Ketchman: Salary Cap Situation For New GM

What is Detroit's salary cap situation post-Millen? Capologist George Ketchman breaks it down.

George Ketchman serves as's salary cap guru. He breaks down Detroit's roster moves, including individual player contract breakdowns, in his personal forum. Go now.

Now that Matt Millen has been fired, the search begins for the next General Manager. There will need to be a lot of tough decisions that will need to be made in the offseason. The roster will need to be broke down and analyzed to see what players are worth keeping, what players have trade value and what players just need to be let go.

When Millen took over the team back in 2001, the team had Salary Cap problems and through his entire tenure, the team has struggled with managing the Salary Cap. Fortunately for the new GM, the Salary Cap implications for the upcoming years are reasonable, as Millen had cleaned up the salary cap problems over the last couple of years.

According to my records, the Lions have committed about $93M toward the 2009 Salary Cap and the league Cap should be somewhere around $120M. With $27M of cap space, there is plenty of room for the incoming GM to make roster moves. The only question is if there is enough talent available in Free Agency to use that Salary Cap Space.

After taking a look at the current roster, the first decision is going to have to be the head coach. Does he want to keep Rod Marinelli or not? Does he want to go with another coach that is familiar with the groundwork that has been laid by Marinelli or does he want to start fresh with a new coach? Starting fresh with a new coach and a new philosophy is going to require a more in-depth and detailed dismantling of the roster and its subsequent rebuilding. Most GM's want to pick a coach that fits their football philosophies and beliefs, and in the long run it may be better to start fresh than to build on what Millen and Marinelli have done over the past three years.

Once the coach is in place, the next decision and probably one of the most important decision is what to do with Roy Williams. Roy has the option to void the final year of his contract and since he's due only a salary of less than $1M and it isn't guaranteed, he will most definitely void it. After he voids his contract, the new GM will need to decide if he wants to keep him or if he wants to trade Roy. He can keep him by negotiating a new contract or if he can't get a new deal done before the start of the league year, he'll need to slap the franchise tag on him. The franchise tag is a tool within the Collective Bargaining Agreement that allows a team to not lose one of it's more talented players.

At the beginning of the league year (Beginning of March), each team can elect to place the franchise tag on one player and by so doing agrees to pay that player a one year salary of the average of the top five prior years salaries of the players at his positions. In Roy's case, the average of the top five WR salaries should be $9M-$10M. The new GM will probably place the franchise tag on Roy unless a new contract is agreed to before the start of the league year. After that is done, the rights to Roy can still be traded to another team if so desired or the new GM can keep him on the roster for the year and pay the $9-$10M franchise tag price.

Before the league year begins, the GM is also going to have to decide who he wants to keep and who he wants to trade, release or waive. As he begins the process, he'll will look at is the current year compensation due to a player, the number of years that remain on that players contract, the average due per year over that time frame and compare it to his production on the field and the cost of replacing that player on the roster.

Summary of Contracts
Click here for a summary of the future costs of Detroit Lions under contract in 2009 and beyond.

After the decision is made on the players currently under contract, the new GM will have to decide on which players that they have rights to that they'd like to keep.

Entering the 2009 season, based on the current roster, the Lions will have no Restricted Free Agents (3 accrued seasons) and only three Exclusive Rights Free Agents (2 or fewer accrued seasons) in Brandon Middleton ($460,000), Ramzee Robinson ($470,000) and Shemiah LeGrande ($385,000). If they want to keep those players, they will have to agree to one year contract for the league minimum.

The next step will be looking at the current year players that have contracts that expire after the current season and are scheduled to become Unrestricted Free Agents (UFA's) entering the 2009 season. The Lions have no rights to these players and UFA's are not obligated to re-sign with the Lions, it's their choice. Jason Hanson, Rudi Johnson, Paris Lenon, Corey Smith, John Owens, Damion Cook, Gilbert Gardner, Shaun McDonald, Shaun Cody, Dan Orlovsky, George Foster, Stanley Wilson, Langston Moore and Stephen Peterman will be unrestricted free-agents.

The next step will be scouting and analyzing the players that are scheduled to become UFA's from other teams and start preparing the draft board for the upcoming college draft. The inevitable rebuilding of the Lions will be in full force as we enter the 2009 season. It's going to get worse before it gets better, but hopefully this time, William Clay Ford will get the right man for the job.

As they move forward, they won't be completely hampered by the Salary Cap.

George Ketchman serves as's salary cap guru. He breaks down Detroit's roster moves, including individual player contract breakdowns, in his personal forum. Go now.

Lions Report Top Stories