Performance Based Value: Chicago Bears
In this series of pieces, Pro Football Focus is hammering into the value of players. To us it’s a “Performance Based Value” number, telling you what players were worth (by our grading) in 2012. 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 2012
• 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 2012’s most undervalued and overvalued Chicago Bears:
(* Denotes player missed significant portion of time through injury)
1. Israel Idonije, Defensive End
The play of Idonije was a breakthrough for the Bears in 2012. Since moving to defensive end in 2010, Idonije had never been much of a pass-rushing threat. That all changed this year. Idonije was ninth among starting defensive ends in Pass Rushing Productivity, besting teammate Julius Peppers by 0.7. His ability to play outside (65% of snaps) and inside (35% of snaps) was incredibly valuable in the Bears’ 4-3 scheme. Idonije is a free agent this offseason and won’t be underpaid for long. At 32 though the question remains as to whether or not he’ll continue to be worth it.
Cap Hit: $2.5m
Performance Based Value: $8.4m
Value Differential: +$5.9m
2. Tim Jennings, Cornerback
We here at PFF have thought very highly of Jennings ever since he came to Chicago, but in 2012 he took his play to another level. His league-leading nine interceptions were two more than he had totaled in his past six seasons combined. Jennings was graded our ninth-best corner last season, and he combined with Charles Tillman to have the highest rating of any cornerback combo. The amazing part about his value is that he signed this two-year contract just last offseason. Even if Jennings completely underperforms next season with his $5.1m cap hit, the Bears will still come away with positive value over the life of his contract.
Cap Hit: $2.5m
Performance Based Value: $8.1m
Value Differential: +$5.6m
3. Henry Melton, Defensive Tackle
When a fourth rounder turns into a pro bowler on his rookie contract the odds are the team got tremendous value. That is exactly what the Bears have received from Henry Melton the previous two seasons. The former Texas fullback has developed into one of the most dynamic interior threats in football. Melton was fifth among defensive tackles in Pass Rushing Productivity and first in Run Stop Percentage. There is a good chance the Bears use the franchise tag, worth $8.3m, on Melton and it wouldn’t surprise me if he proves himself worth the money next year.
Cap Hit: $698k
Performance Based Value: $6.2m
Value Differential: +$5.5m
4. Lance Briggs, LB – Cap: $4.9m, PBV: $9.2m, Value Differential: +$4.3m
5. Major Wright, S – Cap: $714k, PBV: $3.8m, Value Differential: +$3.0m
6. Charles Tillman, CB – Cap: $8.0m, PBV: $10.3m, Value Differential: +$2.4m
7. Stephen Paea, DT – Cap: $842k, PBV: $2.3m, Value Differential: +$1.5m
8. Nate Collins, DT – Cap: $509k, PBV: $1.9m, Value Differential: +$1.4m
9. Chris Conte, S– Cap: $614k, PBV: $1.9m, Value Differential: +$1.3m
10. J’Marcus Webb, T – Cap: $560k, PBV: $1.8m, Value Differential: +$1.2m
1. Brian Urlacher, Inside Linebacker
Phil Emery and the Bears have a very difficult decision to make this offseason. Brian Urlacher is coming off of one of the worst seasons of his career and will be 35 by the start of the season. The thing is, it is not his coverage skills that have diminished, it is his run defense. Urlacher had the 29th-best tackling efficiency out of 35 starting middle linebackers. He doesn’t shed blocks as well he used to, and he had a fairly serious hamstring injury that kept him out for the last four games of the season. With his play slipping and a new head coach and scheme, you have to wonder if this is the end of the road for Urlacher in Chicago.
Cap Hit: $9.7m
Performance Based Value: $1.3m
Value Differential: -$8.4m
2. Julius Peppers, Defensive End
Julius Peppers is a great example of how big contracts can lead to large negative values very easily. At his best, Peppers is worth every penny (see +38.7 in 2010), but his 2012 season was nowhere near his best. Even though he totaled 13 sacks, he failed to make an impact in the running game and had too many games where he didn’t show any pass rush. Peppers was still the seventh-most valuable player on the team, it’s just that he had the largest cap hit of any Bear. His cap number will grow each of the next three seasons all the way to over $19m in 2015. If Peppers doesn’t return to his elite levels, a restructuring may occur soon.
Cap Hit: $12.2m
Performance Based Value: $4.6m
Value Differential: -$7.5m
3. Matt Forte, Running Back
This isn’t the list Bears fans want to see Matt Forte on the year after he signs a new contract. His Elusive Rating, Breakaway Percentage, and Yards Per Route Run all dropped significantly from 2011, and were near career lows. Injuries hampered him throughout the season though and he played just 713 snaps. If he can return to his previous production it would fit nicely with his $6.8m cap number, and at only 27 you would think he has more than a couple of good years left.
Cap Hit: $6.8m
Performance Based Value: $2.1 m
Value Differential: -$4.7m
4. Chris Spencer, G – Cap: $4.3m, PBV: $825k, Value Differential: -$3.4m
5. Jason Campbell, QB – Cap: $3.8m, PBV: $1.1m, Value Differential: -$2.6m
6. Chris Williams, G – Cap: $2.5m, PBV: $250k, Value Differential: -$2.3m
7. Devin Hester, WR – Cap: $2.7m, PBV: $825k, Value Differential: -$1.9m
8. Nick Roach, LB – Cap: $2.8m, PBV: $1.5m, Value Differential: -$1.3m
9. Kellen Davis, TE – Cap: $2.2m, PBV: $976k, Value Differential: -$1.2m
10. Matt Toeaina*, DT – Cap: $1.5m, PBV: $390k, Value Differential: -$1.1m
Summary – Team Value Differential: -$5.0m
The Bears running at a negative value isn’t all too surprising given the lack of impact players on rookie contracts. The Bears top six players in terms of value are all on at least their second contract. Even though the Bears had just one offensive player make the top 10 value differential, they still managed to finish 10-6. If the Bears can get more young offensive players on that list, their record and their value differential could improve.
Follow Mike on Twitter: @PFF_MikeRenner