The Kaepernick Question

Updated: July 23rd 2017

One of the more interesting debates this NFL offseason revolves around why former San Francisco quarterback does not have a job yet. The arguments tend to range primarily around 1) declining football skills versus 2) bias due to his political stance last season but also move into somewhat bizarre areas such as his vegan diet. This article focuses the discussion to the football realm and whether his football abilities, recent production, and market forces dictate he should indeed possess a starting job.

What Kaepernick is as a Quarterback

Before we examine where the free agent quarterback is in his development, we need to look at how he was viewed early in his career. Perhaps no statement demonstrates the sky-high expectations for Kaepernick better than a certain ESPN analysts’ famous quote (one I am sure he would like to take back) leading into the 2013 NFL season.

“I truly believe Colin Kaepernick could be one of the greatest quarterbacks ever,” – Ron Jaworkski.

Obviously this quote seems silly now but Jaworski was not alone in thinking Kaepernick could be a game-changer at the quarterback position. Kaepernick displayed a rocket arm combined with a tremendous athletic profile which was showcased during his spectacular 2012 playoff run in which he made one big play after another leading San Francisco to the Super Bowl.

So what happened? The most basic answer is that Kaepernick never evolved as a passer in the league.  Looking back at a few weaknesses reported in his NFL Draft Profile sheds some insight into the issue: “Has not been asked to make NFL progressions and reads. Misses too many short passes. Doesn’t have consistent touch on the deep ball. Release is somewhat elongated and can dip down to sidearm at times.”  Sound familiar?  It should if you have watched many San Francisco games.  Kaepernick still has major accuracy issues, struggles to make the most basic NFL-level reads, and never addressed his throwing motion.  In addition, he also breaks out of the pocket far too often from imagined pressure.  But do his weaknesses on film show up on in his production?  We can take a look at the numbers below.

We can clearly see his career play deteriorating from Table 1 below. QBR (ESPN) and DVOA (Football Outsiders) are respective measures of quarterback value per play from each site. Both measures are publicly available and rely on play-level data to assess quarterback play taking into account surrounding circumstances.  QBR, for example, splits responsibility for drops and yards per reception among quarterbacks and receivers on each play.  QBR and DVOA listed in Table 1 reflect Kaepernick’s QBR and DVOA rank among qualified NFL quarterbacks over the past five seasons.  His DVOA rank went from one of the best during his rookie season to one of the NFL’s worst over the last couple of seasons among starting quarterbacks.

Colin Kaepernick Jay Cutler
Year Games QBR Pass DVOA Games QBR Pass DVOA
2012 13 N/A* N/A 3 15 22 25 27
2013 16 8 25.5 7 11 3 35 13
2014 16 17 30.3 29 15 16 32.6 22
2015 9 29 0.4 35 15 10 45 9
2016 12 23 -0.3 30 5 N/A** N/A N/A
Table 1: Kaepernick vs. Cutler
*Not enough plays to qualify but ranked 4th.
**Not enough plays to qualify. QBR was far below Kaepernick’s and DVOA one spot ahead.

Possibly even more indicative of his struggles as a quarterback over the last couple of seasons is examining his expected points added on passing plays (Pass in Table 1). Kaepernick, quite literally, added practically no expected points in the passing game during the 2015 and 2016 seasons where he ranked at the bottom of the league.  To put this in context, he provided far less value as a passer in 2016 than other much-maligned starting quarterbacks including Brock Osweiler, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Case Keenan.

So what does Kaepernick bring as a quarterback? The answer is clearly the ability to take over games with his legs where his athletic abilities can truly shine.  The 49er accumulated more expected points from rushes than any other quarterback during the 2016 season despite playing in only 12 games.  He can bring value to a team relying on the run game where Kaepernick can be utilized substantially on play action passes limiting his deficiencies as a pocket passer and also on zone-read schemes to further emphasize the rushing attack.

The Market for Kaepernick

As detailed in my report on possible quarterback landing spots, Kaepernick faced a market loaded with players available who have starting NFL experience.  In addition, the former 49er’s limited passing abilities make him a niche player in the league with only a handful of coordinators and coaches willing to structure an offense around his skills.  Most rebuilding teams prefer a more traditional pocket passer to match with developing young receivers. This left very few teams in a position to utilize Kaepernick’s skills with coaching staffs willing to restructure their offense around him.

