Dorsey vs. Veach: The Contract Wars

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Visit any AG thread after a player signs with the Chiefs and it’s almost a guarantee that contracts will come up. People loved the scouting part of Dorsey but hated the contracts and cap management. Veach, is still out to prove himself but so far there have been a lot of complaints around his big contracts.

A while back, I stumbled across an article that attempted to compare a player’s production to their contract and then see where that stood against the rest of the league. I thought that this was an interesting idea and that I could use it to actually compare the contracts Dorsey and Veach had given out. The formula uses the player’s PFF grade and while you may agree or disagree with the PFF grading system, it gives us a base stat to use that we can apply for every player in the NFL. We can then use their grade to help determine a player’s Value Above Market Price (VAMP).

Value Above Market Price is an attempt to see if a player’s contract reflects their production on the field. To get there, we first have to figure out what a player’s Production Score (PS) is. We look up the player’s PFF overall grade and then multiply it by their season snap count to return a Production Score. Next we multiply their Production Score by the average production point cost for the player’s position (i.e., all QB cap hits divided by total QB production points – more details in the article above) and this formula gives us the Real Market Value (RMV) or how much the player’s production was worth. Finally, we take the Real Market Value and subtract the player’s cap hit to give us the Value Above Market Price. A positive VAMP means the player produced more than their cap hit cost. A negative VAMP means that the team paid a premium amount to have that player on their roster (and depending on the player’s production, this could be justified or an over-payment).

If you’re still hanging on, I realize that’s a lot of words and formulas. How does this actually work? In the article, Steven Ruiz looks at Patrick Mahomes for his example. Let’s use that example but compare Mahomes VAMP to that of his MVP competitor, Drew Brees:

 Mahomes
Brees
PFF grade * Snaps = PS
92.9 * 1,165 = 108,228
94 * 979 = 92,026
PS * QB Market Value = RMV
108,228 * $203.16 = $21.9M
92,026 * $203.16 = $18.7M
RMV - Cap Hit = VAMP
$21.9M - $3.7M = $18.2M
$18.7M - $24M = $-5.3M

Patrick Mahomes

In his MVP season, Mahomes generated $18.2 million worth of production more than his $3.7 million cap hit. This is why you’ll hear a lot of people say that teams need to build around a competent (in this case superhuman) QB on a rookie contract so that the extra money can be spent elsewhere. One contract that people talk about hamstringing an entire team is Kirk Cousins’ (3yr / $84M). The Vikings paid a $7.1M premium to have him on the roster (#15 QB graded by PFF) so you gotta ask, what else could they have spent that money on?

Drew Brees

At face value, you’d look at that and say “Well, the Saints overpaid Brees by $5.3 million” but we all know that’s not true. Brees is a great QB and is most likely deserving of the contracts he’s signed. Instead, we would just say that the Saints paid a $5.3 million premium to have him on their roster.

But where does Dorsey and Veach fall into this? Last week I asked #ChiefsKingdom to reply back with the best and worst contracts that both GMs signed during their tenure with the Chiefs. There were a surprising number of responses but a few front runners stood out.

The Good

Dorsey’s Best
Veach’s Best
Travis Kelce (5yr / $46.8M)
Cam Erving (2yr / $8.3M)

There’s no denying that Kelce has been in the talks of the best at the TE position, but Erving has been pretty much the opposite at times (but Dan thinks he might be coming into his own). So did both GMs get a good return for these players or did they overpay?

Travis Kelce
Cam Erving
88.6 * 993 = 87,979
42.9 * 830 = 35,607
87,979 * $74.74 = $6.6M
35,607 * $64.67 = $2.3M
$6.6M – $10M = $-3.4M
$2.3M – $2.1M = $200K

Travis Kelce

Would you pay a $3.4 million premium to have Travis Kelce on this roster? Absolutely you would. He is the best TE in football at the moment and somehow gets better with each and every year. This is actually a pretty good contract, especially when you compare it to Kelce’s main competition, Gronkowski, who last year had a VAMP of $-7 million. The Pats payed nearly $4 million more to have Gronk on their roster while also getting 155 less snaps than the Chiefs got from Kelce. Nice move, Dorsey.

Cam Erving

Erving originally came to the Chiefs via a trade with the Browns for a 2018 5th round pick. There was some dissension around the trade as Erving had earned the label of a 1st round bust. Time and time again, we heard from the coaches that they loved Erving for his versatility and being able to fill in multiple spots along the line. But grading out at a 42.9 overall and the #75 graded Guard isn’t that awesome. With that being said, it would appear that the extension Veach signed him to was pretty spot on as Erving produced $200K more than his $2.1M cap hit. It’s not great but it could be easily worse, which leads us to:

The Bad

Dorsey’s Worst
Veach’s Worst
Justin Houston (6yr / $101M)
Anthony Hitchens (5yr / $45M)

There will always be those contracts that are panned by both the media and fans alike. Plenty of different options came up for this section but I narrowed it down to the 2 most popular that we could actually get a reasonable return from (more on this later). Both of these contracts were pretty hated when signed for various reasons.

