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Contract Speculation and Breakdown: Arizona Cardinals

Contract Speculation and Breakdown: Arizona Cardinals

By: Matt TheJerk (@dynastyjerk)

Good afternoon Dynasty Owners and Happy New Year. I can honestly say that the 2020 season is the most fun I’ve ever had playing fantasy football. I’m not sure if it was the large void that other professional sports left in my soul after shortened seasons, or if it was the constant fear that the season could be postponed or cancelled. The NFL persevered, though, with only minor setbacks.

Throughout last season, I thought of myself as a “float writer.”  When I say float writer, I mean to say that I didn’t necessarily have a structured format to what I was going to write from week to week. Well, I and the rest of the Dynasty Owner team, have decided to settle down and focus on specific topics for this offseason. I’ll let my co writers explain their assignments, but I can tell you that I will mainly be writing about contracts. Now, I know that’s a broad topic so I will try to keep the content centered around future contract speculation and also breaking down current contracts in order to find value that otherwise may be missed.

In order to accomplish this in an efficient way, I am going to write each week about one team. In each article, I will lead off by recapping any breaking news about updated or new contracts. After that, I will discuss all the (rosterable) players on that NFL team that have expiring contracts. As many of you know, free agency is a very nuanced process and the number of free agents a team will have in any given year is variable. I am not an expert about all the rules of free agency (for that I would turn to Spotrac), but I do my research, and I feel like these articles will be a great place to provide help for difficult contracts.

In addition to a weekly article, I will be releasing a short video each week that will heavily relate to the write-up. These videos will allow me to better explain my more important points. Text just seems so impersonal sometimes, and I think putting a face with an article is a great way to convey a message.

Well, I think I’ve gotten all the info out that I needed to. How about we jump into our first official contract speculation and breakdown…

Contract Speculation

My first month of articles will be about the NFC West, and up first we have the Arizona Cardinals. Arizona has three noteworthy players that will be free agents in 2021. The process that I’m using to select free agents is subjective, but I feel like these three players will be the most asked about.

Larry Fitzgerald

First up we have the legend, Larry Fitzgerald. Fitz has been in the league since 2004, and it’s very possible he is about to complete his final contract and retire in the offseason. I’m not going to speculate on Fitzgerald’s chances of retiring, but rather, I’ll speculate on what a new contract could mean. I believe the 2004 #3 overall pick would have a tough time signing in a new city. We know that Larry was drafted by the Cardinals and has played his entire career with them. That is a special accomplishment and one that doesn’t happen often. There is, however, no doubt in my mind that he will command much less money than he currently makes. A one year $11,500,000 salary is just too much to pay a 37-year-old wide receiver, even one that leads a locker room as well as Fitz does. I’ll keep an eye on contract discussions, but I can’t imagine many Owners will roster Larry in 2021 given that he is currently owned in only 7.22 percent of DO leagues.

Kenyan Drake

Next, we have a much more interesting free agent:  Kenyan Drake. Drake is finishing up a single year contract that is worth a little less than 8.5 million dollars. (More accurately, Drake is finishing up a one-year transition tag) Drake has completed four years of service in the NFL so he will be an unrestricted free agent. There are quite a few possibilities for Drake in the offseason. First, he could be slapped with a franchise tag. A franchise tag would place him somewhere in the ballpark of $11,000,000 for one year. Drake could also sign a new contract with Arizona or a new team. I would anticipate a new contract to be worth around the same price point as a franchise tag (possibly a little bit less). If I had to commit to a number right now, I’d say Drake will sign something like a three-year contract worth 24 million dollars. This would put his Dynasty Owner salary at 8 million dollars per year. Once again this is just speculation, but Drake owners need to start thinking ahead.

Dan Arnold

The final Cardinals’ free agent I want to mention is Dan Arnold. Arnold is about to wrap up a two year – 1.23-million-dollar contract. Arnold has not completed four years in the NFL, so he hasn’t reached the benchmark in order to become an unrestricted free agent. There isn’t much else to say about him at this point. Again, I’ll keep you updated when Arnold is extended or signed.

Contract Breakdowns

Kyler Murray

I’m going to delve into two more contracts, and this breakdown will hopefully help you make a decision on what value these players have in the offseason. The first player I’m going to discuss has a contract that is top three in terms of value in all of Dynasty Owner. The player is, of course, Kyler Murray. Kyler is 23 years old, and he comes into the 2021 offseason with two years remaining on his rookie contract. In 2019, he signed a four-year contract that was worth $35,158,645 or $8,789,661 per year. That contract (per year) ranks 21st among active quarterbacks in terms of dollars per year. Let’s look at the numbers a little closer and see why Murray is such a steal. Over the past two seasons, he has put up a total of 814.6 fantasy points.

He produced 353.5 points in 2019 and 461.1 points in 2020. I’m first going to look at dynasty dollars per fantasy point (DD/FP). As I’ve mentioned in the past, Dynasty Owner did a great job of creating this statistic, and it’s something that I will be using quite a bit this offseason to look at contracts. First, I’m going to compare Kyler to every other top tier DD/FP quarterback that played the entire season. ***(Minshew, Mullens, and Glennon all have better DD/FP than Murray, but I won’t compare them as they are not the current starters on their teams).

