FFODC Looks at Resigning Zach Brown

Most people who follow the Skins are saying the number one priority for the defense is to resign Zach Brown.  But what would that contract look like?

In order to get a better idea of what we should pay Brown I looked at two parameters:

  • What Brown’s peers in ‘on the field production’ are being paid.  I defined ‘on the field production’ by Tackles and PFF grades.
  • The current top 10 contracts for Inside Linebackers.

(All salary figures come from Over The Cap.)

Projected Salary Based off On The Field Production in 2017:

It’s not too hard to figure out that the Skins will be paying Brown to stop the run.  Inside runs, outside runs, quarterback scrambles, whatever the run we will want him to track it down.

A statistic people bring up when referencing Brown’s run defense is his NFL lead in tackles.  It’s not the strongest indicator of success but if you want to reference the tackling metric, here is what the top 5 looks like:

  1. Zach Brown (6th year)
  2. Joe Schobert (2nd year)
  3. Bobby Wagner (6th year)
  4. Blake Martinez (2nd year)
  5. C.J. Mosley (4th year)

From that list only Zach Brown and Bobby Wagner are under non-rookie contracts.  Rookie contracts tell us nothing about Brown’s value on the market but their are two contracts on that list we could use to see what a veteran linebacker leading the NFL in tackles should get paid.

The first, obviously, is Bobby Wagner who has two years left on his contract and the second is CJ Mosely whom the Ravens picked up a 5th year option on for 2018.  Their cap numbers are as follows,

  • C.J. Mosely: His 2018 cap number is $8.7 million, not under contract for 2019.
  • Bobby Wagner: His 2018 cap number is $13.6 million, his 2019 cap number is $14.1 million, not under contract for 2020.

Wagner’s 2018 salary will rank first and Mosely’s would rank ninth.  Averaging the two gives us around $11 million, good enough for the fourth highest contract in 2018.  Because Mosely’s contract only hits veteran status in 2018, these two contracts together can really only tell us what Brown could ask for if he was to get a short term 1-2 year deal.

To get an idea of what a longer term deal would look like we would need to look at PFF’s Linebacker grades.  PFF looks at each play and gives us a better idea of on the field production compared to the generic ‘tackling’ metric.  Unfortunately they have not posted a public list of their top Inside Linebackers but they have tweeted out their top four Linebackers through 12 weeks of play:

If I’m assuming our expectation for Brown is to be a top tier run stopper then this metric is a good reference since you wouldn’t be a top tier Linebacker if you weren’t also a top tier run stopper.  I do think these yearly numbers will be higher than what Brown should expect since these guys have also shown the ability to defend against the pass, and that is an area Brown has struggled in.

Contracts for the players in the pic above:

  1. Bobby Wagner:  4 years $43 million, $22 million guaranteed ($10.75 million per year.)
  2. Lavonte David: 5 years $50.2 million, $10.7 million guaranteed ($10 million per year.)
  3. Luke Kuechly: 5 years $61.8 million, $34 million guaranteed ($12.4 million per year.)
  4. Telvin Smith: 5 years $44.4 million, $15.5 million guaranteed (~$9 million per year.)

The contract value for a top graded Linebacker this season is 4-5 years at around $10 million per year, with 20-50% of that money guaranteed.

To recap, based off of production:

  • A short term 1-2 year deal would be about $11 million per year.
  • A long term 4-5 year contract would be about $10 million per year, with up to 50% of that guaranteed.

Projected Salary Based off Current Contracts:

If we do away with Brown’s contemporaries in production and just look at the current top 10 salaries for ILBs:

we get an average of $8.3 million per year with around $3 million of that guaranteed.  Over the course of 5 years that would be $40 million with $12 million guaranteed.

What Should Brown Get Paid?

The last thing left to factor in is the expected cap increase which is about 7% each year.  So adding 7% to the numbers listed above gives us,

If it’s a short term deal:  If we assume Brown is getting a short term 1-2 year deal then we are looking at ~$12 million per year.

If it’s a long term deal:  If we assume Brown gets a longer term deal, let’s say a five year contract (which is what three out of the top four LBs were given) and factor in the 7% increase, then Brown would stand to receive:

  • Lowest possible deal (Posluszny’s base, Johnson’s bonus percentage): years $26.25 million, $5 million guaranteed ($5.25 million/year.)
  • “Average” deal: 5 years $42.5 million, $15-20 million guaranteed ($8.5 million/year.)
  • Highest possible deal (Kuechly’s base, Trevathan’s bonus percentage): 5 years $65 million, $31 million guaranteed ($13 million/year.)

The highest possible deal looks to be reserved for a more complete all-around linebacker, while the lowest possible deal would be a slap in the face.

We have four guys slated to make over 10 million in 2018–five when Kirk gets resigned–and most teams tend to keep a maximum of five guys on their roster with salaries over 10 million per year.  It’s tough to see a scenario where we make Brown, whose shown to be a liability in coverage, the sixth.

Final Verdict: Anything close to an “average” deal (average of top tier contracts) and both sides come out looking good; this here blog expects 4-5 years at $8.5 million per year with close to half of that in guarantees.

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