JVM: Dallas Cowboys
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 Dallas Cowboys:
(* Denotes player missed significant portion of time through injury)
1. DeMarco Murray, Halfback
There were times last year where it seemed like the best defense against DeMarco Murray was the Cowboys’ own play calling. The third year running back led all full time backs in yards per carry at 5.2 and was third in YAC per attempt at 2.7. His +10.0 rushing grade ended up as PFF’s sixth-highest last season, mainly due to a lack of attempts though. Every back that graded ahead of Murray had at least 40 more carries as Murray’s 217 attempts were the 17th-most in the NFL.
2013 Cap Hit: $817k
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $6.9m
Value Differential: +$6.1m
2. Jason Hatcher, Defensive Tackle
There weren’t too many better interior pass rushers better than Jason Hatcher last season. His 9.1 Pass Rushing Productivity ranked sixth among defensive tackles and he did it all with very little from the other tackle position. It’s amazing the kind of production the Cowboys got from Hatcher on a three-year, $6m deal that he signed at 28 years of age. With the Cowboys cap situation as it is though, Hatcher’s run in Dallas is most likely over.
2013 Cap Hit: $2.6m
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $7.7m
Value Differential: +$5.1m
3. Travis Frederick, Center
It’s always nice to hit squarely on a rookie year one and that is precisely what happened with Travis Frederick. The Cowboys center was the class of the NFL this season with his +17.9 run blocking grade. He did have his struggles in pass blocking and was PFF’s fifth-lowest graded in that category, but you can’t complain too much about a center that opened the kind of holes that Frederick did last season.
2013 Cap Hit: $1.2
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $5.2m
Value Differential: +$4m
4. Tyron Smith, LT – Cap: $3.4m, JVM: $7.3m, Value Differential: +$3.8m
5. Dan Bailey, K – Cap: $561k, JVM: $4m, Value Differential: +$3.4m
6. Dez Bryant, WR — Cap: $2.9m, JVM: $5.7m, Value Differential: +$2.8m
7. George Selvie, DE — Cap: $630k, JVM: $2.9m, Value Differential: +$2.3m
8. Jason Witten, TE — Cap: $4.4m, JVM: $6.5m, Value Differential: +$2.1m
9. Sterling Moore, CB — Cap: $169k, JVM: $1.8m, Value Differential: +$1.6m
10. Sean Lee, LB — Cap: $2.9m, JVM: $4.5m, Value Differential: +$1.6m
1. Anthony Spencer*, Defensive End
Anthony Spencer’s prove it year never even got a chance to get off the ground. After his 2012 season that saw him as our top graded 3-4 outside linebacker, Spencer received the franchise tag last offseason. He had arthroscopic kneed surgery before the year began and returned to play 38 snaps in the Cowboys’ Week 2 matchup against the Chiefs. After that game though Spence had microfracture surgery and was placed on the IR.
2013 Cap Hit: $10.6m
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $131k
Value Differential: -$10.5m
2. Brandon Carr, Cornerback
Brandon Carr just hasn’t produced in Dallas quite like he did in Kansas City. This last season was his worst graded since his rookie year at -0.9. It also included by far the worst game of his career. Against Calvin Johnson and the Lions, Carr allowed a ridiculous 204 yards and ended up with a -6.0 coverage grade. While the rest of the season didn’t go quite that badly, he was rarely a difference maker. For $10m a year, the Cowboys need to get more production out of Carr.
2013 Cap Hit: $5.4m
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $909k
Value Differential: -$4.5m
3. Demarcus Ware, Defensive End
Large contracts, like Ware’s, are going to have large variations is value differential just because of random fluctuation in performance. Ware had a good-not-great season in 2013 with an overall grade of +12.6 that ended up eighth among 4-3 defensive ends. It’s a little concerning that this is the second straight down year for Ware yet he’s set to get paid like the top player at his position for the next four seasons. With a cap hit of $16m next season it will be tough for the Cowboys end to live up to his contract unless he rekindles some of his youth.
2013 Cap Hit: $8.1m
2013 Jahnke Value Model: $4.5m
Value Differential: -$3.6m
4. Morris Claiborne, CB – Cap: $3.7m, JVM: $365k, Value Differential: -$3.2m
5. Miles Austin, WR — Cap: $3.6m, JVM: $825k, Value Differential: -$2.8m
6. Doug Free, RT — Cap: $6.5m, JVM: $5.2m, Value Differential: -$1.4m
7. Kyle Orton, QB — Cap: $2m, JVM: $913k, Value Differential: -$1.1m
8. Bruce Carter, LB — Cap: $1.3m, JVM: $540k, Value Differential: -$784k
9. Jermey Parnell, LT — Cap: $1.4m, JVM: $888k, Value Differential: -$474k
10. Phil Costa, C — Cap: $981m, JVM: $615k, Value Differential: -$366k
Summary – Team Value Differential: +$13m
The Cowboys’ +$13m value differential falls just about in line with their 8-8 record last season. What helped push that number over the top was the fact that the players that were really terrible weren’t being paid much. Anthony Spencer was the only real dud of a contract, but injuries happen to every team and that’s a risk you have to assume when paying high-level players. The Cowboys are going to have a tough time making it back to this positive level next season though with players like Demarcus Ware and Miles Austin getting large escalations in their cap hits.
Follow Mike on Twitter: @PFF_MikeRenner