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Examining the salary cap ramifications of La’el Collins possibly signing with the Patriots

Miguel Benzan
Miguel Benzan on Twitter
6 years ago at 11:13 pm ET
Posted Under: Individual Salary Cap

Starting right before the draft I started to hear questions about the salary cap ramifications of La’el Collins going undrafted. La’el Collins was widely projected to be selected in the first round before the news of the death of his former girlfriend. This blog will attempt to answer those questions and hopefully provide same clarity to a confusing situation.
6:30AM Update – Added the Total Rookie Compensation Pool. Answered four more questions. The Italicized text was added since the first version.

I will be using this abbreviations in this blog post.

LTBE-Likely to Be Earned
NLTBE-Not Likely to Be Earned
UFA-Unrestricted Free Agent: Free to sign with any team
RFA-Restricted Free Agent: Patriots have right to match any offer sheet
ERFA-Exclusive Rights Free Agent: Player has no outside negotiating power
UDFA – Undrafted Free Agent: A player not selected in the draft that he was eligible for.

The next four paragraphs will provide background information.

Per Article 7, Section 3 (a) of the CBA as an undrafted free agent the length of Collins’ contract has to be three years. Quoting the CBA with the emphasis added – “every Rookie Contract shall have a fixed and unalterable contract length:…(iii) three years for Undrafted Rookies. Per Article 7, Section 3 (k) of the CBA as an undrafted free agent Collins is not eligible to redo his UDFA deal until after the 2016 season – “(ii) A Rookie Contract for an Undrafted Rookie may not be renegotiated, amended or altered in any way until after the final regular season game of the player’s second contract year.”

For the 2015 League Year the Undrafted Rookie Reservation for each club is $86,957. The Undrafted Rookie Reservation is the amount paid to Undrafted Rookies as signing bonus or amounts treated as signing bonus given to undrafted rookies. A team has full discretion over how to allocate the $86,957. They can give it to just one player or spread it among several players. Most teams give several of their UDFAs signing bonuses. I have seen various amounts given out by the Patriots as small as $1,000 to Quentin Hines in 2013 to as much as Jeremiah Warren’s $18,000 in 2012. Several UDFAs (Malcolm Butler, for one) did not receive any signing bonuses from their teams, especially if the player makes the team after a tryout.

On a league-wide basis the rookie pool is the total amount of money that can be spent on all rookies, except that the minimum base salaries for undrafted rookies do not count toward the rookie pool. Each team’s rookie pool is its portion of the league-wide total and is determined by the number, round and position of the draft choices it uses, plus one-third of the Undrafted Rookie Reservation. The total slotted 2015 cap number for the Patriots 11 draft picks is $6,639,208. I provide more information about how the rookie pool works in this blog post. The Patriots rookie pool is therefore $6,668,194 ($6,639,208 plus one-third of the $86,957 – $28,986. As Adamjt13 in his 2012 blog about the rookie pool notes “the entire first-year cap numbers for all of a team’s draft choices must fit into its rookie pool, along with any first-year cap charges for undrafted rookies other than their minimum base salaries. When a team signs a drafted player, his first-year cap number does not have to be equal, or even close to, the rookie pool value of the pick used to select him, as long as the team’s combined rookie pool charges for all of its rookies don’t exceed its limit. Therefore, the Patriots could have one or more draft picks under their slotted amounts and allocate the difference to Collins. Because of this I can not now answer the question what could be 2015 Collins’ maximum cap number. I feel safe to say that Collins can not come close to earning as much in 2015/2016/2017 as he would have as a first-round pick. At best he can earn more than some seventh-round picks over the next 3 years.

Total Rookie Compensation Pool means the League-wide limit on the total amount of Rookie Salary for which all Clubs may contract with Drafted and Undrafted Rookies over the entire term of such Rookie Contracts. Total Rookie Allocation means for the Patriots its proportional share of the Total Rookie Compensation Pool, calculated based upon the number, round and position of the Club’s selection choices in the Draft, plus the Undrafted Rookie Reservation.The sum of the Total Rookie Allocations for all Clubs shall equal the Total Rookie Compensation Pool. Therefore, the Patriots are limited by its total rookie allocation how much it can paid its 2015 draft class and its 2015 UDFAs over the length of their rookie contracts.

