When the Browns signed WR Jarvis Landry to a 5 year $75 million contract, quite a few people were surprised Landry was able to get so much. He’s been very productive during his time in the NFL but essentially plays out of the slot, and is not viewed as a WR1 or even WR2 on an NFL depth chart. I decided to take a look at the stats behind the contract, as well as several other top wide receivers, and Randall Cobb, who plays out of the slot like Landry to see how the contract value shapes up.
Please note that all of the player stats used in this article are from 2015-2017, as I believe the last 3 years of a players production give us a pretty good idea of their worth. We will be looking at two different charts as well, one being my attempt at approximating a WR’s value in the NFL, and the second using ProFootballReference’s “Approximate Value” stat or AV. (Denoted in my data as fAV.) AV is a similar stat to WAR in baseball, but is not as exact and should only be used as one piece of data when examining a player.
The way that we compare the salaries of players signed in different years is by looking at the contract’s average annual value as a percentage of the salary cap in the year they signed. These are the top 10 players in AAV, as well as a career slot receiver in Cobb.
You can see that even though Landry’s contract has a larger AAV than AJ Green, it was worth significantly less at the time of signing. This is important as we should not expect the same production from Landry as Green.
The three main stats that I chose to use to approximate player value were average games played in a season, touchdowns, and yards per reception. These were all the stats that it seems like GMs and coaches are looking for, and avoids most counting stats, except for touchdowns, as their impact is much larger than anything else a WR can do. This obviously doesn’t take into account blocking down field or other value added to a team such as leadership, so please take these results with a tiny mountain of salt.
We should expect these bars to get smaller as we go from top to bottom, not only because the blue section will be shorter, but that we expect the production to decrease as well. The blue bar is there to give you a sense of scale of the difference between what each player makes. The best way to compare players is to look at a set of 3 with the player you want to compare in the middle. We should expect that player’s bar to be smaller than the player above them, and larger than the player below them.
We can see that Landry does not compare well to the value of Davante Adams, but is reasonable when compared to Cobb. There are two possible conclusions we can take from this; either Cobb and Landry are both overpaid, or Adams and Robinson’s deals are a great value. The story changes when we look at fAV however.
We expect players to fall close to the red line for this chart, above the line is good, and below the line is bad. We can see that Jarvis falls right in line with his value here, with the only major difference from the previous chart being Julio Jones. This is unsurprising for Jones, as my approximation placed a very large emphasis on TDs.
To summarize both charts, please see the following table. Green means the player is good value, yellow means average value, and red means the player is poor value.
We have only one instance where the two metrics completely disagree, and it was the expected case with Julio, as it appears I may have valued TDs slightly too highly. Unfortunately for Jarvis, neither metric considered him a good value at his price point. The good news is that we don’t just live in some sort of stats bubble, and can use our human minds to understand the context of situations.
Everyone (including Landry’s agent) knows the following:
Cleveland has not been a popular free agent destination
There will always be someone else to overpay a WR in the NFL (See: Watkins, Sammy)
The Browns are about to draft a QB that will be on his rookie contract for the same 5 years that Landry was asking for.
With all this in mind, and the data, the cost for Landry seems completely reasonable. It isn’t a great value like Antonio Brown or Davante Adams, but it’s fair. In the modern NFL where guys are getting overpaid left and right, I don’t see anything wrong with the Browns’ move.
For More Follow @ZgreenZ on Twitter