We also need to look at Kaepernick’s remaining completion for a starting job. Let us begin with Jay Cutler, another spited quarterback on the unemployed block.  Referring again to Table 1, it is fairly clear that Cutler has been the superior player in aggregate over the last few seasons.  The former Bear produced QBRs in the top half of the league in each of his last three qualifying seasons (2013-2015), each of which exceeded Kaepernick, while also amassing more production as a passer.  We also need to remember that the NFL draft has not yet occurred and that many teams will be looking toward rookies for near-term and future starters.

The demand for starting quarterbacks has only shrunk since the start of free agency. Buffalo restructured Tyrod Taylor’s contract.  San Francisco (Brian Hoyer) and New York (Josh McCown) signed cheaper short-term stopgaps, likely in preparation for adding a longer-term starter in the near future or further evaluating young quarterbacks on the roster in the Jets case.   Chicago opted for Mike Glennon.  Only Houston and Cleveland remain as viable starting options.  The Browns just released Robert Griffin III, a player with a similar skill-set to Kaepernick, making Cleveland an unlikely landing spot.

Kaepernick’s Expectations

I am not privy to Kaepernick’s thoughts but we can extrapolate his possible initial expectations based on his actions and reports coming out of free agency. Kaepernick opted out of his $14.5 milliion base salary with San Francisco in 2017.  Various reports also had the current free agent initially asking for a starting spot at about $10 million per season while teams signed other starting options for significantly less money.  It becomes fairly obvious that Kaepernick’s contract expectations did not match the thinking of NFL teams.

The Verdict

I do not doubt that some teams may have removed Colin Kaepernick from employment consideration due to his political views, but the data overwhelmingly suggests Colin Kaepernick’s unemployment relates primarily to his football skills. He has not performed as more than a lower-tier quarterback for years and his passing skills never developed in the time with San Francisco.  Kaepernick likely viewed himself as a definitive starter on the open-market where NFL teams probably viewed him as a backup or bottom-tier option competing for the starting job.  His employment opportunities were also likely hurt by the high number of quarterbacks with starting experience available this offseason.  Kaepernick will probably find a job eventually based on his early career success but that opportunity could very well come following the NFL draft where teams firm up their rosters.


Bio: Bernard Faller has degrees in engineering and economics.  He currently lives in Las Vegas and enjoys athletics, poker, and fantasy football in his free time.  Send your questions and comments (both good and bad) on Twitter @BernardFaller1.

Most Frequently Cut Players in 2015

Updated: June 4th 2016

Knowing how to manage your available cap space is integral to championship caliber Reality Sports Online teams.  As Sir Isaac Newton, an early proponent of salary cap management, once said, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”   The cap penalty for cutting an under-contract player is not “equal” to the amount that is owed, but it is significant and owners must be cognizant of the penalty when constructing their team.  Sometimes cutting dead weight may be worth the penalty while other situations may call for holding on longer.  As RSO owners get ready for their free agent auctions, I thought it would be wise to take a look at some of the mistakes that were made last year.  In next week’s piece, we’ll apply those lessons to 2016.

QUARTERBACKS:

  1. Robert Griffin (average contract value: $983,000)
  2. Colin Kaepernick ($2,034,000)
  3. Joe Flacco ($2,188,000)
  4. Jay Cutler ($1,891,000)
  5. Sam Bradford ($5,574,000)
  6. Peyton Manning (15,375,000)

I originally planned to list just the five most frequently cut players but I figured adding in Peyton Manning was prudent based on his massive contract value.  RGIII, Kaepernick and Manning being on this list should surprise nobody but they are cautionary tails.  In the case of RGIII and Kaepernick, that lesson would be not overpaying for a relatively small sample size; as for Manning you need to be wary of overpaying for an aging star.  I’m not sure there is a big takeaway on Flacco and Cutler.  They are serviceable backups or borderline starters in bigger leagues, it makes sense to me that they would be signed to reasonably priced contracts and would be signed/cut throughout the year.  The glaring mistake in this list is obviously Bradford.  Unfortunately it seems that too many RSO owners were drinking the Chip Kelly Kool-Aid.

