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Tracking Patriots contract incentives after Week 8

(Adam Richins for BSJ)

A team's adjusted cap consists of three numbers:

  • League cap number
  • Prior year carryover adjustments for Likely To Be Earned (LTBE)/Not Likely To Be Earned (NLTBE) incentives
  • Adjustments for Likely To Be Earned (LTBE)/Not Likely To Be Earned (NLTBE) incentives. In 2017, the Patriots were debited a total of $1,006,553 against their 2017 adjusted cap number because of LTBE/NTLBE calculations.

The 2017 Patriots adjusted cap of $168,179,688 consists of $167,000,000 (league cap) plus $5,292,335 (rollover amount from 2016 season) plus $387,353 (LTBE/NTLE adjustment) and minus $4,500,000 (payback of 2012/2013 borrowed cap space).

In an attempt to give you the most accurate projections of the Patriots 2018 adjusted cap number and 2018 salary cap space number, I will track the Patriots '17 incentives. What has happened in the past is that other projections of the Patriots' cap space ignore the impact of incentives. Remember the 2015 offseason? Some were focusing on the $5,258,054 the Patriots had carried over from 2014, while neglecting that several Patriots, most notably Vince Wilfork, had earned NLTBE incentives to help the Patriots win their fourth Super Bowl.

Background

LTBE incentives count against the team’s salary cap in the year that they are scheduled to be earned. All but one (46-man active roster) NLTBE bonuses do not.

Earned LTBE incentives: Since they already count against current year's cap, earning LTBE incentives will not change the player's cap number.
Unearned LTBE incentives: When a player does not earn a LTBE incentive, his team will then receive a credit on next years' cap.
Earned NTLBE incentives: Forty-six man active roster bonuses count against current year's cap. All other earned NLBTE incentives count as a debit against next year's cap.
Unearned NLTBE incentives: When a player does not earn a NLTBE incentive, it has no impact on current year's cap or on next year's cap since the incentive was not counting against the team's salary cap.

At the end of the season, the NFL calculates how much each team had set aside for LTBEs incentives that weren’t earned. Said differently, it figures out how much was charged to the team’s cap that was not actually spent. Similarly, the NFL calculates the amount of incentives designated NLTBE that were actually earned. If the unearned LTBE incentives are greater than the earned NLTBE incentives, then the following year’s salary cap for that team is increased by the net amount.

Similarly, if the earned NLTBE incentives exceed the unearned LTBE incentives, then the team’s cap for the following year is lowered by that amount. You can see an example of the effect of cap adjustments at NFLPlayers.Com. The teams with negative cap adjustments had most likely earned more NLTBE incentives in 2014 than they did not earn LBTE incentives.

As far as I know, all of the below Patriots incentives have to be earned during the regular season. That is, any postseason stats will not count. Please note that the incentives are typically paid out the following February. The player's contract specifies the actual date. (For example, I know that at least two players will be paid on Feb. 15, 2018 if they earn their '17 incentives.)

I will first tackle the LTBE incentives that are currently counting on the Patriots 2017 salary cap. Please note that over their first eight games of the season the Patriots have averaged playing 74.25 snaps on offense and 66 snaps on defense. The changes in likelihood from last week are italicized.

* Matthew Slater has a $200,000 Pro Bowl incentive - Unlikely since Slater has already missed four games.
* Dont'a Hightower has a $500,000 Pro Bowl incentive - Impossible if Hightower is indeed placed on IR as recent reports have stated
* Patrick Chung's 65 percent playing-time incentive - $200,000 - Probable since Chung has played in 83.1 percent of the snaps so far.
* Patrick Chung's 75 percent playing-time incentive - $400,000 - Probable since Chung has played in 83.1 percent of the snaps so far
* Patrick Chung's 80 percent playing-time incentive and 13 regular-season wins - $300,000 - Possible since Chung has played in 83.1 percent of the snaps AND it is possible for the Pats to go 7-1 the rest of the year
* Patrick Chung's 80 percent playing-time incentive and Super Bowl appearance - $300,000 - Possible since Chung has played in 83.1 percent of the snaps AND it is possible for the Pats to win the AFC this year
* Patrick Chung's 85 percent playing-time incentive - $500,000 - Possible since Chung has played in 83.1 percent of the snaps
* Dont'a Hightower's 65 percent playing-time incentive - $375,000 - Impossible if the reports that he will soon be placed on Injured Reserve are true.
* James Develin's 20 percent playing-time incentive - $100,000 - Probable since Develin has played in 27.8 percent of the snaps.
* James Develin's 30 percent playing-time incentive - $100,000 - Possible since Develin who has played in 27.8 percent of the snaps so far this year would have to average 32.3 percent the rest of the season.
* David Harris' 60 percent playing-time incentive - $250,000 -Impossible - If the Patriots defense continues to average 66 snaps a game and even if Harris were to play in 100 percent of them going forward his playing-time percentage for the year would be 54.36 percent.
* David Harris' 80 percent playing-time incentive - $500,000 - Impossible - If the Patriots defense continues to average 66 snaps a game and even if Harris were to play in 100 percent of them going forward his playing-time percentage for the year would be 54.36 percent.
* Alan Branch's 50 percent playing-time incentive - $125,000 - Unlikely since Branch would have to average 71.2.percent of the snaps the rest of the year to earn this incentive. Has played in 28.8 percent this year, 60 percent in 2016
* Alan Branch's 55 percent playing-time incentive - $375,000 - Unlikely since Branch would have to average 81.8 percent of the snaps the rest of the year to earn this incentive. Has played in 28.8 percent this year, 60 percent in 2016
* Alan Branch's 60 percent playing-time incentive - $375,000 - Unlikely since Branch would have to average 92.4 percent of the snaps the rest of the year to earn this incentive. Has played in 28.8 percent this year, 60 percent in 2016
* Julian Edelman's $500,000 incentive that could have been earned in one of the following four ways:
1.) 1,057 receiving yards
2.) 70 receptions plus seven TDs
3.) 80 receptions plus 13 wins
4.) 80 receptions plus Super Bowl appearance - Impossible since Edelman is now on IR.

