Performance Based Value: Linebackers

As we draw to a conclusion of our look through the most ill-gotten salaries in the NFL, Mike Renner examines the 10 linebackers who gave least value for money.

| 4 years ago

Performance Based Value: Linebackers

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)

In this final installment of the series we look at the most overvalued linebackers from 2012:

1. David Harris, New York Jets

2012 Cap Hit: $12.0m
2012 Performance Based Value: $1.1m
Value Differential: -$10.9m

We’re not sure how David Harris had a $12m cap hit to begin with, but he wasn’t even close to being worth that much money this year. Harris hasn’t graded positively in any of the previous five seasons and his grade of -15.2 in 2012 was the worst we’ve ever seen from him. Harris struggles to make plays consistently in the running game and that was no different this year. He ranked 21st in Run Stop Percentage and 22nd in Tackling Efficiency among starting inside linebackers. If you’re paying an inside linebacker $10m+ a year you expect him to be a playmaker, and Harris wasn’t even close to one in 2012.

2. Brian Urlacher, Chicago Bears

2012 Cap Hit: $9.7m
2012 Performance Based Value: $1.3m
Value Differential: -$8.4m

Age may finally be catching up to Brian Urlacher. The 34-year-old linebacker was one of the worst run defending middle linebackers in the league last year. His -13.6 run defense grade was second worst among his peers, and his 8.0 Tackling Efficiency was 29th out of 35 middle linebackers. Urlacher hasn’t lost his elite coverage skills, however. His +6.7 coverage grade was third among inside linebackers. The Bears were still eighth-best in the NFL in run defense with Urlacher’s lackluster play, and his coverage presence in the Tampa 2 is invaluable. Urlacher is a free agent this offseason and at his age it’s hard to imagine there is much of a market for him outside of Chicago.

3. Ray Lewis, Baltimore Ravens

2012 Cap Hit: $6.9m
2012 Performance Based Value: $925k
Value Differential: -$5.9m

Ray Lewis’ going out party ended just how he wanted it to end. The journey may not have gone to plan though, as he was injured for the majority of the season and played poorly when healthy. Lewis played only six games and he struggled mightily in pass coverage. He allowed 15 of 21 passing for 195 yards during the regular season. We all know how the story ended, and I don’t think any Ravens fans are complaining about paying Lewis too much after winning the Super Bowl.

4. Paul Posluszny, Jacksonville Jaguars

2012 Cap Hit: $7.0m
2012 Performance Based Value: $1.2m
Value Differential: -$5.8m

Season 2012 was quite the downer for Paul Posluszny. He graded out the lowest we’ve ever seen from him and took a significant step back from his successful 2011 campaign. He had one of the lowest Run Stop Percentages among inside linebackers, at 7.5, and he was fairly average in coverage as well. His .95 yards per coverage snap was 20th among middle linebackers. Those numbers were both down from his 2011 level of play where he was PFF’s seventh-highest graded inside linebacker. The good news for the Jags is that he has shown he can be one of the best middle linebackers in the league, but the bad news is he will have to play like it to be worth his $8m+ cap hits the next three seasons.

5. Chad Greenway, Minnesota Vikings

2012 Cap Hit: $7.7m
2012 Performance Based Value: $2.0m
Value Differential: -$5.7m

A mediocre season isn’t going to cut it when you’re one of the highest paid linebackers in the league. Greenway was the second-highest paid 4-3 outside linebacker this season, yet ended up with the 21st-best grade, at -1.4. For the second year in a row he led all linebackers in yards allowed in coverage, and he had a poor year as a tackler. Greenway’s 9.6 Tackling Efficiency was 18th among outside linebackers, and his second-lowest mark in the past five seasons. Greenway has produced in the past with total grade of +28.9 from 2008-2010, but he has had negative grades the past two seasons. He’ll need to get back to his old form to earn his $8m+ cap hit the next three seasons.