RUNNING BACKS:

  1. Ryan Williams ($597,000)
  2. Fred Jackson ($1,270,000)
  3. Lorenzo Taliaferro ($1,340,000)
  4. Montee Ball ($1,670,000)
  5. Denard Robinson ($1,346,000)

Well that list was surprising.  Clearly a whole lot of owners thought that Ryan Williams was going to be a factor in Dallas; thankfully, most owners used an un-guaranteed $500,000 minimum contract on Williams.  The trend with the other backs was equally as hopeful: Jackson looked like he could be a valuable change of pace to the bruising Marshawn Lynch; Taliaferro, Ball and Robinson were three young backs in the running for their team’s starting role.  I think the lesson here, as it is in the NFL, is that running backs are so interchangeable that the guy who you target in May and June is unlikely to be the bell-cow in November.  Luckily, these guys were all on cheap, and likely short, contracts that would limit the penalty to cutting bait.

WIDE RECEIVERS:

  1. Charles Johnson ($5,310,000)
  2. Brian Quick ($2,484,000)
  3. Roddy White ($3,690,000)
  4. Cody Latimer ($2,150,000)
  5. Nick Toon ($945,945)

I was expecting WR to give us the most interesting set of frequently cut players and I think this is borne out in the above list.  Let’s start with Roddy White, the elder statesman of this list.  Roddy has been second fiddle to Julio Jones for a few years now but managed to maintain some PPR value until 2015 when his targets plummeted.  The other four WRs, much like our young RBs above, had some buzz going into the preseason about emerging as a starter but they did not pan out for various reasons, namely injury or the rising stock of a teammate (i.e. Stefon Diggs and Willie Snead).  Given the higher salaries here compared to QB and RB, I was surprised that owners didn’t hold onto see if free agency would change the outlook for the younger WRs.

TIGHT ENDS:

  1. David Johnson ($583,000)
  2. Dwayne Allen ($2,715,000)
  3. Owen Daniels ($2,289,000)
  4. Josh Hill ($2,106,000)
  5. Alex Smith ($546,000)

No, the Arizona RB and Kansas City QB were not mislabeled in my statistics, David Johnson and Alex Smith were both sleeper tight end prospects heading into 2015 training camps.  Johnson was behind an old Heath Miller and Smith was in the running with Josh Hill for the Saints TE job after Jimmy Graham was shipped to Seattle.  Neither Johnson or Smith are with those teams anymore so I’m not sure why I’m wasting my breath here but, alas.  Hill was disappointing in 2015 but that should not have been surprising given his unsustainable touchdown rate of 2014.  Allen missed four games and was not involved in the games in which he did play.  Daniels ended up with a respectable season (46 receptions, 517 yards, 3 TDs) with a few big games but it was so hit-or-miss that you likely missed.  Let’s face it, most of today’s TEs are inconsistent and near enough to the replacement level that if you don’t have somebody like Gronk, Travis Kelce or Greg Olsen you shouldn’t bother paying more than the minimum.


Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  Robert works as a recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

Cap Analysis: 49ers

Updated: February 23rd 2016

San Francisco 49ers

Trending: Slightly Up ↑

The Jim Tomsula era will be remembered for awkward interviews, a string of unfortunate retirements, and the benching of Colin Kaepernick…if it’s remembered at all. Despite a very fast, very public, fall from grace in Philadelphia, I believe Chip Kelly can succeed as a head coach in the NFL. The roster does not have the same talent that it had two years ago, but it’s not totally barren either. The 49ers have to compete in what should be one of the better divisions in football again in 2016, but they can use the year to rebuild and figure out if the quarterback of the future is on their roster.

Projected 2016 Team Salary$109.3M (not including escalators and NLTBE* incentives)
*Not Likely To Be Earned

Projected 2016 Cap Room: ~$57.0M (~$154M Estimate; ~$12.2M Rollover)

Situation: Strong 

The 49ers have a ton of cap space at their disposal, and only a few starters reaching free agency. It will be interesting to see the magnitude of Chip Kelly’s impact on the team’s transactions in March.

Notable Free Agents:

SF Free Agents

Ian Williams isn’t the most well-known name on this list, but he’s the most important. Williams has started 25 games at Nose Tackle over the last two seasons, and had a very strong season in 2015. Anquan Boldin, who has amassed the 12th most receptions in NFL history over the last 13 years, seems unlikely to return to the team. Alex Boone has spent his entire career with the team, and has been a starter for the last four seasons. Reggie Bush had only 12 touches when his season ended with a knee injury. Bush would be intriguing in Chip Kelly’s offense, so there’s a chance the team will re-sign him.

