Jason Fitzgerald at OverTheCap posted an article on Friday about salary cap flexibility across the league heading into 2024. His analysis goes beyond simply looking at projected cap space based on current contracts, but that is of course a solid place to start. Per Fitzgerald, the Lions have the ninth-highest projected cap space going into 2024. The values for projected salary cap room can be found in the first column of the table at the bottom of the salary cap flexibility article:
NFL teams with most projected salary cap room for 2024 (51 man roster, $242M cap)— Jason_OTC (@Jason_OTC) December 21, 2023
1. Titans- $75.5M
2. Commanders- $74.5M
3. Patriots- $70.5M
4. Colts- $66.1M
5. Texans- $64.3M
6. Bengals- $58.2M
7. Bears- $53.5M
8. Cardinals- $47.7M
9. Lions- $47.4M
10. Raiders- $40.7M
In order to better understand how constrained each team is by the contracts beyond that simple number, Fitzgerald then tried to look for contracts that would generate net savings (“cap hit minus dead money minus the $795K cost for a replacement player”) of at least $1 million if that contract was cut. Such players were considered release candidates, and the Lions roster had five such players (for an upper bound net savings of about $45 million if all five players were cut).
Given those conditions, the five Lions he identified were probably Jared Goff, Taylor Decker, Tracy Walker, John Cominsky, and Isaiah Buggs. Now, most of those players are not going to be cut, so this is all merely in the realm of hypotheticals. Certainly Goff, Decker, and Cominsky are not going to be cut. In any case, at least having the option of cutting players whose contracts net significant savings could (I guess) be considered a measure of flexibility.
The second route to flexibility Fitzgerald explored was restructures:
Since we are interested in max salary cap relief I took every players salary, dropped it to the minimum and assumed that we would add enough years so that the bonus can be prorated to five years. I also did the same with every player who had a roster bonus. If the total of those savings were more than $1 million I included them as a restructure candidate.
Not surprisingly, the Lions are already structuring their contracts really intelligently so there is little room for such cap shenanigans. In the second table in the article, the Lions are seventh from the bottom, with just $60.4 million as the maximum restructuring gains they could possibly get if everybody was restructured to the hilt. But Fitzgerald reminds the reader that restructuring is a short-term solution that kicks the can down the road and “each year in the future will be more difficult for the cap by taking this path.” So, restructuring probably isn’t something we’d want to see the Lions doing a ton of anyway if the goal is a durable long-term winning roster.
Combining actual projected cap space, the release gains potential, the restructuring gains potential, and salary cap carryover, Fitzgerald has a table at the bottom of his article that is a sort of ordering of teams with the most options (regardless of whether you think they will take those options). It’s nice to see that even after allowing every team to take drastic measures to free up cap space if they want to, Detroit remains in the high cap space group.
But wait - the team doesn’t have a ton of realistically cuttable veterans and there’s not much restructuring they can do, so how are the Lions still up there? The Lions come in tenth in that final table pretty much for the reason you want to see: it’s because the front office planned itself into having actual projected cap space to begin with and doesn’t need to play restructuring or cut veterans to gain flexibility. General manager Brad Holmes built a roster with good contracts in a judicious manner. It’s not surprising that he’s considered a possible candidate for NFL Executive of the Year.
Now, on to the rest of your weekend Notes:
- Our own Meko Scott and Morgan Cannon are back with another fantastic film study video on the Pride of Detroit YouTube channel:
- Our fearless leader Jeremy Reisman was a featured guest on the Norse Code Podcast hosted by Arif Hasan and James Pogatshnik. You can listen to the entire two-hour audio (if you really want to) in an embedded player on the podcast’s web site.
- The Week 16 preview episode of the Detroit Lions Breakdown podcast with Joe Kania and Erik Schlitt is up. You can listen to the entire 85-minute audio in a web player on their site or at many podcast services.
- The featured guest on this week’s Twentyman in the Huddle podcast was starting quarterback Jared Goff. You can watch video for the entire 40-minute episode (the segment with Goff starts around 33 minutes in) on the team’s official YouTube channel.
- Speaking of Goff, this is pretty cool from Arjun Menon:
Jared Goff's passing efficiency each year. He's had some notable moments since he's joined the Lions pic.twitter.com/krWkvUBItI— Arjun Menon (@arjunmenon100) December 22, 2023
- FTN’s Bryan Knowles did a DVOA-heavy look at who he thinks should make the Pro Bowl. On offense, Jared Goff is the third quarterback on the NFC roster and Penei Sewell an automatic NFC pick at tackle with Trent Williams. For defense and special teams, Aidan Hutchinson was the lone Detroit pick. However, there is a fun familiar name on the AFC side with Ameer Abdullah getting the nod at special teamer from the Raiders.
- Whether people want to believe it or not, the data actually says that Goff makes very few extremely poor decisions. In this chart on SIS data, you want to be as far right as possible (boom play = +1 EPA or better on the throw X-axis) and as far up as possible (the bust play = -1 EPA or worse Y-axis is inverted so up means fewer bad plays) so Goff sitting a little under Stafford in the upper right quadrant is still very good:
- Fox 2’s Dan Miller had a quick sit-down with wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown. You can watch the three-minute video in a web player on the station’s site. He also talked to defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, and that four-minute video is also up on the station’s site.
- Courtesy of the Lions media team, here is a fun video with the players sharing their picks for favorite Holiday movies:
- MLive’s Kyle Meinke and Ben Raven posted a mailbag episode of their Dungeon of Doom podcast. Within this episode, they have about ten minutes worth of more-or-less unfiltered C.J. Gardner Johnson on tape (starting at around the 17-minute mark in the episode). You can listen to the entire 49-minute audio in a web player on Spotify.
- Also up is a new episode of the One of These Years podcast from The Athletic’s Colton Pouncy and Nick Baumgardner. You can listen to the entire 50-minute audio in a web player on Spotify.
- Yes, this is basically a Microsoft commercial but it’s still pretty cool:
- From elsewhere in the NFL, the Los Angeles Chargers waived team captain DT Sebastian Joseph-Day on Friday. PFF’s Brad Spielberger pointed out that Joseph-Day would cost a team $720k for the remainder of the season (after Week 16). Our own Erik Schlitt noted Joseph-Day was originally drafted in 2018 by the Rams while current Lions general manager Brad Holmes was the director of collegiate scouting for the Rams.
- The Detroit Free Press’ Bill Laytner wrote about an Oakland County judge ruling that former Lions great and Hall of Famer Lem Barney should remain at a nursing home in Houston. A very sad story, but hopefully things turn out of the best with this decision.
- On a happier note, the gag gifts for players on the current roster from the Lions media folks are pretty hilarious: