Looking At the 2014 CB Market & How QBs Might Be Playing a Role In Its Saturation

The Denver Broncos broke the all-time scoring record this past Sunday on the same day Peyton Manning broke the single-season yardage record. The fact that both previous marks were set in the past six years embodies the NFLs ongoing evolution towards a passing league.

It’s often said that with all of today’s offensive-friendly rules in place the cornerback position is as tough as any to play, and the existence of so few true “shut-down” corners provides evidence for this.

Last offseason, free agent CBs did not at all do well on the open market.  This time around, I count 52 unrestricted free agents that were rostered at some point during this past season (I omitted Brandon Browner, a UFA who will likely be suspended for the 2014 season).

Of these 52 free agents, a whopping 32 of them were also free agents last year; guys who were unable to (or chose not to, in some cases) secure more than 1-year deals on the 2013 open market.

2013 FREE AGENT CB CONTRACTS

PLAYER

2013 TEAM

AGE ON OPENING DAY 20142013 PFF CB RANKING
Brent GrimesMIA312
Captain MunnerlynCAR269
Aqib TalibNE2858
Dominique Rodgers-CromartieDEN285
Alterraun VernerTEN2512
Walter ThurmondSEA2731
Charles TillmanCHI3389
Tim JenningsCHI3054
Drayton FlorenceCAR3320
Sam ShieldsGB2650

Looking at the top CB free agents from last offseason, no one player received over $10.5 million in guaranteed money. While there were certainly no superstar CBs available last year, the free agent market was tenuous all over; few players hit it big in free agency anywhere, regardless of position.

The reason for this? A lot of this actually has to do with the franchise quarterback.

NFL SALARY CAP BY YEAR

YEARMAXIMUM SALARY CAP
2014$126.3 (projected)
2013$123 million
2012$120.6 million
2011$120 million
2010UNCAPPED
2009$128 million
2008$116 million
2007$109 million
2006$102 million
2005$85.5 million
2004$80.582 million

From 2004-2009, the salary cap rose from $80.582 million-$128 million, a staggering 58.8% increase over that span. Since 2009, the cap has essentially remained stagnant.

Yet despite this stagnant salary cap, the price of a franchise quarterback continues to rise. It’s no coincidence the 6 year/$120,600,000 that Joe Flacco fetched from the Ravens after last year’s Super Bowl was just slightly more in average annual value than the 5 year/$100,000,000 million deal that Drew Brees—the NFLs previously highest paid QB—signed the year before. And shortly after the Flacco deal, Aaron Rodgers signed a 5 year/$110 million extension—an annual average of $22 million

As these quarterbacks continue to show, they hold the negotiating power over their teams, as they should.  Had the Saints let Brees go or the Ravens let Flacco go, neither player would have had a problem securing huge sums of money from another team in free agency.

$20 million of $123 million is over 16%. Because of this truth, many teams are having trouble giving large amounts of guaranteed money to players at other positions.  And while teams who don’t have a QB on the books for close to $20 million may be able to afford to shell out more money for these other positions, teams like the Raiders, Jaguars and Browns now have fewer competitors in these non-QB markets—which they of course know.

2014 NOTABLE FREE AGENT CORNERBACKS

PLAYER

2013 TEAM

AGE ON OPENING DAY 20142013 PFF CB RANKING
Brent GrimesMIA312
Captain MunnerlynCAR269
Aqib TalibNE2858
Dominique Rodgers-CromartieDEN285
Alterraun VernerTEN2512
Walter ThurmondSEA2731
Charles TillmanCHI3389
Tim JenningsCHI3054
Drayton FlorenceCAR3320
Sam ShieldsGB2650

 

So back to the CB market. An improved 2014 free agent talent pool as well as what should be a slightly higher 2014 salary cap should lead to an offseason market that’s a bit more player-friendly. 2013 free agents Talib, Rodgers-Cromartie and Grimes all signed 1 year “band-aid” deals this past offseason, and it’s likely that they’ll each get multi-year pacts this time around. However, until there becomes a significant increase in teams’ spending money, I don’t foresee any of these CBs truly hitting it big this winter.

 

Andrew Cohen
@ajcohen03
ajcohen3@gmail.com
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  • TheeLidman

    It’s very likely Darelle Revis will be on this list before the FA period begins. New GM/HC have no attachment to that deal, and as great as ’24’ is, that price tag is overpriced.

    • Michael Goetze

      That only makes sense if you have something better to spend the cap $$ on. Their starting QB next season might well have a cap hit of only $705k so there is plenty of room. And I don’t think they have a lot of gaping holes, a few mid-tier free agents and better coaching and they’ll be good to go. The structure of the Revis deal made a lot of sense for the Bucs and I would expect them to keep him for at least one more year.

      • TheeLidman

        This team just went 4-12. They have issues on the offensive line, Mike Williams and McCoy will need to be extended and they are roughly 10mm under the cap for next year, and they’ll have to sign their own draft picks. I’m a huge Revis fan, but the fact of the matter if Tampa keeps him, at that price, he’ll be making a minimum of 25-30% more than anyone else playing that position. That’s bad business. Today, TB hired Lovie Smith. Smith is a good coach, but his base defense is a 4-3, ‘Tampa 2′ defense. In any scheme, having great players is key. However, if you bring in a Revis, and you pay him more than any defensive player in the league, next year, you don’t play predominantly zone defense. Maybe Smith changes philosophy, but it’s highly doubtful. Second, this team doesn’t have a GM. When that guy is hired, why would he stick himself with that contract for even 1 year. The new GM and Smith didn’t make this trade. Maybe, just maybe, a new GM will come in and he and Lovie will want to may a play for Cutler, and figure that using that much cap space is better off spent on a QB.

        • Michael Goetze

          The point about the scheme is a good one (and not clear at the time of my original posting). Anyway, the nice thing about the Revis deal is, you can make a play for Cutler or similar, and if it works you can cut Revis immediately to get back under the cap, but you can hang on to him while making your play and keep him if it doesn’t work out.

          • TheeLidman

            Another reason to cut/try to reneg with him (which won’t work) is this : http://goo.gl/9HDCOQ
            If Revis stays, than Tampa gives up a top 10 3rd rounder to the NYJ. If they cut him, it’s a 4th rounder. I just don’t see anyway they don’t cut him. I’m a Jet fan. I hope Revis sees the landscape, for CBs, and realizes he’s made a bunch of $ already, and the coach who allows him to play his best is Rex, and he comes back here. Yes, I’m a NYJ fan.

    • Andrew Cohen

      Would have to agree with Michael here. While I don’t see him playing out the entirety of the deal, I’d be shocked to see Revis let go after just one year. He showed this past year he’s still a master at his craft, and ownership has a large say in these matters (after all, they’re the ones paying the money).

      • TheeLidman

        You both may be right. My only point is this new regime didn’t agree to this deal. They also didn’t draft Glennon, so who knows what they will want to do with the QB position. Again, I love Revis and have no issue with him trying to get the most he can. However, when compared to other top CBs, his salary is an outlier. It’s even worse if you realize that he’s not likely to be utilized, in a Lovie Smith/Marinelli defense, in a way that allows his unique skills, skills TB is paying top dollar for.
        We’ll see….

        • http://www.nyjetscap.com/ Jason Fitzgerald

          If the Bucs dont make a big turnaround this year Id expect Revis’ name to be hot in October for trades unless they prorate his offseason money to appease Revis which would be insane on their end.

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