One of the most talked about free agents the Oakland Raiders have this year, is Defensive End Lamaar Houston. He becomes an unrestricted free agent on March 11. The fifth year pro is wanted back by the coaching staff, General Manager and the fans. But it should only be at the right price, not at any price.
By all accounts Lamarr Houston is an all-star person. But he is not an all-star Defensive End and should not be paid like one. Although multiple media reports say his agent thinks he should be and has rebuffed the Raiders offers and wants to see his clients market value in free agency. I think an argument can be made that Houston is better suited as a 4-3 Defensive Tackle, but for sake of this article, we are addressing his value as a 4-3 (or 3-4 depending on coordinator Jason Tarver’s scheme) Defensive End. I think his value has been set by the most recent contract signed by Terrell Suggs. Suggs just inked a deal for $8M a year.
Now, is Houston better than Suggs? Even with Suggs on the backend of his career and Houston on the front end of his, I say Suggs is better and you would take Suggs over Houston if you were picking teams. As an edge rusher, Houston as a 4-3 DE and Suggs as a 3-4 OLB (only two passes were attempted against Suggs in 2013, so it’s safe to say he’s a glorified DE, not a OLB), their money is made rushing the passer. Sure, Houston had his career high of 6 sacks this year, while Suggs chimed in with 10. Houston had 69 tackles, Suggs had 80 tackles. Per ProFootballFocus.com (subscription required) Houston graded out at 11.4 (9.9 without the coverage grade) and Suggs graded out at 12.9 (13.0 without the coverage grade). AdvancedNFLStats.com has come up with a Positive Win Probability Added stat and has Houston near the bottom of DE’s at 0.73 and Suggs near the middle of LB’s at 1.14.
For simplicity, lets just do the math on $8M against a 13.0 PFF grade. That equates to $615k+ per 1.0 of PFF grade. Apply that to Houston’s 9.9 grade and you get about $6.1M. That would be my offer as a base salary per year for Houston. I’d throw in a $1M bonus for double-digit sacks each year and an extra $1M bonus if he leads the league in Sacks and another $1M bonus if he is elected to the Pro Bowl and another $1M bonus if he makes the All-Pro team in any year. Houston will be 27 years old when the 2014 NFL Season kicks off. In total, I would offer him a 5 year, $30.5M contract, with $10M of that as a signing bonus. That would be my bid in the showcase showdown.