NFL free agency: The most & least valuable QB, RB & WR signings

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Free agency is a crap shoot, especially when it comes to signing offensive skill players. Jason Chilton takes a look at which teams got the most return, and which ones got burned, on their additions at quarterback, running back & wide receiver over the last three years as well as lessons for this year's feeding frenzy.

In part one (offensive tackles) and part two (interior linemen and tight ends) of our series we introduced the concept of Dollar Value Performance (DVP) as a method of stating a player's performance in dollar terms and comparing it to his cap charge. We also took a look at what DVP had to say about the surplus value that teams have been able to realize in signing the 2011, 2012 and 2013 free agent offensive line and tight end classes

If things got contentious when discussing the value of offensive linemen and tight ends, they figure to get even more contentious as we move into the pure skill positions. That's a natural consequence of two things. First, people tend to have much stronger opinions on the relative merits of guys who score (or don't) for their fantasy teams than they do on how the left guard for the Titans is performing. Second, skill position guys' performance is much more dependent on other players' actions and the overall structure of the offense, whereas the guys in the trenches usually just have to do something violent to the large gentleman right in front of them.

Let's get to it.

Wide receivers

It's hard to imagine advanced NFL statistics ever reaching a point where wide receiver performance can be viewed independently of quarterback play, and we certainly aren't at that point yet. With that said, we've aimed to define wide receiver performance through three metrics where those players can exert the most impact:

- Pro Football Focus' yards per pass route run metric, which inherently factors in both a receiver's ability to earn targets from his QB as well as his ability to turn them into something productive

- PFF's receiving rating (converted to a meaningful per-route basis), which adds a subjective element of how well a receiver is performing to a trained eye, and ...

- Touchdowns scored. Touchdowns can be somewhat random and often over-valued relative to the simple work of matriculating the ball down the field, but at the WR position they tend to result from one of three objectively valuable elements - long speed, red zone route precision, or simple go-up-and-get-it ability.

With those three metrics defining value, here are 2013's top receivers from a DVP standpoint:

Total Snaps in Route Yards / Pass Route Run YPPRR DVP PFF Rating / Route Run Rating DVP Touchdowns Touchdowns DVP Total DVP 2013 Cap Hit 2013 Surplus Value
DET Calvin Johnson 547 2.7 $8359308 3.7 $1846666 12 $1200000 $11405975 $8773000 $2632975
CLE Josh Gordon 615 2.7 $9398491 2 $815803 9 $900000 $11114294 $1139564 $9974730
PIT Antonio Brown 609 2.4 $8133858 3.8 $2096426 8 $800000 $11030284 $3120000 $7910284

You know him, you love him - Calvin Johnson again stood atop the wide receiver ranks by virtue of his incomparable physical skills and ability to defeat all manner of custom coverages. We don't currently have a metric to determine how much an overrated, overpaid QB should have to pay to his singularly talented wideout, but we're working on it.

Josh Gordon put paid to the concept of the sophomore slump, surging to a fantastic season despite dubious quarterback play and a two-game suspension to start the season.

Antonio Brown put in an outstanding campaign in the midst of a down year in Pittsburgh, providing Ben Roethlisberger with a reliable target while vindicating management's decision to pay him instead of Mike Wallace.

Thus far in our journey, GMs have had a tough time finding excess value in free agency. Can the wideout position turn things around? Let's start out with a look at how the 2011 WR free agent class has fared in the three seasons since they signed:

Signing Team Player 2011 Cap Hit 2011 Value 2011 Surplus 2012 Cap Hit 2012 Value 2012 Surplus 2013 Cap Hit 2013 Value 2013 Surplus Remaining Dead Money Total Surplus to Date
DAL Laurent Robinson $525000 $5612406 $5087406 $- $- $- $- $- $- $- $5087406
CHI Roy E. Williams $2460000 $1567890 -$892110 $- $- $- $- $- $- $- -$892110
SF Braylon Edwards $1258823 $176090 -$1082733 $- $- $- $- $- $- $- -$1082733
NYJ Derrick Mason $1310000 $69229 -$1240771 $- $- $- $- $- $- $- -$1240771
NYJ Plaxico Burress $3017000 $1545749 -$1471251 $- $- $- $- $- $- $- -$1471251
MIN Michael Jenkins $1666666 $1280559 -$386107 $1666666 $703520 -$963146 $666667 $- -$666667 $- -$2015920
STL Mike Sims-Walker $3700000 $18475 -$3681525 $- $- $- $- $- $- $- -$3681525
BUF Brad Smith $3500000 $327418 -$3172582 $3750000 $387834 -$3362166 $500000 $- -$500000 $500000 -$6534748
KC Steve Breaston $1700000 $2337246 $637246 $4550000 $77871 -$4472129 $3000000 $- -$3000000 $- -$6834883
SEA Sidney Rice $3200000 $2056585 -$1143415 $8200000 $4119770 -$4080230 $9700000 $- -$9700000 $2400000 -$12523645

Four position and 19 players into our analysis, we FINALLY find a 2011 free agent who netted out positive surplus value over a three-year span for his team - and even then, we had to cheat. Laurent Robinson was signed and then cut by the Chargers at the start of the 2011 season, and the cap figure and DVP performance above for the 2011 season came after he was scooped off the street by the Cowboys. As we'll see, however, projecting that performance forward became a very dicey proposition for the Jaguars.

