JVM: Linebackers

Rick Drummond runs through the linebackers who outperformed their contracts in 2013 and those who fell short of hitting their cap number.

| 3 years ago

JVM: Linebackers

2013-JVM-LBIn this series of pieces, Pro Football Focus is exploring 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 middle/inside and 4-3 outside Linebackers:

(* Denotes player missed significant portion of time through injury)


1. Lavonte David, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

As well-rounded a talent as there is at the position, the second-year linebacker made Year 2 of his rookie contract look ridiculous with his on-field value exceeding his paycheck by nearly $12 million. Grading among the Top 5 4-3 OLBs in each of his first two seasons, David’s cap number only climbs another $150k in 2014, so we’ll reserve a spot here for him on next season’s list as well.

2013 Cap Hit: $800k
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $12.6m
Value Differential: +$11.8m

2. Von Miller, Denver Broncos

Nine games worth of action saw the hybrid terror Miller do what he does – blow apart the 4-3 OLB rankings with pass rush and run defense grades that are a class above. Missing the first six weeks and the playoffs helped keep him to a modest value differential of about +$10m and it’ll be interesting to see how a full 2014 season will compare to the $6.7m he’s due in the final year of his rookie deal.

2013 Cap Hit: $4.9m
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $14.7m
Value Differential: +$9.8m

3. Karlos Dansby, Arizona Cardinals

Dansby took the ‘prove it’ deal to return to Arizona in 2013 and proved it in do-it-all fashion, grading positively across the board with his efforts in coverage particularly standing out. That should translate into a multi-year deal this time around – staying with the Cardinals or landing elsewhere as the skilled 32-year-old is set to hit the market once again.

2013 Cap Hit: $2.3m
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $7.8m
Value Differential: +$5.5m

4. Vontaze Burfict, Cincinnati Bengals

Another young linebacker outplaying his first contract, Burfict’s deal as an undrafted free agent in 2012 saw him making less than $500k in his second season. His play as a sophomore, on the other hand, took a major leap forward and he finished among the best 4-3 OLBs with an overall grade of +10.6.

2013 Cap Hit: $480k
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $5.6m
Value Differential: +$5.2m

5. Kiko Alonso, Buffalo Bills

Working your way into the Top 10 at your position as a rookie can have this effect. Alonso’s work in coverage made up for lacking play as a run defender and pass rusher, but his overall impact was enough to push him to fifth on this list when compared to the $780k cap hit the team took to have on the field.

2013 Cap Hit: $782k
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $5.7m
Value Differential: +$4.9m

6. NaVorro Bowman, SF – Cap: $3.1m, JVM: $7.8m; Value Differential: +$4.7m

7. Derrick Johnson, KC – Cap: $3.5m; JVM: $8.2m; Value Differential: +$4.7m

8. Patrick Willis, SF – Cap: $2.4m; JVM: $5.9m; Value Differential: +$3.5m

9. Malcolm Smith, SEA – Cap: $571k; JVM: $4.1m; Value Differential: +$3.5m

10. Nigel Bradham, BUF – Cap: $600k; JVM: $3.9m; Value Differential: +$3.3m



1. James Laurinaitus, St. Louis Rams

A massive $12.4m cap number is tough for anyone to live up to, but for the perennially subpar Laurinaitus it was a mark he just wasn’t going to reach. His cap number shrinks over the next few seasons, though the biggest drop doesn’t come until after 2014 where he’ll count another $10.4m against the team’s cap and be hard pressed to avoid a spot here again.

2013 Cap Hit: $12.4m
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $1.3m
Value Differential: -$11.1m

2. David Harris, New York Jets

Harris held the top spot on this list last year and though he turned in a better 2013 season, his cap number climbed as well and he ended with a very similar differential. That cap number gets cut nearly in half for 2014, so he’ll have the opportunity – if his play remains at this level – to remove himself from the overvalued group as he heads to free agency in 2015.

