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Surplus Value: Do The Packers Have Enough Talent?

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Surplus Value: Do The Packers Have Enough Talent?

I have always contended that in a hard-cap league, surplus value is the best way to assess a team.  So here is my first real attempt to assign surplus value numbers to the roster.  It is fraught with difficulties.  The general method is this: if the team had known back in March what it knows now about how a player would actually produce, what would the team pay that player?  I call that worth or value.  I have looked at each players’ statistics and considered their general play over Green Bay’s first eight games.   I have compared each player’s worth to the player's cap hit to get surplus value, which sometimes is a negative number.  I considered using AAV instead of cap, but I am looking for a snapshot of this season.  Good players can have negative value if they are overpaid, underperforming or hurt. 

A few more words on how I have reached these numbers.  I would not say calculate since there is considerable subjectivity involved.  Since I used only the first eight games, I doubled the production of each player who is able to continue playing.  That means while I might think MVS is going to improve his catch percentage and his yards per game (if not his yards per reception), I am assigning him a value or worth based on two times 358 yards, which is how many yards he has gained so far, along with his current catch percentage of 53 percent and his 21.1 yards per catch.  Potential has no place for me.  Similarly, I did not know after the first eight games that Daniels was going to miss several games. 

I assume something akin to perfect knowledge.  I have included the knowledge that a player has gone on injured reserve and is not coming back, or got cut or traded.  Jake Ryan is not returning: therefore, Ryan will play no snaps but he will cost $2.02 million against the cap.  His surplus value is thus a negative $2.02 million.  An encyclopedic knowledge of how comparable players have produced and knowledge of their contracts would be useful.  Alas, while I have watched every snap of the Packers, I have only watched a smattering of other NFL games. 

I used Eddie Goldman and Linval Joseph as comparables for Kenny Clark.  Chicago paid Goldman $10.5 million given their expectations about how well he would play.  I think Clark has been a better run stuffer, commanded at least as many double teams, and has more pass rush production than Goldman, so I assigned a worth of $12 million to Clark.  However, I have only watched two Chicago games.  Joseph’s pay is between $9 million and $12.5 million, depending on how one views his contract.  Minnesota has an easy out after three years and $27 million paid, with just $3.6 million dead. 

Several players gave me trouble.  I do not know whether to consider Jimmy Graham as a tight end or as a large possession type of wide receiver.  Running backs seem to me to be difficult to value since so few get second contracts.  If Aaron Jones were a free agent, and teams knew he would gain 698 yards with a 6.0 average and 102 yards receiving (this is double his stats through the first eight games), how much should a team pay for him?  Again, I am dealing with actual production, not how many yards Jones should have but for his questionable usage.           

For those wondering (if any), the 34 players I listed have a surplus value of $30,996,473.  That might seem odd for a team that is sub-.500 at 3-4-1.  Maybe this team should be 5-3 or even better.  Should a team that actually deserves to be 8-8 have a surplus value of about zero just in general?  That would be elegant in a mathematical sense.  I do not have much context.  Since the only other team’s roster I know a fair amount about is Minnesota’s, I went through their roster, cap numbers, and assigned a worth to 36 of their players.  I came up with a total surplus value of $28.93 million for the Vikings.  A word of caution: in Minnesota’s first eight games, Griffen only played in three games, garnering five quarterback hits, one sack, and seven tackles.  Since Griffen has a $12.7 million cap hit, he generated a negative $9 million net.  He is back with the team now, and already has put a few good games, but I only looked at the first eight games Minnesota played.  The other main drag on Minnesota’s surplus value is Rhodes, since I think his play is only somewhat better than average so far, yet he has a $13.4 million cap hit.     

At the end of the season I plan to do the entire roster, and then, when there is more time, delve into these issues.  

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Bearmeat's picture

Nice breakdown and interesting thoughts. Without looking at any stats and just going off memory, this is close to what I'd have done in a table too.

And they clearly have enough talent to be a playoff team. They are clearly underachieving.