Roy Williams sort of rebounded from a disastrous stint in Dallas to come within shouting distance of earning his money with the Bears, and that's where the good(ish) news stopped for the 2011 class. From the Viking's ill-starred signing of Molasses Mike Jenkins to the Bills' wild overpay of gadget player Brad Smith to the Seahawks' outright disastrous experience with Sidney "Mr. Glass" Rice, the wide receiver position continued the 2011 free agent trend of wholesale value destruction.

Here's how the 2011 class stacked up from a metrics standpoint:

2011 2012 2013
Player Total Snaps in Route Yards / Pass Route Run PFF Rating / Route Run Touchdowns Total Snaps in Route Yards / Pass Route Run PFF Rating / Route Run Touchdowns Total Snaps in Route Yards / Pass Route Run PFF Rating / Route Run Touchdowns
Laurent Robinson 399 2.2 1.1 11 N/A (No longer with team) N/A (Not in football)
Roy E. Williams 326 1.6 -0.7 2 N/A (Not in football) N/A (Not in football)
Braylon Edwards 149 1.2 -1.8 0 N/A (No longer with team) #N/A #N/A #N/A #N/A
Derrick Mason 83 0.7 -2 0 N/A (Not in football) N/A (Not in football)
Plaxico Burress 515 1.2 0.6 8 N/A (No longer with team) N/A (Injured)
Michael Jenkins 318 1.5 -0.3 3 436 1 -0.9 2 0 0 0 0
Mike Sims-Walker 41 0.3 -2.2 0 N/A (Not in football) N/A (Not in football)
Brad Smith 266 0.9 -2.7 1 181 0.8 -0.7 2 9 3 2.2 0
Steve Breaston 486 1.6 0.9 2 152 0.5 -3.2 0 N/A (Not in football)
Sidney Rice 277 1.8 0.9 2 422 1.8 2.5 7 196 1.2 0.2 3

Could the 2012 wide receiver class turn things around?

Signing Team Player 2012 Cap Hit 2012 Value 2012 Surplus 2013 Cap Hit 2013 Value 2013 Surplus Remaining Dead Money Total Surplus to Date
CHI Brandon Marshall $9500000 $11192525 $1692525 $9300000 $8965870 -$334130 $- $1358395
IND Donnie Avery $615000 $1124266 $509266 $- $- $- $- $509266
NE Donte' Stallworth $50000 $- -$50000 $- $- $- $- -$50000
NYJ Chaz Schilens $700000 $511036 -$188964 $- $- $- $- -$188964
JAC Lee Evans $250000 $- -$250000 $- $- $- $- -$250000
PIT Plaxico Burress $925000 $323182 -$601818 $- $- $- $- -$601818
WAS Pierre Garcon $4700000 $4402812 -$297188 $8184375 $7827144 -$357231 $- -$654419
SD Roscoe Parrish $700000 -$171 -$700171 $- $- $- $- -$700171
TB Vincent Jackson $15432000 $10539035 -$4892965 $3272000 $7104202 $3832202 $- -$1060763
DEN Andre Caldwell $800000 $24237 -$775763 $1000000 $539864 -$460136 $- -$1235899
MIN Jerome Simpson $2000000 $282997 -$1717003 $2100000 $2099314 -$686 $- -$1717689
CHI Eric Weems $1225000 $36764 -$1188236 $1415000 $6799 -$1408201 $- -$2596438
NE Brandon Lloyd $2000000 $2348121 $348121 $3500000 $- -$3500000 $- -$3151879
SF Mario Manningham $2550000 $1956434 -$593566 $2800000 $95705 -$2704295 $- -$3297862
SD Eddie Royal $3000000 $358777 -$2641223 $4500000 $1555040 -$2944960 $- -$5586183
SD Robert Meachem $3375000 $428126 -$2946874 $1875000 $1444447 -$430553 -$3750000 -$7127428
WAS Josh Morgan $3100000 $745894 -$2354106 $5100000 $208209 -$4891791 -$3300000 -$10545897
JAC Laurent Robinson $4700000 $208398 -$4491602 $9440000 $- -$9440000 $- -$13931602

Ummm...sort of? Elite talent acquitted itself pretty well. Brandon Marshall has been well worth the Bears' while after his move from Miami in 2012. Vincent Jackson has almost evened out the Bucs' investment so far in spite of his wildly inflated first-year cap charge. For his part, Pierre Garcon would almost certainly be in plus territory had he not missed a good chunk of the 2012 season with foot woes.

