Performance Based Value: Dallas Cowboys
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 Dallas Cowboys:
(* Denotes player missed significant portion of time through injury)
1. Jason Hatcher, Defensive End
Over the past few years Hatcher has been an asset to the Cowboys’ interior line, but in 2012 he stepped his game up to a new level. Someone who just looks at sacks for defensive linemen wouldn’t notice it, as he had five in both 2011 and 2012, but he more than doubled his amount of hurries from 14 to 29, and did the same with his run stops from 11 to 24. While he isn’t quiet in the same conversation with J.J. Watt and Muhammad Wilkerson, he is definitely in the next tier.
2012 Cap Hit: $2.1m
2012 Performance Based Value: $8.9m
Value Differential: +$6.8m
2. Sean Lee, Inside Linebacker*
You might be surprised to see someone who played in only six games this high on the list, but that is how great Lee was in his second year as a starter. His Run Stop Percentage of 11.3% was ninth-best for inside/middle linebackers, and in coverage he allowed just 9.5 yards per catch. He was on pace to be the best inside linebacker in 2012, and next year will have a chance to show he is worth even more than $4.7 million.
2012 Cap Hit: $1.4m
2012 Performance Based Value: $4.7m
Value Differential: +$3.3m
3. DeMarco Murray, Halfback*
Murray’s another Cowboy who missed a good part of the season but still is undervalued. He’s in his rookie contract and was a third-round pick, which explains why his current cap hit is so low, but he played well enough in his time to make him worth a lot more. His 4.1 yards per carry and 22 missed tackles were both above average, and any back that is above average and gets a lot of carries gets paid handsomely.
2012 Cap Hit: $680k
2012 Performance Based Value: $3.8m
Value Differential: +$3.1m
4. Anthony Spencer, OLB – Cap: $8.9m, PBV: $11.9m, Value Differential: +$3.0m
5. Bruce Carter, ILB – Cap: $1.1m, PBV: $3.9m, Value Differential: +$2.8m
6. Nate Livings, G – Cap: $1.7m, PBV: $4.4m, Value Differential: +$2.7m
7. Tony Romo, QB – Cap: $8.1m, PBV: $10.7m, Value Differential: +$2.6m
8. Josh Price-Brent, DT – Cap: $560k, PBV: $3.1m, Value Differential: +$2.6m
9. Jason Witten, TE – Cap: $5.5m, PBV: $8.0m, Value Differential: +$2.5m
10. Ryan Cook, C – Cap: $850k, PBV: $3.0m, Value Differential: +$2.1m
1. Jay Ratliff, Defensive Tackle*
It’s no surprise Jerry Jones wanted Ratliff to come back from injury late in the season with how much he is getting paid. Ratliff gets a little bit of a pass since he played in only six games, but not a full one. While he did just fine pass rushing with six hits and eight hurries, he was having more problems getting blocked in the run game than in previous years. He had 10 stops, but in four of his six games he was held to one or zero. He has several years left on his contract, so he will need a full recovery to not take the top spot again next year.
2012 Cap Hit: $5.3m
2012 Performance Based Value: $1.2m
Value Differential: -$4.0m
2. Doug Free, Offensive Tackle
There was once a time when Doug Free was one of the best run-blocking tackles in the league. While he is still a decent run blocker, he has also become the most penalized tackle in the league, with 15 penalties in 2012. While the Cowboys may not have been wrong to pay Free when they did, he hasn’t lived up to that contract.
2012 Cap Hit: $4.2m
2012 Performance Based Value: $860k
Value Differential: -$3.3m
3. Marcus Spears, Defensive End
This long-time Cowboy has been hovering around an average player in the past several years. For most of the season Dallas had him on the bench and he averaged just 19 snaps per game. Late in the season when the Cowboys became thin on the line they used him more, which resulted in three sacks and seven other stops, but it wasn’t enough to make up for his lack of impact for most of the season.
2012 Cap Hit: $2.7m
2012 Performance Based Value: $830k
Value Differential: -$1.9m
4. DeMarcus Ware, OLB – Cap: $7.6m, PBV: $5.9m, Value Differential: -$1.6m
5. Orlando Scandrick, CB – Cap: $3.0m, PBV: $1.4m, Value Differential: -$1.6m
6. Morris Claiborne, CB – Cap: $3.0m, PBV: $1.5m, Value Differential: -$1.5m
7. Dan Connor, ILB – Cap: $2.2m, PBV: $1.0m, Value Differential: -$1.2m
8. Kyle Orton, QB – Cap: $1.9m, PBV: $820k, Value Differential: -$1.1m
9. Mike Jenkins, CB – Cap: $1.7m, PBV: $700k, Value Differential: -$970k
10. Brandon Carr, CB – Cap: $3.2m, PBV: $2.3m, Value Differential: -$910k
Summary – Team Value Differential: +$18.4m
It might be a surprise the Cowboys ended up doing so well, getting the most for their money. They had a number of injuries which caused the team to not live up to expectations, but some of the injuries came to their young talent who aren’t making much to begin with. Outside of cornerback, where they’ve invested a lot of money, the Cowboys are actually doing a decent job of getting the most out of their players.
Follow Nathan on Twitter: @PFF_NateJahnke