Changing of the Guard

Updated: December 4th 2016

Hopefully, everyone’s waistbands held up on Thanksgiving and you kept all your fingers and toes if you were brave enough to go out on Black Friday. The NFL has its own dark day where feelings are hurt and human dignity can sometimes be called into question. I am referring to the “Black Monday”, a day when coaches are released following the final week 17 games. For those of you who follow hockey hopefully any coaches who are released are left with a little more dignity than Coach Gerard Gallant of the Florida Panthers. Yikes.

Regardless, there will be at least one head coach, if not multiple, that will not be with their current teams in 2016. Others might narrowly avoid the guillotine but will be on thin ice for next season. I have pulled together a list of four coaches that I think should be let go in the next month, two that could be let go and three others who could be surprise cuts either this year or next.

Guys Who Gotta Go

John Fox, Jeff Fisher, Chuck Pagano, Gus Bradley

John FoxJohn Fox – The writing has been on the wall for a couple of weeks now and it looks like both he and Jay Cutler have worn out their welcome in Chicago. Management seems content with letting them as well as Alshon Jeffrey and starting fresh with a new crew. A new coach should be welcomed but there is a lot of work to do on both sides of the ball before anything fantasy relevant returns to the windy city. It’s a real knock on Jordan Howard who looked like he could be a decent player if there was enough around him.

 

Jeff-FisherJeff Fisher – Why does this guy still have a job!? For those who have read my articles in the past know I don’t hold back on Fisher and his questionable coaching status. He was almost given an extension early in the season but that seems to have been pulled off the table with their recent slide. Unlike Howard’s outlook with a coaching change, there can only be good things that can happen to Todd Gurley’s value with Fisher removed. Ideally, GM Les Snead should look to bring in a coach who is defensive minded and focuses on controlling the clock and running the ball on offense.

**Editor’s note Fisher and Snead have been given contract extensions which can only suggest that the Rams are okay with presenting their fans a mediocre product. If you have Todd Gurley you should be selling him before the start of next season.**

 

Chuck PaganoChuck Pagano – Some thought that Chuck wasn’t going to make it through last season but he was given a second chance to work things out with GM Ryan Grigson. The team still has no offensive line to protect their hundred million dollar QB and their defense is suspect at best. Unless the Colts make a miraculous playoff run this season I don’t see how Pagano and potentially Grigson keep their jobs heading into 2017. Hopefully, the new regime comes in and invests more into protecting their QB before his career becomes a “ya but” legacy.

 

Gus Bradley – When people said they expected Allen Robinson to regress from 2015 I have a hard time believing that they meant this bad. He has been a ghost for most of this season and borders on droppable in a redraft. Blake Bortles himself has dropped from his top 5 fantasy season last year but maybe this is just numbers returning to the average. However, the reason Bradley should be gone by season’s end though is the defense and the failure to move forward. The team has been a sleeper to win the AFC South the last two years and Shahid Khan has spent a small country’s GDP on free agents in Bradley’s tenure to try taking advantage of a weak division. Another well below .500 season should be the final straw for Bradley.

Wouldn’t Be Surprised

Marvin Lewis, Mike McCarthy

Marvin LewisMarvin Lewis – It would be sad to see this be the season that Marvin Lewis is finally let go. His recent successes and the strong core of players he has built up over the last 5 years made the Bengals one of the most consistent teams in the AFC. However, without having a playoff win to his record, and given the big of a step back this season it may finally be the time to remove the second-longest tenured coach in the league. A change of coaches shouldn’t hurt the value of the Bengal’s players but there could be growing pains next year with a new style of offense to learn, something Dalton has had the benefit of avoiding thus far in his career.

Mike McCarthy – Similar to Lewis McCarthy has been one of the most successful coaches over his time in Green Bay, but not all jobs are judged evenly. Title Town expects Super Bowl contenders and the Packers are far from that this year. The return of Jordy Nelson proved that there still isn’t something right in the clubhouse and it may come down to a coaching change to try and liven up the team. With Aaron Rodgers in town, the team would still be considered “in the hunt” for 2017 but they have serious rebuilding work everywhere else if they want Rodgers to ever wear the belt again.

Surprising but Understandable

John Harbaugh, Sean Payton, Mike McCoy

John HarbaughJohn Harbaugh – Four years removed from a Super Bowl victory and the Ravens have fallen out of the elite class in the AFC. Last year was a huge disappointment and this year, while the record might not be that bad, it isn’t up to the standards of what they are expected to do year in and year out. The offensive coordinator was let go earlier this season and it hasn’t improved in recent weeks. He’s likely to keep his job with a chance still at the playoffs but maybe it is time to move on to the next phase. The Ravens could turn out to be in a year what the Bears are now, a team with minimal talent and a mediocre QB that is leeching all the cap space.

Sean PaytonSean Payton – What a ride it would be since 2005 with a top 10 offense year after year and a Super Bowl trophy to hold high. But the defense has been historically bad for years now and it likely isn’t going to be fixed before Drew Brees is gone in what everyone expects to be next season. Brees moving on would likely force the team to look to start fresh with their coaching staff too and would be a fitting end to the Payton-Brees Era in New Orleans.

Mike McCoyMike McCoy – The Chargers this season read like a heart monitor and for many of its fans they may have had to be hooked up to one. With so many puzzling losses early in this season, failing to capitalize on Phillip Rivers in his prime the last couple years and the looming move to Los Angeles next year the Chargers could be looking to make a splash move.

