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Notes: Lions in top third of NFL teams for 2024 cap flexibility

On the strength of good planning, Detroit has options heading into next year.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

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:

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:

  • 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:

  • 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:

  • 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.

  • Yes, this is basically a Microsoft commercial but it’s still pretty cool:

  • On a happier note, the gag gifts for players on the current roster from the Lions media folks are pretty hilarious:

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