As you can see from above, there is no indication that there is a limit on how much a salary can be guaranteed. The Patriots along with a good number of the teams fully guaranteed some UDFA’s salaries. In 2012 the Cowboys guaranteed $205,000 of Ron Leary’s salary. The Patriots once fully guaranteed $405,000 of Armond Armstead’s 2013 salary and $225,000 of his 2014 salary when they signed him after he played in Canada.  Under new CBA the largest guarantee ever given to an UDFA by the Patriots was the $211,000 (11,000 signing bonus+200,000 guaranteed salary) given to Jeff Demps in 2012. Could Collins sign a contract that fully guarantee the 2015/2016/2017 salaries? Yes. Please note that all 2015 first round picks will sign contracts that will fully guarantee those 3 seasons. It seems plausible to me that Collins will want to have as much of his salaries guaranteed as he would have had them fully guaranteed as a first round pick.

Collins’ salaries will be $435,000 in 2015, $525,000 in 2016, and $615,000 so at the very minimum he will earn $1,575,000 over the next 3 years as an UDFA. The next couple of paragraphs will examine how he can increase his earnings.

PostSeason Pay:
In 2015 a player could earn as much as $198,000 in postseason pay. He would have to play in the wild card game as a division winner and go on and win the Super Bowl. The maximum a player who had a postseason bye can earn during the playoffs is $173,000. In 2016 a player could earn as much as $210,000 in postseason pay. He would have to play in the wild card game as a division winner and go on and win the Super Bowl. The maximum a player who had a postseason bye can earn during the playoffs is $183,000. In 2017 a player could earn as much as $219,000 in postseason pay. He would have to play in the wild card game as a division winner and go on and win the Super Bowl. The maximum a player who had a postseason bye can earn during the playoffs is $191,000.

Players on Division Winners will be paid $25,000, $27,000, and $28,000 in 2015, 2016, 2017 respectively for their appearance in the Wild Card Game.
Players on Wild Card Teams will be paid $23,000, $24,000, and $26,000 in 2015, 2016, 2017 respectively for their appearance in the Wild Card Game.
Players will be paid $25,000, $27,000 and $28,000 respectively for their appearance in the Divisional Playoff Game.
Players will be paid $44,000, $46,000 and $49,000 respectively for their appearance in the Conference Championship Game
Super Bowl Winners will be paid $102,000, $107,000 and $112,000 respectively.
Super Bowl Losers will be paid $51,000, $53,000 and $56,000 respectively.

Over the next 3 years Collins could earn as much as $627,000 in postseason pay or 40% of the $1,575,000 he will get in salaries.

Performance Based Pay:

Performance-Based Pay is computed by using a “player index.” To produce the index, a player’s regular-season playtime (total plays on offense, defense and special teams) is divided by his adjusted regular-season compensation (full season salary, prorated portion of signing bonus, earned incentives). Each player’s index is then compared to those of the other players on his team to determine the amount of his pay. Players who played a great number of snaps while receiving a smaller amount of cash compensation as compared to their teammates are the biggest recipients of performance-base pay payouts. See https://nfllabor.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/03-13-15-performance-based-pay-2.pdf http://nesn.com/2014/03/patriots-chris-jones-alfonzo-dennard-awarded-big-performance-based-paychecks/ http://blog.masslive.com/patriots/2015/03/bryan_stork_earns_additional_2.html for a listing of recent payouts. If Collins were to join a team that he could play in a great number of snaps each year he could earn over $200,000 each year. 11 players earned over $250,000 in performance-based pay in 2013. 19 did so in 2014.

It is a truism in the NFL that a player’s second contract is the one that he should maximize his contract. Collins after signing an UDFA contract will be allowed to redo his deal after the 2016 season. He is scheduled to become a RFA in 2018. The lowest percentage that the RFA tenders can increase each year is 5%, the maximum is 10%. While Collins can not control the percentage increase he should look to sign with a team that gives him the best chance to become a first-round tender in 2018. In 2018 most 2015 drafted rookies will be playing for a $715,000 salary.

