Looking at Value Above Replacement Level Talent

With all the talk of MVP candidates, valuable and non-valuable positions, where to go cheap and where to go expensive I thought I could use our valuation models to take a look at just where teams are deriving the most value over what would be a “replacement level” player. You can read about our valuations here but in general they are based on participation, statistical achievements and PFF grades and the market value in which the player plays.

So how did I define a replacement level talent as that can be tricky. I’m a contract guy so I went into the pool of players to try to best identify the kind of players, who actually participate, that are actually available. What is available talent?  Available talent in my mind is anyone who signed as an undrafted free agent, anyone who was available as a street free agent who signed for no more than the league minimum plus a minor bonus, and any unrestricted free agent who signed a contract that qualified for the minimum salary benefit. Why these players?  Because they are the only players who were freely available to the entire league.  Here is the breakdown of all players that fit that criteria who are on pace to play at least 75 snaps this year.

Position Players Total OTC Value Snaps Value/Snap Value/Player
Quarterback 8 $22,424,000 1,175 $19,084 $2,803,000
Right Tackle 4 $9,525,000 653 $14,587 $2,381,250
Running Back 28 $39,609,000 3,078 $12,868 $1,414,607
Left Tackle 9 $26,743,000 2,402 $11,134 $2,971,444
Guard 15 $36,045,000 3,879 $9,292 $2,403,000
Cornerback 39 $65,947,000 7,622 $8,652 $1,690,949
Tight End 23 $30,680,000 3,812 $8,048 $1,333,913
Edge 19 $24,378,000 3,053 $7,985 $1,283,053
Wide Receiver 48 $47,481,000 6,695 $7,092 $989,188
Linebacker 27 $37,760,000 5,483 $6,887 $1,398,519
Safety 15 $15,619,000 2,389 $6,538 $1,041,267
Int. D-Line 40 $38,996,000 6,042 $6,454 $974,900

While we are dealing with a small sample especially for many positions (in particular right tackle as well as quarterback and left tackle) this at least gives us an idea of what is truly available to NFL teams that is the alternative to simply letting a player walk in free agency and replacing him with the cheapest options available. Of course even hitting a replacement level requires some skill as there are dozens of players who make it that don’t play many, if any, snaps in a given year.

To calculate value above replacement I looked at the current OTC Value for each player and calculated what the value for the average 2019 replacement level player would be if the replacement player played the same amount of snaps as the “name” player. Here is the top ranked player at each position:

Position Player Value Above Replacement
Quarterback Lamar Jackson $19,154,436
Edge TJ Watt $17,063,498
Wide Receiver Mike Evans $15,746,498
Int. D-Line Aaron Donald $13,351,399
Cornerback Marcus Peters $9,925,903
Linebacker Kyle Van Noy $9,586,608
Left Tackle Ronnie Stanley $8,935,411
Safety Marcus Williams $9,138,263
Running Back Christian McCaffery $8,841,316
Guard Brandon Brooks $7,146,824
Tight End Travis Kelce $5,912,556
Right Tackle Ryan Ramczyk $3,389,942

Looking further I wanted to break down the groupings into players that provide the most percentage of value above replacement just to get an idea of what positions are the ones where perhaps the top end talent makes the most different. I was actually surprised, but perhaps should not have been, that among players with 150 snaps on the year it’s the edge rushers, receivers, and interior defensive linemen that dominate the lists. Top players here would be Nick Bosa, Amari Cooper, and Donald. This should have been apparent to me since those positions are often so draft heavy and there is usually a big gap in athleticism between those draft picks and the UDFA types but for whatever reason I was just assuming it would be QB. QB does jump to the top if we consider the amount of players that provide at least 25% value per snap.

Here is the breakdown of each position for players with at least 150 snaps on the year and the amount who provide at least 50% value above  and 25% value above a replacement player.

Position Players 50% VAR  25% VAR
Quarterback 36 27.8% 69.4%
Int. D-Line 111 39.6% 62.2%
Tight End 72 19.4% 61.1%
Wide Receiver 127 39.4% 59.1%
Edge 110 39.1% 58.2%
Linebacker 92 21.7% 43.5%
Safety 88 22.7% 39.8%
Left Tackle 41 12.2% 36.6%
Running Back 62 9.7% 30.6%
Cornerback 163 11.7% 27.0%
Guard 78 2.6% 19.2%
Right Tackle 37 0.0% 5.4%

Finally I looked at every player who has played at least 10 snaps this year to determine the total level of players who perform under the replacement level.

