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What it means to be the "highest paid" at a position


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#1 Rubes

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Posted 01 January 2014 - 01:19 PM

In the discussion this year and this past year about Byrd, it got me wondering about how people perceive the idea of being the "highest paid" (or even a "top paid") player at a particular position.

Obviously, this occurs in the context of a player becoming a free agent and testing the market (or perhaps a trade/renegotiation situation). Often we see players who we don't think are the best at a particular position being offered astronomical money, sometimes to be the highest paid player at their position. But it also applies to players who are very good, but are offered ridiculous money that would make them one of the top paid at their position. Many times, the reaction is that the player is "not worth it", because they are being paid as the "Top #X" at their position, but they are not perceived to be in the Top #X of their position. See: Levitre, Andy.

But I wonder how many people out there, such as myself, believe that what a player is paid during a particular free agency year is not necessarily precisely reflective of their formal (or informal) ranking at the position. Rather, it is reflective of a few important factors:

- which players are free agents that year
- how much the cap went up that year
- the cap space different teams have available
- what new contracts were given to similar level players in the past year or two
- what it would take to get the player to sign with your team

In other words, just because a player is paid to become the highest paid at their position, doesn't necessarily mean he is the best (or even perceived to be the best) at his position. The amount a player is paid during one particular offseason is a product of the various factors that inflate values from one year to the next.

Take Byrd, for instance (sorry for two Byrd-related threads in one day). The general thinking is that it's going to take paying him to be in the top 3 of all safeties to sign him, and probably the top safety overall. If the Bills don't do it, somebody likely will (see: Bears, Chicago). But a lot of the opposition to paying Byrd to be the top safety is because people don't think he's the top safety in the league and doesn't deserve to be paid as such. But is that necessarily the right way to think about it?

My thinking is that this is not the way it works. Byrd receiving a contract that pays him the most of all safeties in the league just means this: at this point in time, this year, given who else is available in free agency and which safeties were given a new contract last year or the year before -- that is the amount dictated by the market. It doesn't mean the team paying him necessarily thinks he is the best safety in the league, better than Polamalu, or Berry, or Rolle. Another way to think about it: if all of those safeties were to become free agents this year at the same time, how would the salaries shake out? Would Byrd still be the highest paid? Probably not. But that doesn't mean he couldn't, or shouldn't, become the highest paid in the league this off season.

What you pay for a player really comes down to how much you have, how much you value the player, how much you want to tie up at a particular position on your team, and how strongly the player wants to be on that team. Not quite so much how a team values a player against his peers -- at least, probably not as much as we think it does. At least, the amount given should not necessarily communicate this.

Thoughts?

#2 swnybillsfan

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Posted 01 January 2014 - 01:29 PM

i think you pretty much covered it all.

#3 jeremy2020

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Posted 01 January 2014 - 02:00 PM

View PostRubes, on 01 January 2014 - 01:19 PM, said:

But a lot of the opposition to paying Byrd to be the top safety is because people don't think he's the top safety in the league and doesn't deserve to be paid as such. But is that necessarily the right way to think about it?

Most people believe Byrd is in the top if not the top 3. It's hard to say any player is *the* best. Most people who have an issue with making him the highest paid safety is that they feel that you don't spend your cap dollars to that degree at safety.

#4 Rubes

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Posted 01 January 2014 - 04:18 PM

View Postjeremy2020, on 01 January 2014 - 02:00 PM, said:

Most people believe Byrd is in the top if not the top 3. It's hard to say any player is *the* best. Most people who have an issue with making him the highest paid safety is that they feel that you don't spend your cap dollars to that degree at safety.

That's a fair point, although you have to look at it from the standpoint of how much you value the player -- in Byrd's case, how much does he add to the defense? How many game-changing plays does he make that other players wouldn't be able to? If he's the kind of player that can make a difference in a game, how much of the cap is that worth, even if it's at the safety position?

#5 3rdand12

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Posted 01 January 2014 - 04:44 PM

depends on the coaches perception i suppose. Like it or not Byrd is a sitting on top generally speaking.

Very well nicely done Rubes.

#6 NoSaint

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Posted 01 January 2014 - 06:11 PM

What it means is very little

Ultimately it shakes out to you being one of the top 5-7ish at your position and among the most recent to hit free agency. Even then, things like length, guaranteed dollars, how quick you get the money.... Heck, even the taxes you end up paying.... All can factor into who can make the claim. It's a nice little pat on the back but really doesn't mean much of anything. I'll put it ahead of earning a random team record and behind a probowl selection for "importance"

View Postjeremy2020, on 01 January 2014 - 02:00 PM, said:



Most people believe Byrd is in the top if not the top 3. It's hard to say any player is *the* best. Most people who have an issue with making him the highest paid safety is that they feel that you don't spend your cap dollars to that degree at safety.

