The DC Times

A New Way to Look at the Cowboys, NFL, and Fantasy Football

By Jonathan Bales

Running the Numbers: Anthony Spencer’s Market Value

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My latest article at DallasCowboys.com is a peek at Anthony Spencer’s market value using stats.

When I compared the expected points generated by quarterbacks in the year prior to their new contracts with the per-season average of their deals, I found a very strong relationship. That is, with the exception of a contract or two (see Mark Sanchez’s $58.3 million deal), organizations have been very efficient when paying quarterbacks for their actual worth.

Market Value for Pass-Rushers

To determine Spencer’s market value, I decided to collect the same data. I charted the recent contracts of the highest-paid pass-rushers in the NFL, both 4-3 defensive ends and 3-4 outside linebackers, and compared their per-season average with the expected points they generated per game.

Unlike with quarterbacks, there wasn’t much of a relationship. You can see the points scattered all over the graph, indicating teams aren’t paying pass-rushers in accordance with EPA. That should make sense,; organizations care about production, and there’s no easier way to measure that than with sacks.

While the correlation between a pass-rusher’s contract and his sacks isn’t as strong as that for quarterbacks and their EPA, there’s certainly still a relationship, suggesting NFL teams are paying pass-rushers primarily for sacks. The two outliers are Mario Williams andDeMarcus Ware. Williams registered 8.5 sacks in 2010 and barely played in 2011 before inking a deal with the Bills worth $16 million annually. In terms of the going rate for sacks, Buffalo overpaid by a wide margin. Meanwhile, Dallas signed Ware after his 20-sack season to a deal worth $11.1 million per year – a steal, based on market value.

The problem with paying for sacks, however, is that they’re a fluky stat and not entirely representative of a player’s true ability. That was the case with Spencer prior to 2012, when his sacks weren’t matching up with how often he was reaching the passer. Had the Cowboys paid Spencer in 2011, they likely could have gotten a tremendous deal.

Coming off of a career year, however, Spencer wants to get paid like an 11-sack player, and rightfully so. Based on past deals, the market value for an edge-rusher coming off an 11-sack season is right in the neighborhood of $10 million per year. Denver’s Elvis Dumervil, Philadelphia’s Trent Cole, and Pittsburgh’s LaMarr Woodley have all recently signed deals in that range.

Check it out at the team site.

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