Performance Based Value: Tight Ends

As the versatility of tight ends rises so does their value to teams. John Maney reviews 10 players that didn't meet their contract expectations in 2012.

| 4 years ago

As the versatility of tight ends rises so does their value to teams. John Maney reviews 10 players that didn't meet their contract expectations in 2012.

Performance Based Value: Tight Ends


Performance Based Value: Tight Ends

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 that 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)

So who were the most overvalued tight ends this season? Let’s take a look.

1. Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers

2012 Cap Hit: $6.3m
2012 Performance Based Value: $1.5m
Value Differential: -$4.8m

Despite a potential Hall of Fame-worthy career, Gates regressed on the field in 2012, a season in which he finished with a -1.8 overall grade (+1.6 receiving) after coming in at +9.0 or better in each of the previous four years. The struggles of Philip Rivers unquestionably played a role, but it was his efforts in run blocking, an area that admittedly hasn’t been a strong suit in his career — and a recurring theme on this list — that doomed his PBV.

2. Jermichael Finley, Green Bay Packers

2012 Cap Hit: $5.2m
2012 Performance Based Value: $1.0m
Value Differential: -$4.2m

Given that only two players at the position had more drops than Finley’s nine and with his 10.8 yards per catch the lowest of his career, it’s not surprising that he finished the regular season as our 47th-ranked tight end. For a player that offers little in terms of blocking, he has to do better as a receiver to avoid making this list next season, as continued unreliability will have Aaron Rodgers, and maybe the Packers this offseason, looking elsewhere.

3. Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville Jaguars

2012 Cap Hit: $8.7m
2012 Performance Based Value: $5.3m
Value Differential: -$3.4m

Lewis had a strong season, finishing as our fourth-highest graded tight end, behind outstanding blocking and decent receiving numbers. Given his +13.9 overall grade, his play on the field was clearly not a problem for the Jaguars. Rather, his inclusion on this list is a function of having the highest cap hit of all tight ends in 2012, a figure that no player at the position would have surpassed this season. Jacksonville got a very good player in Lewis, and the best player (per PBV) on this list, but he’ll still have to play better to match the value of his $35 million dollar contract.

4. John Carlson, Minnesota Vikings

2012 Cap Hit: $4.0m

2012 Performance Based Value: $700k

Value Differential: -$3.3m

Carlson is an interesting case. He signed a big free agent deal last offseason with the Vikings following three solid years in Seattle and after missing the entire 2011 season due to injury. What’s most interesting is that, despite signing him to a five-year $25m contract, Minnesota turned around and barely used their acquisition in 2012. He played just 259 snaps this season (roughly 25%), catching only eight passes for 43 yards. The emergence of Kyle Rudolph perhaps influenced Carlson’s usage, as well as the presence of Rhett Ellison and Jerome Felton, both of whom played hybrid tight end roles at times. Whatever the reasons, the Vikings seldom used a player to whom they paid big free agent money, and thus Carlson comes in at No. 4 on this list, overvalued by more than $3 million.

5. Fred Davis, Washington Redskins

2012 Cap Hit: $5.4m
2012 Performance Based Value: $2.4m
Value Differential: -$3.0m

Like Carlson, Davis makes this list having played only a fraction of the snaps that other TE’s on the team saw. In Davis’ case, it was due to a season-ending injury suffered in Week 7. He’s another player who excels more as a receiver than a blocker — he caught 24 passes in 2012, with his 13.5 yards per catch figure ranking in the Top 10 among tight ends. He’s also elusive, as his six forced missed tackles ranked in the Top 15 at the position, despite missing nine games. However, missing that many games makes it difficult to play up to a cap hit of more than $5m, which Davis failed to do.

6. Owen Daniels, Houston Texans

2012 Cap Hit: $5.2m
2012 Performance Based Value: $2.3m
Value Differential: -$2.9m

A continuing theme among this group, though he caught 716 yards and six touchdowns, Daniels finds himself on our list largely for his awful work as a blocker. Along with a grade of -5.6 in the run game, the Texan finished the regular season with the third-lowest Pass Blocking Efficiency rating at the position. Additionally, for a player who doesn’t block with such a high cap hit, you’d like to see more of a deep threat. Only 6.1% (6-of-98) of Daniels’ targets were 20 yards downfield, a mark that was also the third-lowest among qualifying TEs.

 7. Dustin Keller, New York Jets

2012 Cap Hit: $3.9m
2012 Performance Based Value: $1.5m
Value Differential: -$2.4m

Keller was a productive receiver when healthy and on the field this season, as evidenced by his 1.48 Yards per Route Run and +3.4 grade in the passing game, all despite playing in a Mark Sanchez-quarterbacked offense. The problem was that he was on the field for only 416 snaps in 2012. Combine his injury issues with a poor rating for his run blocking — led by a dismal Week 10 performance against Seattle — and you get a player that provided the Jets significantly less value than his cap hit.

8. Brent Celek, Philadelphia Eagles

2012 Cap Hit: $3.7m
2012 Performance Based Value: $1.3m
Value Differential: -$2.4m

After grading at +8.7 in 2011, Celek, along with the rest of the Eagles, took a step back this season, as he graded worse than -1.0 for his efforts receiving and in both blocking categories. Some of the blame for his regression should undoubtedly go to Philadelphia’s unsettled situation at quarterback, as only 65 of his 83 targets were catchable. Yet too often Celek did little to help out his QBs, dropping eight of those catchable balls — good for a 12.31% Drop Rate.

9. Aaron Hernandez, New England Patriots

2012 Cap Hit: $3.2m
2012 Performance Based Value: $892k
Value Differential: -$2.4m

Like many on this list, Hernandez was unable to perform to the level of his cap hit at least in part due to injury, missing all, or most, of seven games. The other reasons for this inability to meet that level —  run blocking, drops, and penalties. The poor run blocking was not terribly surprising, but the drops were, as the dynamic receiver’s 10 doubled his 2011 amount and his Drop Rate was the third-worst among all TEs. Also, only Jermaine Gresham was penalized more often, even though Hernandez saw just 573 snaps.

10. Chris Cooley, Washington Redskins

2012 Cap Hit: $3.1m
2012 Performance Based Value: $825k
Value Differential: -$2.3m

Faced with paying a $3.8m salary to a 30-year-old backup tight end and fullback, the Redskins cut Cooley prior to the season before resigning him in Week 8 after Fred Davis went down. Seeing only 92 snaps in the second half of the season, he didn’t play up to that lofty salary and ultimately the $3.1m cap hit, as he caught just a single pass and allowed a pair of hurries in pass protection.

 

Follow John on Twitter: @PFF_JManey  


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  • bears0492

    cooley had a 3.1 mil cap hit? Are you sure thats not his original cap hit? That sounds like an awful lot to pay coming from a team with little cap room

    • http://www.facebook.com/crystal.ac.5 Crystal AC

      Cooley was paid the veteran minimum when he resigned and that definitely wasn’t 3.1 million. They may want to check those numbers again.