While I think "is a safety worth X% of your cap" is a very fair discussion, I think there's a LARGE segment of people that simply don't want to pay Byrd as #1 at his position because they don't think his the clear cut best and are hung up on that aspect.

#7 Dibs

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Posted 01 January 2014 - 07:05 PM

View PostRubes, on 01 January 2014 - 01:19 PM, said:

In the discussion this year and this past year about Byrd, it got me wondering about how people perceive the idea of being the "highest paid" (or even a "top paid") player at a particular position.
.....

Thoughts?

Nice post.

I think there can be another factor......and that is the structure of existing top contracts.  Though this factor is I believe lesser than the others, it can occasionally play a bigger influence(which I believe it does in regards to top Safety contracts at the moment).

The #1 Safety contract atm is Polamalu at $9.87m/year.  The next 3 range between $8.34m - $8m per year.  After that it starts dropping considerably.
The Polamalu contract is one designed for an older superstar in his declining years.  It has lower years than the other contracts(3 compared to 5, 5, 6) and the guaranteed percentage is also the lowest.  It was obviously a contract that was designed to give the player his superstar money(perhaps above his market worth).....but provided fairly good protection for the team in case his production/ability slipped dramatically.

The #1 Safety contract at the moment is unusually structured and is not in alignment with a standard contract, and I would think any new contract for a top Safety would fall into the #2 area.

#8 NoSaint

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Posted 01 January 2014 - 07:12 PM

View PostDibs, on 01 January 2014 - 07:05 PM, said:



Nice post.

I think there can be another factor......and that is the structure of existing top contracts.  Though this factor is I believe lesser than the others, it can occasionally play a bigger influence(which I believe it does in regards to top Safety contracts at the moment).

The #1 Safety contract atm is Polamalu at $9.87m/year.  The next 3 range between $8.34m - $8m per year.  After that it starts dropping considerably.
The Polamalu contract is one designed for an older superstar in his declining years.  It has lower years than the other contracts(3 compared to 5, 5, 6) and the guaranteed percentage is also the lowest.  It was obviously a contract that was designed to give the player his superstar money(perhaps above his market worth).....but provided fairly good protection for the team in case his production/ability slipped dramatically.

The #1 Safety contract at the moment is unusually structured and is not in alignment with a standard contract, and I would think any new contract for a top Safety would fall into the #2 area.

And even then #2 would be more total dollars, and likely the highest paying on average in a year when Troy is done. If I'm recalling #2 currently also has a quirk in being a slotted rookie deal from before the new CBA (ie berry). And then of course TP and EB are both strong not free safeties.

Really, I still think low to mid 8s settles this but that's just gut, not any inside info.

Edited by NoSaint, 01 January 2014 - 07:13 PM.


#9 Dibs

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Posted 01 January 2014 - 07:19 PM

View PostNoSaint, on 01 January 2014 - 07:12 PM, said:

......If I'm recalling #2 currently also has a quirk in being a slotted rookie deal from before the new CBA (ie berry). And then of course TP and EB are both strong not free safeties.

Good call.
I think those are two other factors(old rookie contracts, and separation of position inside a group) that could be added to the list......though obviously the rookie contract situation won't be a factor much longer in the NFL.

#10 K-9

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Posted 01 January 2014 - 07:28 PM

I'd really like to know if Parker makes the distinction between strong and free. I doubt it, but he should. It's no knock on Byrd that he isn't physically capable to bring what TP and EB bring to their position and what kind of scheme flexibility they provide as a result.

I agree with NoSaint. If Parker makes the distinction, then low 8s gets it done.

GO BILLS!!!

#11 NoSaint

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Posted 01 January 2014 - 08:00 PM

View PostK-9, on 01 January 2014 - 07:28 PM, said:

I'd really like to know if Parker makes the distinction between strong and free. I doubt it, but he should. It's no knock on Byrd that he isn't physically capable to bring what TP and EB bring to their position and what kind of scheme flexibility they provide as a result.

I agree with NoSaint. If Parker makes the distinction, then low 8s gets it done.

GO BILLS!!!

I'm guessing for posturing purposes he may group them, but when you get to reality of closing a deal the longer term and ability to still say both  top free safety average and potentially most total dollars for a safety might be the sliver of common ground that gets pen to paper. Essentially both sides could still claim a win. It makes sense to me, but who knows what's actually gone down behind closed doors.