Kb999's picture

Nice job man.

jeremyjjbrown's picture

Perry, Cobb and Matthews at the top of the surplus negative. My Confirmation Bias loves it.

ejr450's picture

Love the article and point of view. Quick edit... you have Kyle Lowry instead of Dean Lowry. Too much Bucks basketball!!!

Since '61's picture

Nice job TGR!!! Once the season is over I'll think you will find some adjustments in your surplus and negatives, however I think that your premise is the correct one and just needs a little more refining which will come with more games and more information.

Question, if the Packers reach the playoffs and a player has a great game, such as Rodgers or Clark will you factor in playoff performances in assessing your surplus/negative figures for the season or will you only use the 16 regular season games?

Once again thanks for your always very informative efforts. Since '61

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

What do you (and other posters) think I should do?

After the season is over I plan to look at a really good team and a really bad team (which will be some work since I will have to research the bad team heavily and it will force me to watch at least a couple of their games - and even that is inadequate). The really good team will make the playoffs but the bad team won't, making it no longer apples to apples.

OTOH, there are players who come alive in the playoffs. I didn't like some things about Raji but he tended to have very good games in the playoffs. I know that I took that into consideration when it came time to sign him to those one year deals he kept getting (thanking circumstance).

I also have to decide whether a back-up QB who doesn't play a single snap has any 'worth'. Clearly teams value such players and are willing to pay for such players. If we pay $700K for Kizer and $480K for Boyle and yet their stats are no attempts, yards, etc. and no snaps, isn't their worth together negative $1.18M? We got no production and this is about production, not potential talent.

I think(!) I am interested in this: here is the actual production (not potential or talent) and here is what the team paid. Otherwise I would end up being 100% subjective about how Kizer (or Foles in Philly where it matters more) would have performed if given a chance.

Also, since only 2nd and 3rd contract players generally produce a negative, I am considering incorporating a constant: probably 53 players times the league minimum, so a negative $25.44M for each team. That is just so that an 8-8 team might have close to zero surplus value.

Bearmeat's picture

Regarding Backup QBs - regardless of whether or not that guy ever throws a pass - they're valuable. I think way more valuable than any other rotational or backup player.

If your starting QB goes down and your backup is a dumpster fire, you're screwed. Or, if your head coach can't adjust when your starting QB goes down, you're screwed.

So, if ARod is out, we're screwed in other words. :P

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

True, but if the backup QB like Kizer never plays, what dollar amount should I plug in for him? It would be an absolute guess (100% subjective), and it would be about talent rather than actual production. I think I have to put in zero worth. This is a snap shot of what happened in the season

If the backup starts 3 games and goes 2-1 (beats a bad team, an average team and loses to NO), that's worth...? I'd say $5M to $7M. Foles started two games this year and went 1-1, beating Atlanta and losing to Tamp Bay. Played okay in the Tampa Bay (50 passer rating) and improved in his second game (98.9 rating). IDK, maybe worth $3.75M?

HankScorpio's picture

If Kizer/Boyle don't play a snap, they show nothing to evaluate. It becomes a more generic thing that is about cap resource allocation on Kizer/Boyle vs what the other 31 teams did for backup QB.

The Packers are definitely in "pay less" mode with backup QB. They could have spent significantly more on a backup QB but they did not. They chose to allocate cap dollars elsewhere. If that decision is never put to the "fire test" by having one play in the regular season, that's the best case scenario for them as they gamed out roster construction from last March-Sept.

Since '61's picture

TGR - I hate to add to your workload but I would review an 8-8 team as a baseline. Then a bad team as a worst case scenario and a really good team as a best case scenario.

Then you can see where/how the Packers fit in.

As for the backup QBs if Rodgers remains healthy (fingers and everything else crossed) and Kizer and Boyle do not get any snaps for the season I think that you need to give Kizer a negative (for his performance against the Bears) and Boyle a zero (to be fair). If you try to base your results on potential you will dilute your essential premise of production then everything becomes much more subjective and you will drive yourself nuts, I think.