Summary

Impossible - $2,125,000
Unlikely - $1,075,000
Possible - $1,200,000
Probable - $700,000
Total - $5,100,000

So we add the amounts for the unlikely and impossible events and we get a total of $3,200,000 that will be credited to the Patriots 2018 cap.

I will now estimate the chances of the NLTBE incentives being earned. Please note these estimates will probably change greatly throughout the season as there are injuries and roster changes. Please note that over their first eight games of the season the Patriots have averaged playing 74.25 snaps on offense and 66 snaps on defense.

Please note that the changes in likelihood from last week are italicized.

* Ryan Allen has a $50,000 Pro Bowl incentive - Unlikely according to Inside the Pylon's Chuck Zodda who focuses on the kicking game.
* Nate Solder has a $500,000 Pro Bowl incentive - Unlikely
* Nate Ebner has a $500,000 Pro Bowl incentive - Unlikely - Feel that Bademosi has the better shot of earning the Pro Bowl bid.
* Shea McClellin has a $500,000 Pro Bowl incentive - Impossible as McClellin is on IR.
* Johnson Bademosi has a $300,000 Pro Bowl incentive - Possible as a special-teamer
* Dont'a Hightower has a $500,000 All-Pro incentive - Impossible
* Johnson Bademosi has a $400,000 incentive for four interceptions - Unlikely since Bademosi has only played 34.8 percent of the snaps on defense and does not have an interception.
* Johnson Bademosi's playing time incentive - $200,000 if he plays in 35 percent of the defensive snaps - Possible since Eric Rowe has a torn groin making it easier for Bademosi to average the needed 36.4 percent of the snaps
* Johnson Bademosi's playing time incentive - $200,000 if he plays in 50 percent of the defensive snaps - Possible but unlikely since Bademosi would have to play an average of 65.2% of the snaps the rest of the year.
* LaAdrian Waddle's playing time incentive - $200,000 if he plays in 40 percent of the offensive snaps - Unlikely since Waddle has played in 21.9 percent of the offensive snaps and with the offensive line starters playing close to 100 percent of the snaps would need to play 100 percent of the snaps in 5 more games to get to 40 percent of the year. Can't see that happening unless Solder and/or Cannon miss that many games.
* LaAdrian Waddle's playing time incentive - $400,000 if he plays in 60 percent of the offensive snaps - Unlikely since Waddle has played in 21.9 percent of the offensive snaps and with the offensive line starters playing close to 100 percent of the snap would need to play 100 percent of the snaps in the remaining eight games to get to 60 percent of the year. Can't see that happening unless Solder and/or Cannon are placed on IR between now and the Broncos game.
* Dion Lewis's playing time incentive - $200,000 if he plays in 40 percent of the offensive snaps - Unlikely since Lewis has played in 25.1 percent of the offensive snaps
* Dion Lewis's playing time incentive - $300,000 if he plays in 50 percent of the offensive snaps - Unlikely since Lewis has played in 25.1 percent of the offensive snaps
* Dion Lewis's playing time incentive - $400,000 if he plays in 60 percent of the offensive snaps - Unlikely since Lewis has played in 25.1 percent of the offensive snaps
* Lawrence Guy's playing time incentive - $400,000 if he plays in 50 percent of the defensive snaps - Probable since Guy has played in 55.7 percent of the defensive snaps
* Lawrence Guy's playing time incentive - $400,000 if he plays in 55 percent of the defensive snaps - Probable since Guy has played in 55.7 percent of the defensive snaps
* Lawrence Guy's playing time incentive - $500,000 if he plays in 60 percent of the defensive snaps - Possible since Guy has played in 55.7 percent of the defensive snaps
* Duron Harmon's playing time incentive - $250,000 if he plays in 60 percent of the defensive snaps - Probable since Harmon has played in 80.3 percent of the defensive snaps.
* Duron Harmon's playing time incentive - $250,000 if he plays in 70 percent of the defensive snaps - Probable since Harmon has played in 80.3 percent of the defensive snaps.
* Duron Harmon's playing time incentive - $250,000 if he plays in 80 percent of the defensive snaps - Probable since Harmon has played in 80.3 percent of the defensive snaps.
* Alan Branch's 65 percent playing time incentive - $375,000 - Unlikely since Branch has only played in 28.8 percent of the defensive snaps
* Dont'a Hightower's 70 percent playing-time incentive - $250,000 - Impossible
* Dont'a Hightower's 75 percent playing-time incentive - $250,000 - Impossible
* Dont'a Hightower's 80 percent playing time incentive - $125,000 - Was already Impossible for Hightower to earn before Week 7
* Shea McClellin's 60 percent playing time incentive - $250,000 - Impossible since McClellin is on IR.
* Shea McClellin's 70 percent playing time incentive - $250,000 - Impossible since McClellin is on IR.