Position Players Neg. VAR
Quarterback 55 25.5%
Tight End 110 26.4%
Edge 148 35.1%
Safety 129 35.7%
Linebacker 150 37.3%
Left Tackle 59 40.7%
Wide Receiver 192 47.4%
Int. D-Line 170 50.6%
Guard 97 51.5%
Cornerback 222 55.9%
Running Back 119 60.5%
Right Tackle 49 65.3%

Again since that right tackle sample is so small I’d throw out that number entirely and while all of these really require a few years of data that one in particular I think needs far more as it doesn’t really pass the smell test.  The others are not surprising. There are a large number of replaceable running backs and that’s been something most have argued for some time. Cornerback may surprise some but probably should not. Teams have to employ a lot of secondary players many of whom carry more special teams value than value as a corner. While they are in on some defensive plays that is not their primary role. Guard is a position I would like to look at more. My feeling I’ve had on guard is that teams have overvalued the position in recent years. This happened back in the late 2000’s before teams realized that there really wasn’t much of a thing as high end play and that it’s more interchangeable. As salaries rise I wonder if that happens again.

Overall I think an early takeways are that quarterback, edge rusher, wide receiver, and interior defensive line are the positions you should aim to keep each year and mainly look in the draft for cheaper talent because the market isn’t there to find viable alternatives. Safety, tight end and linebacker are also positions to likely keep in house but there is limited reason to buy a high end player if there are other options open to the team in free agency. Left tackle is probably in the same category. I think at corner there is logic to having a top talent whether through the draft or free agency but from a depth perspective there is talent available and teams should be wary of overpaying. Guard, running back and perhaps right tackle are the spots where teams can probably think most of going cheap if an existing option becomes too expensive or they need to cut back somewhere to cover positions like receiver.

As I said above this is a pretty small sample but I think a fun topic to discuss and a different way to look at things and maybe better assess the way teams build their lineups. None of this means that it’s a given you can just drop a guy and find someone on the street better as well. Even though we are giving a baseline to replacement talent remember that the NFL signs hundreds of players off the street every year who don’t even make a team. There is also no guarantee that the replacement pool would play at the same level if they were given more responsibility the way many starters are. After the season is over I think Ill go back and retroactively look at 2016 through 2018 and see how the numbers change with a better sample of players to work with.

Here are the top 100 players on the season and as I do some more work on this after the season well probably add something along these lines to our premium OTC Valuation tool.

