In this series of pieces, Pro Football Focus is hammering into the value of players. To us it’s a “Jahnke Value Model” number, telling you what players were worth (by our grading) in 2013. You can read about the work we’ve done to create it here, but in short:
• It’s solely about what a player did on the field in 2013
• Players are grouped by positions so their play essentially earns them a portion of the positional salary pool
• It’s all about cap hits (these values are approximate)
Here are 2013′s most undervalued and overvalued New England Patriots:
(* Denotes player missed significant portion of time through injury)
1. Devin McCourty, Safety
McCourty has solidified himself as one of the top secondary defenders with success at both cornerback and safety. McCourty earned the highest coverage (+14.1) and overall (+18.7) grades among safeties for 2013. Therefore, it’s no surprise he was the Patriots’ most undervalued player for a second straight season and the most undervalued safety last year. He also led all safeties with seven passes defensed. McCourty’s cap number increases significantly as he goes into the final deal of his rookie contract, but another performance like last season should still keep him well undervalued.
2013 Cap Hit: $1.8m
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $9.8m
Value Differential: +$8m
2. Rob Gronkowski, Tight End*
Gronkowski missed nine games and played only 390 snaps, but he had such an impact in the little time he was on the field that he still was one of the most undervalued tight ends in the league. Gronkowski was targeted on nearly 30 percent of the routes he ran and led all tight ends with an average 2.75 Yards Per Route Run. His cap hit doubles in 2014, but if he is even reasonably healthy he should once again be one of the most undervalued players with the Patriots.
2013 Cap Hit: $2.7m
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $8.5m
Value Differential: +$5.8m
3. Julian Edelman, Wide Receiver
Once Wes Welker departed last offseason, the Patriots re-signed Edelman to a low-cost, one-year deal to prove that he could stay healthy and develop into a reliable receiver within the offense. Edelman did just that and became the only consistent receiving option for Tom Brady. After previous career-highs of 21 receptions and 235 receiving yards, the former seventh-round pick eclipsed 100 catches and 1,000 yards as Brady’s go-to receiver. As Edelman hits free agency again this year, how much are the Patriots willing to spend to keep him around, and how will other teams perceive his value outside of New England?
2013 Cap Hit: $800k
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $5.2m
Value Differential: +$4.4m
4. Nate Solder, LT – Cap: $2.3m, JVM: $5.2m, Value Differential: +$2.9m
5. Brandon Spikes, ILB – Cap: $900k, JVM: $3.7m, Value Differential: +$2.8m
6. LeGarrette Blount, HB – Cap: $700k, JVM: $3.1m, Value Differential: +$2.4m
7. Rob Ninkovich, DE – Cap: $3.6, JVM: $5.8m, Value Differential: +$2.2m
8. Logan Ryan, CB – Cap: $500k, JVM: $2.4m, Value Differential: +$1.9m
9. Sealver Siliga, DT – Cap: $200k, JVM: $1.7m, Value Differential: +$1.5m
10. Tom Brady, QB – Cap: $13.8m, JVM: $15.1m, Value Differential: +$1.3m
1. Vince Wilfork, Defensive Tackle*
Unfortunately an Achilles injury ended Wilfork’s season in Week 4, preventing him from coming anywhere close to matching the value of his contract. However, he has previously been a reliable constant on the Patriots’ defense, earning a +10.6 or higher overall grade in each of the five seasons prior to 2013. Wilfork is heading into the final year of his contract with an $11.6 million cap number. Without the ability to restructure his deal, will the Patriots keep the 32-year-old for another year after coming off a major injury? Or will they ask for a pay cut or release him outright? Even with a solid season, it will be difficult for the aging veteran to earn the full value of the final year of his contract.
2013 Cap Hit: $10.6m
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $200k
Value Differential: -$10.4m
2. Logan Mankins, Left Guard
Mankins signed a contract extension three seasons ago that made him the highest-paid guard at the time. His contract remains the second-highest in average per year, but his play has taken a dip over the last couple seasons largely as he plays through injuries. His performance has still been positive (+12.0 in 2013), but nowhere near elite status like he is being paid. He set to count over $10 million against the cap again in each of the next two years. Unless Mankins, who turns age 32 tomorrow, is able to regain some of his elite form, he will likely remain among the most overpaid on the Patriots’ roster for a third straight season.
2013 Cap Hit: $10m
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $4.2m
Value Differential: -$5.8m
3. Jerod Mayo, Outside Linebacker*
Similar to Wilfork, Mayo was lost to injury in the first half of the season. That said, Mayo was playing subpar in run defense prior to his injury and may not have played up to his $5.9 million cap hit anyway. He had the second-highest run defense grade (+9.6) for 4-3 outside linebackers in 2012, but in six games last season, Mayo earned a -6.9 grade against the run. It might be difficult for Mayo to play to his $7.3 million cap hit next season, but his 2012 performance shows that he is capable.
2013 Cap Hit: $5.9m
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $300k
Value Differential: -$5.6m
4. Aqib Talib, CB – Cap: $4.9m, JVM: $900k, Value Differential: -$4m
5. Dan Connolly, RG – Cap: $3.3m, JVM: $800k, Value Differential: -$2.5m
6. Matt Slater, WR – Cap: $2.3m, JVM: $700k, Value Differential: -$1.6m
7. Tommy Kelly, DT* – Cap: $2m, JVM: $800k, Value Differential: -$1.2m
8. Danny Amendola, WR – Cap: $3.6m, JVM: $2.6m, Value Differential: -$1.0m
9. Leon Washington, HB – Cap: $1.2m, JVM: $500k, Value Differential: -$700k
10. Sebastian Vollmer, RT* – Cap: $3m, JVM: $2.4m, Value Differential: -600k
Summary – Team Value Differential: +$4.6m
Considering the significant injuries that the Patriots dealt with, they managed a positive return on their investments from last season. However, the team’s value differential dropped substantially from the +$33 million from 2012. Looking ahead, the Patriots need to make a decision on whether Wilfork will be worth his high cap number next year. They have been great at getting value from young players on rookie contracts, but McCourty, Nate Solder, Stevan Ridley, and Shane Vereen are among the players heading into the final year of their respective contracts.
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