### Looking at Possible Contracts For the Raiders Jared Veldheer

It was reported yesterday that the Raiders and LT Jared Veldheer are working on a contract extension, so I figured we could take a look at what contract possibilities there could be for him. Veldheer is a 26 year old former 3rd round draft choice playing the final year of his contract. He has been sidelined by injury for the first 11 games of the season but prior to that had started 44 games over his three year career and never been injured.

Pass Blocking

I like to break down pass blocking effectiveness using pressures and sacks allowed using a formula I developed where we consider a completed pass as a “success” and an incomplete as a “failure”.  Every time a QB drops back to pass he is expected to complete about 63.7% of his dropbacks when he faces no pressure.  If he Is pressured that number falls to 43.1%. So what I do with pass blockers is determine the percentage of plays where I can assign then to be the cause of “play failure”.

To illustrate this calculation I’ll use Joe Thomas of the Browns, who has been the best pass blocking tackle in the NFL for the last three years. Using statistics from Pro Football Focus we see that Thomas blocked on 574 plays. With no pressure 574 dropbacks should result in 208.3 failed pass attempts (574 * (1-63.7%)).  That is our baseline number for the perfect player.

Thomas has allowed the QB to be pressured 27 times bringing his unpressured dropbacks down to 547, which equals 198.5 failures. Of the 27 pressures one is a sack which equals one failure. Of the 26 other pressures (hits and hurries) we can calculate that the play failed 14.8 times (26 * (1-43.1%)). Add those three numbers together and we calculate that Thomas’ plays resulted in 214.3 failures, so, in essence, his blocking is responsible for 6 non-completions, an increase of 2.88%.

Over the last three years the average left tackle who appeared in at least 50% of his teams passing snaps,  allows an increase in failures of 5.01%. The best of the last three seasons was Thomas in 2012 with 2.05% and the worst was D’Anthony Batiste of the Cardinals in 2012 at 11.12%. For players who qualified for at least 2 of the last 3 seasons the average is 4.55%. Thomas again ranks highest at 2.43% for his three years of work while J’Marcus Webb is the worst at 6.66%. Obviously other factors play a role in the effectiveness of a players such as play calling, QB smarts (the Peyton Manning vs Tim Tebow disparity being the greatest), and play grading by PFF, but it’s at least a tool to put some perspective into the position.

Veldheer ranks in the top half of the position in both 2011 and 2012. In 2011 he scored a 4.36%, which ranked 11th for the position. In 2012 he was more effective with a grade of 3.71% which was good for 10th in the NFL. His two year average score of 4.04% ranks 9th among the 27 players who qualified for at least two seasons. That’s a better number than Ryan Clady (4.12%), Joe Staley (4.31%), Jordan Gross (4.84%), Jake Long (5.06%), D’Brickashaw Ferguson (5.1%), Jermon Bushrod (5.16%), and Will Beatty (5.99%).

Run Blocking

I don’t really think teams put significant weight into this aspect of the game when paying a Left Tackle. For one teams simply don’t run that often as the NFL has become a pure passing league. Secondly runs in the direction of the outside part of the line are only around 25% according to data maintained by Football Outsiders. So while the tackle plays a role in all running plays, overpaying for that aspect of the game is a bad business decision. You just want to make sure the player is not going to hurt you in that part of the game.

Veldheer would seem to be a capable player in the run game. in 2012 runs directed at the LT for the Raiders ranked 10th in the NFL. In 2011 they ranked 11th. This year they rank 10th as well without him. While the run personnel is better this season I don’t think anyone will be fooled into overpaying for “rub blocking” nor will they downgrade him for the same.

Contract Points

I think one of the things that works against Veldheer is the fact that he is a 3rd round draft pick. While late draft picks can make up for their draft positioning, general honors and recognition come far easier for the top picks in a draft, until a player is established, which Veldheer is not having just two full seasons in the NFL. Veldheer also plays in relative obscurity in Oakland because they have been so bad for so many years.

With no Pro Bowls, All Pro seasons, or draft stature pushing a contract I felt that this was probably the best list of comparables I could come up with:

The gold standard here would be Brown, who was a much higher pick and an established four year starter but had yet to earn any Pro Bowl or All Pro nods when he signed his contract. Brown was also a superior player. His pass block numbers the past three years have averaged 3.02% and he was the 4th rated LT in 2011, the year before he signed his mega extension.

Beatty is the name that should interest Veldheer the most. Beatty only started 31 games prior to signing his extension with the Giants this past offseason. New York fell into the one season wonder trap with him. In 2010 he graded at a below average 5.89% but when playing for a new contract saw the number fall down to a terrific 3.38%. The Giants bought in, as teams often do when they believe in a player, and this year he is up to an 8.7% number, second to last in the NFL.

Despite the fact that Veldheer has not played this year he is the player he should be looking to exceed in contract value. Beatty’s two year average of 4.63% leading into his new contract is inferior to Veldheer’s 4.04%.  Neither is exactly established at the position. Neither was a high draft pick and neither really rewarded for his play leading into a deal.

