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Crafting an extension with Dont’a Hightower

Miguel Benzan
Miguel Benzan on Twitter
5 years ago at 6:33 am ET
Posted Under: Free Agency

Am proud to announce that my good friend Felipe Von Zuben asked me to write a weekly column for him that will be translated into Portuguese. Felipe is the one of the driving forces behind the Patriotas website. Patriotas is the official Brazilian New England Patriots Fan Club. This column will be first published here in English and Felipe will then translate into Portuguese so it will appear on the Patriotas website on Thursday. The basic format of this weekly blog piece will be:
1.) a recap of the prior week’s transactions.
2.) long answer to a question
3.) explain a salary cap term

Recapping the prior week’s transactions

Since I blogged about extending Martellus Bennett the Patriots
1.) placed Jonathan Freeny and Greg Scruggs on IR (Injured-reserve)
2.) Promoted Anthony Johnson and Geneo Grissom from the practice squad to the 53-man roster.
3.) Signed Tyler Gaffney and Jamil Douglas to the practice squad
4.) Released Ian Silberman from the practice squad
5.) Re-signed Glenn Gronkowski to the practice squad.
6.) Released Shaq Evans from the practice squad and signed Trevor Reilly to the practice squad.
7.) Nate Solder was active for the 5th time this year. He was active four times in 2015. Since he earned a NLBTE 46-man roster bonus the Pats lost $31,250 (the amount of his 46-man roster bonus) in cap space as a result.

Placing Jonathan Freeny did not change his 2016 cap number. The Patriots will receive a $100,000 credit on their 2017 cap because Freeny will not earn 8 LTBE 46-man active roster bonuses. Freeny’s 2017 cap number is now $1,735,833. If Freeny was active for all 16 games this season his 2017 cap number would have been $1,873,333.

Greg Scruggs’ salary was lowered from $675,000 to $403,000 after being placed on IR. His weekly salary dropped from $39,706 to $23,706. Scruggs’ cap number dropped from $555,882 to $379,882, a $176,000 savings.
Promoting Anthony Johnson and Geneo Grissom from the practice squad to the 53-man roster increased their cap numbers from $157,600 to $370,588, an increase of $212,988 each.

Re-signing Glenn Gronkowski took up $75,900 in cap space.
Signing Tyler Gaffney and Jamil Douglas took up $75,900 ($6,900 each week) each in cap space.
Releasing Ian Silberman created $75,900 in cap space.
Releasing Shaq Evans from the practice squad and signing Trevor Reilly to the practice squad took up $6,900 in cap space as Shaq Evans will get paid for this week as he was on the practice squad at 4PM Tuesday.

After these transactions the Patriots now have:
a.) 53-man roster
b.) 4 players (Michael Williams, Greg Scruggs, Jonathan Freeny and Jacoby Brissett) on IR
c.) 3 players (Sebastian Vollmer, Tre’ Jackson and Dion Lewis) on Reserve-PUP
d.) 10-man practice squad

As of 8:30 PM October 20th I have the Patriots with $9,269,424 in cap space for the 2016 season.

Crafting an extension for Dont’a Hightower

Joao Salles tweeted this question to me – “any idea of how much High and Collins will receive per year in FA? This week’s blog will look at Hightower. Next week’s blog will look at Jamie Collins.

Background information:

Inside Linebacker Deals Ranked by Paper APY
1.) Luke Kuechly – $10,708,366
2.) Navorro Bowman – $9,650,000
3.) Bobby Wagner – $8,795,485
4.) Lawrence Timmons – $8,333,333
5.) Brian Cushing – $7,949,000

Inside Linebacker Deals Ranked by New Money APY
1.) Luke Kuechly – $12,359,059 (not a coincidence that 59 is repeated. 59 is his uniform number)
2.) Navorro Bowman – $11,000,000
3.) Bobby Wagner – $10,750,000
4.) Lawrence Timmons – $9,559,150
5.) Brian Cushing – $8,750,000

Dont’a Hightower is 26 years old and he will turn 27 on March 12, days after NFL free agency begins in 2017. He is in the option year of his rookie deal. His 2016 cap number is $7,755,875 which consists of his $7,751,000 fully guaranteed salary and $4,875 in offseason workout bonus money. He has missed a total of 12 games since the start of his NFL career. He missed two games in 2012 and in 2016 while missing 4 games in 2014 and in 2015. He has played in all 16 games once (in 2013).

Before the 2016 season there were several Top 100 players rankings. Here’s how Dont’a Hightower was rated
Pete Prisco – 48th
ESPN – 99th
Pro Football Focus – 52nd
Sports Illustrated – 84th
NFL Players – Unrated

While looking for comparables for Dont’a Hightower I found two players that were close to Hightower in both age and talent level – Bobby Wagner and Luke Kuechly. Do not consider Clay Matthews a comparable  because when he signed his extension he was a pass-rushing OLB.  There is a significant difference between what top pass-rushing linebackers like Von Miller (19M APY and Justin Houston 16.8M) make and what top inside linebackers like Luke Kuechly (12.4M) and Bobby Wagner (10.75M) make.

