Recently there has been a lot of talk about the contract status of Super Bowl winning quarterback Joe Flacco. The big phrase being tossed around is "Is Joe Flacco worth the money?" Now they are talking about whether Flacco deserves to be paid at the same level as other top paid quarterbacks like Drew Brees, Tom Brady and the Broncos own Peyton Manning. Now normally I'd jump right in, look and compare the statistics and look at it purely from that stand point but luckily I'm blessed with a specific college eduction that told me there was something more to this topic than purely statistics.
Now to purely look at the numbers, Flacco doesn't hold up well, the gap is actually so big I won't bring them up at all, he just doesn't compare to other top paid quarterbacks. But then many will bring up the fact he's been so great in the post- season since he entered the league and just won the Super Bowl, and this does factor in, but once again, this is only part of the story.
This leads me to the underlying basis for why Joe Flacco DOES deserve to be paid at the same level as other top quarterbacks in the league, that is the nature of value.
The cost of replacement is the true reason Flacco will be highly paid. Look at it this way, there are a few reasons to pay a player a high amount of money:
1. He deserves it, this is the most obvious, he plays at the highest level of his position.
2. This one is trickier but it is important, the player has a connection to the team, especially emotionally. This applies to players who are "lifers" for a specific team and are emotionally important to a team or fan base, thus the team will overpay for his performance to get the benefits he brings. This is a lesser, but still active, component during contract negotiations.
3. Here we go, the item fans often overlook but is equally important as #1 and much more important than #2. That is the cost of replacement, let's take a look at this more.
Value and the Cost of Replacement
So what is cost of replacement? It's a combination of the time, draft picks and money it will take to replace that player. Let's move on from Joe Flacco and onto a Broncos player who is in a contract situation as well, Ryan Clady. Now Clady will be looking to be paid as one of the top three left tackles in the NFL, if not the highest paid LT in NFL history. Now we are all Clady fans here but I seriously doubt any of us see him as the best LT in the NFL, many of us wouldn't consider him a top three or five left tackle either, but he is very good. So because he isn't the top LT in the NFL that eliminates rule #1 for why he deserves top LT money. Clady is loved in Denver but he isn't a legend here or an emotional leader, that rules out #2, but #3 does tell us Clady deserve top LT money because the cost of replacing him would outweigh the money.
When we look at Clady, he'll likely want the biggest contract in NFL history for a left tackle, and he'll likely get it or get near it because of this. Think of it like this, if the Broncos let Clady leave a few things might happen:
- The Broncos front office would immediately look for a replacement in free agency, this would lead to the same problem since other Pro Bowl quality left tackles would also want huge money, just trading one high paid LT for another highly paid LT.
- That would lead to the draft since the Broncos have no real LT's on the roster. They would likely commit a top pick, either 1st or 2nd round, to a left tackle.
- This tackle would likely take a few years to adjust to the NFL and rise to a similar level as Clady, if he ever does. Once his rookie contract is up, if he'd played well he'd also want a huge contract.
So if the Broncos were to let Clady walk it would cost them more than money, it would cost a high draft pick, 2-3 years and in 3-5 years the Broncos would be in the exact same position with another player. This is the true value of a player, a player's importance and value extends FAR beyond his mere play on the field, it has ripples throughout the entire team. Letting a high value player walk hurts the team because that position is now weakened and it costs a draft pick, which means that pick can't be used to fix another position, it's truly a chain impact.
Now there is obviously more to the story, let's return to Flacco and the Ravens. If the Ravens can't sign Flacco and he enters free agency, they have a serious issue. The biggest is there is no quarterback who has the ceiling Joe Flacco does in this draft, meaning using a 1st or 2nd round pick on a quarterback in this draft is a bad move, that means they will have to wait another year to draft a quarterback. In free agency it's the same situation with the best QB in free agency being the likes of Matt Moore, Rex Grossman and Jason Campbell, none of whom are inspiring. As we can see the cost of losing a player at the wrong time is even worse than normal depending on the draft and free agent class for that position.
Another thing to note is there is obvious cap issues with overpaying a player. If the Broncos make Clady the highest paid left tackle in the NFL it will have major impact in the 2014 off-season where the Broncos will need to address J.D. Walton, Zane Beadles, Eric Decker, Wesley Woodyard and Chris Harris. It truly is a balance game, while losing Clady would have MASSIVE ripples throughout the team, overpaying him will mean some other key players may not be able to return, this is the deadly dance general managers and coaches must deal with. It's rarely cut and dry, there is a see-saw effect.
So when you are discussing what a player is worth to a team, keep in mind the true cost of replacing him and that it's not purely about the contract, there is much more to the negotiation than that.