The analysis looked far less favorably on other signings. Brandon Lloyd's year in New England wasn't a disaster, but it didn't convince Bill Belichick that he was worth keeping around and resulted in a $3.5 million dead money hit the next season. Mario Manningham has struggled to overcome injury, ineffectiveness and the 49ers' run-heavy ways to justify his contract. Eddie Royal was a bust in his first season with the Chargers, and is probably getting short-changed on his fine 2013 season based on the YPPRR formula's inherent bias against possession-type guys. There are no excuses available for the three guys at the bottom of the list, however - Robert Meachem, Josh Morgan and Laurent Robinson turned out to be tremendous wastes of resources for their signing teams.

This is how the 2012 class has performed from a metrics standpoint:

2012 2013
Player Total Snaps in Route Yards / Pass Route Run PFF Rating / Route Run Touchdowns Total Snaps in Route Yards / Pass Route Run PFF Rating / Route Run Touchdowns
Brandon Marshall 546 2.8 3.3 11 607 2.1 3.2 12
Donnie Avery 642 1.2 -0.9 3 480 1.2 -1.5 2
Donte' Stallworth 11 5.7 10 1 N/A (Not in football)
Chaz Schilens 239 1.2 -0.7 2 N/A (Injured)
Lee Evans 0 0 0 0 N/A (Not in football)
Plaxico Burress 22 1.9 3.2 1 N/A (Injured)
Pierre Garcon 215 2.9 3.5 4 615 2.2 1.7 5
Roscoe Parrish 12 0 -3.3 0 N/A (Not in football)
Vincent Jackson 587 2.4 4 8 552 2.2 1.2 7
Andre Caldwell 31 0.6 -1.9 0 143 1.4 0.9 3
Jerome Simpson 262 1.1 -2.1 0 450 1.6 0.5 1
Eric Weems 51 0.5 -1.6 0 7 1.1 -2.9 0
Brandon Lloyd 595 1.5 1.2 4 N/A (Not in football)
Mario Manningham 249 1.8 2 1 103 0.8 -1.9 0
Eddie Royal 189 1.2 -0.2 1 437 1.4 1.3 8
Robert Meachem 244 0.9 -2.1 2 182 1.8 0.8 2
Josh Morgan 384 1.3 -0.3 2 189 1.1 -2.1 0
Laurent Robinson 185 1.4 -3 0 N/A (Not in football)

The 2013 free agent class was rife with big names. Did their games translate into value for the teams that signed them?

Signing Team Player 2013 Cap Hit 2013 Value 2013 Surplus Remaining Dead Money Total Surplus to Date
SF Anquan Boldin $6000000 $8885711 $2885711 $- $2885711
CAR Ted Ginn $1100000 $2072665 $972665 $- $972665
TB Kevin Ogletree $546765 $1128662 $581897 $- $581912
MIA Brandon Gibson $1785000 $1641644 -$143356 $- -$143356
SF Marlon Moore $630000 $60880 -$569120 $- -$569107
NYG Louis Murphy $620000 $36003 -$583997 $- -$583980
OAK Joshua Cribbs $840000 $20094 -$819906 $- -$819906
TEN Kevin Walter $940000 $- -$940000 $- -$939988
DEN Wes Welker $4150000 $3135811 -$1014189 $- -$1014189
CAR Domenik Hixon $1162500 $79088 -$1083412 $- -$1083412
NE Danny Amendola $3575000 $2295836 -$1279164 $- -$1279164
MIA Mike Wallace $3250000 $1502171 -$1747829 $- -$1747813
IND Darrius Heyward-Bey $2500000 $387860 -$2112140 $- -$2112140
CLE Davone Bess $2683334 $549831 -$2133503 $- -$2133503
MIN Greg Jennings $5000000 $2651975 -$2348025 $- -$2348025
SEA Percy Harvin $4900000 $43613 -$4856387 $- -$4856387

The DVP model absolutely loved Anquan Boldin and, more specifically, his tremendous YPPRR mark (see below) that ranked third among all qualifying receivers. In an offense that was missing Michael Crabtree for much of the year, Boldin was targeted on a huge percentage of his routes and managed tremendous efficiency -- when not being jailed by Richard Sherman -- while also wow-ing the PFF graders from an eyeball test standpoint. Ted Ginn justified his modest contract in limited work as the Panthers' only legitimate deep threat, and Brandon Gibson was well on his way to a plus season before tearing his patellar tendon.