2013 Cap Hit: $13.0m
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $2.4m
Value Differential: -$10.7m

3. Chad Greenway, Minnesota Vikings

Another returner from the 2012 list, Greenway’s play took a nosedive in 2013 while his cap number continued to rise. Due more than $8m in each of the next two seasons, it’s tough to see him reaching the full term of his current deal with Minnesota with the team looking to right the ship.

2013 Cap Hit: $8.7m
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $825k
Value Differential: -$7.9m

4. Paul Posluszny, Jacksonville Jaguars

Hopes for a bounce-back year that would bring Posluszny back to his 2011 level after a dismal 2012 fell flat. The Jags’ middle linebacker turned in a second consecutive down season while his cap number hit a high of $8.5m. That figure is due to climb higher still, hitting $9.5m in 2014 and 2015, putting the pressure on the soon-to-be 30-year-old to find his form.

2013 Cap Hit: $8.5m
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $700k
Value Differential: -$7.8m

5. Lance Briggs, Chicago Bears*

Logging just 565 snaps in nine starts with time missed due to injury, Briggs wasn’t set up to match his pay in 2013 but his time spent on the field didn’t do him well either. Slotting in just around the average mark at the position with his play against the run balancing out work done against the pass, Briggs’ fell $6m short of his cap hit according to the JVM. 2014 is the final season of his current contract and he’ll have  $6.5m number to aim for.

2013 Cap Hit: $7.4m
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $1.4m
Value Differential: -$6.0m

6. DeMeco Ryans, PHI – Cap: $6.7m; JVM: $825k; Value Differential: -$5.9m

7. Jerod Mayo, NE – Cap: $5.9m; JVM: $262k; Value Differential: -$5.6m

8. D’Qwell Jackson – Cap: $6.4m; JVM: $825m; Value Differential: -$5.6m

9. London Fletcher, WAS – Cap: $6.2m; JVM: $925k; Value Differential: -$5.3m

10. Jon Beason, CAR – Cap: $5.3m; JVM: $131k; Value Differential: -$5.2m


Follow Rick on Twitter: @PFF_Rick

  • Aaron Martin

    Can someone explain Posluzny’s grade to someone who only saw one Jags game in which he was awesome? The dude led all ILB’s in tackles by 30 (plus his 22 assists) and Stops, was T-7 in Sacks, T-8 in QB hits. Where is the disconnect?

    • Huss

      When you’re on the field as much as the Jaguars defense, your ILB should be at the top of all those lists statistically.

      • Aaron Martin

        He played 1056 snaps, T-13th. Hardly an inordinate amount.

        • sammybaugh

          Snap count seems like a difficult statistic to make sense of, although playing over 1000 snaps is commendable.
          Perhaps a linebacker could be judged by his game-changing plays, a strip-sack, a third or fourth down tackle, or maybe one of his ten career sacks would qualify?

          • Aaron Martin

            Stops is usually a “game changing” stat that a lot of analysts look at, which I mentioned above.

    • A

      Tackles aren’t even an official stat and are anyways a terrible way to measure a player. There’s no real statistic for linebackers you have to actually watch them

      • Aaron Martin

        Why? Most good advanced stats aren’t official and are still good ways to measure a player. Making tackles kind of seems like the the main priority for an ILB. I’m not saying he’s awesome, but I don’t see the disconnect. When I watched him, he was great. When I’ve watched him previously, he was great. Do you have some tape that shows otherwise?

        • Charles

          What do tackles mean if you’re making them 20 yards downfield after a completion? Jags always on the field so he racks up tackles

          • Aaron Martin

            Tackles mean you are ending the play. That’s the point of defense. Sometimes 20 yards downfield means that you are just that much better than the rest of the players on your team. Like I’ve already said, his snap count isn’t higher than his contemporaries.

          • Charles

            Okay then explain why some of the leading tacklers in the league are not among the leagues best and actually perform poorly? London fletcher, chad greenway, worrilow, dqwell jackson etc while the best: Willis, d. Johnson don’t? Because they get 3 and outs not just racking up tackles. Kuechly not a top 5 ILB but everyone thinks so because of his tackles. Not how it works

  • Fred

    Crazy how the top 3 Middle Linebackers in the NFL are all undervalued.. Willis, bowman, d Johnson