A question that you may have to deal with is how do you value the backup QBs if the Packers shut Rodgers down for last 2-3 games if they are out of it. They may do the same with other starters as well, e.g. Bulaga or Daniels. The other factor is by that time their opponents (Jets and Lions) will probably be out of it as well. (Essentially glorified exhibition games). Again, I think your only approach can be based on production.

On a more positive and hopeful note is if the Packers reach the playoffs how or should you handle those game(s). If a player like Alexander gets a +100 (keeping it simple for this example) for a game winning pick 6 during the regular season should that be graded differently in a playoff game. Should it be +110, or +125, or plus +150? Same for Rodgers if he leads a game winning scoring drive. Maybe the later the round the higher the factor applied. Same for a negative play like Monty's bonehead play in the Rams game.

Since this project is in the initial phase I would advise that you take your time. There are no deadlines here that I am aware of. The more you work on it the more you will find both flaws and gems in your approach. Throw out the flaws, build upon the gems. You may find yourself altering your approach at least partially or completely. Also, you may be able to leverage some of Andy's weekly analysis, at least for your work on the Packers. Other sites like Pro-Football Reference and/or Pro-Football Focus may provide you with a database(s) for your work on other teams and/or help you form a baseline for the league.

In any case I wish you the best of luck and I look forward to reading/reviewing your article(s) when it is ready. You may choose to do 3 articles offense, defense and special teams (not trying to give you extra work just some quick thoughts on structure and presentation).

If you have any questions or get stuck along the way if you post them here I will always try to answer the best I can. Once again I congratulate you for your initiative and I appreciate your efforts on all of our behalf.

Happy Thanksgiving to all at CHTV, contributors, staff and bloggers.
Thanks, Since '61

marpag1's picture

I don't really understand the focus on ONE TEAM (or two) as a benchmark, whether it be good, bad or average. Wouldn't it be much better to consider "average positional salary" across the league, and also "average positional production? "

croatpackfan's picture

Good idea

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

It would probably be interesting. But no one is paying me. Perhaps using DVOA (or PFF is supposedly going to roll out a WAR stat) would help, but it sounds daunting. IDK, money appeals to me as the ultimate test. Gute had $181.1M to spend, here is the actual production he got (though stuck with old contracts and some dead money), and here is how much cap space can be rolled over. I've got three months to decide how to proceed if it seems worth doing again.

Bearmeat's picture

Frankly, if you wanted to get paid, I think you could. Your work always makes me understand the cap much better and quicker than overthecap and sites like that...

Oppy's picture

I was thinking the same thing, Marpag1.

However, I believe it would be best to look at the medians as opposed to the means, and perhaps even separate between "starters" and "back ups".

Reason being, a single outlier salary (or production, for that matter) could completely tip the mean (average) numbers out of whack. At least if we work with medians we still know where the "true" middle of the pack is, and perhaps can assign a percentile adjuster for above/below true median salary or production. Separating primary (starting) players and secondary (back up) players is probably a good idea, too- since league salaries (and production, for obvious reasons) are grossly tilted towards the 22 starting players on a given roster.

marpag1's picture

You and I are asking the same questions, Oppy. The question of whether to separate starters from backups is particularly interesting in my opinion. But in my mind I think it would be best to lump them all together, even though that would make a lot more work. I THINK I see several reasons for this. First, it is definitely part of a GM's job to provide the highest quality backups at the cheapest possible price. If a GM can do that, he is getting value... and just might save his season. Granted, the GM can't possibly know at the start of the season which of his backups will be forced into action, but even if they never play a single snap and therefore have zero production, if he got those players on the cheap, then he did a great job by not paying very much. If they get forced into action and do OK, then he will probably look even better because because their production will be higher than what he paid for them. On the other hand, if a GM goes out and signs a guy for 20 million, and that guy ends up as the third QB and never sees the field, then the GM has made a colossal blunder, and the lack of value in that backup will definitely hamstring his team (Hello, Arizona Cardinals!). More than that, with all of the sub-packages and injuries in the NFL, it is increasingly difficult to distinguish between who is a 'starter' and who is a 'backup.' Just a few random thoughts, I guess...

