Nothing is better than Contracts and Salary in Fantasy Football. The intensity of building a fantasy football team, all while remaining under the salary cap is stressful and exhilarating. Before I get ahead of myself, let me take a step back.
Most of us play fantasy football in order to get closer to the action. Making decisions such as who to draft or who to start each week allows us to feel like general managers and coaches, even if it is for a fake game based on a real game.
In most cases, we begin in fantasy football leagues where each manager drafts a team at the start of the season. Afterward, players can be added/dropped and managers can create trades with one and other. For some people, the typical redraft leagues do not go far enough. Enter dynasty, where fantasy teams are kept intact from season to season. The add/drop and trade activity continues throughout the offseason, and not just during the NFL season.
However, that is still not enough, at least not for me. I wanted another element added. Since NFL teams sign players to contracts with specific during and compensation amounts, the next logical step in fantasy football is to include contracts. In contract leagues, managers have to assign dollar amounts and years to the players that they have on their teams.
Types of contract leagues
While the possibilities in contract leagues are enormous, there are two basic philosophies:
Mimicking the NFL
In fantasy football leagues that attempt to mimic the NFL, the idea is to get as close to being an actual NFL general manager as possible. Typically the salary cap is the same as the NFL and the player salaries are paid in increments of $500,000.
NFL mimic leagues have rookie drafts that function the same way as in regular dynasty leagues. However, each rookie pick slot has a predetermined salary value. For instance, a player selected 1.01 will have a slightly higher salary than the 1.02 who will have a slightly higher salary than 1.03… In the initial season, a random order can be assigned and the rookie draft can be done as a snake order (whoever has the 1.01 will also have the 2.12 [12 teams] and the manager with 1.12 will also have the 2.01). Beginning with the 2nd season, the rookie draft order will be the reverse order in the standings (just like in the NFL Draft each year). In that case, whoever has the 1.01 will also have the 2.01, 3.01… Of course, these picks can be traded, but the picks original owner will determine the order of picks.
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On top of rookie drafts, there is also the auction draft that is used to assign the remaining free agents on teams. Much like in the NFL, free agents in contract auctions will go to the highest bidder. A player is nominated and fantasy managers offer contracts to the players. It is also during the auction that the term amounts are given. In my experience, contract lengths that can be offered range from 1 to 4 years There are usually limits on the number of multi-year contracts that each team can give out each season, but that is to be determined by specific league rules.
The NFL mimic style also has features that are found in the real NFL. Franchise Tags and contract extensions are commonly found in these types of fantasy leagues. Websites will usually have their own algorithm to determine the monetary values of these contracts.
In some contract leagues, the idea is to stay as close to the real NFL as possible. However, some contract leagues are not concerned with remaining as rigid. In these leagues, the salary cap amount is left to the commissioner’s discretion. For instance, that allows contracts to have increments of $1, instead of $500K.
The other advantage is the freedom to decide how and when long terms contracts are placed on players. For instance, I just joined a new league where every player won in the auction or selected in the rookie draft is on a 1-year deal. After the 2019 NFL season, we will then decide which players to extend. We can either offer a player 1-year extension, for $10 more than they are making in 2019, or for 2 seasons at $16 more than their current salary. I like this because I can make choices next offseason (likely the spring) with regards to the long term futures of my team, instead of having to decide right now.
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Free Agent Auction
I like the idea of auction drafts, as each manager can get any player they want. All they have to do is be the highest bidder. Of course, with the inclusion of a salary cap, there are decisions to be made. How much is too much for one player? Which players are you willing to make the highest paid on your team? How many minimum salary players do you want on your team? These are all questions where there is no one answer. That’s what makes it so fun, each manager can create their team in their own unique way.
This type of dynamic drafting has far-reaching consequences. I have done redraft auction drafts. While the idea of being able to get any player is still present, what I dislike about redraft auction is that the moment the draft is done those auction values disappear. What I want is for those auction values to have an impact throughout the season. With contract leagues, those salaries remain with a player throughout the entirety of his contract.
In my fantasy football lifetime, I have never had more fun than during a contract and salary auction. That alone, made the jump to this format worth it.
In redraft, there is only one aspect to trade for: production. There are usually two types of trades that you will find in redraft leagues. The first is trading for need. One common trade archetype is for two managers with two different team needs will come together. For instance team, A trades an RB for a WR from team B. Both teams were interested in making this trade because A was thin at WR and B needed an RB. The second common trade archetype is packaging multiple players for one superstar. This works when one team has depth issues but has an amazing player while the other team needs that extra push to get over the top. Outside of these two instances, trades can be difficult in redraft.
Dynasty adds another element to trade for, rookie picks. A team that is loosing with an older corps of players can trade some of them away to title contenders for drafts picks in order to build for the future. This is something we see in real sports all the time, not just the NFL.
Redraft has only one trading element, production. Dynasty has two, production and picks. Contract and salary leagues add another trading aspect: salary. In contract leagues, some trades can be made where a manager gives up a productive yet expensive asset in order to free up cap space. With this third trading element, it increases the possibility of trade activity.
Where to play
Not every fantasy football site enables the contract and salary format. While a commissioner can always create and track contract amounts on the side, that is a lot of work. Instead, leagues can be hosted on several sites, where contract values and terms are tracked automatically. For those looking for the NFL mimic style of league, Reality Sports Online is the format for you. If you prefer to customize the framework of the league, MFL allows for numerous options.
Thank you for reading. I hope I have encouraged you to look into contract and salary fantasy football leagues. For more great sports analysis, be sure to check out all of the content available on Full Press Coverage. If you want more detailed articles about contract and salary cap strategy, hit me on either of the Twitter accounts below.