### Looking at the Young Quarterback in the NFL

With all the recent talk about the young QB’s in the NFL I wanted to take a look using my incremental yards matrix as to how they are performing in 2013. For those unfamiliar with these numbers that I use the way it works is that using data supplied by Pro Football Focus relating to length of passes we can determine how many yards an average QB would pass for on a similar set of throws. By comparing the two we can determine just how many yards the QB actually contributed to the team. The average YPA is as follows:

Behind the Line- 5.8 yards

0 to 9 yards- 6.2 yards

10 to 19 yards- 9.5 yards

20+ yards- 11.7 yards

In addition we can calculate the expected interceptions and use that to calculate yards allowed/prevented by maintaining possession of the ball. A turnover should lead to an average of 30.8 yards being gained by the opposition. So for every interception above the expectation we consider the player to have contributed a negative 30.8 yards to the team. In the past I have considered rushing yards, but I tend to think long term that is unsustainable and we have seen major cutbacks in those numbers this year for a number of “running” QB’s.

What I found most interesting in the results is that for all the talk about how great the young QB’s in the NFL are only two players truly stand out- Nick Foles and Russell Wilson. While I have not run the numbers for the entire NFL these totals should be right at the top of the NFL. In Foles’ case it’s exceptionally impressive since he does not have as many snaps as other players. Both players are improved over last season when Foles was at -85 pass yards and Wilson at 285 pass yards. After two years of numbers like this I think Wilson has cemented himself as the real deal and should be paid accordingly after the 2014 season. Foles I think we all want to see a full year of work, but its certainly a good start.

Cam Newton is getting more love this year because his team is winning but statistically he’s worse this season. Last year he was at 388 passing yards and this year is down to 125 with 6 games to go. His turnover rates are higher as well. Cam can be extended after this season but the Panthers salary cap situation may prevent that. In many ways that might be a good thing because he has draft cache and name value which can sometimes lead to bloated contracts.  I’m not sure if you want to consider elite dollars to him yet or not. RGIII is not as bad as people are making him out to be but he is a shell compared to last season when he was close to 400 yards. His turnovers are also way up and I wonder if some of the regression is his inability to run this year.

Andrew Luck has also been overvalued the last two season, though this represents an improvement over last year where he finished with -272 passing yards. Luck is still young but right now I could see a bit of Eli Manning in there in that he gets passes for being a number 1 pick, wins games, and has late game rallys. He is not the same style player as Manning but I could see the perception being bigger than reality. He has cut down on turnovers. At this stage it’s ridiculous to compare him to Wilson, who is just a superior player.

Colin Kaepernick has crashed. He was incredibly productive last year and this year just is not. San Francisco has to think long and hard before extending him in the offseason. I doubt they offer him more than \$15 million a season.  Andy Dalton is a turnover machine and if not for that would be a slightly above average player. He’s certainly helped by his WR corps. but the turnovers are terrible.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of all was how low Ryan Tannehill ranked. Why did he rank so poorly?  Basically anything he throws 10 yards or more down the field leads to nothing. Pin some of that blame on the Mike Wallace failure, but the bottom line is Tannehill only completes 50.5% of his passes between 10 and 19 yards and just 26.5% of his deep throws. His team calls far too many intermediate passes for his skillset right now and that hurts. 31% of his passes are travelling between 10 and 19 yards. The next closest from this group is Newton who threw about 28% of his passes in that range. Newton completes 64%. I tend to think if they had him shorten the field his numbers would improve.

Of the guys getting their first chances this year we see two camps. Neither Mike Glennon or EJ Manuel are having success passing the ball but both are at least doing something positive by limiting interceptions. This is in direct contract to Terrelle Pryor and Geno Smith who are producing average pass numbers but horrific turnover numbers. Smith’s -256 yards is nearly double the next worst player. The only players worse than him lass season were Matt Cassel (-309 TO yards) and Mark Sanchez (-332 TO yards). He is on pace to shatter those numbers. Why does his passing rank as high as it does?  He completes 46.5% of his bombs. He is below average on every other throw. If that balances out his final numbers could be scary on the season.

