, more than a single player, but San Antonio in the NBA and New England in the NFL are about the only two franchises that I ASSUME know what they are doing, even if it doesn’t seem to make sense. I guess I’d assume that Oakland in baseball is making the most with their resources, but their resources are so slim it is kind of irrelevant (usually).

What did the Heat do? Sign their LeBron “sidekicks” to big money and pick up someone to fill his shoes and assume that under their “system” they can just keep chugging along and win the big game and shoot for the championship. HA HA HA HA HA. That isn’t going to work. Maybe they will win more regular season games than they lose, but I can tell you that Deng isn’t going to fill LeBron’s shoes. Not by a longshot. Now if all goes well they get bounced in the 2nd round of the playoffs, but they PAY as if they actually have a chance to win it all.

What SHOULD they have done? Clean house and start over. Pick up young guys on the rise and stockpile top draft picks that they could turn into great players. Look for European guys they can tempt over to the USA. Anything but re-sign Bosh, Wade, and now pick up Deng. That is just going to create a team of a bunch of old guys that are going to fall apart before your eyes and create cap and financial burdens for the team for years to come. And as far as your fan base? They’re gone, baby. South Beach isn’t Cleveland, where there is literally zero to do except for wait for LeBron to come back. Damn they have Pitbull and everything down there. No one is going to watch the Heat has-beens without LeBron to power the crew.

But in the end it comes down to hubris and denial. You aren’t going to win in the NBA without superstars and / or an amazing system that is proven to work such as they have down in San Antonio. The Heat are going to just be OK this year and then suck terribly while paying immense amounts of dollars for old, broken down guys. With 2 fans in the stands.

If the Heat could see it, they’d learn from the Bulls / post MJ debacle and just clean house and start over. But there is no learning here. Watch it all play out. Again.

Clausen Hits The Lottery

We have detailed here how amazed we were at the quick improvement of TQWSNBN, otherwise known as Josh McCown, last year.  In 2012 we saw one of the jokes in the league in McClown, but in 2013 when Cutler went down (and we all tossed ourselves off of tall buildings, again) and Clown came in, things went FAR better than anyone ever expected they would.

Now we have a wonderful controlled experiment, where Clown goes to Tampa Bay, and Lovie gets the Bucs “running off the bus” and I predict that Clown will go into the crapper again.  I don’t blame Clown for leaving; his window is closing very quickly and he went for the money.  Lovie looked at Clown’s LAST YEARS performance and assumed that this will be duplicated.  Which is dumb, but hey, that’s Lovie for you.

Of course we all know that Clown improving so quickly did not happen in some sort of strange vacuum.  McCown didn’t just “get better” between 2012 and 2013.  TRESTMAN and KROMER turned him into a serviceable second string QB in a matter of months.

Now Jimmy Clausen is in the fold, and Trestman came out a day or two ago and expressed confidence in him.  The money quote:

“No. 1 is how he handled the room. That room is hugely important; the chemistry, the karma, whatever you want to call it,” Trestman said. “In that room, the communication’s got to be good. Jimmy’s done a very good job, very maturely fit in and taken the place of trying to learn and work to learn the offense. He’s grinded at it. He spent long hours here. He’s had help from the guys in the room to get him to the place he is today. So we’ll see. We’re going through the process of working with our roster. I think he’ll be one of the guys that we do bring back, and we’ll take it one day at a time when we get to training camp.”

So Clausen, an unremarkable soul who has bounced around in the NFL is now grinding and working long hours and appears to have a shot to at least be the clipboard holder and maybe even the second stringer as he competes with Palmer.

Jimmy Clausen didn’t just wake up one day and be better.  It doesn’t simply “happen” – just as the Clown story of last year didn’t fall out of the sky. Trestman and Kromer know what the hell they are doing and are, I imagine, working long hours to find the right people for the roster with the right work ethic.  Clausen, I am sure, is overjoyed at the coaching he is getting and the new found freedom in a dynamic offense.

I would wager that in the tier of quarterbacks (especially) and other journeymen in the NFL (that is to say, 75% of the players) there is beginning to be an undercurrent of guys actually wanting to come to Chicago and play their guts out because they know they will get better and have a chance to make the roster if they work hard and also have a chance to win.

I would also wager that Trestman is the type of guy that isn’t putting up with any bullshit, especially on the offensive side of the ball, which is his baby.  It probably goes something like this – either learn the playbook inside and out and work hard or get out.

Remember that Packers guy from a few years ago that said he would rather be on their practice squad than the Bears team?  Those days have clearly come to an end.

Illinois Football – Living in the Past

Yesterday I received my Liberal Arts Update, also known as the LAS news from my alma mater, the U of I in Champaign-Urbana.  On the back page was an advertisement asking me to come to the Homecoming Game on October 25.  You can see this ad below:

illinois 001

Looks like we are playing a resurgent Minnesota squad that day.

Following football like I do, and being the nutjob that I am, I immediately was suspicious of the photo in the ad above.  I have a lot of reasons to be suspicious of the photo, primarily because the Illinois athletic department photoshopped a photo of the Illinois/Washington game in Chicago from last year on their facebook page.  

The opponent above is Northwestern – you can tell from the uniforms.  The photo is taken from the south, looking into the north end zone at the block I section.  I looked it up and in 2013 the attendance of that game that we hosted in Champaign was 37,058.  I knew immediately that something was wrong with this photo because I remembered seeing photos of block I on Deadspin last year and it looked more like this:

block i

Note that Ohio State is beating us unmercifully, 35-14 in the second quarter of the game.  Anyways.

So I took a magnifying glass to the photo in the LAS news to play “where’s waldo”, otherwise known as the dreaded repeating fan.  In other words, my original guess was that they cut and pasted fans from different parts of the photo to make the north stands seem full.  No dice.

I then went to the internet and tried to find photos from that game in 2013.  Here is one.


You can see that the Illini players are in blue tops, and that the photo in my LAS news has the Illini with orange tops.  Did they photoshop the whole team?

Well, no.  But sort of.  While the image isn’t probably photoshopped, it is from the game in 2011.  At that time, the Illini were 4-0, and we won that game to put us at 5-0.  We then won the next game to go 6-0 and crack the top 20.  Then the Zook led Illini lost our final six games of that season and he got fired.  Basically, the LAS news photo ends up being one of our best moments before we spiraled into college football oblivion, with quite literally no end in sight.

Like the clown always says, “you’re living in the past, man”.