PLAYER Position OTC Positional Value Position VAR
Lamar Jackson QB $30,834,000 QB $19,154,436
Russell Wilson QB $32,070,000 QB $18,367,505
Dak Prescott QB $29,734,000 QB $17,691,835
Deshaun Watson QB $29,771,000 QB $17,461,655
T.J. Watt Edge $21,567,000 Edge $17,063,498
Mike Evans WR $20,009,000 WR $15,746,703
Michael Thomas WR $19,638,000 WR $15,531,727
Joey Bosa Edge $19,752,000 Edge $15,488,046
Chris Godwin WR $19,963,000 WR $15,431,206
Danielle Hunter Edge $19,799,000 Edge $15,207,664
Aaron Rodgers QB $27,867,000 QB $15,137,802
Tom Brady QB $27,264,000 QB $14,916,487
Myles Garrett Edge $18,539,000 Edge $14,546,534
Everson Griffen Edge $19,195,000 Edge $14,499,859
Brandon Graham Edge $17,854,000 Edge $14,324,660
Khalil Mack Edge $18,834,000 Edge $14,322,513
Matthew Stafford QB $24,933,000 QB $14,264,901
Za’Darius Smith Edge $18,449,000 Edge $14,089,227
J.J. Watt Edge $17,755,000 EDGE $13,906,262
Carson Wentz QB $25,933,000 QB $13,814,498
Amari Cooper WR $16,901,000 WR $13,503,928
Chandler Jones Edge $18,978,000 Edge $13,476,381
Aaron Donald IDL $16,927,000 IDL $13,351,399
Nick Bosa Edge $16,134,000 Edge $13,123,680
Shaquil Barrett Edge $17,298,000 Edge $12,922,257
Cameron Jordan Edge $16,868,000 Edge $12,723,820
Justin Houston Edge $15,338,000 Edge $11,912,464
Dante Fowler Jr. Edge $16,039,000 Edge $11,894,820
Kyler Murray QB $24,457,000 QB $11,708,717
Derek Carr QB $22,380,000 QB $11,559,227
Calais Campbell Edge $15,401,000 Edge $11,512,338
Tyler Lockett WR $16,130,000 WR $11,470,550
DeAndre Hopkins WR $15,906,000 WR $11,445,126
Cameron Heyward IDL $14,625,000 IDL $11,423,739
Kirk Cousins QB $24,134,000 QB $11,252,128
Julio Jones WR $14,529,000 WR $11,089,376
Von Miller Edge $15,349,000 Edge $11,045,121
Gardner Minshew QB $22,871,000 QB $11,019,677
Courtland Sutton WR $14,658,000 WR $10,828,315
Cooper Kupp WR $14,743,000 WR $10,750,199
Grady Jarrett IDL $13,673,000 IDL $10,549,189
Jameis Winston QB $23,331,000 QB $10,544,549
Patrick Mahomes QB $20,008,000 QB $10,542,209
Kenny Golladay WR $14,272,000 WR $10,307,567
Matt Ryan QB $20,642,000 QB $10,088,407
Marcus Peters CB $15,247,000 CB $9,925,903
Fletcher Cox IDL $12,695,000 IDL $9,887,443
D.J. Chark Jr. WR $13,336,000 WR $9,868,008
Philip Rivers QB $22,347,000 QB $9,865,897
Marvin Jones Jr. WR $13,826,000 WR $9,790,647
Kyle Van Noy LB $12,603,000 LB $9,586,608
John Brown WR $13,407,000 WR $9,527,671
Jared Goff QB $21,793,000 QB $9,464,571
D.J. Moore WR $13,475,000 WR $9,425,463
Jadeveon Clowney Edge $13,296,000 Edge $9,247,639
Arik Armstead Edge $12,340,000 Edge $9,209,906
Preston Smith Edge $13,645,000 Edge $9,189,407
Luke Kuechly LB $13,656,000 LB $9,145,185
Marcus Williams S $12,976,000 S $9,138,263
Richard Sherman CB $13,421,000 CB $9,034,339
Ronnie Stanley LT $15,816,000 LT $8,935,411
Casey Hayward Jr. CB $14,136,000 CB $8,901,424
Allen Robinson II WR $12,716,000 WR $8,893,407
Christian McCaffrey RB $16,305,000 RB $8,841,316
Laremy Tunsil LT $15,075,000 LT $8,840,162
Brian Poole CB $13,391,000 CB $8,822,643
Demario Davis LB $12,663,000 LB $8,806,425
Bud Dupree Edge $13,324,000 Edge $8,620,875
Emmanuel Sanders WR $12,217,000 WR $8,607,167
Jamie Collins Sr. LB $11,710,000 LB $8,535,212
Jarvis Landry WR $12,549,000 WR $8,456,911
Terron Armstead LT $15,184,000 LT $8,414,748
Cory Littleton LB $12,681,000 LB $8,321,693
Keenan Allen WR $12,432,000 WR $8,290,267
Demarcus Lawrence Edge $11,229,000 Edge $8,058,982
Jimmy Garoppolo QB $20,538,000 QB $7,961,476
Justin Simmons S $11,844,000 S $7,914,733
Benardrick McKinney LB $11,560,000 LB $7,896,254
Matt Ioannidis IDL $11,054,000 IDL $7,891,464
Dalvin Cook RB $14,006,000 RB $7,854,895
Tre’Davious White CB $12,917,000 CB $7,838,164
Baker Mayfield QB $19,469,000 QB $7,808,520
D.J. Reader IDL $10,068,000 IDL $7,750,959
DeForest Buckner IDL $10,489,000 IDL $7,720,168
Kenny Clark IDL $11,310,000 IDL $7,695,674
Julian Edelman WR $11,803,000 WR $7,654,175
Jamal Adams S $11,465,000 S $7,646,877
Robert Woods WR $11,985,000 WR $7,609,230
Josh Jacobs RB $11,726,000 RB $7,556,632
Gerald McCoy IDL $10,103,000 IDL $7,514,884
Olivier Vernon Edge $11,126,000 Edge $7,484,871
Anthony Castonzo LT $14,668,000 LT $7,475,669
Aaron Jones RB $12,599,000 RB $7,464,500
Michael Brockers IDL $10,482,000 IDL $7,429,185
Tramon Williams CB $9,485,000 CB $7,408,474
Deion Jones LB $11,315,000 LB $7,403,331
Odell Beckham Jr. WR $11,563,000 WR $7,336,163
Andy Dalton QB $18,033,000 QB $7,326,733
Trey Flowers Edge $10,661,000 Edge $7,323,298
Marcus Davenport Edge $10,553,000 Edge $7,303,132