* Rob Gronkowski's $1 million incentive can be earned in one of the following four ways

I will bold the ways that Gronk is on pace

  1. 70 percent playing-time
  2. Scores 10 touchdowns
  3. Catches 60 passes
  4. Has 800 receiving yards

Probable since with five TDs, 34 receptions, and 509 receiving yards Gronk is on pace for 1,018 receiving yards, 10 touchdowns, 68 receptions, and 80.5 percent playing time

* Rob Gronkowski's $3 million incentive can be earned in one of the following four ways

  1. 80 percent playing-time
  2. Scores 12 touchdowns
  3. Catches 70 passes
  4. Has 1,000 receiving yards

Probable since with five TDs, 34 receptions, and 509 receiving yards Gronk is on pace for 1,018 receiving yards, 10 touchdowns, 68 receptions, and 80.5 percent playing time.

* Rob Gronkowski's $5,5 million incentive can be earned in one of the following five ways

  1. 90 percent playing-time
  2. Scores 14 touchdowns
  3. Catches 80 passes
  4. Has 1,200 receiving yards
  5. Named first-team All-Pro

Probable since with five TDs, 34 receptions, and 509 receiving yards Gronk is on pace for 1,018 receiving yards, 10 touchdowns, 68 receptions, and 77 percent playing time. Gronkowski is battling Zach Ertz who has 6 touchdowns, 43 receptions, and 528 receiving yards for the All-Pro award at the tight-end position. My prediction is that Gronk's blocking prowess gives him the edge. I consider it a good harbinger that the AP recently voted Gronk the NFL's best tight end.

Summary

Impossible - $1,875,000
Unlikely - $3,525,000
Possible - $1,000,000
Probable - $7,150,000
Total - $13,550,000

So just using the amount for the probable events we get $7,150,000 that will be debited against the Patriots 2018 cap.

Please note the unearned LTBE incentives will not be the only credits coming to the Patriots 2018 salary cap.
They will also get a $750,000 credit for the 16 46-man active roster bonuses that Edelman will not earn by being on IR.
The Patriots will also get at the very minimum a $150,000 for McClellin who is also on IR. McClellin who has a $25,000 46-man active roster bonus was active for 14 games in 2016 and will be active at most for 8 games.
The Patriots will also receive a $62,500 credit for Rex Burkhead not being active for all 16 games.
The Patriots will also receive a $18,750 credit for Slater not being active for 13 games this year.
The Patriots will also receive a $31,250 credit for Harris not being active for 15 games this year.
The Patriots will also receive a $62,500 credit for Stephon Gilmore not being active for 15 games this year.
The Patriots will also receive a $40,625 credit for Branch not being active for all 16 games.

The Patriots will also receive a credit ($45,000 total) for the salaries that they guaranteed in 2017 and that were offset by the player earning cash in 2017.

The affected players are:

Austin Carr - $22,500
Cody Hollister - $10,000
Jason King - $5,000
David Jones - $5,000
Kenny Moore - $2,500

Credits
Unearned LTBE incentives - $3,200,000
Unearned LTBE 46-man active roster bonuses  - $1,115,625
Guaranteed Salary Offset Credit - $45,000
Total Credits - $4,360,625

The $4,360,625 credit amount minus $7,150,000 in debits leads to a negative adjustment of ($2,789,375). I am going to use $2.8 million the rest of the way for the sake of simplicity.