Bobby Wagner who is 26 years old was extended by the Seattle Seahawks in August, 2015, weeks after turning 25 years old. He has been named to the Pro Bowl twice and was a first-team All-Pro in 2014 and a second-team All-Pro in 2015.

Wagner who was a 2nd round pick in the 2012 draft signed an extension that added four years to his deal so that it covered the 2015/2016/2017/2018/2019 seasons. Wagner received a $8M signing bonus. He also got a 2016 $4 million option bonus that was guaranteed. His 2015 salary was fully guaranteed while his 2016 and 2017 salaries were guaranteed for injury only and became or will become fully guaranteed early during those league years.  $2M of his 2018 salary will become fully guaranteed early in the 2018 league year. Wagner can earn up to $500,000 ($31,250 per game) in 46-man active roster bonus in 2016. Wagner can earn up to $1,000,000 ($62,500 per game) in 46-man active roster bonus in 2017, 2018 and in 2019.

Bobby Wagner Deal

Luke Kuechly who is 25 years old was extended by the Carolina Panthers in September of 2015 when he was 24 years old. Kuechly was the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2012 and the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. Kuechly has been selected to 3 Pro Bowls (2013-2015) and been named to first-team All-Pro team the last 3 seasons (2013-2105). He won the Butkus (best linebacker) award in 2014 and in 2015.

Kuechly’s extension added five years to his deal so that it covered the 2015/2016/2017/2018/2019/2020/2021 seasons. He received a $19 million signing bonus in 2015 and a $6 million option bonus this year. He has a $400,000 workout bonus the last 4 years of the deal.

Luke Kuechly Deal

It seems reasonable to venture that a Hightower extension in the $10 to $13 million per year average range would be fair for both sides and would recognize

1.) that Hightower is one of the league’s best inside linebackers
2.) that he is closer to free agency than Wagner and Kuechly were when they signed their extensions
3.) the cap has shown a pattern of increasing by 8% a year

Below are three possible extensions for Hightower.
The first presumes that the deal is reached late during the 2016 season

* $10 million signing bonus which would be prorated over 5 years (2016/2017/2018/2019/2020)
* $8 million option bonus in 2017 which would be prorated over 4 years (2017/2018/2019/2020)
* $1,000,000 46-man active roster bonus ($62,500 per game) to help protect the Patriots in case of injury
* This deal would pay Hightower more cash in the first 3 years of the deal and in the first 4 years of the deal than Luke Kuechly.

Dont'a 11M APY Deal

This next deal presumes that the extension is reached after the end of the 2016 regular season. The APY will be higher since Hightower will have no injury risk discount to pass onto the Patriots.

* $18 million signing bonus which would be prorated over 5 years (2016/2017/2018/2019/2020)
* $1,000,000 46-man active roster bonus ($62,500 per game) to help protect the Patriots in case of injury

Dont'a 11.5M APY Deal

This next deal also presumes that the extension is reached after the end of the 2016 regular season. The 12M APY would put Hightower really close to Kuechly’s 12.4M APY.

* 20 million signing bonus which would be prorated over 5 years (2016/2017/2018/2019/2020)
* $1,000,000 46-man active roster bonus ($62,500 per game) to help protect the Patriots in case of injury

Dont'a 12M APY Deal

Q: Would the Patriots make Hightower one of the highest paid inside linebackers?
A: The Patriots made Mayo one of the highest paid inside linebackers (9.75M APY) late in 2011. The 2012 cap was just over $120 million. It is very likely that the 2017 cap will be at least a third greater than the 2012 cap.

Q: What was the 2016 franchise tag for linebackers?
A: 14.129 million

Q: What is your estimate for the 2017 franchise tag for linebackers?
A: Close to 15 million if the League Cap is 170 million.

Salary Cap Glossary

Q:What is PUP??

A: A player who fails his club’s pre-season physical at the start of training camp may be placed on the club’s Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. A player on PUP is eligible to receive his salary, but is ineligible for games and practices; he is, however, allowed to attend team meetings. For a three (3) week period beginning with the day after the club’s 6th regular season game and ending on the day after the 9th regular season game, a player on PUP may practice with his club and/or be restored to the club’s 53 man roster (provided it is done before the day after the 9th regular season game). Note that there are two different types of PUP. Players that land on reserve-PUP are ineligible to play or practice for the first six weeks of the regular season. Players on active-PUP can be taken off the list at any point during training camp. Once a player is taken off active-PUP and returns to practice, he cannot be placed on reserve-PUP later. Please note that a player on PUP will count against the cap. Players on active-PUP count against the 90-man roster limit while players on reserve-PUP do not.

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Posted Under: Free Agency
Tags: hightower

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