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The Value of Things: Bang for Your Buck— Top Ten Safeties

Did the Texans let a good one get away?

Houston Texans v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

We finally come to the end of the Bang for Your Buck series. The Texans do have a top ten paid player at one position, but it is not one of the positions we’ve profiled. Simply put, offensive linemen don’t make plays. They might prevent defenders from making plays and there certainly is data we could look at the determine if he is actually one of the best tackles out there.

This space will be about the safeties. Justin Reid is not a top ten safety according to salary, but he is certainly in the top twenty. The Texans could have conceivably brought him back, but they chose not to. These things are usually about money. He probably didn’t want to be back, but if you paid him more than the Chiefs did then you might have kept him. We will look at him later,

Safeties can be used in a variety of ways. There is a distinction between free safeties and strong safeties and what is expected of them. Some are almost like extra corners that can cover slot receivers and tight ends. Then, strong safeties can be almost like another linebacker on the field. So, the numbers might not be uniform across the group, but hopefully we can see what these guys excel at and what they don’t. Like always, we are looking at the last three seasons for the top ten highest paid safeties according to Spotrac.

Top Ten Safeties

Minkah Fitzpatrick— 272 tackles, 3 TFL, 0,0 Sacks, 27 PD, 11 INT, 4 forced fumbles

Jamal Adams— 245 tackles, 25 TFL, 16.0 Sacks, 15 PD, 3 INT, 3 forced fumbles

Harrison Smith— 288 tackles, 9 TFL, 4.5 Sacks, 28 PD, 9 INT, 4 forced fumbles

Justin Simmons— 269 tackles, 9 TFL, 1.5 Sacks, 36 PD, 14 INT, 0 forced fumbles

Budda Baker— 363 tackles, 20 TFL, 4.5 Sacks, 19 PD, 5 INT, 2 forced fumbles

Eddie Jackson— 218 tackles, 10 TFL, 1.0 Sacks, 12 PD, 2 INT, 5 forced fumbles

Kevin Byard— 283 tackles, 4 TFL, 1.0 Sacks, 29 PD, 11 INT, 3 forced fumbles

Marcus Williams— 188 tackles, 0 TFL, 0.0 Sacks, 28 PD, 9 INT, 2 forced fumbles

Quande Diggs— 199 tackles, 1 TFL, 0,0 Sacks, 20 PD, 13 INT, 1 forced fumbles

Jessie Bates— 297 tackles, 5 TFL, 0.0 Sacks, 28 PD, 7 INT, 2 forced fumbles

You can almost predict the breakdown between strong safeties and free safeties. The free safeties usually had more passes defended and interceptions. The strong safeties had more tackles for losses and sacks. Which one is more valuable? I suppose that is in the eye of the beholder.

We could look at the group and develop a norm for the positions. We will look at both median and mean performance amongst these ten guys. From there, we can compare the Texans’ players with those numbers to see how far off they are. Fortunately, most of the guys from last season are gone. Jalen Pitre is a highly rated rookie that hopefully will help out.

Mean Safety: 262 tackles, 9 TFL, 3.0 Sacks, 24 PD, 8 INT, 3 forced fumbles

Median Safety: 271 tackles, 7 TFL, 1.0 Sacks, 28 PD, 9 INT, 3 forced fumbles

Localize It

Obviously, the question on everyone’s mind is how Justin Reid compared with the top ten safeties. He isn’t being paid like one, but he did get a substantial raise. Obviously, a part of the calculus is how you want to use him. The Chiefs may feel he was being misused in Houston or couldn’t possibly show his best in a bad defense. These things are possible but numbers are numbers and they are what we have to go on now.

Justin Reid— 227 tackles, 9 TFL, 2.0 Sacks, 13 PD, 4 INT, 1 forced fumble

Maybe Reid plays better close to the box. He seems to have some of the traits of the better strong safeties in the league, but falls a little short of the numbers that are typically the kinds of numbers free safeties put up. Unfortunately, he was listed as a free safety in Houston. He was better than the rest of the safeties, but ultimately maybe not quite good enough in the role he was being cast in.

Lonnie Johnson and Eric Murray were the other safeties used a lot over the past three seasons. Johnson is also in Kansas City, but he might not make the squad. The Texans brought back Eric Murray for reasons that are unclear to most of us. I already went over their PFF scores and the fact that Johnson was DAL. However, looking at the numbers might be better.

Lonnie Johnson— 172 tackles, 1 TFL, 0.0 Sacks, 13 PD, 3 INT, 0 forced fumbles

Eric Murray— 172 tackles, 5 TFL, 3.0 Sacks, 7 PD, 1 INT, 1 forced fumbles

Back in the 1980s, alternative rocker Adam Ant had a hit called “Goody Two Shoes.” In the song he said, “don’t drink, don’t smoke, what do you do?” That song always fills my head when I think of these players. They don’t cover well. They aren’t particularly helpful in the run game either. Their only saving grace appeared to be their ability to play safety and corner. Yet, if you don’t play either one well then what’s the point?

Like we said, Johnson and Reid are gone. Murray should have been gone as well, but the point is they have replaced at least one really bad safety with a couple of free agents and a second round pick. The quickest road to respectability is to take your worst unit and make it mediocre. The Texans have clearly done that.