Top Projected Cap Hits:

SF Top Proj Cap Hits

Colin Kaepernick is scheduled to be the team’s highest paid player, but it’s far from a certainty he’ll remain on the roster. Ahmad Brooks is one of nine players in the NFL who has produced at least 5 sacks in each of the last seven seasons. Torrey Smith had his worst season as a professional after signing a 5-year, $40M contract in free agency.

Cap Casualty Watch List:

SF Cap Cas

Most of these players are likely to return, but with a new head coach, any veteran that represents a significant savings is at risk. Colin Kaepernick was benched in favor of Blaine Gabbert after 8 games, and was eventually placed on injured reserve. Kaepernick reportedly wants out of San Francisco, even though he’s scheduled to earn more with San Fran than he could make on the open market, and even though he would fit better in Chip Kelly’s offense than most of the alternatives. His base salary becomes fully guaranteed on April 1, so the team will have to make a decision on Kaep before the draft. Additionally, Bruce Miller will likely not have a place in Chip Kelly’s offense.

Extension Watch List: 

SF Ext Watch List

The 49ers will exercise Eric Reid’s fifth year option, pushing his expected free agency to March, 2018. Blaine Gabbert finished 2015 with eight starts, just over 2,000 yards, 10 touchdowns, seven interceptions, and an 86.2 passer rating. He’s only 26 years old, and could very well end up the 49ers starter. The $2M he’ll earn this year makes him the 34th highest paid quarterback in the league at the moment. And, that doesn’t include the contracts Sam Bradford and Ryan Fitzpatrick will sign in the next few weeks. Neither he nor the team are likely to talk extension until mid-season, when it becomes clear if he’s the starter of the future, the backup of the future, or none of the above. There’s a thin line between unestablished starter contracts (Brian Hoyer, $5.25M; Josh McCown, $4.67M) and highly paid backups (Mark Sanchez, $4.5M; Shaun Hill, $3.25M). Even if Gabbert doesn’t start for the 49ers in 2016, he should still be due for a raise whether it’s in San Francisco or elsewhere.

Position Needs: 

Offensive Line, Tight End, Wide Receiver, and Corner.

Sleeper Watch: 

I think Chip could have success with either Colin Kaepernick or Blaine Gabbert, so long as he’s willing to tailor his offense to the strengths of the chosen starter, and upgrades the receiving options.


Matt Papson (@RealitySportsMP) formerly worked in football administration for the Philadelphia Eagles. He is the President, co-founder and creator of Reality Sports Online, a fantasy front office platform that enables fantasy owners to build and manage their fantasy team like a professional sports general manager. The Reality Sports Online platform has been featured in Fortune, on Bloomberg TV, and was the 2012 Fantasy Sports Trade Association Rookie of the Year.

Sources: Spotrac, Pro-Football Reference, and Rotoworld

Droppertunity Knocks

Updated: April 21st 2015

Drew Brees

As a parent of two young kids (probably not alone among the demographics of Reality Sports Online owners), I must say that outside of watching sports, I don’t get out too much or get to watch too much TV either. My Friday nights are typically spent going out to dinner with the family, putting the kids to bed and watching one of the few exceptions-Shark Tank. My wife and I started watching “The Tank” about two years ago. I went in with low expectations, dipping a toe or two into the water in fear that Mark Cuban would be the same guy he is as an NBA owner complaining about the refs. I really didn’t know the other “Sharks” prior to watching for the first time.

However, aside from when Sharks like Robert Herjavec get on their high horse and throw a tantrum because a contestant actually wants to hear all the potential offers before making a decision or when Kevin O’Leary offers a royalty-laden deal where he basically wants perpetuity rights for “loaning” money, I love the show. I pause it like it is a football game and discuss the strategy with my wife. Perhaps it appeals to my business school self – as it represents a part of business school I ignored–I went to a Top 20 MBA Program but never took any entrepreneurship classes, which is something I definitely regret.

What I like most about the show is seeing the good ideas and hearing the passion in the voices of the entrepreneurs. Frankly, it is exactly why I’m drawn so much to Reality Sports Online and Matt Papson and Stephen Wendell who run it. It doesn’t hurt that these two share my passion for sports and are genuinely really good people as well.