#12 section122

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Posted 01 January 2014 - 08:06 PM

Op this is a great post and very in line with how I feel.  If the Bills make him the highest paid safety in the game he will be so for a year or two tops.

There are also several ways to make him the highest paid; most total money, most guaranteed money, or highest yearly salary.  I personally think most total and guaranteed money would be an offer that Byrd would be crazy to turn down.

6 years 50 million with 30 million guaranteed would accomplish all 3 objectives.  It would be half of Mario Williams money and send a nice message to players in and out of the locker room that the Bills will pay their elite talent.

It would also lock Byrd up through his prime as well as appease fans.  It is a win everywhere and in 2 years some other safety will sign for more money making this look like a good deal for a top 5 safety.



#13 Tintonfallsbillsfan

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Posted 02 January 2014 - 08:23 AM

The only number that matters in these large contracts is the Gaurenteed money .   The rest of it is window dressing , very helpful for the agent to recruit but does nothing for the player.   If you offer a player 7 years for 50 and guarentee 10 million it looks great on paper but in the end 40 mllion is still left to be earned.

#14 RuntheDamnBall

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Posted 02 January 2014 - 08:58 AM

View PostRubes, on 01 January 2014 - 01:19 PM, said:

My thinking is that this is not the way it works. Byrd receiving a contract that pays him the most of all safeties in the league just means this: at this point in time, this year, given who else is available in free agency and which safeties were given a new contract last year or the year before -- that is the amount dictated by the market. ...

What you pay for a player really comes down to how much you have, how much you value the player, how much you want to tie up at a particular position on your team, and how strongly the player wants to be on that team. Not quite so much how a team values a player against his peers -- at least, probably not as much as we think it does. At least, the amount given should not necessarily communicate this.

Thoughts?
This is the way I've been thinking about it.  People want the team to be ruthless and claim that Byrd is being a crybaby, asking for too much, etc.

You can afford to be ruthless if your team is balanced and your front office is strong.  You can also afford to do this if your primary piece (QB) is cemented in his role and gives you a strong chance to make the playoffs no matter what.  One reason is that the second-tier, role-playing free agents see a team that is successful and will sign for less to go there.  Keeping Byrd is, in a sense, a symbolic gesture as much as it is one to retain talent - that the Bills won't let their own leave for nothing.  It's kind of a continuation of the re-branding that began when they signed Mario.

#15 MDH

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Posted 02 January 2014 - 10:29 AM

You pretty much covered everything. I'd add one thing though. How much they pay to bring a player it is directly correlated to how they can sell the team to the fans with their new shiny toy. It's interesting that you don't see the top teams brining in top FAs. They don't have to sell anything to the fans because the product spoke for itself last year. But if you can brining in a player who will make your team better on the field and you can package that into a nice promo to sell fans about the "NEW TEAM!" then the "overspending" on the contract can easily be gained back with ticket sales so it's not really "overspending" in that context.

#16 Rubes

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Posted 02 January 2014 - 10:47 AM

View PostMDH, on 02 January 2014 - 10:29 AM, said:

You pretty much covered everything. I'd add one thing though. How much they pay to bring a player it is directly correlated to how they can sell the team to the fans with their new shiny toy. It's interesting that you don't see the top teams brining in top FAs. They don't have to sell anything to the fans because the product spoke for itself last year. But if you can brining in a player who will make your team better on the field and you can package that into a nice promo to sell fans about the "NEW TEAM!" then the "overspending" on the contract can easily be gained back with ticket sales so it's not really "overspending" in that context.

Perhaps, but maybe one reason the top teams don't bring in top FAs is because they don't need them. They already have a bunch of good players, and can't necessarily afford another one.

#17 bobobonators

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Posted 02 January 2014 - 11:14 AM

We have a lot of cap room.  Byrd is an elite player at his position.  I'm of the mentality that you keep elite talent no matter the position.

Byrd is a playmaker on defense - He has the most INT's in the entire NFL for a safety over the past X-amount of years.  If that isn't worth top money at a position, what is?  Looking at our roster, is there a player that is better than Byrd at his position?  Maybe Mario?  Can't think of anyone else.

Discussing if Byrd is truly the #1 FS in the NFL is semantics.  He's elite, and that can't be argued (IMO)..whether he's #1, #2 or #3, who cares.  Trust me, in 1-2 years he won't be the highest paid anymore.  But you know what?  He'll still be a baller for us and not the Bears.

Edited by bobobonators, 02 January 2014 - 11:15 AM.