JVM: Arizona Cardinals
In this series of pieces, Pro Football Focus is hammering into the value of players. To us it’s a “Janke 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 Arizona Cardinals:
(* Denotes player missed significant portion of time through injury)
1. Tyrann Mathieu, Cornerback
It speaks volumes that Mathieu missed the final three games with a knee injury and still nearly won our Defensive Rookie of the Year award. The third round pick played a huge role in the Cardinals defense, excelling in both run support and as a blitzer. He’s listed as a safety on the Arizona roster but actually spent 65.4% of his snaps as a slot cornerback, and his 0.90 Yards Per Coverage Snap allowed from that position was one of the stingiest rates in the league. It’s rare to see a rookie stand out in two distinct roles like Mathieu did; here’s hoping his injury doesn’t derail his incredibly promising career.
2013 Cap Hit: $500k
2013 Performance Based Value: $14.4m
Value Differential: +$13.8m
2. Karlos Dansby, Linebacker
Dansby has long been one of the better inside linebackers of the past decade but was in low demand after the Dolphins cut him last offseason. He returned to the Cardinals team that drafted him and shocked the league with a career year at age 31. He earned the fifth-highest grade of any inside linebacker, along with a spot on our Pro Bowl Team. Showcasing his versatility, he led his position with 10 passes defensed and eight sacks. Despite his age, he should be in for a bigger commitment this spring.
2013 Cap Hit: $2.3m
2013 Performance Based Value: $7.8m
Value Differential: +$5.6m
3. Carson Palmer, Quarterback
Palmer was another player whose best days appeared far behind him, but surprisingly gave a good return on a relatively cheap investment. With 22 interceptions, he certainly could’ve taken better care of the football. But he still threw for the ninth-most yards of any quarterback and had some heroic performances behind a shaky offensive line. Only Peyton Manning and Drew Brees surpassed Palmer’s 2,554 yards through the air. He’ll need to limit his turnovers next season, but Arizona couldn’t ask for much more from a passer earning the 22nd-highest cap hit at his position.
2013 Cap Hit: $4.0m
2013 Performance Based Value: $8.7m
Value Differential: +$4.7m
4. Andre Ellington, HB – Cap: $400k, PBV: $5.1m, Value Differential: +$4.7m
5. Michael Floyd, WR – Cap: $2.3m, PBV: $5.7m, Value Differential: +$3.5m
6. John Abraham, LB – Cap: $1.6m, PBV: $4.4m, Value Differential: +$2.8m
7. Yeremiah Bell, S – Cap: $600k, PBV: $2.2m, Value Differential: +$1.6m
8. Calais Campbell, DL – Cap: $8.8m, PBV: $10.0m, Value Differential: +$1.2m
9. Rashad Johnson, S – Cap: $1.1m, PBV: $2.2m, Value Differential: +$1.1m
10. Alameda Ta’amu, DL – Cap: $500k, PBV: $1.5m, Value Differential: +$1.0m
1. Daryn Colledge, Left Guard
Every year we see teams overpay for free agents from a Super Bowl winner, and such was the case when the Cardinals gave a sizable contract to Colledge in 2011 a few months after he won a championship with the Packers. The veteran left guard is capable of a good stretch of games here and there but hasn’t put together a solid season in years. His 96.1 Pass Blocking Efficiency and -1.4 overall grade were average numbers, and his run blocking was particularly shaky. As part of an offensive line that we ranked as the worst in the league for the second straight season, Colledge hasn’t made enough of a difference to earn his hefty salary.
2013 Cap Hit: $7.3m
2013 Performance Based Value: $1.3m
Value Differential: -$6.0m
2. Darnell Dockett, Defensive Lineman
There are few players in recent history as maddeningly inconsistent as Darnell Dockett. He’s capable of dominating games, like when he terrorized the Saints for eight quarterback pressures and a +8.5 grade in Week 3. But he’s also just as likely to be a non-factor, such as when he notched just one QB hurry and a -6.2 mark against the Rams in Week 1. When you add it all up, he finished just about average among his peers this season. Given how many excellent young interior linemen have emerged in the past few years, Dockett is becoming less and less worthy of his high-end salary.
2013 Cap Hit: $7.7m
2013 Performance Based Value: $2.0m
Value Differential: -$5.7m
3. Larry Fitzgerald, Wide Receiver
Though Fitzgerald didn’t crack the 1,000-yard barrier for the second straight season, he contributed in other ways to earn the 12th-highest overall grade of any wide receiver. He was a very good blocker, expanded his role as a slot receiver, and once again proved he has some of the NFL’s best hands with just one drop on 83 catchable targets. Unfortunately he carried the second-highest cap number of any wideout, and his 1.59 Yards Per Route Run landed him tied for 48th out of 94 qualified receivers. Fitz does all the little things right, but if his raw production doesn’t rise, then he will continue to fall short of his massive contract.
2013 Cap Hit: $10.3m
2013 Performance Based Value: $6.2m
Value Differential: -$4.0m
4. Levi Brown, LT – Cap: $3.5m, PBV: $200k, Value Differential: -$3.4m
5. Lyle Sendlein, C – Cap: $3.7m, PBV: $700k, Value Differential: -$3.0m
6. Rashard Mendenhall, HB – Cap: $2.5m, PBV: $700k, Value Differential: -$1.8m
7. Eric Winston, RT – Cap: $2.0m, PBV: $700k, Value Differential: -$1.3m
8. Jay Feely, K – Cap: $2.0m, PBV: $900k, Value Differential: -$1.1m
9. Lorenzo Alexander, LB* – Cap: $1.2m, PBV: $200k, Value Differential: -$1.0m
10. Drew Stanton, QB – Cap: $1.7m, PBV: $700k, Value Differential: -$1.0m
Summary – Team Value Differential: +$11.7m
Despite some glaring weaknesses on the offensive line, the Cardinals had the solid return on investment that you’d expect from a surprise 10-6 team. Even their most overvalued players gave them respectable production, and they’ll return with some promising (and cheap) young playmakers on both sides of the ball this upcoming season. The key will be Palmer, who will need to improve to outplay his team-high $12 million cap number in 2014.
Follow Pete on Twitter: @PFF_Pete