Justin Houston
Anthony Hitchens
85.7 * 719 = 61,618
38.2 * 944 = 36,061
61,618 * $113.28 = $7M
36,061 * $68.19 = $2.5M
$7M – $20.6M = $-13.6M
$2.5M – $3.6M = $-1.1M

Justin Houston

Ooooof. We all knew this was coming, that’s why he’s not on the roster any more. But paying a $13.6M premium for Justin Houston is absurd. He was the #14 EDGE graded by PFF. By comparison, Khalil Mack, the #1 rated EDGE signed a 6yr / $141M extension ($40M more than Houston) and finished with a VAMP of $-5.4M. That means the Bears paid $8.2M less than the Chiefs did and they got 100 more snaps and nearly 13,000 more production points out of Mack.

Anthony Hitchens

First off, yes – that PFF Grade is correct. Hitchens did so bad that he got an overall grade of 38.2 and #94 of all LB’s graded. And despite laying the statistical equivalent of a turd on the field, his contract was a premium of $1.1M. Now, there can be hope that this year is an outlier (he had a VAMP of $800K in 2017 with Dallas – and a 73.0 PFF grade) and that with Spags installing a new defense, Hitchens will live up to his contract next year – but that’s some mighty optimism.

Now, the other two contracts that were popular for “worst ever” were both Berry (6 yr / $78M) and Watkins (3 yr / $48M). I decided against Berry as there wasn’t enough statistical evidence to plug into the formula since he was injured immediately after signing (and he had a VAMP of $-6.1M on the franchise tag. Watkins had a severely limited year due to injury which would obviously skew his VAMP ($-5M by the way) but, that should still be considered since he’s been labeled “injury prone”.

Frank Clark v. Dee Ford:

A lot of people debated whether Veach was right or wrong to let Ford go and also trading a 2019 1st rounder for Frank Clark. While we won’t know exactly who won this trade until they each play AT LEAST a year with their new teams, what happens if we plug their 2018 numbers into the formula using their 2019 cap hits from their new contracts? Looking at the contracts in a vacuum, we get the following:

Frank Clark (5yr/$104M):
Dee Ford (5yr/85.5M):
77.4 * 728 = 56,347
87.7 * 1022 = 89,629
56,347 * $113.28 = $6.4M
89,629 * $113.28 = $10.2M
$6.4M – $6.5M = $-100K
$10.2M – $14.6M = $-4.4M

At face value, it looks like Veach would easily win as long as both players turned in the exact same year as they did in 2018. However, these things aren’t that easy, as both moves also included draft picks. Clark was traded for 2019’s 29th overall pick which came with a cap hit of $1.97M. Since the Chiefs gained the 49ers 2nd round pick, we can guesstimate the cap hit that will come with it. I doubt that the 49ers finish 2nd worst again, so in an attempt to be fair, I had them finishing at 16 – giving them the 48th pick and a cap hit of $1.16M. Now, let’s add those caps to the numbers above and see how they come out:

At face value, it looks like Veach would easily win as long as both players turned in the exact same year as they did in 2018. However, these things aren’t that easy, as both moves also included draft picks. Clark was traded for the Chiefs’ 2019 1st round pick and Ford netted a 2020 2nd round pick from the 49ers. If we take the cap hits from both draft picks and apply them to their respective contracts (Clark + 29th pick/Ford + 2020 2nd round pick) we can get a better understanding of the impact on their contracts. The 29th pick overall this year came with a cap hit of $1.97M. In order to make the comparison a little more fair, I simulated the 49ers finishing at 16 – giving them the 48th pick in 2020 and a cap hit of $1.16M. Now, let’s add those cap hits to the numbers above and see how how it changes the overall VAMP:

 Frank Clark
Dee Ford
2019 Cap Hit + Draft Pick Cap Hit (Projected)$6.5M cap hit + $1.97M = $8.47M
$14.6M cap hit + $1.16M = $15.76M
Adjusted VAMP
$6.4M – $8.47M = $-2.07M
$10.2M – $15.76M = $-5.56M

Adding the draft picks cap hit makes the Value Above Market Price seem a lot closer (difference of $3.49M compared to $4.3M previously) but both teams are still paying a premium to have each player on their roster. Only time will tell whether Veach made a good judgement call or if he reached on another contract.

Summary

In the end, both GMs gave out some decent contracts and equally gave out some bad ones. Veach has taken some reaches on a few of his contracts and so far they haven’t returned their value. To fully judge the two GMs, we’ll need to give those contracts a little more time to play out.