Oppy's picture

We can eliminate all starter/backup bias from production by measuring production on a per-snap basis, so that's one problem solved.

Salary would be difficult. As you alluded to, starters are paid higher (generally) not only because in theory they are "better" players, but also because they are expected to take the bulk of the snaps.

I'm just throwing this out there, but has anyone thought about adjusted salary- that is, pay per snap? I don't know how that would end up looking, but it might be an interesting exercise. Pay per snap and production per snap- it would be fun to see how many starters compare to the back ups when those two spheres are leveled.

Guam's picture

Once again an excellent article TGR! Thank you for your diligent contributions to our understanding of Packer football.

Since this is largely a comparative analysis, I wouldn't worry too much about the value of non-playing players. Every team will have exactly the same issue in establishing their total production value and the non-playing players will wash out in the comparison.

I would also recommend focusing on the NFC North as it will likely give you a reasonable spread of team records as well as provide comparative data that is more recognizable for us than say, comparisons with the Rams and the Cardinals.

Happy Thanksgiving to all and Go Pack Go!

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Average or even median positional salary wouldn't be hard. I'd prefer to use just guys who have reached FA or are on 2nd contract, including guys like Jahri Evans and Bell, but guys on rookie contracts would have to be included, and separating starters from backups who require a lot of knowledge of every team.

Ascertaining average/median production at each position sounds like a nightmare. More possible for positions with lots of stats, but figuring out the production for most defensive positions sounds like a nightmare. Is a CB who stat-line is bare good or bad? Bad CBs might have more PDs simply because every QB picks on them and even a blind squirrel finds the occasional nut. DI guys sounds really difficult. I suppose supplementing stats with PFF, Car Av, DYAR where available could be done.

Thanks for the feedback. I will consider these things. Who knows how much time I will have in February.

The TKstinator's picture

I say give TGR a PBR, ASAP!

The TKstinator's picture

Dilly dilly?

Jonathan Spader's picture

Never thought I'd say this but I think you have K. Fackrel undervalued. He has 8 sacks tying him with D. Lawrence and K. Mack. Most of those came in 2 3 sack games but with 8 sacks he's worth more than your 2.225 evaluation. Mack and Lawrence are obviously better/more disruptive players but Fackrel is playing at an $8 mil level when Perry is the $10 mil cap hit.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Yup. Partial Explanation: I did this after our 8th game (week 9), at which time Fackrell had 4 sacks (I am only counting 3 since he never touched the QB but was credited with a sack as the closest player), with two of them against Buffalo. After 8 games, he thus had 3 sacks, 3 QB hits, 14 tackles, and one TFL. [I like to see more QB hits than sacks as a rough measure of consistent pass rush.] OLBs have run D, pass rush and coverage components. At the time, using the eye-test, I gave him credit for good coverage for an OLB, some pass rush, and pretty bad run D.

Yeah, even taking that into consideration, it's probably worth more than $2.225M. Thanks for being interested enough to look closely: I probably have Gilbert too high.

This originally was titled "Bye Week Self-Scout: Surplus Value" but with the articles about AR himself, the AR/MM relationship, scheme, firing MM, replacing MM, I thought CHTV had plenty of good articles coming out and this could be a stand-alone article published later.

croatpackfan's picture

TGR, you are doing really good articles. Not always easy to swallow some data, but they are for real. That is the truth in those facts...

Regarding Fackrell. I believe people were more hard on him because of his age. If he is younger, people will show more patience for his development. I believe we will be able to tell next season if he is good pick or bust. One season (bad or good) does not tell us the real value...

Stay well and thank you for your hard digging of facts...

Rebecca's picture

Your article/hard work is exceptionally well done. The visual perspective of the spread sheet makes it much easier to see how these salaries need to be managed. Always follow the $$$!

PAPackerbacker's picture

The Packers have plenty of talent. They lack direction and discipline, mostly on offense, and this is the responsibility of the coach and management.

croatpackfan's picture

I wish to all authors and posters here very happy, peaceful and good mood Thanksgiving...