The model's debatable bias against possession types shows up clearly in the modest DVP number for Wes Welker - it's highly unlikely that the Broncos regretted their investment, and future iterations of the model will explore adding in a third-down conversion factor to better capture the value that a guy like Welker brings to the table. The model's far less debatable biases include deep ball receivers who never really get around to catching deep balls (Mike Wallace and DHB), slot receivers with horrifying 25 percent drop rates (Davone Bess), and guys who miss 98 percent of the regular season with injury (Percy Harvin). Violating the twin free agency edicts of "don't pay someone else's No. 2 to be your No. 1" and "don't drop big money on a receiver when your quarterback is terrible" predictably failed to yield the Vikes a good return on their Greg Jennings signing, and that contract figures to get even uglier going forward if Minnesota doesn't hit it big at QB.

The 2013 class' metric performance:

Running backs

Few positions depend more on the performance of other players than the running back spot, and no position has more variables in our model to try and tease out individual performance. The running back DVP value is a function of basic yards per carry, yards after contact per carry, PFF's elusive rating (factoring in YAC and missed tackles forced) and yards per pass route run to factor in the aerial component. Those metrics tend to value explosiveness and guys who can gain yards in chunks over grinders and chain movers ... but so does the very nature of spread-era football.

Since no position features as many young or previously unheralded players bursting onto the scene and shining bright, it's to be expected that generating surplus value at a high salary is a tough proposition for even the most talented players. Here's a look at 2013's top DVP performers at running back, with the proportion of their DVP earned by category:

Total Touches YPC YPC DVP YAC/ Carry YAC DVP Yards per Pass Route Run YPPRR DVP Elusive Rating Elusive DVP
PHI LeSean McCoy 366 5.1 $2561132 2.4 $2556450 1.4 $1685694 49 $2055906
MIN Adrian L. Peterson 308 4.5 $1270024 3 $3241669 0.7 $237598 65 $3568354
SEA Marshawn Lynch 337 4.2 $719212 2.5 $2510500 1.2 $522351 64 $3678999



Total DVP 2013 Cap Hit 2013 Surplus Value
PHI LeSean McCoy $8859182 $4931250 $3927932
MIN Adrian L. Peterson $8317646 $13900000 -$5582354
SEA Marshawn Lynch $7431063 $8500000 -$1068937

Shady McCoy's talent shone bright in his first year with Chip Kelly and the Eagles' revamped and super-athletic offensive line.

Adrian Peterson had another fine year, and his yards after contact and elusive rating numbers were outstanding considering his substantial workload. However, even a great-but-still-mortal season couldn't come close to justifying a massive $13.9 million cap hit at the game's most fungible position. For reference, the DVP model assigned a $16.0 million value to Peterson's demigod/Area 51-caliber performance in 2012 - if you need a guy to consistently turn in all-time career years to justify his cap figure, you probably overpaid.

The DVP model may still be short-changing Marshawn Lynch a bit for the work he did in elevating the Seahawks' run game behind an OL that saw far fewer snaps from quality players like Russ Okung than it did from execrable performers like James Carpenter and Paul McQuistan. Even with a bump, however, Beast Mode would barely break even with an $8.5 million cap hit. This fact is probably not lost on the Seahawks' front office, and should also be noted by any dynasty leaguers out there who can get their hands on Christine Michael.

When you consider that running back is a frequently fungible position where injuries are frequent and youth is served, you'd imagine that handing out second contracts in free agency is a very dicey business when you're shooting for surplus value. How well have teams fared over the last three seasons?

Let's start with a look at the 2011 class:

Signing Team Player 2011 Cap Hit 2011 Value 2011 Surplus 2012 Cap Hit 2012 Value 2012 Surplus 2013 Cap Hit 2013 Value 2013 Surplus Remaining Dead Money Total Surplus to Date
NO Darren Sproles $1750000 $7803811 $6053811 $4250000 $4490041 $240041 $3750000 $4121084 $371084 $- $6664937
DEN Willis McGahee $1500000 $4338258 $2838258 $2500000 $2771975 $271975 $500000 $- -$500000 -$500000 $2110234
BAL Ricky Williams $1750000 $1304199 -$445801 $50000 $- -$50000 $- $- $- $- -$495801
STL Jerious Norwood $525000 $13274 -$511726 $- $- $- $- $- $- $- -$511726
CHI Marion Barber $2250000 $1577970 -$672030 $250000 $- -$250000 $- $- $- $- -$922030

It's probably no surprise that an unconventionally skilled player like Darren Sproles would buck conventional wisdom when it comes to generating second-contract surplus. Sproles' stint in New Orleans has been a match made in heaven thanks to the quick trigger of Drew Brees and the innovative mind of coach Sean Payton. While Sproles hasn't equalled the near-nuclear explosiveness he showed in the 2011 campaign, he's been a unique and often un-coverable element of the Saints' passing game and has finished in plus territory in all three seasons in the Big Easy.

