Last offseason, I did an analysis looking at the Redskins who provided the best value in the 2018 season. Adrian Peterson and Chase Roullier came out on top, with Matt Ioannidis close behind. The full evaluation can be found at the link here.
This is a re-run of that same exercise with the same rules of the road. Despite its shortcomings, “performance” will be based on Pro Football Reference’s “approximate value (AV),” which is one of the few broadly available tools to try to quantify player performance from year to year.
A description from the PFR site is below:
“Essentially, AV is a substitute for --- and a significant improvement upon, in my opinion --- metrics like ‘number of seasons as a starter’ or ‘number of times making the pro bowl’ or the like. You should think of it as being essentially like those two metrics, but with interpolation in between. That is, ‘number of seasons as a starter’ is a reasonable starting point if you’re trying to measure, say, how good a particular draft class is, or what kind of player you can expect to get with the #13 pick in the draft. But obviously some starters are better than others. Starters on good teams are, as a group, better than starters on bad teams. Starting WRs who had lots of receiving yards are, as a group, better than starting WRs who did not have many receiving yards. Starters who made the pro bowl are, as a group, better than starters who didn’t, and so on. And non-starters aren’t worthless, so they get some points too.”
For 2019 (and where applicable, 2020) salaries, I am using information from Spotrac.com. For the purposes of this article, I am using “cap hit” versus “full salary.” In most cases, they are the same thing, with notable exceptions like Adrian Peterson in 2018, whose salary was $1,015,000, but whose cap hit was only $630,000. Why that can happen is explained here, but essentially it’s an incentive used to normalize the cost to a team of a veteran on a minimum value contract with a player on a rookie deal. Throughout the rest of this article, “value” will be calculated as “cap hit($)/AV.” Players with an AV below 4 were generally eliminated from this exercise unless there was some specific reason to include them.
High Production, Low Costs, Great Value
One dramatic, and encouraging, change from the 2018 exercise is that several of the players in this grouping were in their rookie season. The top player on the list was Cole Holcomb (AV 6), who at a value of around $89,000/AV was an even better deal than last year’s winner, Adrian Peterson. Not far behind ($107,000/AV) was star WR, Terry McLaurin, whose AV (7) was tied for highest on the team.
Vet LB, Jon Bostic (AV 6), signed for a deal around the vet minimum, came in third with a $123,000/AV. Just like last year, with Peterson, the Redskins took a gamble on a vet on an inexpensive deal and it paid off. This group grew dramatically this year, in part because the three more players on rookie deals, Steve Sims (AV 4, $125,000/AV), Chase Roullier (AV 5, $136,000/AV), and Montae Nicholson (AV 5, $160,000/AV) played reasonably well on very inexpensive contracts. Roullier fell into this category for the second straight year. Peterson (AV 6), remained in this category again as well, with a $297,000/AV.
Three of these players are under contract for at least the next three years, with Roullier and Nicholson free agents after 2020. It appears the team will likely pick up Peterson’s option for 2020. It’s not yet clear if Bostic will be back again this year, but he is precisely the sort of gap-filling free agent the Redskins should be looking for in the future.
Expensive Rookies, Cheap Vets, and Good Production
When the Trent Williams situation went south last summer, things could have been very bad for the Redskins’ offensive line. Donald Penn (AV 6) and Ereck Flowers (AV 6) anchored the left side of the line in a passable fashion, both staying fairly health and returning strong value for vets, $338,000/AV and $542,000/AV, respectively. Matt Ioannidis’ contract jump in 2019 pushed him into this category ($360,000/AV), despite the fact that he was tied for the team lead with an AV of 7. An attempt should definitely be made to re-sign Flowers, and Penn should get some consideration, depending on how things play out with Trent.
The other players in this category were a couple of first round picks, Montez Sweat (AV 6, $353,000/AV) and Jon Allen (AV 7, $452,000/AV). Unfortunately, another first rounder, Daron Payne, slipped out of this category and into the next one in 2019.