At the same time, sometimes the best part of the show is when these slick-talking entrepreneurs who resemble Kentucky Coach John Calipari come in with a non-viable product or idea and the Sharks find tactful (Lori Greiner and Barbara Corcoran are best at this) or insulting (Kevin O’Leary) ways of rejecting the entrepreneurs. The conclusion typically ends in “For these reasons, I’m out!”. Cuban, frankly, is the best at rejecting the scheisty snake-oil salesman. He cuts them off, rolls his eyes, insults them casually and makes it clear he’s ending it, typically within one minute of their pitch.

With that, this article is centered around dropping your multi-year contract players and the strategy behind that. I’ll get into the RSO contract database some and discuss average contract lengths and dollar figures and walk through some strategies centered around cutting bait with past contracts you regret.

Before getting into that though, let’s talk Le’Veon Bell and his suspension for a minute first.

How Do I Value Le’Veon Bell This Season?

Bell was no doubt the best running back last season. With his three game suspension announced (pending appeal), RSO owners are left trying to figure out how to value Bell. For starters, let me be painfully obvious- you are not dropping Bell. No way, no how.

If you are weighing whether or not to use your franchise tag on Bell (a topic we discussed in detail last week), it is probably a yes at RSO league averages of around $21.2 million, especially if you are good at finding replacement value those first three weeks. If the price tag in your particular league is higher than that, high level I’d probably say no simply on the premise of knowingly paying for someone who is missing a decent chunk of time.  The good news is that at least you’ll be paying for someone who is missing time without an injury. I hate knowingly picking injured players, especially on a one-year contract.

Take your league dynamics and the type of running backs available in free agency into account when considering franchising Bell. As some of you may know, I write for numberFire as well and my colleague Joseph Juan did an amazing study  on running back longevity this week. If you are considering Bell against someone who has already hit the 1,800 carry cliff, eat the three games and stick with Bell.

If you have Bell on a multi-year deal, it is probably below market value and there is significant value in that. Just simply hold and paint around the edges in your auction to get someone who has a favorable schedule the first three weeks of the NFL season when Bell is suspended.

If he’s a free agent in your league and you are trying to figure out how to value Bell for your auction, the suspension really is a non-factor, especially if you are looking at him on a multi-year deal. If owners in your league are skittish about Bell, you may be able to achieve a little bit of savings on him. I would avoid signing Bell to a one-year deal unless you are taking advantage of his suspension to get him cheaper than you’d otherwise be able to get him.

Remember, Bell is no Josh Gordon. Gordon who was suspended for two games in the 2013 season, was coming off his rookie season and was not as proven as Bell at the point of suspension. The risk and dollars invested in a fantasy league consequently were much lower, even if Gordon ended up having a historic season in the 14 games he did play.

So, no need to channel your inner Shark on Bell. You’re not out!

Droppertunity Knocks?

First, I’d like to note a few things about dropping a multi-year contract player before we talk specific players.

1. Dropping a Multi-Year Player is often a last resort.

I feel like I see a few tweets every year from RSO owners that imply impulsive cuts are coming from them as soon as their league reopens. I don’t want to sound like captain obvious here, but eating 50% of future years is not a desired outcome, but sometimes recouping cents on the dollar may make more sense for your RSO franchise. This is especially the case when the NFL gifted RSO owners another $10.3 million in cap space for our 2015 season. The extra money can also work the other way as another reason to go big in free agency and start getting out from your undesirable contracts.

Also, you have to assume that your player in most circumstances will not get claimed on waivers and save you from 100% of the player’s contract.

2. If the player is still in a good situation, try packaging him in a trade before dropping him.

If the player is still talented, but overpriced, try trading him in a package to another team. Say you overpaid for C.J. Spiller a few years ago because you got drawn into the “run him until he pukes” coachspeak. Spiller still has talent and may be an interesting play on the Saints. However, are you really interested in paying him another 2 years and $13.5 million a year? The answer is a definitive no.

If this is your reality, before cutting Spiller, you may want to get creative. If you are one piece away from winning this league and are entering a plum free agent market, while I generally don’t like trading first round rookie draft picks, if it gets you out of 100% of Spiller you have to seriously think about it. Say Spiller and a first rounder for a second rounder. This frees up good cap space in your auction.

