I’ll be the first to say that when Tyler Lockett’s contract extension was first announced in late August, I was confused. Not only was the offer itself a surprise but the sum of money involved was eye-opening.
#Seahawks are extending WR Tyler Lockett: three years with a base value of $31.8 million, max value of $37.8 million and $20 million guaranteed, source says. Another deal the team wanted to get done before the season.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) August 29, 2018
While “guarantees” in football contract mean very little, doing some research on OverTheCap.com points to both Lockett and the recently departed Paul Richardson receiving strikingly similar offers. In terms of money due at signing (which what matters most for NFL contracts), the offers were $11 million for Lockett and $12.5 million for Richardson with total payouts of $32 million and $40 million over the life of the deals respectively. Interestingly, if one looks what the total payouts would be in 2021, when Lockett’s deal expires, both would have made ~$32 million each.
At the time, many fans, myself included, thought that letting Richardson walk when Lockett’s best season was his rookie year, two seasons ago was the wrong move. Especially when we consider that it looked like Lockett was slower and less effective than Richardson.
Player tracking data scraped from the NFL’s NextGenStats website and published by Josh Hermsmeyer at airyards.com showed that on average, Lockett was slower than the average NFL receiver and Richardson in 2017 while being much faster than average in 2016 before breaking his leg.
By his own admission, Lockett wasn’t 100% in 2017 but the decision to hand him a contract competitive with a free agent WR was a bit of a head-scratcher. Especially when he had a year left on his deal and this many question marks hanging over him. His ability as a returner, having been a 1st or 2nd team AP All-Pro in each of his three seasons in the league is definitely a bonus in his favor but with the caveat that it may not be valuable in a few years. Especially if the league abolishes returns, as has been hinted a number of times.
What we’re left with is seemingly a decent WR and pretty good returner who might be slowing down? A little digging shows that this judgement might actually undersell Lockett a bit and that this contract might be a sizable discount in hindsight, especially as compared to Richardson. Despite not being particularly big or incredibly quick, per ProFootballReference, Lockett somehow catches most of what’s thrown his way, catching 67% of his targets compared to 59% for Richardson despite both averaging 13.8 yards per catch.
Lockett has seen more targets, comes down with them more often and has compiled more yards as a receiver in his first three years than Richardson has in his three healthy seasons in Seattle (1816 yards to 1262 yards). Lockett isn’t just winning deep either, he’s an above average receiver at every depth that he’s targeted according to Josh Hermsmeyer’s work at airyards.com .
The crazy thing is, his performance this season is even better than his previous seasons’ numbers would suggest. Through five games, Lockett has caught 20 passes on 28 targets for 347 yards and 4 TDs. Extrapolating that out to a full season would give Lockett 64 catches for 1110 yards and ~13TDs! Even if we assume he doesn’t perform quite to that level, we’re looking at a likely 1000 yard, double digit TD season from a guy we’d considered a return guy first and WR secnd. Richardson on the other hand will be lucky to break 500 yards at his current pace.
Here’s to hoping he stays healthy and continues to perform at this level for the rest of the year, if only so I can be smug about this prediction.
That is a lot of money and a helluva surprise... Smells a lot like the deal they gave Doug in 2014— Andre Forbes (@andref1989) August 29, 2018
Does Tyler Lockett outplay his current contract
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