Willis McGahee benefitted from tremendous genetics (what might his career have been without that gruesome bowl game knee injury?), plenty of opportunities and a healthy dose of Tebow-generated backside pursuit constraint to turn in a robust 2011 campaign, and he even managed to land in plus territory in 2012 under a far more pass-happy Peyton Manning regime. Ricky Williams turned in a respectable campaign in his final season in the league, while Marion Barber failed to recapture his pre-payday form as he closed things out in Chicago.

The metric performances for the 2011 class:

2011 2012
Player Total Touches YPC YAC/ Carry Yards per Pass Route Run Elusive Rating Total Touches YPC YAC/ Carry Yards per Pass Route Run Elusive Rating
Darren Sproles 173 6.9 3.7 2.1 51 123 5.1 1.9 2 41
Willis McGahee 275 4.8 2.8 0.4 35 193 4.4 2.4 1.4 23
Ricky Williams 121 4.1 2.6 1.2 19 N/A (Not in football)
Jerious Norwood 24 2.5 1.5 0 0 N/A (No longer on team)
Marion Barber III 134 3.7 2.8 1 40 N/A (Not in football)

2013
Player Total Touches YPC YAC/ Carry Yards per Pass Route Run Elusive Rating
Darren Sproles 124 4.2 1.6 2.3 29
Willis McGahee N/A (No longer on team)
Ricky Williams N/A (No longer on team)
Jerious Norwood N/A (No longer on team)
Marion Barber III N/A (Not in football)

The 2012 class was largely a picture of fiscal responsibility, with low average annual value signings being (mostly) the order of the day:

Signing Team Player 2012 Cap Hit 2012 Value 2012 Surplus 2013 Cap Hit 2013 Value 2013 Surplus Remaining Dead Money Total Surplus to Date
OAK Mike Goodson $615000 $1386065 $771065 $- $- $- $- $771065
SD Ronnie Brown $1000000 $2389766 $1389766 $1050000 $189252 -$860748 $- $529018
SD Jackie Battle $700000 $799794 $99794 $- $- $- $- $99794
CAR Mike Tolbert $1225000 $1536144 $311144 $2025000 $681095 -$1343905 $- -$1032762
SF Brandon Jacobs $1407000 $6459 -$1400541 $- $- $- $- -$1400541
KC Peyton Hillis $2800000 $935867 -$1864133 $- $- $- $- -$1864133
CIN Benjarvus Green-Ellis $3000000 $1143877 -$1856123 $3250000 $653436 -$2596564 $- -$4452686
CHI Michael Bush $2000000 $636428 -$1363572 $3550000 $301227 -$3248773 -$2000000 -$6612345

Over the last two seasons, Mike Goodson has shown some serious per-touch explosiveness with the usual caveat of small sample size. His off-field baggage and ACL tear may destroy his 2014 market, which is disappointing considering the tantalizing glimpses he's shown on the field.

Ronnie Brown looked completely washed up before landing in San Diego, but he turned in one turn-back-the-clock season in 2012 before ... looking completely washed up in 2013.

The DVP model is quite unkind to plodding backs, and the bottom four guys on the list attest to that fact. Of the multi-year deals, at least the Bengals employed BJGE in a starting role for their ~$3 milliion per. The Bears' decision to hand a $10 million+ deal to Michael Bush with Matt Forte already in the fold is just indefensible.

Here's how the 2012'ers handled themselves from a productivity standpoint:

2012 2013
Player Total Touches YPC YAC/ Carry Yards per Pass Route Run Elusive Rating Total Touches YPC YAC/ Carry Yards per Pass Route Run Elusive Rating
Mike Goodson 51 6.3 4.9 2.6 125 N/A (No Longer on Team)
Ronnie Brown 95 4.8 2.5 1.7 26 53 3.5 1.8 1.1 14
Jackie Battle 110 3.3 2.2 3 18 N/A (No Longer on Team)
Mike Tolbert 81 3.4 2.6 1.5 32 128 3.6 2 0.9 28
Brandon Jacobs 5 1.4 2 0 0 N/A (No Longer on Team)
Peyton Hillis 95 3.6 2.4 1 23 N/A (No Longer on Team)
Benjarvus Green-Ellis 300 3.9 2.1 0.4 16 224 3.4 2 0.2 22
Michael Bush 123 3.6 2.3 1.2 32 67 3.1 2.1 1.2 32

Whither the 2013 class?