Stay well Packers Nation!

Lancer's picture

Hi TRY instead of doing a bad team, I would suggest doing the team's in the NFC North. The readers here have some exposure to our divisional rivals personnel it would provide better insight like your Bear and Viking compares in the article.
I also wonder how you determine if a kicker or punter is living up to their contract? Seems like a rookie contract in those cases will almost always have more surplus value than a kicker on a second contract.
Best, Lancer

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

That wouldn't be bad doing the NFC North. I'll will have seen each team at least 4 times, and 5 or 6 for MN and Chicago.

Rookie contracts in general pose some issues. Crosby isn't hard though. His stats are clear and remember you know his stats before you decide how much to pay him. So the GM knows Crosby is going to lose one game on his own and not make walk-off 52-yarder in week 2 outdoors but not in the cold. That's through 8 games, so multiply by two. Come to think of it, $2.25M seems like a lot for that production.

Donster's picture

Excellent article James! This team indeed does have talent at certain positions. How they are being coached, and led are the biggest issues. The team needs a refresh at Head Coach, the offense and I would still like the Strength and Conditioning coach and staff cleaned out. This team has so many soft tissue injuries every year it's crazy. Lovat has been around since 2009. Time for change there too.

marpag1's picture

Nice work, TGR. Obviously we can debate specific values and judgments for individual players, but in general I think most people are in agreement with who is "value" and who isn't.

To me, the most encouraging thing is that the highest value players are, almost to a man, under contract for 2019 or beyond. On the other side, virtually all of the low value players, almost to a man, will be jettisoned or resigned to a more reasonable value at the end of the year. Really, the only low value guy that we're just stuck with is Nick Perry, who's under contract through 2021. But that's the only one that is really going to bite us going forward, assuming he doesn't play better.

(I'm aware that the salary numbers etc can and will change next year, as you stated.)

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

That's an excellent point. Even with increasing cap numbers for Bakh and Adams, Linsley, so far so good on those contract.

I am not the Supreme Court deciding what a player is worth. If someone feels Daniels is worth closer to $8M than the $11M I assigned, that's fine. They can just deduct $3M for the total surplus value, and add $1M or whatever for Fackrell if they think I am off on some other player.

Guam's picture

I think your statement that "virtually all of the low value players, almost to a man, will be jettisoned or resigned..." is incorrect. I would guess more than half of these players will be back at their current contracts. I can't imagine the Packers parting ways with Josh Jackson, J'mon Moore or Robert Tonyan who will all still be on their rookie contracts. Additionally Bulaga and Bell are barely negative on veteran contracts and you don't dump the entire right side of your starting O-line without a serious plan. I also don't believe Crosby is going anywhere - he has been too reliable over a long career to dump because one game (Detroit) is skewing his current numbers. Wilkerson is an interesting question as his number is low due to injury. He was playing well enough to retain on a $5 million contract until the injury occurred.

The real change needs to come from just three players - Perry, Cobb and Mathews. To me the interesting question is Mathews - is he worth resigning at $5-6 million as an ILB or do you just let him go?

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I think Marpag meant the guys with significant negative values are mostly on expiring contracts, not that we should cut all the guys who make relatively little while on rookie deals. Yeah, Bulaga has a small negative for me, but he is making $8.3M and thus is a quality player, so we probably should not dump him. Making about what the player is worth is fine for guys on 2nd and 3rd contracts. Nice if they exceed expectations, but....

Guam's picture

I can be a bit of a literalist and I took Marpag1 at his word. If he meant just the top three, I would agree.

I would be interested on other bloggers take on Bulaga, Wilkerson and Mathews (larger contract guys). I would keep Bulaga for the same reason you cited. I would resign Wilkerson as it seemed he was playing at least to his contract prior to injury and we need D-line depth. Mathews I discussed earlier.

marpag1's picture

I should have been more precise, Guam, but yeah, TGR is correct about my basic point. I'm just talking about the obvious and extreme "money wasters," not the average, borderline performers or the rookie contracts. So I think you and I agree almost step for step, except that I would definitely include Wilkerson as an extremely poor value. Granted, It's nobody's fault that he got injured, but that doesn't change the reality that the Packers got very little value THIS YEAR in return for their investment. Whether he should be resigned for next year, or at what price he should be resigned, are different questions.