Who do you think will be let go this season? Let me know @naandrews19.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews

Cap Analysis: Chargers

Updated: February 15th 2016

San Diego Chargers

Trending: Slightly Up ↑

The Chargers are a franchise in transition, literally and figuratively. Nobody knows where the Chargers will call home from 2017-2036, though it seems likely that they’ll end up in Los Angeles with the Rams. In a few weeks, the Chargers are also likely to say goodbye to many key on-field contributors from the past several years.

With all of that uncertainty, I think the Chargers were smart to keep Mike McCoy, Tom Telesco, and Phillip Rivers. The Chargers have a significant number of free agent starters, and the majority of them have played their final snap as a Charger, but the Chargers don’t necessarily have to rebuild – I believe they’re in position to re-tool and enter a new era for the better.

The Chargers were plagued by injuries in 2015, but they have some young pieces to build around, and Phillip Rivers performed amazingly well in 2015 given the circumstances. The AFC West will be one of the best divisions in football in 2016, regardless of whether Peyton Manning is a Bronco, but I still believe the Chargers will be able to win more than 4 games.  

Projected 2016 Team Salary$124.5M (not including escalators and NLTBE* incentives)
*Not Likely To Be Earned

Projected 2016 Cap Room: ~$31.8M (~$154M Estimate; ~$2.3M Rollover)

Situation: Strong 

As is the case with most teams that have franchise quarterbacks, Philip Rivers contract eats up a large portion of their cap ($21M; 13.5%). But, the Chargers have enough cap space to be players in free agency, and they have a solid foundation of core players locked up for multiple years on reasonable contracts. Their contract commitments are balanced across position groups, and with the right moves in free agency, they could end up without many holes. 

Notable Free Agents:

Chargers Notable FAs

The 2015 starts for Eric Weddle, Antonio Gates, and Malcom Floyd don’t come close to giving an accurate picture of their contributions to the franchise. Gates has started 176 games since 2003, Weddle 122 since 2008, and Floyd 77 since 2009. Weddle’s situation got ugly at the end, and Floyd announced his intention to retire mid-season. There were a few games where Antonio Gates and Philip Rivers looked like they could keep the magic alive for another year, but I am not sure if Gates will be back. A number of other starters and key contributors are also reaching free agency, including three offensive lineman (Johnnie Troutman missed 2015 with injury but was a full-time starter in 2014). The Chargers will need to address the Offensive Line through the rookie draft and/or free agency, and they’ll also need to address their situation at tight end. Ladarius Green, who has been a popular “sleeper” for nearly four years, is reaching free agency with Gates – as is H-back David Johnson, and third string tight end John Phillips.  

Top Projected Cap Hits:

Chargers Top Cap Hits

The Chargers only have seven players who will count for more than $5M against the cap, but it’s a good-looking group. When looking for a solid nucleus on a team, you would expect to find a quarterback and left tackle on the offensive side, and a pass rusher and a corner on the defensive side. All but one of these seven players are locked up for at least three more seasons.

Cap Casualty Watch List:

Chargers Cap Cas

Donald Brown, Danny Woodhead, and Melvin Gordon (in no particular order) make for a pretty formidable three-part backfield. But, Brown may find himself as the odd man out, as his release would free up $3.5M in space for the Chargers without any cap repercussions.

Extension Watch List: 

Chargers Ext Watch

The Chargers will likely exercise D.J. Fluker’s fifth year option, and they’ll be able to take their time on a long-term contract decision. More pressingly, the Chargers will have to address contracts for three young players entering their contract years. Melvin Ingram will be the first priority. Ingram only talleyed 6 sacks combined in his first three seasons, partially due to an inability to stay on the field. In 2015, he had a breakout season, starting all 16 games and putting up 10.5 sacks. There are some pretty strong comps available for Ingram, five in my opinion, although they only play for three teams. Connor Barwin ($6M APY), Brandon Graham ($6.5M APY), Lamarr Houston ($7M APY), Pernell McPhee ($7.75M APY), and Paul Kruger ($8.1M APY). The biggest difference is that each of them was an unrestricted free agent at the time of his signing, and Ingram is in a team-controlled year. Ingram compares pretty favorably to Kruger, and that deal was signed in free agency 3 years ago, when the salary cap was roughly 20% lower. Ingram could probably draw $8M per year in free agency in 2017, or settle for $6-$7M per year now and reduce the risk of decreasing his value from injury or a down year.

Keenan Allen’s many fantasy supporters would tell you that you could extrapolate his 2015 numbers over a full-season and he would have had 134 receptions and 1,450 yards. When it comes to negotiations, good luck getting the team’s front office to make that same leap of faith. Allen compares favorably to Doug Baldwin ($4.33M APY), who signed a 3-year extension in May of 2014, before entering the final year of his contract. Based on his current resume, his contract comp ceiling is probably Pierre Garcon, who is now entering the final year of his 2012 contract that paid him $8.5M per year. That’s a pretty wide window, so I wouldn’t be surprised if negotiations take a while, and perhaps nothing will happen before next March. There are other comps in between that would work as well (Torrey Smith, $8M APY; Golden Tate, $6.2M APY), so I could see a pre-season Keenan Allen extension being worth $6-$7M per year.

Position Needs: 

As mentioned previously, the Chargers need to address their offensive line and tight end immediately.

Sleeper Watch: 

With another year in Mike McCoy’s system, and starting opposite Keenan Allen, I could see Stevie Johnson becoming a 1,000-yard receiver again.


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

More Analysis by Matt Papson