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Nic's Franchise Fixer-Upper Part 2: Franchise Health
By Nic St. Marie
Special to gzl-football.com

The first one of these went pretty well. This concept should take less hemming & hawing to get through. No promises, I can be long-winded sometimes when I get into the details.

In part one we made a postition by position evaluation of just how good these losers are. I probably should have mentioned, pop those attributes into "Fit the System" to see just how special your snowflake is. Sometimes you love your 4th round, 83 SPD DE too much.

Definition
Franchise Health: Do I have too many Old, Inexperienced, Expensive, or Imminent FA players on my team?

The Evaluation: Franchise Health
At this point you already know whether you are good at running, passing defensing against either, and special teams. But are you likely to continue being good at those things if all of your CB's or WRs just regressed, or became free agents and want that check?

No! You most certainly are about to suck more than you did before...and actually, are about to suck for years at something you are used to being quite good at.

Age
Once again, you go position by position, paying attention to groupings and how they affect your main five "functions." Usually more important than pure age is often years played. If a player is of normal age, their first regression is their 9th or 10th year for most positions. 7th for HBs Asleepf I remember correctly), 8th for FBs, and...OLD for kickers and punters. But, at age 33 for most positions they begin to regress even if they are YP4 or 5. If I knew where the chart was posted, I would link it [url]right here[/url].

If I notice aging, like two CBs that are YP7 or YP8, I may want to prioritize getting a #3 CB that can grow into being a starter. If you look more than one season out you can look for opportunities to pay below market price be simply being patient and selective, or looking for a FA that is a prospect. I try to never overlook guys who can be a good starter but will never be great. Attributes combinations like...wait. I'm getting ahead of article number 3. Moving on.

Salary
A team has 45-55 players during the regular season. Every player still under contract for the next season will see two changes.

Higher salary
Lower penalty for cuts or trades

But the first thing to do is look at your cap space. You want to have somewhere between 1.5M-3M per draft pick available to sign those guys. If you are like me and often have 8-10 man classes, that's a 10-14M committment.

Then, you want enough money to sign your RFAs. Both to the tender and long term restructure that you have a right to. 1-5 million in most cases, but can be more if you have a lot of great 3rd-5th round picks on your roster. That's a rare event but worth celebrating and clearing cap space for.

Then, signing your exclusive re-sign and keeping a player off of the market is almost always a mandatory move for your squad's health.

Then you want enough salary to match any FAs that don't get offers in the FA match period, enough to match a key FA that gets a high offer...or even enough money to make an unmatchable offer of your own. Winning the FA lottery can be expensive, but can also net you several key backups, role players, starters, or a star or two even. You can't play if you can't spend.

Finally, when some of the phases of the offseason are over and you have to fill out the back end of the roster, will you have enough money to do it?

Contract Length
Do I have 10 stars expiring in two seasons? I should make it a goal of mine to put some of them on the trade block, look to get younger, older, draft picks...Losing players for nothing but money in free agency can be one of the most demoralizing for a GM. Having a player under your control is the best place for a GM to be.

Pay attention to how many expired contracts are RFAs...otherwise it is easy to freak out that 9 players are expiring in two seasons, only two realize 5 of them were rookie the past season (will be RFAs in two offseasons), two will be regressing by then, and only two need to be kept. One can be restructured next season, and one given an exclusive FA contract the following season. No need to freak out.

GM Resources
This is a code-word for draft picks. If you haven't noticed by now, this is a look at the resources a GM controls. Age, contract status, salary. After looking at those things and the talent on the squadron, your list of upcoming actions is getting rather large.

"In the next two seasons I need to replace a quarter of my roster! That's 13 players! How can we improve when we are always replacing?"

Not all of those will be starters, but draft picks are the best way to plug a hole on the roster for 10 years, assuming you figure out how to keep them signed for a 2nd and maybe 3rd contract without using your whole budget.

If you have players to sell off, work on stockpiling picks. One thing worth doing is storing undervalued future picks. If you can't get a 2nd for that HB this year, but you can get a future 2nd...realize that you'll be happier next year that you got that future 2.12 pick, than choosing to take 3.12 this year to get instant gratification.

Future picks can also help you get current picks or prospects, so don't think you failed if the only good offer is a future pick. Take it! All draft picks matter! You are the GM, you aren't a one-season leader.

If your salary is a problem, grab some late round picks. They make less money. You can either trade down a couple times, sell off some old guys for "the best pick I can get by tomorrow" or come up with your own way to get picks that some teams don't even sign anyway. It's not hard.

Summary
Paying attention to all of these things helps give you extra Franchise Health, more room to operate when you want to add talent. In the next article I'll be going over the phases of the offseason, and each of these resources matters during those phases as you focus on how to improve your on-field talent.

You may not feel like being this systematic is important. But I can't even count how many times I reevaluated one of these charateristics after making some moves and realized I could cut salary without losing talent, or that I could probably focus on finding a vet to plug a hole because I didn't have the high draft pick available to make a longer-term fix.

The earlier you have a realistic picture of all of the fixes you want to make, and the resources you have to make them, the sooner you make a realistic plan to heal even the secondary functions on your team when you notice that cheap deal from a team shedding an unneeded or expensive (to them) player that can help you out for a steal of a deal.

That's enough forshadowing. Hope you enjoyed part 2.
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