Projecting an extension for Cody Whitehair

By: Brad Spielberger  

Throughout the 2018 off-season, the Bears were in talks for an extension with their 2015 second-round pick out of Florida State, nose tackle Eddie Goldman. Ryan Pace extended one of the players that he was personally responsible for drafting in Chicago for the first time. So far the returns have been positive. Early extensions such as Goldman’s enable teams to have a better understanding of both their roster and salary cap situation for the following offseason before that offseason arrives. Last year the Bears knew they wanted to keep Goldman around. Agreeing to a deal as he was entering the fourth and final year of his rookie contract was the smart decision to move up the timing of his deal before the market increased.

This off-season is no different. 

By the numbers

The second-round draft pick at No. 56 overall for the Bears in 2016 was Kansas State interior offensive lineman Cody Whitehair. Like Goldman, the veteran interior lineman is entering the last season of a four-year rookie contract. 

At every step of the way during his tenure with the Bears, Whitehair has demonstrated exactly what the Bears were seeking when they drafted him three years ago: versatility and reliability. Whitehair has shifted back and forth between center and left guard multiple times already and has featured well in both spots. He has even handled some duties at right guard in emergency situations. That the veteran has missed only 25 total snaps in three years (per TheQuantEdge), demonstrates just how dependable of a player he is. 

Pro Football Focus deemed Whitehair’s rookie season third-best among all centers since they began recording statistics in 2006. Here is what the analytics database had to say about Whitehair’s second season in 2017: 

“Though tasked with playing guard to the tune of 259 offensive snaps last season, Whitehair still predominantly played center and played extremely well at the position in 2017. Whitehair ranked fifth in run-block grade (81.8) and fourth in run-block success percentage (17.6) in 2017.”

Whitehair was not only PFF’s third-highest-graded center in 2016, he was No. 13 in 2017, and No. 10 in 2018. At the initial peak of his accomplished career, he allowed a grand total of zero sacks and zero QB hits in 2018. This was while playing every offensive snap. 

Run blocking may have suffered a bit for the whole Bears’ offensive line unit in 2018, which will have to be mitigated in coming years. But it was Whitehair and the Bears’ collective pass protection that took a major leap forward. 

Here was PFF’s review of the whole season for the big men up front in Chicago: 

“The Bears finished the season with the league’s second-best pass blocking efficiency of any offensive line, and this was yet another team without a real weak link. Rookie James Daniels ended up earning their lowest grade at 62.3 overall, but Charles Leno Jr., Bobby Massie, and Cody Whitehair were all over 70.0.” 

All of these accolades are great, which brings up an important query: why are the Bears moving Whitehair to left guard after he was one of the NFL’s premier centers (according to at least one metric) in the last three years? It’s a multi-faceted answer.

First, James Daniels is the more natural center, as it was his college position. Second, Whitehair struggled mightily with shotgun snaps in 2018. Matt Nagy utilized the shotgun formation on 79 percent of all offensive snaps in 2018, which was tied for the second-highest percentage in the NFL. The Bears cannot afford to be stressing over quality shotgun snaps. It should be a routine exchange and the more natural center in Daniels gives them that drilled regimen.

What’s most important in Whitehair’s position shift is getting the rest of the Bears’ offensive line to ascend. PFF had complements for Charles Leno Jr. and his run blocking, but the rest of the big boys struggled mightily. Pairing Whitehair and Leno Jr. together on the left side is a calculated decision from Nagy, Pace, and offensive line coach Harry Hiestand. Tarik Cohen and David Montgomery are elite change-of-direction running backs who need space to work with before they can create magic out of thin air. Thanks to the presence of these two dynamic backs, I expect there to be a heavy usage of counters and cutbacks to the left side behind Leno Jr. and Whitehair. 