Jermon Bushrod could be used to drop the price a bit. Bushrod had more experience and because he was a member of a high powered offense he also received recognition in the form of back to back Pro Bowls. His numbers were only impressive in 2011 (3.83%) and have fallen back to slightly below average after that. His guarantees and cash flows are nowhere near as impressive as Beattys.

The other interesting contract that I want to use to push the price is that of Sam Baker. Baker is another one of those players whose price was pushed by draft status. His 2012 contract year was nothing more than average (4.93% rating) and he was injured in 2011. While his \$6.85 million average is not as impressive as the \$7.2 million Bushrod received, the cash flows are tremendous. Provided the Falcons pick up a 2014 option his money is also well protected.

The following two tables present the cash flows and percent of five year payouts earned in each year

Potential Salaries

Outside of overpaying for Sebastian Janikowski, which I have to think was a directive that came from ownership, the Raiders front office has not really shown how they will be handling contract negotiations for top tier players. They did make Marcel Reece the highest paid Fullback in the NFL, but that is not a premier position either so I would throw that out. Veldheer is going to be their first high quality signing and may be a precedent point for the organization.

I would think a fair compromise is to match the annual value of the Bushrod contract, but make the cash flows match closer to that of the Baker contract. That would still put Veldheer under Beatty, which may not be fair but I think will be important to Oakland. While I don’t know what they will be planning I don’t sense that they want to be a pricing point for any position.

Due to uncertainty since he was out this year I would also imagine that the Raiders will include playtime bonuses that, in unearned, would bring his contract down to the Baker 5 year number of \$6.9 million. If they want to bring him above Beatty than the bonuses I would have would bring him down to Bushrod’s APY.  I would also like to get a deal done in the next few weeks if possible. Oakland currently has \$2.75 million in cap space and can afford to use up \$1.5 million of that on Bushrod this season to lower the dead money at the end of the contract.

The Raiders do have luxury of using more cap space next season than most other teams since they project to have around \$70 million in cap space, but if using a somewhat traditional contract structure I’d consider something like this:

In this proposed structure Veldheer receives the first year fully guaranteed and will earn a vesting guarantee in 2015. If he is injured again in 2014 the Raider can move on with just \$4.5 million in dead money. They could probably add another vesting  guarantee in 2016 as well if they wanted. For cap purposes they could very easily swap the 2014 and 2015 salaries to frontload the contract a bit more. I  think as long as 2016 is a reasonable number, since the hope would be that the team actually has players to pay at that point, they won’t be compromised when dealing with other players.

I’ll be interested to see where they go with Veldheer since he is not a marquee name but has played pretty well in his two full seasons. If they use the injury this year to their advantage that’s a great job by the Raiders because there is really no reason for him to not be somewhere in that \$7 million to \$7.5 million a year range based on how he has played. I’d imagine this will be finalized in the next two weeks.

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### Stock Down: Week 3

Every Monday during the season we will take a look back at three players who are entering important stages of their contract that may have hurt their stock in upcoming negotiations with their play on Sunday. In addition we will also look at one player signed in the offseason to a new contract that did not live up to the expectations that his contract sets for the player.

### Stock Down

Colin Kaepernick– Coming into 2013 I often received numerous tweets or emails concerning Kaepernick and how can the 49ers afford him going forward. Kaepernick caught fire last season when he replaced Alex Smith and helped lead the team to the Super Bowl. He added another dimension to the 49ers and looked to be the next big thing with some very well respected media personalities going so far as to say he has the ability to be the best QB of all time. When asked about Kaepernick I’ve always been cautious because the sample size last year was next to nothing and his situation was the perfect storm as teams spent months preparing for Smith, who had no arm and was a standard scrambler, and ended up getting Kaepernick who had a rocket for an arm and was a fantastic runner. Teams adjust and the last two weeks they got him good. Kaepernick followed up a disaster in Seattle with another disaster, except this time at home and against the Colts, a team not considered a juggernaut on defense. He threw for just 150 yards on 48% passing and only added 20 rushing yards. The 49ers always prefer to extend players early and Kaepernick’s first season of eligibility for a new contract was after the completion of the 2013 season. He has now played the worst two games of his career in back to back weeks which is going to put the process on hold if it keeps up.

Jared Allen– The Vikings allowed Allen to play out his contract and he needed a big season to prove to a team that he could still be an elite pass rusher as he makes the turn into his 30s. Allen was nowhere to be seen on Sunday against a team that threw the ball 54 times. Allen registered just one pressure on the day according to Pro Football Focus which is not the kind of game that will get Allen the double digit APY he supposedly is looking for in 2014. Allen’s pace for the season is not strong considering the circumstances. His 1 sack in three games has him on pace for his lowest sack total  of his career and these have been in games where teams are averaging over 45 attempts a game. In terms of pressures he is only generating pressure on around 8% of his pass rush attempts compared to 11.5% the last few seasons.  With the team off to an 0-3 start and the defense looking below average Allen has a chance to be lost in obscurity this year with teams feeling he was unable to do anything in the few early season meaningful games they played.

