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The Value of LaRon Landry

In a season that has had few bright spots the Jets did seem find one in S LaRon Landry. Landry is a hard hitting player that has high name recognition value due to his lofty draft status as the number 6 overall pick in the 2007 draft. While Landry is far from perfect, and the Jets actually pulled him for a few snaps in one game for multiple bad plays, he has been a significant improvement over the Jets 2011 players that he replaced. Landry took a one year deal worth $3.5 million to play with the Jets in an effort to prove that the last two injury plagued seasons were behind him. I would imagine part of the lure of the Jets was that playing in New York and in Rex Ryans system would up his value in free agency.

With the season coming to an end there is a significant debate among fans about whether or not the Jets should retain Landry on a long term contract or let him find a new home. Terms of his contract prohibit the Jets from applying the franchise tag so he will be a pure free agent this season. A big portion of the debate is what he might be worth so lets go ahead and see if we can break his numbers down.

The first thing I would like to say is that the rumor that Landry was going to ask for up to $10 million dollars per year has no merit at all. Lets just throw that out right now. The high water mark among Safeties is about 8.34 million a year for Eric Berry, who is on a rookie contract. The highest veteran contract I believe is the Chargers Eric Weddle at $8 million a year. So the absolute maximum market value is right around that figure.

Safeties have a number of responsibilities on the field. They are asked to cover players. They are asked to play run support. They are asked to rush the Quarterback. They are asked to stop players who beat the initial coverage. There are a lot of aspects to the game of a Safety that I think we should look at to value the player. So with that in mind we will turn to our friends over at Pro Football Focus and their data collections to see where Landry ranks among the safeties this season.

The first thing I would like to do is categorize the average value of a safety to a defense. By this I mean what is the actual splits between run/pass/rush categories. Looking at all snaps on the season for Safeties in the NFL from the PFF Database we can see that the primary responsibility of a Safety is to play in pass coverage. 58.6% of the time a Safety is in coverage while they are only playing the run on 38.7% of the snaps. Pass rushing is a minimal part of the job and thus is of lesser value to most teams.

Pass Coverage

Our first category to look at is plays in coverage. Lets focus first on what happens when a player is thrown on. The league average is to be targeted about 6.9% of the time, to allow 63.7% completions, intercept 5.8% of targets, and allow an average YPC of 12.9 of which 5.1 comes from yards after the catch.

The first thing that jumps out to me is how poor Landry performs in each of these categories. The only two categories in which he is above average are completion percentage (60.9%) and YAC (3.68). Everything other category he is below average. Here is how he stacks up in each category and his ranking among 74 players who have at least 200 snaps in coverage:

Target Comp% Int YPC YAC
Landry  10.3% 60.9% 4.3% 13.29 3.68
Average 6.9% 63.7% 5.8% 12.89 5.10
Rank 65 27 41 41 20

Using the averages we can calculate that the average safety would have given up 252 passing yards on the number of snaps that Landry has played. Landry has been credited with 372, an increase of 48% over the average, which ranks 63rd out of 74 players. That's certainly not top of the league good.

Of course that does not take into account the fact that safeties help in coverage and are there to make stops when a reception is made. To try to measure this Ill look at a pure PFF category called tackling efficiency which essentially measures how many tackles a player makes per tackle they miss. Considering safety is last line of defense a missed tackle can be devastating. How does Landry rank here? He ranks 42nd in the group with a rate of 8.8 tackles per miss. The average is 8.7 so he is right around the league average.

Pass Rush

Clearly not a big factor for safeties, but Landry is above average in this category. People who follow my work know I use a specific formula for the determination of pass rush efficiency that measures the percentage increase in failed plays, defined as a non-completed pass. The average safety effectiveness was 0.54%. Landry is at 0.72% this season.

Run Support

I wanted to look at 4 categories here as basically reported by PFF. The first is stops/tackle within 8 yards of the LOS, the second is the same stops/tackle but in a deeper set, third is tackles/missed tackle, and finally tackles per snap. For the most part the first two categories measure whether or not these are quality plays that impact the game, the third measures how often the safety may screw up a play, and finally the fourth measures a worth to a specific defense. Here are the rankings for Landry among safeties with at least 200 run snaps:

8 yd Stops Other Stop Tackles/Miss Tackles/Snap
Landry  7.50% 26% 8.6 11.40%
Average 6.10% 23% 7.7 8.60%
Rank 18 23 26 6

Landry seems to clearly be a better run defender than he is a pass defender. He is very active around the ball and very important to the Jets scheme which is probably a sign of both poor play up front by the Jets as well as Landry's overall play.

The Market

While I may be missing a name or two here I want to highlight the top 7 names of veteran contracts currently playing and use them as a baseline for comparison to Landry. Please note that the reason I am not including Raiders S Michael Huff is because he is primarily playing corner this season due to injury.

