This week we will be looking at the actual worth of quarterbacks in the NFL based on pure statistical production and the current market prices for quarterbacks. The formulas are based more or less on the net yardage produced by a player over the last three seasons with a weighting scale of 60% for 2015, 25% for 2014, and 15% for 2013. For players who only have two years of service the numbers were adjusted accordingly. I did not include players who were rookies last season. I did make adjustments for players who were injured to prorate their stats to a fuller season (in most cases 13 games) so as to not artificially lower their numbers. Players benched were not awarded that same luxury since they were not productive because of skill concerns by the coaching staff.
Obviously lists like this are going to favor teams in heavy passing offenses where players can compile numbers and we are not taking into account things like wins, playoff experience, etc… that often goes into valuing a QB. Each players is given a salary value that fits in with his production and a benefit value which shows how much above or below his current annual contract value his production has been. Benefit values greatly favor rookies because they are paid peanuts and often start 16 games. They skew the numbers but I think their presence also illustrates the reasons why teams make the decision to move from a low tier veteran to a rookie when the opportunity presents itself.
Today we look at players ranked from number 32 to 21. Tomorrow will be 20-11 and the following day the top 10.
- Robert Griffin III, Browns- $4.326M Value, -$3.17M Benefit
Getting the DNP-coaches decision for the entire season really dropped Griffin’s value, though he has seen his numbers drop each year since his rookie season. While I often refer to this signing as a “boom or bust” signing there has been little “boom’ in his game since 2012. He can’t shake the injury bug and even when healthy has failed to connect with the staff to allow him more chances to play. If he can stay healthy and stay on the good side of the coach he does have around $18 million upside but realistically if the Browns get $9 million in value this year, which is generally replacement level veterans play for like 12 games, they may be happy.
- Mark Sanchez, Broncos- $4.789M Value, $289,000 Benefit
Sanchez has not had a ton of opportunities the last few seasons so he generally grades as a backup player. The Broncos will be banking on Sanchez being capable of putting up numbers like he did in 2014 over a 16 game season to drive any real value from him. Based on his prior performances he’ll only reach 16 games if Denver doesn’t think anyone else on the roster is capable of starting. If he does start 16 games expect him to provide between $13 and $15 million in value which sounds more impressive than it really is- that number is basically on par with the low level veteran starters in the NFL.
- Geno Smith, Jets- $5.395M Value, $4.14M Benefit
Smith saw almost no time last season and it’s doubtful the Jets want to actually see him touch the football this year. The only reason Smith does not rate last among potential starters is because the Jets played him so much in 2013 and 2014 that it helped boost his overall worth since starters in the NFL all earn so much. On a per game basis Smith ranks close to the bottom and there has been no upside shown here. Right now Smith looks like little more than a NFL backup.
- Brock Osweiler, Texans- $5.435M Value, -$12.56M Benefit
The Texans are hoping that Osweiler is not their Rob Johnson moment. Though his team was winning last year, Osweiler’s productivity was so low that he is one of the few that ranked below Smith on a per game basis and the only reason he rated higher is because Smith did not really play last season. His comparable seasons would be players like Nick Foles and Colin Kaepernick at their worst. Barring injury he should be guaranteed 16 games because of his contract but if he produces at the same rate as last season they will have low end starter performance at high end money.
- Nick Foles, Rams- $9.129M Value, -$3.12M Benefit
The odds are probably against Foles starting and he may rank third on the depth chart in LA after camp, but he makes the most money so I have him included. There is basically nothing positive about Foles as a player at this point. He had the one season in Philly where he played around a $15 million level, but its been backup performance at best after that. When you consider he had so many opportunities to play last year ranking this low is scary since a starter only has to wake up on Sunday to give a team close to $1 million in value each week. If he does start this year expect it to only last for a few weeks.