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### How Freeman’s Benching Impacts Him and the Team Moving Forward

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have benched starting QB Josh Freeman in favor of rookie Mike Glennon following a terrible 0-3 start and poor QB play. Based on reading tweets during Sunday’s game against New England it seemed as if the Buccaneers were prepared to make the switch in the second half as multiple people reported Glennon warming up on the sidelines. Whether they thought better of it or wanted to give Freeman one more chance to save his job, most likely the decision was made at that point.

For Freeman this is a crushing blow. Freeman was set to enter free agency after this season and was hoping to get a big money contract. Barring a trade this move will likely destroy his value in free agency. Freeman has been up and down his entire career since being drafted in the first round of the 2009 NFL draft and the lasting memories will be the bad start before being benched in favor of a mid round draft pick after just three games.

Free agency has not really been very kind to players who failed to finish out a season as a starter and were subsequently signed to new deals. On one end of the spectrum were question mark players such as David Carr of the Texans and Mark Sanchez of the Jets who were able to parlay shaky starts of their careers into more job security. But the list of other names which includes first rounders such as Matt Leinart, Joey Harrington, Byron Leftwich, Rex Grossman and Jason Campbell is extensive and the contract propositions were not strong.

For example Leinart signed a 1 year contract with the Texans worth \$1 million after being released by the Cardinals. Harrington would be traded to the Dolphins where he would sign an extension worth just \$2.87 million per season. Grossman signed a one year contract with Chicago for \$3 million while Leftwich received a two year \$3 million per year deal from the Falcons. In contrast the Texans were willing to execute a buyback that would guarantee Carr an additional \$8 million while the Jets guaranteed Sanchez over \$19 million in his extension.

Freeman is going to need to get back on the field to increase his earning potential. He needs to have his name put back into the equation for teams considering a younger QB with some upside in his game. This is likely only going to happen via trade. Freeman should be able to find a team willing to take a chance on him as the relationship between he and Coach Greg Schiano was poor and Freeman’s coaching in general has been somewhat haphazard. Teams can at least look at this as a reasonable reclamation project.

Tampa Bay probably damaged what little trade value he had by benching him, but there has always been a premium paid for QB’s so it should not be far fetched to imagine a mid round pick being used to acquire him. Teams will not be scared off by his free agent status because they still have the franchise tag at their disposal plus they can always sign him to an extension if he plays well. The cost of such a trade will probably be determined by what the Bucs feel they could earn in a compensatory pick if he signs elsewhere as a free agent in 2014. Tampa most likely will not be as active in free agency due to their salary cap in 2014 so a compensatory pick is a realistic option. If they feel they will get a 5th rounder a team inquiring to trade for him will need to part with that pick.

Freemans cost at the moment in terms of cash and cap for a trade partner is \$6.94 million. Nine teams could currently afford to absorb that number on their books.  Of those nine the only one that would be interested would be the Jacksonville Jaguars. Another option, however, would be for the Buccanners to prepay some of Freeman’s salary to facilitate a trade. This would be reasonable if the situation in Tampa is so toxic that they have to move him. By eating \$5 million of his remaining money it could bring life to a trade with a team like the Minnesota Vikings.

For Tampa Bay this may be as much about salvaging this season as it is the future of the team. Getting a look at Glennon now gives Tampa insight into how the team responds to him. How he prepares dueing the week. How he accepts the responsibility of a starting job. I believe there is much more that can be evaluated with a rookie actually starting outside of just the on the field results, which many times are poor. If he fails to meet their internal expectations it gives Tampa the information that they would not have had by letting him ride the bench which could lead to different personnel decisions in 2014. Tampa could look to acquire a player in free agency or a high pick in the draft so knowing what they have is important. For example had the Raiders been able to get a look a Terrelle Pryor they probably never would have executed the trade for Matt Flynn. Tampa most likely wants to avoid those scenarios.