Signing Team Player 2013 Cap Hit 2013 Value 2013 Surplus Remaining Dead Money Total Surplus to Date
NYJ Chris Ivory $1500000 $4842209 $3342209 $- $3342213
OAK Rashad Jennings $555000 $3369967 $2814967 $- $2814980
SD Danny Woodhead $1250000 $4055193 $2805193 $- $2805194
DET Reggie Bush $2000000 $4393824 $2393824 $- $2393833
TEN Jackie Battle $555000 $707586 $152586 $- $152596
TB Brian Leonard $620000 $551187 -$68813 $- -$68801
UFA Peyton Hillis $715000 $459413 -$255587 $- -$255582
NYJ Mike Goodson $665275 $393214 -$272061 $- -$272058
PHI Felix Jones $587500 $267669 -$319831 $- -$319825
PIT LaRod Stephens-Howling $620000 $59418 -$560582 $- -$560575
IND Ahmad Bradshaw $1918750 $319758 -$1598992 $- -$1598992
ARI Rashard Mendenhall $2500000 $770119 -$1729881 $- -$1729870
ATL Steven Jackson $2916666 $874755 -$2041911 $- -$2041909
TEN Shonn Greene $2583333 $336243 -$2247090 $- -$2247082

There's more than one way to skin a cat, and more than one way to rack up tasty YAC and elusive numbers - Chris Ivory's approach is simply to slam into you really hard and bust tackles left and right. It's not an approach that lends itself to longevity, but it was effective enough to net the Jets a solid return in the first year of his deal. Rashad Jennings' eclipsing of former Top 10 pick Run HMO DMC was Argument No. 2,176 against over-investing in the position, while Danny Woodhead and Reggie Bush showed enough wiggle out of the backfield to star in the passing game and create a handsome return on their teams' investments.

On the flip side of the list, you had injury-plagued guys like Ahmad Bradshaw and Steven Jackson, plodders like Rashard Mendenhall, and the Deep South version of Michael Bush in Shonn Greene all destroying value in some form or fashion.

The lads' stats for 2013:

2013
Player Total Touches YPC YAC/ Carry Yards per Pass Route Run Elusive Rating
Chris Ivory 184 4.6 3 0.1 62
Rashad Jennings 199 4.5 2.8 1.4 34
Danny Woodhead 182 4 1.9 2 27
Reggie Bush 277 4.5 2.1 1.7 39
Jackie Battle 40 3.9 3 0.9 45
Brian Leonard 76 3.9 2.1 1.2 30
Peyton Hillis 86 3.4 2.1 1.3 22
Mike Goodson 9 8.7 5.9 1.5 260
Felix Jones 57 3.8 1.9 1 16
LaRod Stephens-Howling 8 3.2 1.8 1.8 0
Ahmad Bradshaw 48 4.5 1.8 1.2 15
Rashard Mendenhall 235 3.2 1.8 0.9 26
Steven Jackson 190 3.5 2 1.1 31
Shonn Greene 83 3.8 2.1 0.7 13

Quarterbacks

The free agent market for QBs is a weird one. Many of the signings are for guys who are understood to be backups, and backups at a position where their team is generally hoping they don't play at all. The teams looking for starters in free agency tend to be the woeful and forlorn, looking for a stopgap or hoping against hope that a guy from the bargain bin can steer them to the playoffs. For obvious reasons, it's tremendously rare that a franchise guy like Peyton Manning ever reaches the open market. But that doesn't mean that teams can't see surplus value from their QB signings if the price is right.

The DVP formula primarily calculates QB value based on Pro Football Focus' adjusted quarterback rating - it functions similarly to the traditional NFL QB rating while also factoring in things like dropped passes and throw-aways to arrive at a number that's more fully under a quarterback's control. Since creating a fun performance scale that encompasses both Peyton Manning and Cam Newton would be a lulzy but ultimately counter-productive exercise, the formula simply adds value for rushing yards and TDs.

Let's get a look at our top three DVP QBs from 2013:

Pass Snaps (IR) PFF QBR QBR DVP Rush Yds Rush TDs Rush DVP Total DVP 2013 Cap Hit 2013 Surplus Value
DEN Peyton Manning 659 99.7 $22939574 -31 1 $88200 $23027774 $17500000 $5527774
NO Drew Brees 650 94.1 $17506064 54 3 $676200 $18182264 $17400000 $782264
SD Philip Rivers 543 94.9 $15315005 72 0 $201600 $15516605 $13776666 $1739939

It should come as no surprise that perhaps the best season in quarterbacking history nabbed the top DVP spot. It's typically a tall order to generate surplus value when you're setting the position standard from a compensation standpoint, but Manning more than justified Denver's hefty investment with a record-setting season and a Super Bowl appearance.