First lets take the passing scores for each player. These numbers represent the percent above or below the average the player is in each respective category:

Name Yards Prevented Secondary tackles PRE
 Antoine Bethea 23.2% 49.1% 66.5%
 Antrel Rolle -40.0% -10.5% -78.4%
 Eric Weddle 48.5% 68.3% 18.9%
 Kerry Rhodes 20.8% 26.2% 36.3%
 LaRon Landry -47.6% 1.0% 32.6%
 Michael Griffin -12.6% -44.1% 61.8%
 Quintin Mikell -59.8% -8.2% 241.9%
 Tyvon Branch -14.2% 43.4% 99.8%

Not surprisingly Eric Weddle is right at the top of the list in most categories, though I was surprised to see how many of these big names underperform in the passing game. Considering this is a passing league it would lead me to think that these teams may be investing too much money in specific players.

Next up is the running scores. Again Weddle is your clearcut number 1.

% Stops within 8 yd % Other Stops Missed Tackles Tackles/Snap
Antoine Bethea -36.6% 11.7% -3.7% 24.6%
Antrel Rolle -61.7% -24.0% -15.1% -4.0%
Eric Weddle 152.3% 52.1% 4.5% 19.7%
Kerry Rhodes -17.1% -0.6% 7.7% -26.8%
LaRon Landry 23.4% 13.4% 11.9% 31.9%
Quintin Mikell -2.7% -52.1% 33.9% 5.3%
Tyvon Branch 6.4% 84.6% 38.4% 51.5%
Michael Griffin 23.6% -43.8% -42.3% 2.2%

Finally Ill weigh a set of aggregate scores by giving the coverage categories 58.6% of importance in the score, 38.7% towards rushing, and the balance towards pass rushing. Here are our final grades for these players:

\
Coverage Pass Rush Run Overall
Eric Weddle 34.2% 0.5% 57.1% 91.8%
Tyvon Branch 8.6% 2.6% 45.2% 56.4%
Antoine Bethea 21.2% 1.7% -1.0% 21.9%
LaRon Landry -13.7% 0.8% 20.2% 7.4%
Kerry Rhodes 13.8% 0.9% -9.2% 5.5%
Quintin Mikell -19.9% 6.3% -3.9% -17.6%
Michael Griffin -16.6% 1.6% -15.1% -30.1%
Antrel Rolle -14.8% -2.0% -26.2% -43.0%

In general Landry is going to grade as slightly better than average. Certainly nowhere near top of the market and he clearly has more value to a team looking for help in run support than in pass support. For the most part he is going to be looked at similar to Kerry Rhodes. I think one of the other considerations here is the age factor. Landry is going to be 29 years old next season. The only player on this list to sign a new deal when he was that age was Quintin Mikell who was 31 in his first season with the Rams. The next oldest was Antrel Rolle at 28. Both of those players also had a Pro Bowl nod before signing their current contracts. Here are the contracts of the players:

Years Annual Value
Eric Weddle 5 $8,000,000
Antrel Rolle 5 $7,420,000
Michael Griffin 5 $7,000,000
Quintin Mikell 4 $6,750,000
Kerry Rhodes 5 $6,700,000
Tyvon Branch 4 $6,650,000
Antoine Bethea 4 $6,500,000

From Landry's perspective I am sure he will try to sell himself as a better player currently than Rolle and Michael Griffin in an attempt to drive his value close to Weddle's. The difficulty in that approach, besides the age, is that those two have Pro Bowls to fall back on. Landry does not. Both could point to high interception seasons which is something Landry cant do. Landry is also the only player to have any injury history, meaning the others could show improvments over a 3 year period prior to signing their contracts, while all Landry can do is point to staying healthy in 2012.

Landry should, under any circumstance, come in under $7 million a season. I would think you are looking at a 4 year contract for around $6.5-6.7 million a year with firm guarantees just over $10 million. I do think his suitors will come from a team looking for more run help than pass help. Can the Jets make that type of deal work? Id guess they could, but the reality is you can more or less get equivalent production from the next tier of Safety that gets between $4.5 and $5.5 million a year. The Daniel Manning/Reggie Nelson types. In hindsight, if the Jets had stuck with Dwight Lowery he would have provided a good value player at the position.

At Landry's current salary he provides good value but when you jump into the numbers and consider his age and the state of the Jets its probably best to look elsewhere. I think when it comes to a player like Landry the thing you need to do is close your eyes for a second and pretend he was a 3rd or 4th round draft pick that was 29 years old with an injury history. Would anyone consider him earning close to $7 million a season? I think that answer is pretty clear. Id stay away unless he comes in closer to $5 million than $6 million and even then I think its worth hesitating before making the offer.

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