3. How many years a Multi-Year Player has remaining is critical in this equation.

A multi-year player with one year remaining is easier to trade, cut, or justify keeping. If you’ve already weathered a year of zero production from Adrian Peterson your mentality of cutting him in 2015 is different if he has one or two years left at his high salary. If you have two years left, you want him gone. If one, you are really thinking about what you want to do.

4. With very few exceptions, if your player is not currently on an NFL roster, drop them.

I’m not going to spend a bunch of time on the Chris Johnson (1.3 years remaining average, $7.5 million annual average) and Ben Tate (1.7 years remaining average, $5.9 million annual average salary) types in this article. If a team hasn’t thought enough of your player to sign him (even as a backup), what are you waiting for? Get your 50% back and start planning your 2015 roster.

5. Don’t think you have to make a splash dropping players to be effective in doing it.

Just because someone like Miles Austin or Aaron Dobson isn’t someone you are paying $10.0 million a year to, if you get back money that you think you can repurpose better in the Free Agency Auction on a player that has a very low probability of being in your starting lineup on your fantasy team, do it. To me, there’s no ego in admitting a mistake, just roll with it and at least appreciate that this mistake was a low dollar one that you can course correct this year.

At the same time, though, don’t get too deep into this. If you have someone like Antonio Gates on your roster for another year at $2.0 million, his expected value is better to you than what you can do with 50% of his money.

Full Disclosure- How I Did in 2014

In 2014, I was most successful in advocating dropping running backs. While I incorrectly said to hold onto Trent Richardson for another year (drop him immediately if you still have him), I got Ray Rice, David Wilson (hate being right about career ending injuries), and Maurice Jones-Drew right. I didn’t get Lamar Miller right, but I attribute a lot of that to Knowshon Moreno getting injured in Week 1. Funny how a year changes things as Miller is really interesting to me for 2015.

I also did well on Wide Receivers, telling you to drop Danny Amendola, Dwayne Bowe, and Kenbrell Thompkins. I said to stick with Roddy White and while he didn’t quite get to 1,000 yards this season, he was productive. The question is did his production warrant his price.

I didn’t take firm stances on quarterbacks (don’t worry I will this year), so there are no conclusive results and the tight end pool I talked about was not very exciting. I’d say I missed there as Owen Daniels became a solid Dennis Pitta injury replacement and Coby Fleener had a pretty solid season even if I don’t think he’s a very good football player.

Top Drops for 2015

Drew Brees, Quarterback, New Orleans Saints– First into the tank is Brees (2.2 average years remaining, $19.9 million annual average), who led the NFL in passing yardage in 2014. While Brees still of course has top QB potential, I’m downgrading him not only because Jimmy Graham is now in Seattle and Kenny Stills is in Miami, but due to New Orleans increased focus on the running game as well. This takes away Brees’ ability to take the roof of the Superdome with the deep ball and limits his big play making ability, effectively turning him into the dinking and dunking of the QB (watch last year’s home game vs. the Bengals for an example) who replaced him in San Diego. Adding insult to injury, his replacement Philip Rivers (1.6 average years, $4.4 million annual average) is significantly cheaper. Do the math, drop Brees, pay around $10.0 million in dead money and pick up Rivers (Big Ben, Tony Romo, a similar quarterback) for around $5.0 million and have $5.0 million in dispensable income in your auction for similar expected production to Brees. You also could get lucky and someone could bail you out and relieve 100% of your Brees obligation on waivers, even on name recognition. For those reasons, “I’m out!”

Colin Kaepernick, Quarterback, San Francisco 49ers– If you still have him, you are paying Kaepernick (2.2 average years remaining, $8.9 million annual average) more money than most owners are paying Big Ben and Romo. That salary is for “bad decision, no weapons Kaepernick” as opposed to “destroying Green Bay in the playoffs with his legs and arm Kaepernick.” Kurt Warner may be working with him on his mechanics, but there is nothing about Kaepernick as a pocket passer that excites me with how big his sample is starting to get. I don’t need Rob Lowe telling me what to do here, “I’m out!”