Drew Brees came in to 2013 sporting a similarly hefty cap hit, and came out with yet another 5,000-yard extravaganza that got the Saints back in the playoffs and kept him on the right side of the surplus value ledger.

Philip Rivers looked ready for the glue factory during his last couple of seasons in Norv Turner's downfield attack, but Mike McCoy and Ken Whisenhunt crafted a short-passing masterpiece that played to Rivers' strengths and re-established him among the game's top QBs.

While it would be a tall order for a free agent QB to generate value on that scale, how well has the 2011 QB class rewarded their signing teams?

Signing Team Player 2011 Cap Hit 2011 Value 2011 Surplus 2012 Cap Hit 2012 Value 2012 Surplus 2013 Cap Hit
MIA Matt Moore $2500000 $8550195 $6050195 $2750000 $667084 -$2082916 $2500000
SEA Tarvaris Jackson $3250000 $5433423 $2183423 $2000000 $- -$2000000 $-
CAR Derek Anderson $525000 $- -$525000 $825000 $140439 -$684561 $840000
BUF Tyler Thigpen $2500000 $72400 -$2427600 $2500000 $118862 -$2381138 $500000
TEN Matt Hasselbeck $5000000 $3816867 -$1183133 $7500000 $2382604 -$5117396 $2000000

Signing Team Player 2013 Value 2013 Surplus Remaining Dead Money Total Surplus to Date
MIA Matt Moore $- -$2500000 $- $1467278
SEA Tarvaris Jackson $- $- $- $183423
CAR Derek Anderson $- -$840000 $- -$2049561
BUF Tyler Thigpen $- -$500000 $- -$5308738
TEN Matt Hasselbeck $- -$2000000 $- -$8300529

Despite flaming out in Carolina, Matt Moore rewarded the Dolphins with above-average play upon his arrival in 2011. He has since taken a back seat to 2012 first-rounder Ryan Tannehill. There's certainly economic value to simply being available as a competent backup that this model doesn't capture, so Moore's 2012 and 2013 cap hits come across as almost pure negatives. Even so, he ends up in plus territory thanks to his strong 2011 showing (and the position's high average salary).

Tarvaris Jackson didn't light the world on fire in 2011 when he took the field for Seattle, but he was better than you probably remember and justified his (position-relative) modest salary. Just like Moore, he was bumped in favor of a 2012 rookie ... some guy named Wilson.

Matt Hasselbeck came at a price that's not too far above average for the position, but losing some snaps to Jake Locker in 2011 and losing the job outright in 2012 meant no chance of generating surplus value for the Titans.

Here's how these guys have performed over their last three seasons:

2011 2012
Player Pass Snaps (IR) PFF QBR Rush Yds Rush TDs Pass Snaps (IR) PFF QBR Rush Yds Rush TDs
Matt Moore 347 91.8 65 2 19 100.9 0 0
Tarvaris Jackson 450 84.3 108 1 0 0 0 0
Derek Anderson 0 0 0 0 4 124.8 0 0
Tyler Thigpen 8 17.5 8 0 5 92.2 0 0
Matt Hasselbeck 518 78.8 52 0 221 83.3 38 0

2013
Player Pass Snaps (IR) PFF QBR Rush Yds Rush TDs
Matt Moore 6 -9.3 25 0
Tarvaris Jackson 13 115.2 25 0
Derek Anderson N/A (No Longer with Team)
Tyler Thigpen N/A (No Longer with Team)
Matt Hasselbeck 12 53.3 25 0

Would the 2012 class fare better? Including a guy like Manning can't hurt...

Signing Team Player 2012 Cap Hit 2012 Value 2012 Surplus 2013 Cap Hit 2013 Value 2013 Surplus Remaining Dead Money Total Surplus to Date
DEN Peyton Manning $18000000 $20468939 $2468939 $17500000 $22939574 $5439574 $- $7908513
JAC Chad Henne $2600000 $1567319 -$1032681 $4650000 $3062285 -$1587715 $- -$2620396
DAL Kyle Orton $1900000 $351097 -$1548903 $1967500 $299569 -$1667931 $- -$3216835
NYJ Tim Tebow $4072500 $210658 -$3861842 $1531875 $- -$1531875 $- -$5393717
SEA Matt Flynn $4000000 $315987 -$3684013 $4000000 $- -$4000000 $- -$7684013

Go figure! Manning is the lone bright spot of the 2012 group, having laughed in the face of the challenge that is generating surplus value at a nearly $18 million AAV.