- Josh McCown, Browns- $9.378M Value, $4.71M Benefit
For what McCown is paid he is not that terrible. He provides better benefits than the bust rookies and, when healthy, more or less puts up the numbers of an average starter. That said he’ll likely never give you anything close to 16 games and it is questionable how his numbers would look if he did play 16 games. If the Browns can find a way to seamlessly switch between McCown and Griffin when the other is injured they could have far better QB play than some think, but that’s a big if.
- Tyrod Taylor, Bills- $9.764M Value, $8.65M Benefit
Taylor is the great unknown in the NFL. He had virtually no playing time before signing with the Bills last year but won the starting job and was at times electric in 2015. He did enough in his first year in Buffalo to void the third year of his contract which means he will be a free agent in 2017 and is already trying to cash in by looking for a contract extension. It is a tough decision for the Bills who might be able to lock him up for somewhat reasonable money but run the very real risk of being stuck with an expensive paperweight for the next three years. It’s probably best to let him play out the year and see if he develops as a quarterback rather than saving a few dollars by extending early.
- Colin Kaepernick, 49ers- $11.239M Value, -$7.76M Benefit
Just a few years ago Kaepernick was supposed to be part of a revolution in the NFL and now he is one of the most overvalued players. If he regains the starting job the bright side here is that he was giving the team around $16 million in value in the two prior seasons which puts him closer to his actual salary. The negatives are that he derives a huge portion of his productivity by running which generally diminishes with age and his numbers as a passer have regressed each season. He needs to show improvement in the pocket to compensate for when the natural athleticism won’t mean as much and right now he is regarded as a one read player.
- Sam Bradford, Eagles- $12.840M Value, -$4.66M Benefit
It’s very rare for a former number 1 draft pick to be six years into his career and be considered an enigma, but Bradford is just that. Bradford’s career has basically been split between time on injured reserve and time spent playing with multiple coaches, various schemes, and poor rosters which has some still giving him the benefit of the doubt because of that draft status. Bradford has the best year of his career last season which still would not have been enough to match his salary, but it was close and the Eagles will hope he can duplicate that this year before turning the team over to their rookie.
- Kirk Cousins, Redskins- $13.129M Value, -$6.82M Benefit
Cousins looked destined for a career as a backup before last season’s surprising division title win. Cousins finished the year with over 4,000 yards and 29 touchdowns while throwing just 11 interceptions, which was worthy of an $18M player. Still there are a ton of questions surrounding Cousins who had never shown anything like this in the regular season before and also had some big splits between home and road games which led Washington to use the franchise tag. Though the tag is expensive and a burden on the salary cap, that is clearly the proper use of the tag to protect themselves long term in the event the clock strikes 12 this September.
- Teddy Bridgewater, Vikings- $13.581M Value, $11.87M Benefit
Bridgewater looks like he may end up becoming this generation’s ultimate game manager, whose best chances for success will be to remain with the team who drafted him and is committed to him. Through two years Bridgewater doesn’t really show any major upside nor major downside. A team can build around him as long as they are honest about their QB’s limitations. Though it is still early in his career I would imagine most see him as a steady player that is capable of one or two higher level seasons during the course of his career. It makes for an interesting negotiation down the line if that is how his career goes the next few years and one of those big seasons happen in his walk year. For where he is now, he is someone that will earn more money long term by accepting less and not putting the added pressure of the big contract on his shoulders. If he opts for the big deal the lack of upside becomes a major discussion point and that can prematurely sink a career. A player to watch closely.
- Tony Romo, Cowboys- $14.136M Value, -$3.86M Benefit
Romo’s ranking is clearly influenced by last year’s play which was poor when he played. How much of that was injury related is anyone’s guess but even extrapolated to his 15 game norm we would be looking at around $12 million in value which, for Romo, is pretty low. Still the Cowboys have taken a huge portion of the burden off Romo the last three years which makes it unlikely he’ll ever put up the numbers again of a superstar but in Romo’s case less is probably more as shown by the team’s performance in 2014. I’ve been critical of the Cowboys decision to draft a running back so high in the draft, but when you look at where the team is they need that facet of the game to excel to win in the short term, especially if last year was a sign of where Romo is headed for the future.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.