The people over at numberFire calculated the production per contract for every free agent over the last five years and determined that no player created more value per dollar than retired Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.
And it's not even close.
First, they looked at who had the most opportunities to create value, and clearly Manning as a quarterback in his four seasons with the Broncos put him ahead of the curve, along with many other free agent quarterbacks. Of the bunch, Manning was the only future Hall-of-Famer.
The interesting part came when they calculated the pure value of all free agents, and the list is rather impressive.
Next, we must take a look at pure, unadulterated value. This is how truly valuable each player was for his team. The table below shows our first measure of this: which 10 free agents have generated the most Total NEP in free agent contracts signed since 2011?
Years Player Team Total NEP 2012-2016 Peyton Manning DEN 577.48 2012-2016 Vincent Jackson TB 382.9 2012-2016 Pierre Garçon WAS 328.83 2012-2014 Reggie Wayne IND 223.01 2014-2016 Emmanuel Sanders DEN 221.1 2013-2016 Delanie Walker TEN 213.2 2011-2013 James Jones GB 204.02 2014-2018 Eric Decker NYJ 195.03 2011-2014 Darren Sproles NO 171.36 2014-2018 Golden Tate DET 171.15
It’s pretty compelling to note that four of the top five free agent successes from the past half-decade were either connected to Peyton Manning, or are Peyton Manning himself. Garcon and Reggie Wayne were cornerstones of Manning’s Colts wideout corps, and capitalized on new deals in 2012 – same as Manning himself. Emmanuel Sanders, of course, saw career years when he joined Manning’s Broncos for the past two seasons.
That's right, Manning was worth every penny the Broncos spent on him. With two Super Bowl appearances and one Super Bowl title, it is hard to argue with that statement.
Looking over this list, it also appears that Emmanuel Sanders is due one very large contract about a year from now. He has outperformed his deal by a wide margin and should be able to capitalize financially when he becomes a free agent again.