Player2020 SalaryYears Remaining2021 Salary2020 DD/FP
L. Jackson$2,367,9121$2,367,912$5,921
D. Watson$3,463,570Resigned$39,000,000$7,246
D. Lock$1,752,7042$1,752,704$7,811
P. Mahomes$4,106,447Resigned$45,000,000$8,148
J. Allen$5,295,7601$5,295,760$10,261
J. Herbert$6,644,6883$6,644,688$15,392
K. Murray$8,789,6612$8,789,661$19,062
Swipe for more on mobile

This is a long list, and it is pretty loaded so I’m going to break it down. As I said, this is a list of quarterbacks with the best DD/FP for the 2020 season. The way the quarterbacks qualify is if they were the starter in 2020 and project to be their team’s starter in 2021 as well. It’s obviously not surprising that the players with the best DD/FP rating are all low salary players. You may also be concerned that Kyler Murray is so far down. Well, don’t be. Kyler is the most expensive quarterback on this list which will skew his DD/FP when compared to players like Lamar or Lock. We already know that a high salary quarterback will never lead the league in DD/FP. It’s just not possible for Russell Wilson to be productive enough to lead DO in DD/FP.

Let’s do a what if. What if each one of these quarterbacks kept the exact same fantasy production over the next two years?  What would happen to their DD/FP?  I’ll show you…

Using these quarterbacks’ 2020 season as a benchmark, this is how their DD/FP would finish over the next two seasons with projected salaries.

Player2021 Salary2022 Projected Salary2021 Proj DD/FP2022 Proj DD/FP
L. Jackson$2,367,912$37,000,000$5,920$92,500
D. Watson$39,000,000$39,000,000$81,590$81,590
D. Lock$1,752,704$1,752,704$7,825$7,825
P. Mahomes$45,000,000$45,000,000$89,286$89,286
J. Allen$5,295,760$40,000,000$10,263$77,519
J. Herbert$6,644,688$6,644,688$15,381$15,381
K. Murray$8,789,661$8,789,661$19,067$19,067
Swipe for more on mobile.

We can project/know that between the 2020 season and the 2022 season four of these quarterbacks will receive large contract increases. For this reason, Kyler becomes much more valuable over that time frame. In 2021, Kyler is expected to finish 5th among these seven players. In 2022, Kyler is expected to finish 3rd among these seven players. This is a long way of saying that Kyler is and will continue to be a value.

I did learn something else while doing this exercise. Maybe there is another way to determine value using DD/FP. What if we could make educated guesses on what we expect a player’s contract will be in the next three seasons and combine that with the player’s fantasy point projections over the next three seasons?  We would have a better gauge on a player’s long term value and not just season long value.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to start projecting players DD/FP through the 2023 season. This should help us get closer to a standardized formula for comparing players. (Something I’ve been working on for over a year.)

Christian Kirk

The second player I want to break down today is Christian Kirk. Kirk finished the season as WR44. He missed two games in 2020. The first was in Week 3 with a groin injury, and the second was Week 17 when he was placed on the COVID-19 list. Kirk had a disappointing year. There’s no sugar coating it. If you drafted him, you had to (on average) take him in the 8th round. So, the question I ask is…what do we do with Kirk for next year?  He comes into the 2021 season on the final year of his rookie deal that is worth a little less than 1.5 million dollars. There is no doubt that Kirk will be 100 percent owned in 2021 as his salary is very cheap, but the trust to start him each week is just not going to be there. The possible retirement of Larry Fitzgerald could open the door for more touches, but the acquisition of DeAndre Hopkins last year really put a damper on Kirk’s career outlook. Let’s break down his DD/FP and see where he ranks among his peers…

Kirk is 40th in DD/FP for wide receivers, and he sits at $9,871. This seems like a fairly decent value on paper, and in some ways it is. However, when you look at some of the players around him, the value starts to fade.

Sitting just two spots ahead of Kirk is Calvin Ridley. Is this surprising to you?  Ridley at 38th in DD/FP?  I’ll be honest, it’s surprising to me, but let me explain why it actually makes sense. Ridley has the highest salary of any wide receiver inside of the top 50 for DD/FP. In fact, the only players close to him in terms of contract are Justin Jefferson ($3,280,701) at 51st and D.J. Moore ($2,792,829) at 58th. So that means the 6th (Ridley), 8th (Jefferson) and 23rd (Moore) ranked wide receivers in 2020 are all outside the top 38th in DD/FP?  The truth of the matter is that if a receiver has a salary over $1,000,000, it is very difficult for them to crack the top tier of DD/FP. Of all the wide receivers in the top 20 for DD/FP, only five of them have contracts over $1,000,000, and the highest salary of any of them is A.J. Brown at $1,413,092. This is obviously one of the limitations for the statistic itself. The fact that Russell Gage, Greg Ward and Jacoby Meyers lead this statistic should tell you everything you need to know.

What I propose (and plan on doing over the offseason) is to create more of a tiered approach to DD/FP as opposed to a strict salary compared to fantasy points. For example, I could take every wide receiver under $2,000,000 per year and assign them the same, fixed value. Doing this will eliminate the skewed data that would have given twice as much value to a player that makes $600,000 compared to a player that makes $1,200,000. We would obviously rather own the $600,000 salary, but is it worth assigning double value for that contract given that they are both “cheap” salaries?  In the same way, I could make a tier of $2,000,000 – $5,000,000.

Regardless, I will get all of my data together and begin to work in this new tiered approach to value in the upcoming articles.

As always, thank you for reading and look out for my video that pairs with this article. I know I can get a little long winded so hopefully the video series we’re doing will help give a more personal touch to the content. Take care and be safe.

TheJerk

Follow us on Twitter: @Dynasty_Owner

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