CJ Spiller– It was a miserable day for Spiller rushing for just 9 yards on 10 carries before leaving the game on Sunday against the Jets. Spiller was expected to carry the Bills offense following his explosion in 2012 when he was arguably the second most productive back in the NFL behind the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson. Spiller was explosive and difficult to contain, finally living up to the draft day promises. This season was set to be the perfect storm for Spiller. The Bills were starting a young QB, considered to be a bit of a project, making him the man to carry the offense. Players like Ray Rice, Chris Johnson, etc…were able to use that to their benefit in getting lucrative contracts in the last few years. With some relatively heavier escalators possible to be earned in his contract 2014 should be an extension year for Spiller. But Spiller has had a difficult time this season with 2 of 3 games seeing him held under 50 yards and none will ever be worse than Sunday’s contest against the Jets.

### New Contract Disappointment Of The Week

Will Beatty– Beatty, signed to a \$7.5 million dollar a year contract extension in the offseason by the Giants, was abused by the Panthers’ Greg Hardy. While Hardy is a terrific player Beatty was expected to be a top line tackle. Instead he looked like a 4th quarter throw in from the first Preseason game of the year.  He was out-muscled all day and never looked like he could match up physically with the Panthers.  There was no technique helping him cope with the pressure. He was a revolving door and it set the tone for what turned into a blowout for the Giants.

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### The Chiefs and Branden Albert

Sometimes when I write about the salary cap and roster moves Ill use a phrase like “noose around the neck” in regards to a players (rare) control over a situation. Such is the case right now regarding T Branden Albert and the Kansas City Chiefs.

Make no mistake about it. The Chiefs never intended to have Albert on their team this season. The Chiefs were remaking their franchise this past offseason and Albert didn’t really fit in their plans. The team had the number 1 pick in the draft which they were going to spend on a Tackle and were prepared to make a number of money moves to improve the team. Just off the top of my head the Chefs traded for Alex Smith, signed Mike DeVito, Anthony Fasano, Dunta Robinson, and Sean Smith plus they re-upped star WR Dwayne Bowe.  While only Bowe cost mega-money the number of mid-tier moves the team made quickly added up.

The Chiefs slapped the franchise tag on Albert primarily because they saw him as a valuable asset that could be moved to acquire more low cost pieces in the draft.  What they may not have planned on, however, was the way the market for Offensive Tackles was going to shrink in 2013. Jake Long maxed out the market at a deal worth \$8.5 million a year and the meat of the market is really around \$7.5 million, and that’s for the left side of the line. Some think Albert belongs on the right side which brings the price down even further, between \$6 and \$7 million.

Needless to say Albert wants to make more than that, around \$9 million a season, according to reports, and the Chiefs are in a real bind. Supposedly Albert and the Miami Dolphins had agreed on a price which I have to assume is in that \$9 million a year range. However there was no way that the Dolphins were going to pay an above market price for a player and give up a 2nd round draft pick as well.  They could do one or the other, not both. The trade fell through and now the Chiefs are stuck with Albert.

Since the Chiefs didn’t plan for this they find themselves in a salary cap crunch. They have around \$4.3 million in cap space for their top 51 players. The team needs about \$3.876 million in cap room to sign their rookies. Once the season begins the cap counts 53 players rather than 51, which is another \$960,000. Just like that the Chiefs are out of cap room, sunk because of the franchise tag a fully guaranteed amount of \$9.828 million. They have other options such as restructuring the contract of Tamba Hali, but does a team want to get deeper on a 30 year old pass rusher with \$6 million in dead money in 2014?  I wouldn’t think so.

That’s why Albert has the Chiefs “noose around the neck” so to speak.  They need him to bring his cap number down. He has almost no incentive to do so. Players are taking short term deals in the hopes of a changing market in 2014. He may feel that if the Dolphins were willing to bite at his price this year another team might next year. Albert is already owed \$9.828 million guaranteed in a market where multi year deals are coming in around only \$17 or \$18 million guaranteed. Sure he is betting on staying healthy this year, but for the most part the Chiefs are going to have to meet his price or simply deal with him for 1 season at the high price tag and then lose him next year.

Albert wants the money Duane Brown earned last season. It would be a deal that is around \$9 million a year with \$22 million in full guarantees.  To put that in perspective that’s about 6% more per year than Long, 20% more than Will Beatty, 25% more than Jermon Bushrod, and 31% more than Sam Baker in terms of annual value. Those were the biggest deals signed by Left Tackles in 2013 I believe. A \$22 million guarantee would represent an increase of 83% on Long (Long has guarantees conditional on health, a concession he made to get the higher APY), 16% on Beatty, 88% on Bushrod, and 20.6% on Baker. The way the typical contracts are structured and knowing the Chiefs cap concerns would likely mean he is on the team for the next 4 years if they re-sign him. Those are all incredible premiums to pay for a player that just two or three weeks ago you really did not want on the team.

So financially the Chiefs are really in a bind. Normally a team holds all the cards. This is one of the rare cases where they do not. Albert really calls the shots here. It becomes a very tricky negotiation for the Chiefs and it will be interesting to see just how much Albert flashes his power here to get the money he wants.