What do you think? Who had the better contracts overall?

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NHChiefsfan
NHChiefsfan

This is an interesting case study. After looking at all the examples and drawing on my own observations I am going to have to roll with Veach on this. His contract workings overall have looked much better imo. While people will point to the Hitchens and Watkins contracts, it is important to remember that Hitchens and Watkins can both improve this year (for Watkins it is a matter of health and for Hitchens, playing under better coaches and in a scheme that he is better suited for may help a lot) and also Veach set the contracts up to give us a way out after a few years. He has actually done pretty well for the most part to give us good value contracts and to ensure that we don’t have a huge albatross contract. The upcoming Mahomes contract may be the sole outlier and I think may be Veach’s only “mega-deal” (unless we get Chris Jones signed) and could be a 5 or 6 year deal whereas most of them have been 3 to 4 years with the ability to get out of it in as little as 2 years.

stjoechief
stjoechief

I don’t think anyone had a huge issue with Hitchens’ 2018 cap hit; $3.6 million for a starting linebacker isn’t bad, even though he sucked. If he has the same performance this year his VAMP would go to -$7 million due to his $9.5 million cap number. That’s horrible but still nowhere near Houston’s number, although an argument could be made that -$13.6 million for an EDGE is less horrific than -$7 million for an ILB. It’s also a method that can be used in the future for other contracts. An interesting study would be to look at players getting a second contract over the last few years to see how many end up with positive VAMPs. My guess would be not many.

I really appreciate this post. It quantifies as well as possible whether players are worth their contracts and it confirms my subjective impression that Veach contracts at their worst still haven’t been close to as bad as Dorsey contracts at their worst. Veach clearly has some issues there, though, and it remains to be seen whether his good moves will outweigh the bad.

stjoechief
stjoechief

But if my math is correct, if Hitchens plays the same number of snaps this year he would have to have a PFF grade of 147.6 to have a VAMP of zero. Is that even theoretically possible? So there really was no way to spin the Hitchens contract as a value signing even if he weren’t so awful last year.

Tyrone
Tyrone

I give this post 4 thumbs up.

I feel like the numbers somehow aren’t doing true justice to a player’s value though.

BuckeyeMike
BuckeyeMike

Don’t mind his contracts besides Hitch. Lets give a try in new system first and may not look that bad.

zulu trader
zulu trader

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CHIEFSandSABRES

Hitchens did so bad that he got an overall grade of 38.2 and #94 of all LB’s graded.

Would anyone have been upset if Veach just shit-canned Hitchens after last season?

Tony Sommer

We couldn’t with his contract.

CHIEFSandSABRES

Okay, so if he stinks it up again this year, what does the hit look like to just cut bait and run? I mean this could be the nail in Veach’s coffin if Hitchens puts up another year like last years.

CHIEFSandSABRES

To elaborate. Dorsey got ran out of town, mainly because he screwed us on contracts that returned little value. How long of a leash does Veach get? Another year or two?

Fire_FG_the_moron
Fire_FG_the_moron

Did Veach cut players via voice mail???

CHIEFSandSABRES

Good point!

Leaf
Leaf

Ehhh we don’t know the real reason John to given the boot. More likely than not it was a combination of issues.

Tony Sommer

We would save $2.9 million, so it would suck but it would make sense if he doesn’t improve.

CHIEFSandSABRES

Yeah minimal savings. But worth it I guess. Might save Veach’s butt for another season if he starts cutting bait with these garbage players. *assuming Hitchens stays at last years level of production*

NHChiefsfan
NHChiefsfan

“Save Veach’s butt”? Veach has not been that bad at all. What albatross contract has he produced? I am failing to see where you are getting this notion that he has somehow been bad. I seriously doubt that his job is even close to being in danger.

A Lunar Ting

Seeing his performance in Dallas leads me to believe it is a Sutton/GM eval issue, not a player being useless issue.

KCChef
KCChef

Veach Wins … ( Drops Mic )

Slayer0810
Slayer0810

This is fantastic! It’s interesting to see real data comparing these contracts, even if we’re starting with a somewhat subjective PFF grade.

I did have one question: why did you add the rookie salary to Clark/Ford? I totally might be misunderstanding here, but aren’t you effectively “gaining” that $1.97M when you trade away the pick? E.g. you would have paid that $1.97M if you had made the pick, but since you traded it, you’re not paying that money. I mean, if you’re talking about total value of a trade, the money + potential production for the draft pick has to be considered, but in this case, it looks like you’re just trying to compare the contract values themselves. If I’m mistaken or misunderstanding, please let me know, but I was just a little confused here.

I’m still in the wait-and-see camp for Veach. I haven’t been a fan of most of his moves thus far, but I’m hoping things turn out since we don’t have a better option at this point.