There I was minding my own business and listening to sports radio when I heard Adam Spolane (@AdamSpolane) make what seemed like a silly suggestion at the time. He suggested the Texans should take advantage of the wide receiver market where some wide receivers are unhappy with their current contract situation. They could use their added draft equity to add a premier wide receiver.
Normally, I wouldn’t entertain something like that here, but we are in the midst of something we might call the Cold Stove League. Essentially, that’s the polar opposite of the hot stove league. Teams have largely made their moves and everyone is just counting down the days to training camp. However, if a couple of key guys are unhappy then maybe you can take advantage of that.
I mention Spolane because he made the suggestion on air and there is nothing worse than someone blindly taking credit for something that someone else suggested. So, we are giving him credit for the suggestion. He suggested D.K. Metcalf of the Seattle Seahawks because he apparently skipped minicamps and OTAs due to unhappiness over the state of the contract.
As the suggestion went, you might be able to surrender less than a first rounder (maybe a second rounder) because of that contract situation. Obviously, the pick package wouldn’t be as significant as the contract. You’d probably end up paying him somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 million per season and thus he would end up being your highest paid player not named Laremy Tunsil.
Others have also mentioned Deebo Samuel because he is also an unhappy camper. The 49ers have so far refused to trade him, but you could easily see that situation coming to a head. He would be another 20 million per season kind of wide receiver. So, we immediately would ask the question of whether Metcalf or Samuel is considerably better than Cooks and therefore worthy of the effort.
Player A, B, C... Test
One of my favorite things to do when comparing players is to remove their names. We often get emotional attachments to certain guys, These emotional attachments often go both ways. Sometimes we build guys up in our mind and sometimes we tear them down. If we simply remove the name then we have the ability to look at these numbers dispassionately. Either way, no one will deny that Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill are elite wide receivers that deserved their high pay days. So, we will look at their performance over the past three seasons to get a much broader look at what elite level performance looks like.
Tyreek Hill— 383 targets, 256 catches, 66.8% success, 3375 yards, 31 TD, 13.2 YPC
Davante Adams— 445 targets, 321 catches, 72.1% success, 3924 yards, 34 TD, 12.2 YPC
One could look at all of the receivers in football and compare them with these two guys. Some might have individual numbers better than these two (like more touchdowns or more yards per catch) but i seriously doubt many will have the overall numbers. At any rate, we will be comparing Brandin Cooks with Samuel and Metcalf, but we will remove the names. So, here are all three’s performance over the last three seasons.
Player A— 246 targets, 167 catches, 67.9% success, 2598 yards, 10 TD, 15.6 YPC
Player B— 325 targets, 213 catches, 65.5% success, 2770 yards, 14 TD, 13,0 YPC
Player C— 358 targets, 216 catches, 60.3% success, 3170 yards, 29 TD, 14.7 YPC
Now, when we remove the names we see a really interesting dilemma. Player C has more yards and more touchdowns than the other two receivers. However, he also had more targets and a lower percentage of those targets turned into receptions. Obviously, a lot could go into that, but we are left with the aftermath. A receiver may or may not be able to control how many times he is targeted, but he should have some measure of control over how many of those targets turn into catches.
I suppose an argument could be made for Player C based on the yards and touchdowns, but Players A and B seem to be more efficient. Player A might be preferable because of the yards per catch and slightly higher efficiency rate, but it is pretty close. We obviously know Cooks is one of these guys. So, are either Metcalf or Samuel any better than Cooks? If neither of them are then is it good bang for your buck to trade the draft capital necessary to get them and then pay them the going rate?
The going rate
Ultimately, teams have to make two different determinations before paying a guy huge money. First, they need to determine if that position is worth investing in. We looked at that question with kickers. Sometimes, a position just isn’t important enough to invest huge dollars in. Secondly, you have to determine if that particular player is worth investing in.
It would appear that Samuel and Metcalf (Players A and C respectively) are really not better than Cooks. Having a second guy that is just as good as Cooks could be really beneficial, but in order to get that guy you would have to pay him considerably more than Cooks. If he’s being paid considerably more then he needs to be considerably better. Otherwise you are getting back into the exact same situation you were in before.