Home > Uncategorized > Ray Rice Market Value Analysis

Ray Rice Market Value Analysis

With the Marshawn Lynch and Arian Foster contracts that were recently completed, we now have two more extensions to add to the running back list to use for a solid market analysis. Some have already opined and are throwing out numbers without looking at the entire picture, which unfortunately still contains two contracts for backs that are much more comparable to Rice, in Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson. Those contracts, however, will not and should not be used as a framework for a long term deal as much as Rice’s agent would like them to be.

In my extensive running back research I have been working on for the past few weeks(much more on that to come, stay tuned), there is one huge factor in years and guaranteed money working for or against a player seeking a new contract and that is age. The age of the player is the one thing that has shown to be the best predictor of future performance by a long shot, and it isn’t even close.

The reason age is such an important factor is that not all backs enter the league with the same”mileage” on their tires as others. Some are just late bloomers, some go the junior college route before making it, and some are sprung into action early by age 21 and have a head start on the field. There is a definitive and direct correlation from their age to drop off in significant production, and it is clear as day not matter what the talent level of the back. But the one common theme when you see them hit that proverbial wall is how old they are, when father time starts catching up with them.

Think about it, any player that makes it to the NFL has probably been playing football since they were a youngster, and THAT is when the miles start. You can easily judge how much wear and tear that body has by looking at the most basic stat, their age. This is where backs start differentiating themselves on these long term deals, and how many years and guaranteed money a team is willing to give up on a long term deal. As you will see the evidence again backs this up 100% when I post my findings a little later on down the road.

With all that said, here are all the significant running back deals done recently to give us a framework of what we are looking at for a player of Rice’s caliber and very young age at only 24 years old as I type, and a comparative analysis for each one.

Arian Foster – 5 years $43.5 million, $20.75 million guaranteed (signed 3/5/12, 25 years old)

I will say this, the Texans got an absolute steal for Foster. This is a 25 year old back who is coming off a 2,220 and 1,841 yard seasons  the two previous years, putting him in the very upper echelon of backs with Rice, Peterson and Johnson. At an average of $8.7 million a year Texan fans should be doing backflips as Foster will be a high producer for the next 5 years at a relatively modest price. He can run it, he can catch it and he is about to enter the prime of his young career. You can’t ask for much more at the number the Texans and Foster finished at…for the team and fans at lest.

Marshawn Lynch –    4 years $32 million, $18 million guaranteed (signed 3/4/12, 25 years old)

This is a deal that is very ambitious, and slightly overpaid despite Lynch being only 25 years old. Lynch is a “tier 2” back…barely. Lynch has never had more than 1,416 scrimmage yards, and that was last year. While that number is good it is nowhere near what your premium players at running back are producing these days. Lynch is a pure power runner that offers little in the way of receiving yards, and while he will be productive for the next 4-5 years will not be worth what he was just paid. This is a classic example of not looking at the entire career and using his best season which is fresh in your mind to justify this type compensation. Last year was probably as good as it gets for Lynch, and while it was good it just wasn’t that “great”.

Adrian Peterson – 7 years $96 million, $36 million guaranteed (signed 9/10/11, age 26)

A terrible deal, the very definition of an “albatross” of a contract that will kill the Vikings in the later years. In no way shape or form should any running back get 7 years, unless it has a couple “funny money” years at the end. Looking at the structure of this contract it does not, and pays Peterson consistently through age…33. Peterson is a violent runner and his style lends itself to injuries, not to mention the fact that at age 30 you will see a significant drop off, while still paying him a huge amount of money for the next 2-3 years. His average of nearly $14 million a year should be used as an example of what NOT to pay a running back no matter how good he is, especially for 7 long years.

 Chris Johnson – 4 years $53 million, $30 million guaranteed (signed 9/2/11, age 26 )

This deal is not quite as bad as Peterson’s, but close. Love the years, hate the money.  The yearly average again is just way too high, checking in at $13.25 million. The guarantees again are  just way outside of the box at $30 million for only 4 years, which would have been on the high side for a 6 year deal . With that guaranteed money and years no way the Titans can get out of this one early, but on the bright side he should be highly productive for the length of the deal.  Not $13.25 million productive though.

Deangelo Williams – 5 years $43 million, $21 million guaranteed (signed 7/29/11, age 27)

Another terribly bad deal for a couple of reasons, the age and production level. The age is a huge factor, with him signing a 5 year deal with only 3 good years left in the tank at age 27. That is 2 years on the back end where they will either cut him, or have a high salary for a small producer on the roster. On the production side I was baffled to look at his numbers, inconsistent and downright average numbers since he has been in the league. Only ONE year over over 1,500 scrimmage yards, another year of 1,369 and spotty performance otherwise.  He just isn’t that good, and I have no idea what the Panthers were seeing paying him this type of money.

 Maurice Jones Drew – 5 years $31 million, 17.5 million guaranteed (signed 4/15/09, age 25)

I threw this deal in here because it was mentioned somewhere else, but it really isn’t that relevant for a few reasons. First it was signed 3 years ago, unlike all the others which were signed recently. Second it was signed at a time when Jones Drew was coming off of 3 years of “part time duty” where he was a very efficient producer but had not put in the 350ish touch seasons we see from a back like Rice the last 3 years. Jones-Drew only had 530 total carries his first 3 years and had not shown that he could carry a full load yet, and the Jaguars made a very shrewd move getting him to sign early (a year before he hit free agency and got full time touches) and that turned out to be a very smart move. Last of all even if you take Jones Drew’s best seasons ( at age 24, 25 and 26), he still does not have the value through the air of a Foster or Rice, and heavily relies on the ground game at this point of his career to get a lot of his production.

So there we have it, a list of mostly bad deals for one reason or another. Sometimes it is projected future production, sometimes it is age, other times it is both. Fortunately for Ravens fans Rice has a leg up on every one of those backs with his past and projected future production. He has the age factor working for him, being only 25 years old when the 2012 season starts. He has the production factor going for him, out producting every one of those backs on the list the past 3 years, a few by a long shot. He also has the lack of injury history, another thing not one of those backs on that list can lay claim to.

So what does all this mean, and where do I see Rice at? Due to his age, I am going to set the years at 6 not 5 to start off. That will pay him through his age 30 year, right at the point even the lesser backs last until without a significant production drop off. Now with the 6 year deal, his signing bonus will a little higher and I will guess around $26-28 million. The total value of a 6 year deal should average around $10 million yearly give or take a few dollars, especially if much less productive backs are getting over $8 million averages.

Look for a deal for Rice in the 6 year $60 million range, with $27 million in guarantees, and don’t be shocked if it is a little higher. Rice has out-produced, and history shows will continue to out-produce every single back on that list for the foreseeable future. And that is what you pay for in the NFL and any other sport…..production.

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