Taylor Gabriel and Cordarrelle Patterson running jet sweeps from the right side to the left should also be a feature of the Chicago offense in 2019. According to SharpFootball’s 2019 NFL preview, the Bears ran the ball behind the center and to the left more than they did to the right in 2018. This may have had something to do with Kyle Long’s absence. An understandable point considering Long’s proficiency as a bruiser in the running game. But I see this trend continuing, and perhaps expanding, in 2019.

While purely speculative, one can also assume that the Bears did not want to put too much on James Daniels’ plate in Year 1. It’s difficult enough to be a rookie in the NFL. If Daniels also had to learn all of the cadences and snap counts of a brand-new offense (along with quarterback Mitchell Trubisky), it could have been a disaster. The shift from center to left guard for Cody Whitehair and vice versa for James Daniels in 2019 makes plenty of sense, and better suits both of their skill-sets long term.

Now what effect does moving Whitehair from center to left guard have on his contract? Many seem to believe that left guards get paid significantly more than centers, but that is not the case. 

Below is a table with the top-five free agent contracts in each off-season based on average per year for both left guards and centers:

Top Five Free Agent Signings by APY

As you can see above, only in 2018 did the top-five contracts at left guard have a higher average APY than those at center. This is primarily a result of somewhat of an outlier of a contract – Andrew Norwell’s $13,300,000 per year free agent deal with the Jaguars. Norwell may have proven to be a cautionary tale for teams looking to extend their guards to big deals: he missed five games in 2018 and did not play particularly well in the other 11. In the 2019 free agency cycle, Rodger Saffold, another second-round draft pick and perhaps the best comparison to Whitehair’s situation, was the only left guard to top $7,000,000 APY. However, Mitch Morse, Maurkice Pouncey, and Matt Paradis all topped the $9,000,000 mark at center, and technically these are Whitehair’s cohorts of the past three seasons. 

Saffold received an overall PFF grade of 73.2 in his 2018 season with the Rams, compared to Cody Whitehair’s 70.4. A discrepancy that small doesn’t mean a great deal, both were good players last year. Whitehair has the benefit of youth, as he is just 27-years-old whereas Saffold is 31. 

If we look at the centers specifically, Morse is 27 and Paradis is 29. Two guys more relatable in age to Whitehair. They also played the same position as the Bears’ interior swingman the past few seasons. That makes them a potentially better gauge of his true market, even though he is sliding over to left guard for 2019. 

Morse was drafted No. 49 overall in the 2015 draft, one year before Cody Whitehair was selected at No. 56. Morse played out his rookie contract with the Chiefs and became an unrestricted free agent this off-season. While Morse did play at a high level when healthy, he missed five games in 2018 after missing nine games in 2017. There are some concerns about his concussion history, as he has already been diagnosed with three, and he remains in the Bills’ concussion protocol as of today, August 21st.

Paradis, meanwhile, is a journeyman center that was selected in the sixth round in 2014 and eventually placed on the Broncos’ practice squad. He became a UFA in 2019 after playing on a second-round RFA tender for $2.914 million in 2018. Paradis also missed seven games in 2018, though he hadn’t missed a snap in three years prior to that. Managing a PFF grade of 79 was all the more impressive in a shortened 2018 season.

Below is a table with each of the four player’s PFF grades since 2016: 

PFF Grades

While PFF grades are not the end-all be-all authority on player effectiveness, this table demonstrates the type of impact that draft pedigree can have on contract negotiations. Paradis is the only player taken later than the second round. Though he grades out better than the other three players above, he will have received the smallest contract of the group. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I believe Whitehair will come out with the largest contract of his peers.

The largest APY signing at left guard in 2018 was Norwell with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Norwell was an undrafted free agent with the Panthers and played on a RFA tender in 2017 before agreeing to terms in Jacksonville. It should be noted that the Jaguars went on a spending spree in 2018, shelling out the fourth-most cash in the league. Norwell’s three-year PFF grade average prior to 2018 was a 79.37. Norwell’s $13.3M APY extension under the 2018 salary cap equates to $14,125,620.80 APY under the 2019 salary cap. Norwell received $30 million fully guaranteed at signing out of a $66 million total, which is roughly 45 percent. Rodger Saffold, Mitch Morse, and Matt Paradis all received similar guaranteed-at-signing percentages of around 45 percent. 

