Even though the Seahawks offseason is barely a week old, there has already been considerable debate about the worth of the Seahawks number two cornerback, Jeremy Lane. Obviously most fans would love to have Lane return on a team-friendly deal after the way the defense improved following the benching and cutting of Cary Williams, but the question remains how much Lane could command in the offseason.
Commenters here have debated his worth in regards to the fact that he has missed significant time to injury over the past two seasons, while also citing the contract Philadelphia used to lure Byron Maxwell away from the Hawks.
It is readily apparent that the debate on the value of any contract that will be offered to Lane will not cease until he has actually signed a new deal, however, this will be an attempt to evaluate Lane’s worth by looking at the production of and contracts signed by players who were in a similar position last offseason.
To that extent, it is necessary to look at Lane’s production. His career regular season stats are as follows:
41 games, 6 starts, 66 tackles, 2 INTs and 12 passes defensed.
If his postseason stats are included, his career numbers are:
51 games, 7 starts, 77 tackles, 3 INTs and 14 passes defensed.
The next step is to look at the free agent cornerbacks from last season and compare the stats of those players to Lane. In order to make the comparisons as accurate as possible, players significantly older than Lane have been excluded, since Lane’s youth will likely command a premium. This excluded such players as Darelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, Tramon Williams, Cary Williams and Brandon Browner. Looking at the remaining free agents in his age range who signed, the following statlines are found:
Player A – 64 games, 36 starts, 196 tackles, 6 INTs and 49 passes defensed (25 years old)
Player B - 40 games, 14 starts, 99 tackles, 2 INTs and 25 passes defensed (25 years old)
Player C - 46 games, 20 starts, 111 tackles, 7 INTs and 35 passes defensed (26 years old)
Player D – 47 games, 17 starts, 68 tackles, 6 INTs and 27 passes defensed (27 years old)
Player E – 42 games, 14 starts, 78 tackles, 5 INTs and 18 passes defensed (28 years old)**
Jeremy Lane – 41 games, 6 starts, 66 tackles, 2 INTs and 12 passes defensed
The obvious one of those five comparisons that does not fit well is Player A, who was obviously a starter over multiple seasons, and therefore had higher counting stats than the remainder of that group. Regardless of these higher counting stats, Player A is Buster Skrine, who signed a 4 year, $25 million contract to be the Jets CB2. However, even if the counting stats are higher on account of being the starter for more than two full seasons, Skrine was signed to be a CB2 and this will allow Lane’s agent to argue that any team wanting Lane as their CB2 needs to be in this ballpark on an APY basis.
Player B has a statline that very closely resembles that of Lane, with the obvious greater numbers in tackles and passes defensed. Player B is Davon House, and it is key to note that he was never a full time starter for his old team prior to signing a 4 year, $24.5 million to start for the Jacksonville Jaguars. This might be the closest comparable available for Lane, and Lane’s camp will likely argue the same, asking for a similar $6.125 APY as a baseline.
It is readily evident that Player C spent more time on the field before hitting free agency, putting together higher numbers of tackles, INTs and passes defensed than Lane. This was more than apparent to the bidder as well, as Player C is Chris Culliver who signed a four year, $32 million contract with the Washington Redskins. Obviously his starting experience and proven play on the field allowed him to command the higher $8M APY than House did, and therefore Lane would likely command less than Culliver.
Similar to Culliver, Player D obviously spent more time on the field and accumulated better numbers than Lane, and Player D is none other than former Hawk Byron Maxwell. Everyone is well aware of the $10.5M APY Maxwell got when he signed his six year, $63M contract with the Eagles, and just as with Culliver, since Maxwell had more time on the field it is likely that Lane will not be able to command the same APY simply because he did not accumulate the same amount playing time.
Player E is a bit unique. Player E is Perrish Cox, and the stats listed are his stats for the four years prior to hitting free agency last year. The reason for this is to look at his stats in a comparable four year window compared to the others, while also taking into consideration the fact that he was cut by the Broncos in 2011 and was out of football that year, whether because of sexual assault charges or because he simply wasn’t very good. It is doubtful that it was actually the latter, because he had a decent rookie season, and when including his 2010 rookie season his numbers are 57 games, 23 starts, 136 tackles, 6 INTs and 32 passes defensed. These numbers are similar to Skrine’s, and Cox was able to secure a three year, $15M contract from the Titans. This $5M APY is likely to be cited by Lane’s camp as an absolute baseline for his contract, since Cox is older and Lane doesn’t bring the baggage of a past sexual assault charge with him. (Note: Cox was found not guilty, and this is not meant to imply that he in any way was guilty of or committed an assault of any kind. It is simply meant to highlight that just months after Ray Rice was cut and in an atmosphere where front offices were hypersensitive towards matters involving violence towards women, Cox still signed a contract averaging $5M per year even with the potential for a media backlash.)
Thus, for Lane’s impending free agency, his agent is likely to argue that his baseline should be the Cox contract at $5M per year, and that his stats argue he should be paid similarly to Davon House at $6.125M per year. In addition, Lane will have a solid argument that he should be in the $6.25M range based on Skrine’s stats and being signed to be a CB2. Lastly, both Maxwell and Culliver signed for great amounts in terms of APY, and this likely stems from the greater amount of playing time they accumulated prior to hitting free agency.
The next step is to adjust for the rising cap. The league has announced that the cap is likely to rise to between $150 to $153 million per team. After rounding, this would represent an increase of about five to seven percent. Therefore, adjusting the values for a Lane contract from last year’s comps up five to seven percent results in a baseline of $5.25M to $5.35M APY based on the Cox contract. Applying the same to the Skrine and House deals yields a range of $6.43M to $6.69M for an expected APY.
Basically, what it boils down to is the fact that Lane ended the season as the starting CB2 for the number one scoring defense, and that likely makes him a CB1 for some team in the league. As such, with so many teams with so much cap room, Lane will likely field offers north of the $6M APY range to be the top guy for some team, and it would not be a surprise to see a bidding war result which could drive that even higher. Lane has already tweeted that he is looking forward to testing free agency, and after coming back from the gruesome injury he suffered last year, he has earned it.
One of the things that could work against Lane this season is the number of cornerbacks, in particular young cornerbacks who are set to be free agents, and another fanpost later this week will evaluate Lane against the cornerbacks slated to be unrestricted free agents this offseason.