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 Cap Management Strategy/Tips*

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Setfree xX
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PostSubject: Cap Management Strategy/Tips*   Thu Jan 26, 2017 1:59 pm

Courtesy a poster from OS**

Understand Your Future Cap-

At the end of the day, nothing beats brute force planning. If it's 2016 and you have 53 players on the books and $25m in cap space, you might want to go hog wild and sign 1 or 2 impact free agents to a long-term deal. Why not? You have $25m in cap, after all! What could go wrong?

Here's what: how many players do you have under contract for 2018? What if the answer is you have 39 players signed through the 2018 season, and their contracts will have escalated by that time so you are already projecting to be over the cap for that year--and you still need to find 14 more players! Meanwhile, you just signed 2 more players to 4-year deals starting at $10m apiece (because $25m free cap, right?). By the time 2018 comes, their deals will be $15m apiece, so you just added $30m in cap to a year where you are already over the cap. Ever heard of cap hell? You're now in it, but you won't realize it for another season or two.

This is an extreme example to make my point, but I see lesser versions of this ALL the time. The point is, free cap is not free. Here's a smarter version of that same scenario above:

Because you know you are going to be really tight in 2018, but you have $25m to play with THIS year, you sign two aging impact veterans to 1- or 2-year deals. This way, their contract is expired & off the books when 2018 begins. Meanwhile, you have started planning ahead for that year. Is there anyone who will be be on the last year of a giant deal in 2018? Maybe there's a WR who will be down to 88 SPD that year whose cap hit will be $12m. You can plan to cut him then or perhaps even trade him prior to the season. Meanwhile, all those 78 OVR backups you'd like to re-sign in the offseason who all want $3-4m/yr? Yeah, don't re-sign them. You can't afford them and they aren't crucial to you team. Draft cheaper alternatives.


Contract Strategy-


NFL teams all the time sign players to deals knowing they will cut them in the last year or two of their deal. We can do the same. There are two advantages to contracts with a low bonus and a high salary: they start with a very low cap hit (because, again, salaries escalate each year) and you can cut the player without much penalty. I've given deals that I figured I'd probably cut in the 2nd to last year of the deal. This is good for fitting aging veterans who want big money under your cap for a year or two, knowing you'll need to cut them by year ~3 when they've regressed and their cap hit has ballooned too high.

Meanwhile, use a higher bonus when you know you're going to want to keep the player for the duration of the deal. The higher bonus will be appealing to the player, so you'll be able to sign him for less total money (and thus a lower cap hit!)--but again, be careful. A large bonus means you don't have flexibility to cut him when things get tight. Give your superstars who you have no intention of cutting or trading these large guaranteed money deals, and you will actually save a bit of cap in the process.


The Opportunity Cost of Trading
Team A receives 2nd round draft pick
Team B receives an 85 OVR 27 yo player

Who wins the trade? Obviously the real answer depends on a number of factors not shown here, but most reasonably savvy players would evaluate that deal based on how good the 85 OVR player is, how long they'll stay good before regression kicks in, and how good is the player Team A can expect to get in the 2nd round. All reasonable factors, of course--but it doesn't tell the whole story.

There's a hidden opportunity cost the savvier players also understand, and it's one major reason you don't see NFL teams trading away their draft picks NEARLY as often as I see it in online CFMs: cap space. We all understand rookie deals are inexpensive. But many players don't appreciate just how valuable of a commodity that is. It allows you great flexibility to always have a pipeline of cheap 4-year deals, sometimes even very good players on cheap 4-year deals.

It allows you the flexibility to retain the best drafted players who will want big deals. It allows you the flexibility to play in FA for short bursts in some years (again: 1-2 yr deals unless you know what your long-term future is like!).

It allows you flexibility to swallow a giant franchise tag when you never planned on it, because a core player you need to keep surprisingly rejected your offer(s). Trading away a 2nd rounder, in the above scenario, you not only lose that drafted player, you lose all the things you could do with the $8-10m/yr in cap you're going to have to pay the 85 OVR 27 yr old.

I'm not saying it's never good to trade a pick for a veteran--I'm just saying you NEED to consider cap flexibility as part of the cost of doing so.


The Tough Decisions-

You need to consider your strategy. I will tell you mine, and most NFL team's: identify your core players and always re-sign them. Everyone else is expendable. Everyone else. If I have a quality backup, sure I'd *like* to keep them. But they're expendable if I look ahead & see that cap is going to be tight. Can't afford a $3.5m/yr backup RG. I'll draft a RG instead. Solid starting NT asking for $6m/yr? But he's my starter! Do I know, deep down, that I can get a guy 90% as good for 1/10th the cost, and I need that cap money for my stud WR about to come off his rookie deal? The NT walks.

At times you'll need to let decent, even solid players walk. But that's far better than letting your core players get away. Identify who is not easily replaceable, who you can't go out and easily get 90c on their dollar, and keep them. Let most of the 78 OVR backups who want $4m walk and draft 73 OVR rookies at 1/10th the price.


Re-Signing & Free Agency-

During the offseason (whether re-signing or free agency or whatever), it says I have $16m in cap space, but when I go to re-sign or sign someone, it's only showing $800k. WTF?

In the Team-->Salaries screen, what it shows for "Cap Space" is a true snapshot of how much cap you have at that moment in time.

But that $16m in cap space doesn't include:
Rookie reserve. The game automatically looks at what draft picks you have and reserves that much cap space for those rookies. Typically around $7m. The game knows you'd F it up otherwise. And if you're still reading this far, you would F it up. You know you would, eventually. So now you're really down to $9m in actual free cap that you can use.

In the case of RE-signings, it's looking at the cap for NEXT year. Remember, re-signing players are giving them a new contract starting next season. So the game is looking at how much is on the books for next year.

That is often way higher than what you are showing in the Salaries screen, or it could even be lower. But be careful. It might show you with $39m cap free when you go to re-sign guys, but you might only have 25 players under contract for next year. $39m in cap with 25 players under contract is a VASTLY different scenario than $39m in cap with 52 players under contract.

In the case of free agency, it's counting up all those outstanding offers you have on the table, including the window you currently have open. This way you can't offer 5 different players each $5m and suddenly find yourself $10m over the cap.

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