While Ryan Pace, Joey Laine and Co. have presumably attempted to negotiate a lower number by offering the extension a year early (a la Jaylon Smith in Dallas), Whitehair’s camp is still probably looking for top dollar. Pace had no problem making Eddie Goldman one of the highest-paid defensive tackles in the NFL last off-season after his third season. Expecting anything but a similar contract at left guard for Whitehair may be foolhardy. The goal for the Bears’ front office at this point should be to just keep the eventual number below Norwell’s.

Whitehair’s contract projection: 

Four years, $49 million ($12.25M APY), $22.5 million fully guaranteed at signing ($14.5 million signing bonus, $1.5 million 2019 base salary, $3 million 2020 base salary, $3.5 million 2020 roster bonus). 

In this deal, there will also be a 2021 roster bonus of $3.5 million guaranteed for injury only at signing. The roster bonus will become fully guaranteed on the third day of the 2021 league year. Whitehair is currently due a $1,026,078 base salary in 2019 and the remainder of his rookie contract signing bonus is for $318,103. 

Below is a table with the full contract details, including a small $473,922 pay-bump to his 2019 base salary that becomes fully guaranteed:

Whitehair has too many positives working in his favor to not receive a strong, secure contract extension. He’s 27, a former second-round draft pick, extremely dependable and reliable, and capable of playing at a high level at multiple positions. The change of position in the contract year muddles negotiations a bit, but the left guard and center market are still pretty similar.

This projection is a very nice payday for Whitehair, especially when considering that the extension is a year early as he enters the fourth year of his rookie deal. For comparison’s sake, Jaylon Smith of the Dallas Cowboys just became the fourth highest paid inside linebacker (based on APY) in the NFL after starting just 22 games since being drafted in the second round of the 2016 draft (at No. 34 he went 22 picks ahead of Whitehair). As I mentioned at the top of the article, Cody Whitehair has missed only 25 snaps in his three year career out of a possible 3,073… Jaylon Smith has missed 26 starts out of a possible 48. The inside linebacker and interior offensive line market have nothing to do with each other, but consistency brings huge value, particularly to a position that relies on the unit to develop chemistry. 

Whitehair becoming the fourth highest paid left guard/center in terms of APY would mean his APY falls around $11 million. This estimate of $11 million APY was essentially where my Whitehair projection began, but the more I dove into the (scarce) resources available to determine Whitehair’s market, the more that number moved upward. 

All of the Bears’ moves to clear cap space prior to the 2019 free agency period and most recently with Charles Leno Jr. were not for naught, as another draft pick will be rewarded before the 2019 season kicks off. This hypothetical move will take up roughly $3.4 million in 2019 salary cap space, lowering the Bears’ number to around $18 million (per the NFLPA Public Salary Cap report dated 8/21/2019)

Projecting an Extension for Chicago Bears DT Eddie Goldman

When I began writing this article, the Khalil Mack rumors appeared to be nothing more than a pipe dream. No one really believed the Raiders would trade one of the best defensive players in the NFL, but here we are. Without getting into the details of the trade and Mack’s monster contract (which I will do soon), I want to look at a guy who will benefit greatly from Mack’s presence on the defense. DT Eddie Goldman’s ability to take on offensive linemen is even more crucial now with an elite edge rusher on the roster.

Bears GM Ryan Pace has been known to extend his guys before entering the final season of their contract, and communication between Eddie Goldman’s camp and the Bears has reportedly been productive. One thing immediately stuck out when looking for comparable players for Chicago Bears DT Eddie Goldman; he is still only 24 years old and doesn’t turn 25 until after the 2018 regular season. A second-round draft pick out of Florida State in 2015, Goldman took a major leap this past season after injuries limited him to just six games in 2016. He appeared in 15 games and contributed on 57.5% of the Bears defensive plays, battling opposing interior offensive lines alongside Akiem Hicks. Hicks was rewarded for his outstanding play with a four-year, $48 million extension on September 9, 2017. One year later, is Eddie about to cash in too?