6. Quincy Black, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2012 Cap Hit: $5.8m
2012 Performance Based Value: $700k
Value Differential: -$5.1m

Here’s another contract that doesn’t quite add up. Quincy Black was never a three-down linebacker for the Buccaneers before he signed his extension and hasn’t been since. Black had the 12th-highest cap hit of any linebacker this season, and played only nine games before being placed on IR with a neck injury. In the games that he did play he managed a grade of -6.5 in 300 snaps. It was a slight step up from his 2011 season, where his -24.5 grade was the worst among 4-3 outside linebackers. Black had a terrible Run Stop Percentage of 3.3, and his 10.7 Tackling Efficiency was the lowest on the Bucs.

7. Jon Beason, Carolina Panthers

2012 Cap Hit: $5.5m
2012 Performance Based Value: $700k
Value Differential: -$4.8m

Jon Beason has not been able to stay healthy the past two seasons. He played a total of five games and 302 snaps in that time. In 2012 he started four games at middle linebacker before having surgery on his knee and missing the rest of the year. In those games he had an overall grade of -4.1 and was exposed in the passing game, giving up 168 yards. With Beason out, Luke Kuechly moved to middle linebacker and ended up with the eighth-best grade at that position. Beason’s cap number in 2013 is $9.5m and if the Panthers cut him his cap number will actually increase because of his prorated signing bonus. It will be interesting to watch if Beason can come back healthy and what the Panthers will do with the log jam at middle linebacker.

8. Daryl Smith, Jacksonville Jaguars

2012 Cap Hit: $5.5m
2012 Performance Based Value: $825k
Value Differential: -$4.7m

Daryl Smith missed the first 14 games of 2012 with a groin injury. He came back from IR utilizing the league’s new one player exemption. He missed only 11 snaps in the two games he played, and had an overall grade of -1.3. Smith is a free agent this offseason and has been one of the premier 4-3 outside linebackers the past couple of years, and had the highest grade of any 4-3 outside linebacker in 2009.

9. Michael Boley, New York Giants

2012 Cap Hit: $5.7m
2012 Performance Based Value: $1.1m
Value Differential: -$4.6m

It’s not a surprise that many guys that have made these Top 10 most overvalued lists have either been cut already or are impending free agents. Michael Boley fits into that first category, as his $5.7m cap hit for next season was too much for the Giants to keep around. Boley graded negatively in run defense, coverage, and pass rush on the season and had an overall grade of -8.6. Perry Fewell obviously wasn’t happy with his play because Boley was subbed out regularly the last three weeks of the season after being an every-down linebacker before.

10. Karlos Dansby, Miami Dolphins

2012 Cap Hit: $11.3m
2012 Performance Based Value: $7.0m
Value Differential: -$4.3m

Hard to complain about Karlos Dansby’s play this season. Yes, he did have a value differential of -$4.3m, but teams will end up overpaying at times if they have any hope in retaining top-end talent. Dansby was stout against the run all season. He was seventh in Run Stop Percentage and had a decent Tackling Efficiency of 14.7. Even though he had the 20th-best grade among inside linebackers, he ended up with the 10th-highest Performance Based Value. This was due in large part to Dansby’s extreme durability, as he missed only 23 snaps all season.


Follow Mike on Twitter: @PFF_MikeRenner

| Senior Analyst

Mike is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has also been featured on The Washington Post, ESPN Insider, and 120 Sports.

  • Yahweh

    I am shocked that A.J. Hawk isn’t on this list. Does he get his own separate article?

    • Mike Renner

      He was close to making this list with a value differencial of -$3.6m. His performance based value was $2.9m. While he is overpayed, he’s not a bad linebacker by any means. It’s just that he has consistently under-performed his draft status and his contracts.

  • Mike W

    Are there going to be another set of these for the over performers at each position by chance? Is there page that has every person by position and there PBV

  • Al in Champaign

    Urlacher was worth 1.3 last year, so the Bears offering him 2 was about right then or do you think he still has anything left?

    • Mike Renner

      If he played a full season last year $2mil would have been about right. I think he still has some left, but offering him more than that would be risky at his age.

  • Ben Klarer

    Well Greenway was still a probowler and made 148 tackles (3rd in the entire league) so these ratings are a little bogus to me..