It is pretty universally understood that safety Glover Quin is the biggest in-house free agent priority for the Houston Texans this offseason. Aside from the fact that the safety market, as always, is pretty thin, Quin is the--pardon the pun--quintessential safety for a Wade Phillips defense.
Due to the one-gap scheme up front, Phillips' defense best performs with defensive backs who offer versatility. In traditional defenses, a safety is either a freelancing ball-hawk or an in-the-box tackler, but Quin has shown the ability to do both. His performance against Minnesota and Adrian Peterson exemplified Quin's ability to read, flow, and tackle in the box, and, due to his past as a cornerback, Quin is more than able to drop down in the slot to man up on a receiver or tight end. Jake Locker can also attest to Quin's ability to blitz off the edge, something Phillips showed often this season.
If Quin were to leave, unlikely given the near-league-low-cost of a safety franchise tag, the Texans would be hard-pressed to find a replacement. Rookies are a bit of a gamble, and the free agent market appears to be fairly thin at safety. Given how rare it is for the front office to utilize the franchise tag, it's a safe bet that they'll be working hard to negotiate a long-term deal with Quin. The question, especially for those wringing their hands together about the salary cap, is what kind of deal do you give the valuable GQ?
As I did last year with Chris Myers (which I pinned down rather well), the best way to get into the ballpark is to find similar safeties and compare contracts. The problem is that the safety market is currently a bit nebulous.
You have to exclude Green Bay’s Morgan Burnett, Seattle’s Kam Chancellor, Minnesota's Harrison Smith, and Buffalo’s George Wilson because they’re all on rookie contracts signed after the NFL introduced its rookie pay scale.
You have to disregard Charles Woodson’s mammoth deal because he signed it as a cornerback. Eric Berry was signed pre-rookie sliding scale, while Michael Huff and Michael Griffin’s deals are horrible contracts negotiated by horrible front offices.
It can be argued that Troy Polamalu, Eric Weddle, and Antrel Rolle have all proven to be bigger playmakers than Quin has to date, especially in terms of Pro Bowl appearances, All-Pro selections, and postseason performance. Polamalu, despite injuries, is Pittsburgh’s defensive MVP and they’re rudderless without him. Weddle is, arguably, THE biggest playmaker among safeties, and Mr. Rolle is a playmaker who hit the market at the right time.
The correct safety tier, from a statistical point of view, appears to be Jacksonville’s Dawan Landry, New Orleans’ Roman Harper, and Oakland’s Tyvon Branch.
|Name/Statistic||Tackles (Solo)||Sacks||Interceptions||Passes Defensed||Fumbles Forced||Fumbles Recovered|
|Tyvon Branch||94 (74)||0.0||1||4||0||0|
|Roman Harper||115 (88)||0.0||2||13||0||0|
|Dawan Landry||100 (81)||0.0||1||3||0||0|
|Glover Quin||85 (65)||1.0||2||16||2||0|
Excluding Quin, the contracts are all recently signed and incredibly similar as well. These numbers should help flesh out the parameters of a contract offer for Quin.
In 2011, Landry signed a 5-year/$27.5 million contract with $10.5M guaranteed while Harper was locked down with a 4-year/$25M deal with $16M guaranteed. Last offseason, Branch agreed to a 4-year/$26.6M contract with a guarantee of $17.6M. All of these numbers and values feel right for Quin, who hasn't reached the elite tier of safeties but is certainly more than serviceable.
What I would offer: 5-year deal for $28.5 million with $16.25 million guaranteed.
What I think he'll sign: 4-year deal for $25.5 million with $11 million guaranteed.
While I would be very happy with a five-year deal, I think Quin and his agent will be more open to a four-year contact. Since he just turned 27, a four-year deal would potentially put Quin's next (last?) payday at 31, giving him a little more negotiating value. If I were the Texans, I would attempt to tack on a fifth year, at a slight discount, for significantly more guaranteed money, since that's what matters in a NFL contract.
As long as the deal is kept within that sort of ballpark, Houston would be looking pretty good. Quin's transition to safety has been seamless and, as he heads into year three as a Wade Safety and the beginning of his football prime, I still don't think we have seen his best football. Above all else, that is why Quin is the player the Texans should focus on first.