Goldman’s role is mainly as a run stuffing nose tackle, but in his rookie season he had 5 sacks, showing he’s certainly capable of getting after the quarterback. A nagging ankle injury derailed much of his sophomore campaign, but he never needed surgery and was able to get proper rest once the Bears were no longer in contention. Goldman showed just the type of dynamic player he can be in 2017, and with presumably more growth ahead for the 24-year-old, the Bears would be smart to lock him up long term.

According to Pro Football Reference, Goldman had 27 solo tackles and 17 assists in 2017, both career highs by double digits. While his sacks dipped to just 1.5 in 2017, Goldman made his presence felt in the backfield with 3 more tackles for loss. Basic statistics are not always the best way to measure a position such as nose tackle, as they can be hard to come by.

The Quant Edge is a goldmine of advanced data, including an “Injury Impact Tool” that shows the effect on a team that comes from an individual player being on the field or off it (I highly recommend checking out the site, it is a great new resource for NFL fans). The table below shows Bears opponents’ average yards per carry during Eddie Goldman’s “In Splits” and “Out of Splits.”

In 2016 when Goldman missed ten games with an ankle injury, opponents’ yards per carry rose over a yard from 3.59 to 4.63 yards per carry. This trend continued in 2017 when Goldman played over half of the defensive snaps. Other immeasurable data, such as how Goldman’s presence on the field frees up pass rushers like Akiem Hicks, paints a more complete picture of Eddie’s contribution to the Chicago Bears. Goldman now commands the respect of opposing offensive lines, and if he pulls double teams this season then Hicks, Leonard Floyd, and brand-new Bear Khalil Mack will be getting after the quarterback quite often. Additionally, Goldman’s relationship with Bears DC Vic Fangio is very strong, as he had many kind words to share with the media when Fangio chose to stay in Chicago this offseason.

Goldman’s importance in Chicago is clear; determining his market requires a look around the league, and it is a bit foggy. With Goldman being a 2015 draft pick he still has a year left on his deal, so there are no comparable players from his draft class that have received new contracts (Malcom Brown and Danny Shelton were the only DTs drafted ahead of him). The next issue with finding comps is that 3-4 DTs and 4-3 DTs are technically different positions. However, the NFL considers all DTs the same when it comes to determining franchise tag amounts, so I am going to include 4-3 DTs. The players I have used to compare with Eddie Goldman, for varying reasons, are Beau Allen, Star Lotulelei and Timmy Jernigan.

The below table is the average playtime percentages and cumulative stats for the two years preceding when these players signed their current contracts:

Beau Allen is a 26-year-old, 4-3 DT for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Allen was a seventh-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2014 NFL Draft out of Wisconsin. Allen was given a three-year, $15 million contract by the Bucs on March 15, 2018. The Eagles defensive line is arguably the best in the NFL, so Allen electing to sign as a free agent with the Bucs was a different situation than Eddie Goldman’s. Nevertheless, they have both worked to maximize their limited opportunities, Goldman because of injury and Allen because of a steep depth chart. Allen is the biggest special teams contributor of the group, but has the fewest sacks per game by a good margin. It is fair to wonder what the impact was on Beau Allen playing with one of the best DTs in the league in Fletcher Cox, although Jernigan was obviously in the same position. Allen’s deal will serve as our floor.

Star Lotulelei at 28 years old is quite a bit older than Goldman which complicates the comparison, but he just signed his second NFL contract for five years, $50 million on March 15, 2018 with the Buffalo Bills. Lotulelei was playing under his fifth-year option in 2017 in Carolina, as he was the Panthers’ first round draft pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Lotulelei is on the field a ton both on defense and in special teams and plays a more similar role to Eddie Goldman than the other two comps. Here are Lotulelei’s In-Splits and Out-of-Splits:

Lotulelei clogged up the middle against the run and created space for Carolina’s great edge rushers on the outside. He certainly had proven more in his career before signing his latest contract, but Eddie Goldman will likely be signing a third contract by the time he turns 28. Given Goldman’s youth and potential, I think Lotulelei’s $10 million APY could be a benchmark used in negotiations by Goldman’s representation.