Moderately Priced, Middling Performers
Payne’s drop here was more a function of his depressed performance (AV 4, down from an AV of 8 in 2018) than his increased cost. His $819,000/AV was more than twice what it was last year. Five vets joined Payne here: Landon Collins (AV 5, $800,000/AV), Case Keenum (AV 4, $875,000/AV), Chris Thompson (AV 4, $980,000/AV), Morgan Moses (AV 7, $986,000/AV), and Quinton Dunbar (AV 4, $1,017,000/AV).
The hope remains that Payne improves under the tutelage of Rivera and Del Rio and that Dunbar can stay healthy for the better part of a season, which would likely improve his AV next year. In any case though, this level of performance probably merits some restraint in the terms of any possible extension moving forward.
This is probably the ceiling for where Moses can be expected to perform. Collins’ salary spikes in 2020, and a similar level of performance next year would likely shift him into the “Very Poor Value” category found below. His AV almost has to be 9+ in order for him to qualify as “Pricey, But Worth It,” a category that didn’t have any Redskins in it this year.
There would be very little surprise if Keenum and Thompson are allowed to walk in free agency this year.
Very Poor Value
I can already tell, this will be the most controversial element of this piece. Last year’s description of this group - which consisted of Josh Norman and Jordan Reed - ended up both giving an accurate assessment of their 2018 performance and being fairly prescient about their utility going forward. Norman didn’t even accrue enough AV (3) to merit coverage in this exercise, and Reed was injured before the regular season even began. The team would have been better off having cut or traded both players during last year’s offseason.
This year, the category is occupied by Brandon Scherff (AV 5, $2,505,000/AV) and Ryan Kerrigan (AV 5, $2,778,000/AV). Both players suffered season ending injuries last year, and this offseason the team faces difficult decisions about each. Scherff is a free agent, and is likely to be looking at a contract in the $14-15M/AAV range. My own opinion is that he would have a tough time routinely being a good value at that price and should probably be allowed to walk in free agency.
Kerrigan is in a different position, career-wise, than Scherff, and if the Redskins can extend him in a way that drives his salary down, I don’t have much trouble believing his performance could merit keeping him on the team, and pushing him into the “Pricey, But Worth It” category. Before 2019, Kerrigan had attained 3 straight years of an AV of 10+. Hitting an AV of 6 to 7 should be fairly manageable for a healthy Kerrigan, even in a platoon role.
The Walking Wounded
Alex Smith, Jordan Reed, and Paul Richardson all had top salaries for the Redskins in 2019 and spent most or all of the season on IR. Richardson is already gone, and the expectation is that Reed will be released soon. Smith has one year of major cap hit left on his salary and likely will be gone after this season. Here’s hoping there is no “walking wounded” category in next year’s piece.
Many of last year’s conclusions hold this year as well, but there are some refinements to note:
- Great drafting (like 2019) can have an immediate impact, and can set a firm foundation to grow from. Guys like Holcomb, McLaurin, and Sims will likely continue to get better, and won’t get much more expensive for the next several years.
- Solid vets on “prove it” deals can end up being a low cost gambles to fill in key roles. Both Bostic and Flowers, in particular, were free agent successes in 2019. Alternatively, DRC was an utter failure, compounded by the fact that he wasn’t cut before the season and ended up costing us a draft pick.
- “Middling performers” on their rookie deals are guys to watch. Payne’s play next year will likely determine his trajectory forward with the team. “Middling performers” on vet deals are probably always going to be part of the mix.
- When expensive vets hit a fork in the road, it’s important to ask if they are capable of achieving a performance level that can justify their salary. Often times, the answer is “no.” In those instances, if the team has an escape route, or option to move on, it should be given strong consideration. On the other hand, if an opportunity arises to negotiate a vet’s salary down with a reasonable expectation of continued strong performance, there may be an opportunity to salvage value.
At the request of several readers, the full value table for the team is included below:
Redskins Player Value - 2019
|Shaun Dion Hamilton||$608,252.00||2||$304,126.00|