He may not be bigger then Ron Edwards, but trust me he's a beast.

The Kansas City Chiefs, Aubrayo Franklin, And The 90% Salary Floor

Well Chiefs fans, ever since the NFL lockout started I’ve felt a bit like Eeyore (that’s right, a Winnie the Pooh reference, deal with it) with the lockout playing the part of the rain cloud that follows me around raining on my parade and causing me to mope about. Well this week I think I saw a couple of rays of sunshine starting to peek through. The first being the well-publicized progress in the negotiations between the owners and players. Some reports have even stated that a deal is about 85% done. Now as soon as that report broke there were soon other reports that stated that the owners were arguing amongst themselves about the negotiations. So I think the best approach to the current talks is one of cautious optimism. However, that’s not even the ray of sunshine that really got my mind working.

This ray of sunshine came from Bob Gretz. Now I don’t want this to turn into a referendum on Gretz as a journalist. Some find his close connections to the Chiefs (especially during the Carl years) to provide good first hand insights. Others find him to be a little less credible (insert comments with phrases like “puppet” and “suck-up” here). Regardless, the subject matter of his Morning Cup O’Chiefs last Thursday wasn’t one that can be viewed as biased even by the strongest Gretz detractors. He brought up a subject that hasn’t received a lot of press during the CBA negotiations. It’s the subject of a raised salary floor. I’ll explain more and tell you what it has to do with Aubrayo Franklin and our beloved Chiefs after the break.

First off, I recommend you click on the Gretz link above and read his actual piece. The first half is just general lockout stuff, but the second half about the possible 90% salary floor is worth the read. Here’s a tidbit that gives you the main idea:

“Clark Hunt has been part of almost every negotiating session between the parties, whether they were secret or not. It will be interesting once this is all over to find out what his contributions were to the process. He’s easily the youngest man in the room on the league side.
It will also be interesting to get his personal view of one element that the owners apparently have offered the players – that’s a hard floor on the minimum amount of money that must be spent each year under the salary cap by each team.
In their proposal to the players on March 11 before the lockout began, the league offered a 90 percent minimum in money that would have to be paid out in cash each year.”

So here’s how it would work. Whatever number they end up setting the 2011 salary cap at, all teams would be required to spend at least 90% of that cap number. Now prior to the lockout the 2009 salary cap had been increasing by about 7 million each season. That would have put the cap in 2010 (if there had been one) at about 130 million dollars. If the 90% rule had been in effect then all NFL teams would have had to spend at least 117 million dollars. Gretz reports that the Chiefs cap number last season was about 83.6 million (which is higher then what I found online previously, but I trust his sources more than my Google searches). So if this rule was in place the Chiefs would have had to spend 33.4 million dollars more on their team payroll. That is a sizeable chunk of change.

Now, there’s no way we can predict what the final numbers will be for the upcoming season. Gretz uses a cap figure of 140 million dollars. I don’t think that’s going to be a realistic number. The owners are saying that the amount they were paying the players pre-lockout was too much. Even if you continue the 7 million dollar increase each season, that would put the 2011 cap at 137 million. Just for fun, a 137 million cap would put the 90% floor at 123.3 million. That would mean the Chiefs would have to increase spending next year by 39.7 million dollars. However, the owners aren’t going to agree to keep the same cap number AND increase the salary floor. The increased salary floor is a tool they are using to negotiate lowering the cap number. The general idea being that if you drop the top number, but raise the lower one, the total amount spent on player salaries league wide won’t be changed as much.

I think a safer test number might be a 115 million dollar cap. This would be 8 million dollars less than the last salary cap in 2009 (123 million), but well below the projected number of 137 million using the old rate of increase. So with a 115 million dollar cap a 90% percent floor would be about 103.5 million dollars. So in that scenario the Chiefs would have to increase spending by 20 million dollars in 2011.

Regardless of whether you are pro-player or pro-owner, if you are looking at things as a Chiefs fan and your choice is a 137 million dollar cap with a low salary floor or a 115 million dollar cap with the 90% floor in place, the latter is better for the Chiefs in 2011. A lower cap but higher spending floor would mean that teams with high payrolls would have to cut players they may not have otherwise while the Chiefs would be forced to go out and spend.

Obviously, step one would be to resign Tamba Hali. I think this will happen regardless of the final CBA numbers. If there is a 90% salary floor, I would say the odds of Tamba being resigned go up to about 99.99%.

That brings me to Aubrayo Franklin.

Franklin is one of the best NTs in the NFL and is set to be a free agent when the lockout ends. Reports out of San Francisco are that the 49ers would like to bring him back, but probably won’t be able to afford it. Last season they used the franchise tag on him, but they did not do the same for next season before the lockout started. Franklin will turn 31 before the season begins and his age and high price tag would have made me think that the odds of him playing in red and gold next year were slim. However, if there is a 90% spending floor it changes those odds.

Traditionally, most NFL contracts increase in value with each passing year. That is why veterans are often cut late in their contract, because their play is declining while their salary is going up. However, it has been reported that the Chiefs front loaded Matt Cassel’s big contract so that a lot of the money was paid in the first few seasons. Some have said this was done to make it affordable to cut him after a couple seasons if he played poorly. Others said it was so that they could afford to resign other key players who would be possible free agents later in his contract. Regardless, the Chiefs could easily do something similar with a FA like Franklin. Offer him more money than anyone else with a big chunk of it coming in the first two seasons. That would help the Chiefs meet the salary floor and make Franklin affordable to cut if his play dropped off as most do in their mid-thirties.

With the addition of another big time WR in Jonathan Baldwin on offense, another pass rusher in Justin Houston on defense, we are getting closer to being one of the “Big Dogs” in the NFL. Resigning Tamba Hali and bringing in a pro bowl caliber NT like Aubrayo Franklin would be very positive steps in that direction. I for one will be watching the fine print of the new CBA deal (which is hopefully coming sooner rather than later) to see if there is in fact a raised salary floor in the deal, because this Addict thinks that it could just mean that my dreams are about to come true.

As always, thanks for reading and GO CHIEFS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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