When free agency begins every year, it is an absolute feeding frenzy. It’s like a game of dodge ball where players stand holding the wall until the whistle is blown. At that point, every player races to the center to try to grab a dodge ball before they all get taken. Inevitably some will get a ball, and others will not.
This analogy breaks down because not every player acquisition is a win. With a few exceptions, the largest contracts doled out on Day 1 of free agency are oftentimes the salary cap issues for teams in the following year. Teams get panicked about whether they are going to miss on a talented player, and they overpay or get into a terribly structured deal.
I have endeavored to grade each of the Titans moves this offseason. If you are confused over how the salary cap works, how ‘dead money’ is figured up, or what in the world a ‘cap number’ is, I encourage you to go back and read my Salary Cap Primer.
The Titans have signed Dexter McCluster, formerly of the Kansas City Chiefs. Now that the details have been made official, it’s time to look at this signing under the microscope.
McCluster is an odd player. He has long been talked about as “Wes-Welker-like” and a “Darren-Sproles-type-player”. Multiple coaches and offensive coordinators have been excited to work with him in his short career with Kansas City. The results have been lackluster to say the least.
The Titans came out of the gate with McCluster as a target on Tuesday, and they snatched him up on a 3-year deal worth up to $12 million (Adam Schefter, ESPN).
They intend to utilize him in a variety of ways. He can be dangerous in the slot as a WR, lined up in the backfield, or returning kicks and punts on special teams.
The 2014 Outlook:
Year 1 is going to be crucial for McCluster’s career as a Titan. New head coach Ken Whisenhunt is considered by many to be a great offensive mind. We will find out in 2014 if he can unlock the hidden potential that has been talked about for so long.
For the first year of his deal, McCluster gets a base salary of $1 million and his signing bonus of $3 million. He also gets another bonus in the amount of $50,000. This makes his cap number for 2014 come out to a very reasonable $2,050,000.
2015 and Beyond:
In 2015, McCluster’s cap number will jump to $3.35 million, and 2016 will be $3.65 million. If he proves to be a worthwhile addition, those numbers are very reasonable.
If he proves to have been a mistake, the Titans could cut McCluster in 2015 creating only $2 million in dead money or 2016 creating only $1 million in dead money. These figures would not break the bank should the Titans have to make this move.
If McCluster can bring to the Titans anything close to what Danny Woodhead did to the San Diego Chargers last year, this signing could be special. McCluster is not a name that was being talked about a great deal coming into free agency, but he looks like a great fit for Whisenhunt’s system.
Overthecap.com has him listed as No. 46 on wide receiver cap hits for 2014. This is a very affordable cap number considering the role that he could play in 2014 and beyond.
The Titans are not locked into a deal with terrible long-term implications. If McCluster doesn’t bring to the table what was expected, they can get out of his contract rather cheaply. As far his contract goes, it is not over-priced, and it is not structured in a way that ties the Titans’ hands.
I give this one a 9/10 grade. I tip my cap to Ruston Webster for another quality signing at great value.
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***Source – overthecap.com