Team Payroll

I have seen a lot of posts and articles mentioning our cap space available and what we may do with it. I also remembered that last year we rolled over a bunch of space. This led me to thinking about what our payroll actually is. Usually in professional sports… it is hard to contend without at least being Midway in payroll. However… we are 31st in the NFL. Yet we cut players and didn’t re-sign guys who may be overpaid this offseason. Last year we were 27th. We are not spending money. People complain about Stafford’s contract… or about how much we gave flowers… but we are spending like 60 million less than the chiefs this year…

Can we really compete like this? Even with our current roster we could have afforded to keep kennard and Wagner and waited for them to compete for their jobs. Are we doing this to save money for the Fords? Or is our gm so used to acting like a patriot… trimming the fat from a consistent winner to keep going… that he doesn’t realize this?

I hope BQ is saving it for players that will be released or cut from other teams that we could use or for a player or two we can trade for so we can take on their contracts

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I think that is the plan… but we did that last year with Daniels and still ended up being 27th in payroll. Is there really going to be a top-end player that makes a good salary that will want to sign with Detroit? I think at best we end up signing some older, injured, cap casualty to a slightly higher 1 year deal. And after that we will still be in the bottom portion of the league. With our current salaries… we could have kept Slay… or kept everybody else and force them to compete with our draft class. I feel like we are always trying to find deals. But sometimes in Free agency you have to overpay for production. AND WE HAVE THE MONEY.

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The Chiefs are not in a good place, cap-wise.
The cap is a closed-loop system. What you don’t spend this year forwards to next year.
With 29 in cap +/-, they have room to re-sign core players and pick up waiver claims. This is a good place to be in. There’s not as much cap as you think… once a couple of players are re-signed, it goes away quickly.

One of the tricks I’ve told my kids is to not let $0 be your $0. Let 1 paycheck at the very least be your zero point. I think Quinn’s zero point is 10 mil, in that he wants the elbow room to maneuver through cuts and trades even as the season is underway. He has 19 to spend on Decker and Golladay, IMO.


The Chiefs aren’t in a great space cap wise… but they have the best roster in all of football. So I’d say they are doing great. I understand we want to maintain some flexibility / rainy day funds. But what did we do with our rollover money last year? We didn’t extend anyone. Even our signings this year, we could have put more money up front since we have it… but we didn’t. In total cash payroll… for instance, the Saints are at 229 million, while we sit at 167. That is a lot of more significant contracts on the roster.

Maybe he realizes that we are not 1-2 players away. Once he gets the roster competitive then he can spend on that 1 or 2 guys that can put us over the top. We also have a lot of young guys on the roster that have potential. At some point these players will be up for second much higher contracts. I don’t think you can just look at the dollars - you have to look at the big picture and be prepared when you have to spend rather than cut good players. Personally the cap is probably the area I have had most appreciation for Quinn. Player and coach selection not so much. This draft class will make or break him.


Where are you getting you’re payroll figures from?


I don’t have an issue with them spending their available cap into October instead of exhausting all of their funds in March or April. I also envy the teams that have more cap casualties than they do cap space. Fact is, it takes successive draft and free agency success to get to level. We’re not there. From a cap management perspective, we’ll be able to remain buyers in FA and at roster cut-down time.

This year’s figures are from spotrac. Last years I got from an older article on otc since spotrac needs a membership to look at older stats.

I think you’re pretty close
My guess is some sort of formula that says:
Dead Cap $ + $5m
The extra $5m is supposed to cover roster replacement costs when players go to IR and they still need to put guys on the roster — my guess anyway

It’s really kind of hard to compare teams salary cap’s as GM’s structure their contracts differently. Quinn generally recognizes a small percent in the initial year of the contract, then larger amounts in year 2 through the end of the contract. The amounts that he carries forward helps with the backloading of the initial contract (we carried forward $18M last year and we could carry forward that much this year as well).

Examples of UFA contracts that Quinn negotiated:

  • Vaitai is $5.4M (2020), $10.4M(2021), $8.4M (2022), $10.4M (2023) and $10.4M (2024)
    Collins $6.3M (2020), $11.3M (2021), $12.3M (2022)
    J James $2.3M (2019), $5.3M (2020), $6.4M (2021), $7.2M (2022)
    Coleman $3.4M (2019), $9.5M (2020), $11.5M (2021), $11.5M (2022)
    Flowers $6.4M (2019), $16.7M M(2020), $20M (2021), $23.2M (2022), $23.6M (2023)

As you can see, the recent UFA’s that he has signed to 3 or more years, he’s recognized a significantly lower amount in the initial year and either a fairly ratable contract in future years or a slightly progressive cap hits. He could have recognized significantly higher cap hits in the initial year of the contract for Vatai and Collins and instead of having $23M in cap space, have only $14M.

And that $14M would need to cover in season transactions ($2M-$4M) and extend players i.e. (Decker $10M plus per year, Golladay $15M??? per year, Joe Dahl??, Jarrad Davis??, others).

It’s hard to compare what GM’s are doing unless you know how they are structuring their contracts and who they have under contract and for how long. i.e. Kansas City is going to probably pay Mahomes in excess of $40M per year and they will be backloading his and other contracts to make it work.

Backloading contracts on good teams is fine, it’s how you can extend your teams dominance, but doing it on bad or average teams is a recipe for disaster (see Millen/Mayhew).

Since the salary cap era, we have spent every dollar that we have been allowed to spend and we have slightly backloaded contracts right now (not too much). I think if Quinn finds a Free Agent that fits our team, he will sign him, but it’s got to be the right guy, at the right position, for the right amount.

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I actually think BQ was building towards a 3 year window and that window started last year. He has two more years before he is going to have to take on some dead cap space and retool.

Assuming the Lions can turn it around this year …
if he holds some space back then he can take a serious shot at it next year.

I think the team way under performed BQ’s expectations last year. They blame that on injuries and locker room issues Diggs, Snacks, Slay etc. … I think BQ now thinks he has a two year shot at it before he is forced to trim some fat.