That's where the good new ends for this class, however. Chad Henne actually hasn't embarrassed himself all that much when you consider his dire working conditions in Jacksonville, but he's still one of oh so many Jags to come out on the wrong side of the surplus value equation. Kyle Orton has played competently when called upon in Dallas, and is another victim of the model failing to include the "insurance value" of a good backup.

You could make the case that the Tim Tebow fiasco could have served as a fireable offense for ex-Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum all by its lonesome - of course, Tannenbaum's tenure was basically a litany of fireable offenses, so the Tebow thing sort of just got lost in the noise. Matt Flynn became a near-$8 million write-off for the Seahawks and continued the wildly imbalanced personnel record of GM John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll. When they're picking defense, they are absolutely lights out. On offense, the special talents of Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch have saved their bacon despite a litany of highly dubious moves.

Here's a look at the 2012 class' on-field showing:

2012 2013
Player Pass Snaps (IR) PFF QBR Rush Yds Rush TDs Pass Snaps (IR) PFF QBR Rush Yds Rush TDs
Peyton Manning 583 100.3 7 0 659 99.7 -31 1
Chad Henne 308 76 64 1 503 77.4 77 0
Kyle Orton 10 130.7 0 0 51 77.1 8 0
Tim Tebow 6 127.9 97 0 N/A (No longer in league)
Matt Flynn 9 104.2 0 0 166 83.9 100 0

2013 saw the kind of abundant QB moves that you tend to see when faced with a lacktastic draft class at the position. How well did all that moving and shaking work out?

Signing Team Player 2013 Cap Hit 2013 Value 2013 Surplus Remaining Dead Money Total Surplus to Date
TEN Ryan Fitzpatrick $2375000 $6230065 $3855065 $- $3855065
GB Matt Flynn $294412 $2060824 $1766412 $- $1766412
ARI Carson Palmer $4000000 $5573110 $1573110 $- $1573110
CLE Jason Campbell $1500000 $2387906 $887906 $- $887906
CLE Brian Hoyer $715000 $1060969 $345969 $- $345969
STL Brady Quinn $420588 $- -$420588 $- -$420588
KC Alex D. Smith $8500000 $7462397 -$1037603 $- -$1037603
MIN Matt Cassel $3700000 $2479285 -$1220715 $- -$1220715
SF Colt McCoy $1445625 $95602 -$1350023 $- -$1350023
BUF Kevin Kolb $2250000 $- -$2250000 $- -$2250000

Ryan Fitzpatrick landed in Tennessee as an insurance policy, and that policy paid off once Jake Locker went down. Fitzy will never be the player that Bills management thought they had when they dropped a $50 million extension on him, but his simple ability to hit what he aims at had to surprise and delight the Titans' receivers after a couple of seasons with The Hurt Locker.

Matt Flynn's performance was downright horrifying in a few games, but he sported an exceptionally low cap hit for the Packers and probably generated 60 percent of his value in one game against the Walking Dead zombie casting call that was the Cowboys' secondary. Carson Palmer started the season in shaky fashion, but acclimated to getting rid of the ball quickly behind Arizona's wretched OL and nearly guided the Cards to a playoff berth despite their ludicrously stacked division. Both Jason Campbell and Brian Hoyer had some good moments for the Browns, which should sandwich in nicely between Brandon Weeden and Johnny Manziel.

Alex Smith proved the kind of impact that simple competence can make at the QB position when compared to 2012's Matt Cassel/Brady Quinn snuff film. He didn't quite justify his above-average salary from a metric standpoint, but Chiefs fans didn't begrudge him a dime after 2012's trauma. The aforementioned Cassel actually had a few nice moments with the Vikings young n' frisky wideout corps, and ended up opting out of the last year of his deal to take a place near the front of a dismal class of 2014 free agents. Even more dismal was the story of Kevin Kolb, who slipped on a wet mat in the preseason and likely slipped out of the ranks of NFL starters for good.

Here's how these fellows stacked up on the field in 2013:

2013
Player Pass Snaps (IR) PFF QBR Rush Yds Rush TDs
Ryan Fitzpatrick 351 86.6 225 3
Matt Flynn 166 83.9 100 0
Carson Palmer 572 82.5 3 0
Jason Campbell 317 78.1 107 0
Brian Hoyer 96 83.7 16 0
Alex D. Smith 508 85.1 432 1
Matt Cassel 254 80.7 57 1
Colt McCoy 1 93.3 25 0
Kevin Kolb N/A (Injured)

Hopefully you've enjoyed this introduction to the Dollar Value Performance system of quantifying NFL player value, as well as a look at free agency's recent history on the offensive side of the ball. Check back this week for a recap of some key DVP principles and a look ahead at the start of 2014 free agency in the NFL, and keep it here for daily recaps and reactions to what should be a very lively free agency period.

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