Performance Based Value: Edge Rushers

The number of big name sack specialists that appear on our list of overvalued edge rushers highlights the dangers of NFL teams paying for sacks.

| 4 years ago

Performance Based Value: Edge Rushers

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)

Let’s look at 2012′s most overvalued edge defenders.

1. Elvis Dumervil, Denver Broncos

2012 Cap Hit: $15.6m
2012 Performance Based Value: $1.6m
Value Differential: -$14.0m

In what will become a running theme for this list, it’s not enough for an edge defender to just be a good pass rusher. This is especially true if he couples that with poor run defense and costly penalties. Dumervil mustered only 16 run stops on the season, and his 4.8 Run Stop Percentage was among the worst rates at his position. Throw in the eight times he was flagged, and you have the most overpaid edge defender in the league.

2. Dwight Freeney, Indianapolis Colts

2012 Cap Hit: $19.0m
2012 Performance Based Value: $5.9m
Value Differential: -$13.1m

Combine Freeney’s massive cap number in the final year of his contract with the Colts’ switch to a 3-4 defense, and there was little chance of Indianapolis getting a positive return on investment here. Freeney still excelled with his hand on the ground, as his 8.8 Pass Rushing Productivity was in the Top 10 for 3-4 OLBs. However, his run defense, already poor the previous two seasons, was simply dreadful. His 2.6% Run Stop Percentage ranked him 33rd out of 34 players at his position.

3. Chris Long, St. Louis Rams

2012 Cap Hit: $18.6m
2012 Performance Based Value: $5.8m
Value Differential: -$12.8m

If playing defensive end were all about pass rushing, then Long would be worth his weight in gold. His 76 quarterback pressures ranked him among the Top 3 at his position for the third straight season. However, flying upfield to reach the passer doesn’t absolve you of all other responsibilities. Long’s -10.0 run defense grade ranked him at the bottom three of 4-3 defensive ends for the third straight year. Until he balances his game, Long will continue to see his name on this list.

4. Jared Allen, Minnesota Vikings

2012 Cap Hit: $14.2m
2012 Performance Based Value: $3.0m
Value Differential: -$11.2m

Seeing a pattern yet? Allen obviously fell far short of his lofty sack total of 2011, but still was an elite pass rusher with 75 total pressures and a solid 9.2 PRP. However, he was hit-or-miss against the run, and his nine penalties led all 4-3 defensive ends. With his cap hit projected to jump to $17 million in 2013, Allen will need a more complete effort to avoid this list next year.

5. Terrell Suggs, Baltimore Ravens

2012 Cap Hit: $11.5m
2012 Performance Based Value: $925k
Value Differential: -$10.6m

Suggs’ offseason Achilles injury handicapped his value from the start, but even after his Week 7 return he appeared to be a shell of himself. His 5.6 PRP ranked 30th out of 32 players at his position, and he finished with a negative pass rush grade in 10 of his 12 games (including the playoffs). As the Ravens rolled to an improbable Super Bowl victory, Suggs labored with a -6.3 grade in the postseason. With a full offseason to recover, Ravens fans hope he can still return to his Defensive Player of the Year form.

6. Tamba Hali, Kansas City Chiefs

2012 Cap Hit: $13.8m
2012 Performance Based Value: $3.7m
Value Differential: -$10.1m

Hali becomes just the latest pass rushing force to land here thanks to his underwhelming run defense. His 9.4 PRP ranked 10th among 3-4 outside linebackers, but he recorded just 16 defensive stops on 424 plays versus the run. As he reaches the high-water mark of his contract with a projected $15.5 million cap hit in 2013, he’ll need to rediscover the solid run defense he’s shown in the past.

7. Cliff Avril, Detroit Lions

2012 Cap Hit: $10.6m
2012 Performance Based Value: $947k
Value Differential: -$4.8m

Every time I see Avril’s name on a “Top Free Agents” list, I think of Khaled’s arguments against “The Overrated Sack”. Despite shaky run defense and a propensity for committing penalties, Avril’s enticing sack total earned him the franchise tag in 2012. However, a below average PRP and -9.9 grade against the run ranked him 55th out of 62 fellow 4-3 defensive ends. Nevertheless, he still managed 10 sacks, so expect some team to drastically overpay for him as early as next week.

8. Julius Peppers, Chicago Bears

2012 Cap Hit: $12.2m
2012 Performance Based Value: $4.6m
Value Differential: -$7.6m

Peppers wasn’t bad this year, but he wasn’t worthy of his Pro Bowl selection and showed signs of decline at age 32. He still graded among the Top 20 at his position, but his run defense was just average and his pass rush wasn’t as potent as it used to be. His cap hit will only increase over the next three years, along with his age, so the days of the Bears getting good value from Peppers may be over.

9. Mario Williams, Buffalo Bills

2012 Cap Hit: $9.8m
2012 Performance Based Value: $3.0m
Value Differential: -$6.8m

With all the hype and disappointment surrounding Williams this season, you may wonder why he isn’t higher on this list. The fact is, he had a decent season and improved significantly after his wrist surgery during the Week 8 bye. That said, the Bills paid him as one of the league’s top pass rushers and he simply wasn’t. As his projected cap hit skyrockets to $12.4 million next year and $18.4 million in 2014, Williams will need a stark improvement to earn his keep.

10. Calvin Pace, New York Jets

2012 Cap Hit: $7.4m
2012 Performance Based Value: $1.1m
Value Differential: -$6.3m

The fact that Pace ended up on this list despite having a significantly lower cap hit than everyone else speaks to his awful season. He ranked 31st out of 33 players at his position, and mustered just three sacks and four quarterback hits on 331 pass rushes. Throw in a dreadful 3.1% RSP, and its no wonder why the Jets decided to move on from him.


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  • BleedinOrangeSBChamps13-14

    That’s why Elvis is taking a cut or gettin tha boot…

  • Benjamin F. Barnes Sr.

    Shows why young guys looking for a payday are the answer.