Adrian Peterson, Running Back, Minnesota Vikings– I’m looking at Peterson (2.2 average years remaining, $23.0 million annual average) from a potential production standpoint against price only. He’s 30 years old now and while he barely had any tread last year and finally gets an opportunity to play with his best quarterback in awhile, I just like the financial freedom that comes with cutting him if you can’t get trade value for him, especially if you only have a year left. If you have more than a year, you may be in a rebuilding situation that warrants moving on from AP as well.

Andre Ellington, Running Back, Arizona Cardinals– You may be surprised seeing him on this list as a third year NFL player who has a second gear, however Ellington (2.4 years, $11.1 million annual average) is someone I’d think of moving on from. His coach seems to think he can’t hold up with a bell-cow workload and neither do I. Additionally, he simply wasn’t productive with the opportunities he had, as one of the least efficient rushers in the numberFire database. I wouldn’t move on from him unless the Cardinals draft a running back high because 50% of his savings may not be enough to find his replacement. On the flip side, someone else would potentially pick him up on waivers based on his “upside” and free you completely from him.

Brandon Marshall, Wide Receiver, New York Jets Don’t pay for Top 5 receiver Marshall on the Bears (2.1 years, $18.6 million annual average) for an older, lesser version on the Jets. I’m out faster than Cuban on this one.

Julius Thomas, Tight End, Jacksonville Jaguars- I know that Thomas (1.8 years, $13.9 million annual average) has had double-digit touchdowns (12 each year) two years in a row. Alas, Peyton Manning could teach my five year old son how to catch touchdowns. The Jaguars are building a nice offensive nucleus, but when you combine Thomas’ history of ankle injuries, the Jacksonville offense, and simply not being in Denver, you can’t justify paying Denver prices for him in your RSO league. For those reasons, “I’m out!”

Other Players to Cut Without Hesitation:

C.J. Spiller, Running Back, New Orleans Saints (2.0 years, $13.5 million annual average)

Zac Stacy, Running Back, St. Louis Rams (2.3 years, $8.3 million annual average)

Andre Johnson, Wide Receiver, Indianapolis Colts (1.5 years, $9.6 million annual average)

Victor Cruz, Wide Receiver, New York Giants (1.9 years, $10.6 million annual average)

Cordarrelle Patterson, Wide Receiver, Minnesota Vikings (2.6 years, $7.9 million annual average)

Vernon Davis, Tight End, San Francisco 49ers (1.7 years, $6.7 million annual average)

Other Players to Think About Cutting:

Jay Cutler, Quarterback, Chicago Bears (1.7 years, $5.3 million annual average)

Christine Michael, Running Back, Seattle Seahawks (2.3 years, $3.3 million annual average)- especially if the team drafts a running back, but noting that Robert Turbin is a free agent in 2016.

Larry Fitzgerald, Wide Receiver, Arizona Cardinals (1.7 years, $11.0 million annual average)

That’s all for now, fellow sharks. I sincerely hope you enjoyed and this is helpful. Feel free to reach out to me with key decisions you are facing via Twitter @mattgoody2 . I’m more than happy to help you with your key decisions.

Is Your QB Franchise Tag Worthy?

Updated: March 24th 2014

Much like Elaine on Seinfeld, who went around hoarding sponges and interviewing men to see who was “sponge worthy”, we all debate what is worthy of our time and money.  As a parent, I’m always debating what plans are worth paying for a babysitter.  You should be conducting similar analysis at the QB position in your Reality Sports Online league, so let’s take a look at the process an owner should go through to determine whether to use their Franchise Tag to keep their signal caller for another year.

First off, you have to ask yourself some fundamental questions about using your Franchise Tag on any expiring contract player, as you are committing to giving that player a one-year deal at the greater of (a) 120% of his previous year’s salary or (b) the average of the top 5 salaries at that player’s position for the current year (like the NFL you may use the tag again for a second year).

1)  Is the juice worth the squeeze? A franchise tag salary in most positions for a one-year deal is a lot of money.  You must be pretty confident that the player you are tagging is in for a big year and you have the cap space to address your other team needs. Do the math and find value.  For instance, the Tight End position may have a more reasonable franchise tag salary than the Wide Receiver position.

2)  Can I live with not having this player on my team next year? If you can’t see yourself throwing a player back into the Free Agency pond, even if that means paying him franchise tag money, then you probably should hold onto that player. Considering that the player is someone that may have been on your team for multiple years before being franchise eligible, you need to tread carefully on this one.  Know when to let go.  We are all football fans and have certain favorite players, but we are playing in dynasty leagues, which means our sense of strategy and competition is at a heightened level.