5% increase 2015 2016 2017 2018
Original Round Compensation 1,542,000 1,619,000 1,700,000 1,785,000
Second Round Compensation 2,356,000 2,474,000 2,598,000 2,728,000
First Round Compensation 3,352,000 3,520,000 3,696,000 3,881,000
10% increase 2015 2016 2017 2018
Original Round Compensation 1,542,000 1,696,000 1,866,000 2,053,000
Second Round Compensation 2,356,000 2,592,000 2,851,000 3,136,000
First Round Compensation 3,352,000 3,687,000 4,056,000 4,462,000

As you can see from the above tables, Collins if t

Trying to anticipate questions that the blog post may cause:
1.) Question: As an UDFA is Collins eligible for the Proven Performance escalator? Answer: No. Per the CBA – Undrafted Rookies are not eligible to earn the Proven Performance Escalator
2.) Question: As an UDFA can Collins have any incentives in his contract?Answer: The only incentive that UDFAs are allowed to have in their contracts is a playing-time incentive. The playing-time incentive must be for at least 15% for the rookie year and at least 30% the other years of the contract. Any incentive will be considered LTBE for 2015 and will count against the Patriots’ rookie pool of $6,668,194.
3.) Question: Can Collins’ deal include a promise to redo the deal after two years? Answer: No. The CBA lists in Article 7, Section 3 paragraph 3 13 terms that are allowed to be in a contract. A promise to redo a deal is not one of the thirteen and therefore will be deemed null and void ab initio.
4.) Question: Can Collins’ deal include a clause prohibiting a team from placing a RFA tender after the 2017 season? Answer: No. The CBA lists in Article 7, Section 3 paragraph 3 13 terms that are allowed to be in a contract. A promise to redo a deal is not one of the thirteen and therefore will be deemed null and void ab initio. Interestingly, one of the 13 allowable terms is a clause prohibiting a team from placing the franchise tag on a player.
5.) Question: Why should La’el Collins sign with the Patriots? Answer: Great chance to earn postseason pay the next three years. Good chance to earn a good deal of performance-based pay. Incumbent left tackle Nate Solder not signed past the 2015 season. He would be the best left guard prospect on the Patriots 2015 roster. Patriots have shown that they will pay left guards (see Logan Mankins). Patriots have shown that they will guarantee salary (Armond Armstead). Since Patriots have signed so few UDFAs they may be able to offer him one of the highest signing bonuses.
6.) Question: Why should not La’el Collins sign with the Patriots? Answer: Massachusetts state income tax. Some states (Florida, Washington, Tennessee, Texas) with football teams do not have a state income tax. Vollmer and Cannon have playing-time incentives. Patriots just drafted two guards (Shaq Mason and Tre’ Jackson). On other teams he may have an easier path to excel at the left tackle position. Top-tier left tackles are paid significantly more than right tackles or left guards.
7.) Question: Can Collins’ UDFA contract contain option bonus or a voidable year clause? Answer: Per the CBA, no.
8.) Question: Can Collins’ UDFA contract fully guarantee 2017 season but not the 2016 season? Answer: Per the CBA, no.
9.) Question: Could Collins’ salary increase based on him fulfilling a contingency? Answer: Per the CBA, no.
10.)Question: If the Patriots withdrew their tender to Xavier Dickson could they then use his rookie pool allocation on Collins? Answer: Per the CBA, no. Under this scenario, the Patriots rookie pool would decrease by Dickson’s allocation amount.
11.)Question: Is there a limit on salaries for UDFAs? Current and future years? Answer: Yes. Paying Collins more than the minimum salary will count against the 2015 Rookie Pool and the against the Total Rookie Allocation. Example, if a team paid Collins a $500,000 salary when the rookie salary in 2015 is $435,000. The extra $65,000 would count against the Patriots rookie pool of $6,668,194 and its Total Rookie Allocation.
12.)Question: Is there a limit on incentives for UDFAs? Answer: A practical limit, yes. Paying Collins an incentive will count against the 2015 Rookie Pool and the against the Total Rookie Allocation. Example, if Collins has a $500,000 playing time incentive based on playing in 15% of the offensive snaps in 2015 and 30% in 2016/2017. The $500,000 would count against the 2015 Patriots rookie pool of $6,668,194 and the $1,500,000 will count against its Total Rookie Allocation.
13.)Question: Can the Patriots give Collins 46-man active roster bonuses? Answer: Per the CBA, no.
14.)Question: If Joe Cardona can not play for the Patriots and had not yet signed with the Patriots can the Patriots use his rookie pool allocation on Collins? Answer: Per the CBA, no. Under this scenario, the Patriots rookie pool would decrease by Cardona’s allocation amount.
15.)Question: Can La-el Collins sign an UDFA deal with the Patriots in 2015, be waived by the Patriots in 2016 and had then sign a deal not subject to the Rookie Pool limitations? Answer: Under this scenario, Collins will have to clear waivers first. It is very unlikely that he would so.


Posted Under: Individual Salary Cap
Tags: coolins draft rookie pool

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