I also agree that Bulaga and Crosby are NOT terrible values, and that the rookies will almost certainly stick with the team and don't cost much anyway. But here are the guys from TGR's "Negative" list that are currently on contracts that will expire at the end of the year: Cobb, Matthews, Wilkerson, Lewis, Kendricks, Bell and Brice.

So the only "BIG money waster" that the Packers can't easily get rid of is Nick Perry.

Guam's picture

Thanks for the clarification and yes, we do agree almost exactly. Will be nice to recoup some of the larger contracts and I certainly hope Gute does an excellent job using the money in free agency. We have more holes than the draft can fill, even with two #1's.

stockholder's picture

I don't think anyone is coming back. The press and the peanut gallery has a dunce Cap on MM. Cobb ,CM3 and Wilkerson will all leave. Crosby and Perry need to be traded. (We dumped Ryan Longwell) This draft gives you a new kicker. Frackwell is your new OLB. But how should the packers draft? A-Rod made a point of holding on to the ball to long. Any Rookie takes time to learn. Especially along the OL. This club plays 500 ball ! New leaders must come forward. We no longer have a choice but to let people leave. The logical solution has been to draft whats Leaving. So 1 DE, 1 LB, and I'm not sure what happens to Jake Ryan?

PatrickGB's picture

Ah, a money ball type article. Those can be quite subjective no matter how hard one works on it. Yet I appreciate your effort.

HankScorpio's picture

Given the play of the o-line, I think some are over-valued in the evaluation. In particular, the interior has been far more problematic that just at RG with Bell and McCray.

Having said that, setting out to do something like this is an exceedingly challenging task.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

IIRC, Linsley was rated the #4 OC when I did this (he is down to #6 and a 76 PFF grade now - above average). The 6th highest paid OC makes $9M, with Linsley coming in 9th AAV at $8.5M.

Bulaga is currently rated the 26th best OT, and there are at least 64 starters. What I do think is that the offense function lots better with Bulaga playing. I nicked him for missing 17% of snaps in the first 8 games. But maybe I'm too high.

What to do with Bell? I don't remember his PFF grade, but currently, he's rated 68th best RG and below average at 48.7. Maybe he's the equivalent of a speed bump (not the nasty ones) but he is a living, breathing RG. IDK, not everyone is Jahri Evans. $1.5M is probably high. On Lane Taylor, he was rated higher than I thought he should be on PFF (19th at the time IIRC) and the like. I thought I was fighting my bias against him by putting him at $6M. Taylor is down to 29th OG. $6M is what the 25th highest paid OG gets when I tweaked his worth.

HankScorpio's picture

And there is part of the challenge. PFF grades are about the best metric available. But they are far from reliable. Didn't they have HHCD as a top 5 Safety? No matter what cap value you give that, I don't see the Packers missing him when i give the defense the eyeball test.

So what can be done to assign a value that is not going to generate discussion and disagreement? Nothing.

Which makes this a perfect discussion point for a place like this.

Jonathan Spader's picture

TGR for comparing rosters why not look at it purely from an available cap standpoint. The Vikings have almost no cap space left in 2018 while the Browns have 56 mil. Compare the Packers to the teams closest to their available cap space in 2018?

TheBigCheeze's picture

....agree on most....except Perry should be $1.40

flackcatcher's picture

This may the best article you done on this site tgr. Football is after all a trade job, like all other sports. One is judged on the use of skills, and his value to the team based on those skills. Finding a way to compare and contrast those values without invoking the 'eye test' is difficult at best. Some may complain about the values assigned, but that is pretty small stuff which does not effect the overall view. Going forward, this gives a solid baseline which to understand the Packer and other teams personal moves. Well done.

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