3)  How many pieces am I away from being a serious contender in my league?  If you are stacked at multiple positions and think that keeping this one player (even at the expense of the Free Agency Auction) will win you the title this year-remember that Flags Fly Forever.

4)  What kind of deal would this player command on the open market? If there is a good possibility of getting this player back in the Free Agency Auction on a multi-year deal with more favorable terms, then maybe you pass up using your franchise tag.

5)  How does this player fit into the dynamics of your league?  If your league scoring system is skewed to a certain position and this person has a relative advantage, consider using the tag on the player.  For instance, I’m in a league where QB’s who have high completion percentage are amongst the best fantasy points guys.

6)  Upside/Option Value? Perhaps this player is someone who has very high upside, and you’d rather have the option of cutting bait without a penalty at the end of the season if they don’t fulfill the upside.  In this case, the franchise tag may be a creative way to keep your talent if they perform without risking losing a player in Free Agency.

So, let’s get into the Quarterback position.  Let’s assume for starters that Brees, Rodgers, Luck, and Newton are signed to multi-year contracts.  We’ll put Matthew Stafford on the fringe of that too and for Top-5 average franchise purposes, let’s put Stafford in that mix.  We’ll also assume a 10 to 12 team league that starts one quarterback.

The No-Brainer Franchise Tag

Peyton Manning- If Peyton Manning was on your team in 2013, you were a contender in your league.  While there is a likely drop-off from historic levels, you probably took Manning on a one-year deal with concerns about his neck.  With a clean bill of health and with Manning not included in the Top 5 average multi-year deals, Manning not being the top paid QB in your league means a serious coup for you.  This is like having 20 in blackjack.  Tag him.

The Great Debates

Nick Foles- Fantasy owners loved the production last year.  In the 7 fantasy regular season games he played significant time in or started, Foles had 18 TDs and no INTs (granted 7 TDs were vs. the Raiders).  I’ve watched the tape and Foles got plenty lucky vs. Green Bay on underthrown balls and deflections that went for scores.  That said, he’s accurate (63% completion rate), poised and has a bevy of weapons back who will only get better and the team was missing the intermediate element at times last year that Jeremy Maclin can help with.  The only thing I’m skittish on is if his 2014 season resembles Colin Kaepernick’s, but the weapons make me more confident about Foles.  I think most would rather have him on a multi-year deal as his upside is high, but the franchise tag gives you 2nd year option value to cut bait if he disappoints.  If you’re in a league where QBs like RG3, Wilson, and Kaepernick are protected in addition to my list above and only a few teams need QBs, you may be able to get him on a better multi-year deal.  Thinking $20M a year would be his tag # in most leagues.  Tag him.

Colin Kaepernick- To really assess Kaep, I think you need to look at how he played in the playoffs as it was really the first time he had Crabtree at 100%.  The running totals are great there, but the turnovers are alarming and the completion % must get better.  I like the fact that he has a full year of weapons and think it would be wise that the 49ers get a tall stretch the field and big red-zone target like Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin in the draft.  What scares me more about Kaepernick (and I own him on a 3 year, $43.5m deal) is that in a 13 week fantasy season, he’s not startable vs. Seattle (twice) and a bye.  That’s 25% of the fantasy season and the NFC West has great defenses as well.  I think he’s the type that if you have on a multi-year deal, you expect a better 2014, but if you are thinking franchise tag, I just don’t see it.  Throw him back.

Russell Wilson- He just seems to have this intangible to go down as one of the best ever as a winner.  The Seahawks love to run and will probably mix in other backs a bit more to spell Beast Mode this year and they will throw bubble screens and really utilize Percy Harvin if he can stay on the field.  That said, Wilson only attempted 305 passes in the fantasy regular season and even if that number improves by 100, it is still way less than your average QB.  Wilson is probably a better NFL QB than a fantasy QB (think Troy Aikman), a guy you can start with confidence every week, but not one I think you’re paying the big bucks for unless you are in a deep, deep league.    Throw him back.

Others to Throw Back-RG3, Philip Rivers, Tony Romo, Tom Brady, Matt Ryan