The $2.8 million negative adjustment will be included in the Patriots 2018 adjusted salary cap number calculation as a debit. If 2018 League Cap is $178 million, the Patriots 2018 adjusted cap number would then be $175,200,000 before including the 2017 rollover amount. I currently project that the 2017 rollover amount will be $3,500,000. So my current projection for the Patriots 2018 adjusted cap number is $178,700,000 (League Cap of $178 million plus $3,500,000 rollover minus $2,800,000 adjustment.

Using all of the above projections which will change frequently between now and the start of the 2018 League Year on March 14th here is my current estimate for the Patriots 2018 cap space number.

League Cap - $178 million
Prior Year Carryover - $3.5 million
Adjustment - ($2.8 million)
Patriots Adjusted Cap - $178.7 million
2018 Cap Commitment - $162.1 million
After tendering Ted Karras as an ERFA and signing 10 practice squad players the Patriots should have 56 players signed or tendered for the 2018 season.

2018 Cap Space $16.6 million

Answering some questions I anticipate this blog will create:

Q: Your cap space number is currently around $5.2 million. Why do you think that they will end up with $3.5 million?
A: Expect the Patriots to continue to replace players that are placed on IR. The 5.2 million does not include Brian Hoyer. Also, expect them to increase their salaries of a couple more practice squad players. As some players, most notably Dion Lewis and Rob Gronkowski, are active for more games in 2017 than they were in 2016 the Patriots will lose cap space. As of October 30, the Patriots will lose $575,000 in cap space if eight players are active for every game the rest of the 2017 season.

Q: Who are those eight players?
A: Dwayne Allen, Mike Gillislee, Gronkowski, Chris Hogan, Lewis, Solder, and Waddle.

Q: How could the Patriots create more cap space?
A: Please review this piece.

Q: How can injuries change your estimates?
A: Injuries to the three other running backs will increase Dion Lewis' chances of earning his playing-time incentives. The only way that Waddle can earn his playing-time incentive is a plethora of injuries to his fellow offensive tackles.

Q: How would a David Harris removal from roster affect your estimates?
A: If David Harris were no longer on the Patriots 53-man roster via trade or retirement his remaining salary, unearned 46-man active roster and LTBE incentives would come off the Patriots salary cap increasing the Patriots salary cap number and therefore the amount that they would carry over into 2018. If Harris were to be cut, his salary would remain on the Patriots 2017 cap since he is eligible for termination pay.

Q: What would happen to a player's 2018 cap number if he reaches a NLTBE incentive in 2017?
A: I am going to use Duron Harmon as an example. If he continues to average playing 80 percent of the snaps in 2017, he will increase his 2018 cap number by $750,000 because all of his playing-time incentives would then be considered LTBE since he earned them this year.

Q: Can Gronkowski earn $9.5 (1+3+5.5) million in incentives this year?
A: No, the most he can earn is $5.5 million.

Q: Will rushing for a touchdown, however unlikely, help Gronkowski reach his incentives?
A: Yes, his incentives uses the word "achieves" while listing touchdowns. So rushing touchdowns or return touchdowns would be included.

Q: Some reports of Gronkowski's incentives do not mention scoring 14 touchdowns as part of his top tier?
A: Those reports are incomplete.

Q: Besides the already mentioned players what Patriots have incentives for the 2018 season whose likeliness to be earned classification will be determined by how they do in 2017?

  • David Andrews has two playing-time incentives that commence in the 2018 season. He will earn $250,000 if he plays in at least 65 percent of the snaps in 2018. He will earn another $450,000 if he plays in 85 percent. If he continues to play all of the snaps in the 2017 season, both incentives will be considered LTBE for the 2018 season increasing his 2018 cap number by $700,000.
  • James White has four incentives that commence in the 2018 season. He will earn $250,000 if he plays in at least 50 percent of the snaps in 2018. He will earn another $250,000 if he plays in 60 percent. He will earn $250,000 if he has 1,000 total yards from scrimmage and another $250,000 if he has 1,200 total yards from scrimmage. James White has played in 46.6 percent of the snaps in the 2017 season and is on pace for 970 yards from scrimmage so none of his four incentives would be considered LTBE for the 2018 season.

Q: What is Eric Rowe's snap percentage?
A: Background: The Patriots traded a 4th round pick to the Eagles in exchange for Eric Rowe. The pick will be upgraded to a 3rd round pick if Eric Rowe plays in at least 50 percent of the snaps in 2017. After eight games Rowe has played in 16.9 percent of the Patriots defensive snaps and will have to average 83.3 percent of the snaps the rest of the year. The highest percentage that Rowe has played in a game this season has been 52.9 percent.

Q: How else can playing-time affect the Patriots cap?
A: Please review my piece on the Proven Pay Escalator.

Prior Editions:
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
Week 5
Week 6
Week 7

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