Finally, Timmy Jernigan will serve as our ceiling. Jernigan is a 25-year-old, 4-3 DT for the Philadelphia Eagles. He was drafted in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft out of Florida State (sound familiar?) by the Baltimore Ravens and was traded to Philadelphia going into 2017. About two months into the 2017 season, on November 10, Jernigan was given a four-year, $48 million contract extension. Jernigan’s 10 sacks and 13 tackles for loss in the two seasons prior to his current contract show how he can get into the backfield and disrupt an offense. While the Eagles obviously regret very little about their 2017 season, they might regret giving Jernigan an early extension. Jernigan underwent back surgery for a herniated disc this offseason and is on the Eagles’ Non-Football Injury list heading into 2018, meaning he will miss at least the first six games of the season. This is essentially the risk you take with an early extension. It enables teams to negotiate a more team-friendly contract but opens them up to paying a player earlier than necessary who ends up injured. This may be on the minds of Ryan Pace and the Bears front office.

Following the Bears’ trade for Khalil Mack and his subsequent massive extension, the Bears have $6,255,556 in cap space according to OverTheCap.com. Goldman’s 2018 Cap number is currently $1,809,282. Taking a look at Jernigan’s contract, I predict the Bears will try to structure Goldman’s the same way for 2018:

Timmy Jernigan’s Extension Year

The base salary from Jernigan’s final year of his rookie deal was not changed in the extension, so the $2 million proration of his $10 million signing bonus (additional $376,891 is remainder of original signing bonus) was the only additional money added to his 2017 Cap Number. The Bears will attempt to mirror this in Goldman’s extension.

At 24, Eddie Goldman will have a great opportunity for “another bite at the apple.” We saw above that Star Lotulelei just signed a five-year, $50 million deal at 28. For this reason, I think four new years on an extension will be the maximum Goldman’s camp is looking for. Lastly, throughout this offseason, far before Khalil Mack, Ryan Pace has shown he is willing to pay a premium for top end talent that he believes in. Trey Burton, Taylor Gabriel, and Allen Robinson all came with several question marks. Limited roles, injuries, etc. Eddie Goldman has his own injury history, but he also has a huge leg up on all of those guys; Goldman was Ryan Pace’s second ever draft pick as General Manager. Oh, and the first? Kevin White, who is effectively still making his Bears debut this Sunday, playing in his sixth NFL game. This deal is a win-win for all parties.

Look for a Goldman extension in the four year/$44 million range, with an $8 million signing bonus and $20 million fully guaranteed at signing (so Bears will have $4,255,556 in 2018 Cap Space). Ryan Pace likes to guarantee base salary, so approximately $7-8 million total could be guaranteed for Goldman’s 2019 and 2020 seasons. Lastly, Pace also employs March roster bonuses; the remaining $4-5 million guaranteed at signing could be in 2019 and 2020 roster bonuses. 

Here is Akiem Hicks’ contract extension from last season for reference to Pace’s style:

TE Contract Tiers – 2016 Season Review

Now that the regular season is over, I’m going to review each of the 2016 signings at Tight End to determine what kind of value each team received compared to the player’s contract. Contrary to my previous posts in this series, I will use each player’s season totals as well as prorated 16 game totals.

Methodology

See my prior article here for more information regarding how these tiers were constructed and what types of tight ends fit into each tier.

 APYCatches/16Targets/16Catch %Yards/16TDs/16
Tier 1$9M+8012066%1,00011
Tier 2$6.5M-$9M7511068%8005
Tier 3$4M-$6.5M558563%5004
Tier 4<$4Mn/a – Veteran Backup/Blocking Tight End

  Continue reading TE Contract Tiers – 2016 Season Review »

2017 Contract Estimates: Bennie Logan

This week’s contract estimate is for our first 4-3 defensive tackle, Bennie Logan.  In 2013 the Philadelphia Eagles snapped up Logan in the 3rd round of the draft and he contributed immediately, logging 40% of the defensive snaps during his rookie season, playing in all 16 games.

Though Logan has been a mainstay on the Philly front four in each of his professional seasons, I feel he may have a hard time convincing his current employer to offer him the second contract he is probably expecting.

Continue reading 2017 Contract Estimates: Bennie Logan »

2017 Contract Estimates: Brandon Williams

Last week, we established a market for upcoming free agent Denver nose tackle Sylvester Williams despite some difficulty finding appropriate players to use as comparables for the 4th year player because there just aren’t a lot of 2nd contract interior linemen in the league with similar age/stats/production.

Today, we take a look at another 3-4 NT named Williams, this time Brandon of the Baltimore Ravens.

Continue reading 2017 Contract Estimates: Brandon Williams »