Sign Hoyer now.
Dodged a bullet on Alex Mack didn’t we?
Banner and Lombardi wanted to be smarter than everyone else. Tough guys. “Prove it,” they said to Mack. Never mind that your starting center would become a UFA in a uniquely thin class of o-line free agents and the top center by far. Never mind never missing a start, or a snap. Never mind playing with an appendicitis. And disregard all the happy talk about ‘building a core’ and ‘keeping our young talent’ … those are just words. Banner and Lombardi decided to play contract chicken with a key player.
No. It was dumb. Dumb, dumb, stupid, stupid, stupid. Even bloggers in New Hampshire could see it as foolish.
In business terms, it was poor risk management. The downside to this strategy was losing a top five positional player and/or negotiating from weakness at the end of the year. The upside was that maybe Mack blows an ACL and you don’t have to eat a signing bonus. I mean really, that was the upside.1
Anyway. Thank goodness we got Alex Mack at a market rate contract for top five centers. Aren’t we all pleased with how that turned out?
If Hoyer meets the challenge, plays well enough for a new contract and takes the team to unforeseen heights, the drafted quarterback would turn into a tradeable asset down the road for the Browns.
Good lord. Two days after the Mack thing was put to bed and he’s proposing the same strategy with another key Browns player. And this time it’s the starting quarterback.
And fans are nodding.
@jimkanicki lol a qb with 3 starts and a 80qb rating? Let’s all relax he did nothing that says he’s more than a career backup
— Ricky (@rickys_tweets) April 13, 2014
— Jonzer Jackson (@jonzerjackson) April 13, 2014
Basic Risk Management.
Remember during the Mack talks how no one wanted to pay a center left tackle franchise tag dollars? How it was a cap-killer and so-forth? Well left tackle dough is mice nuts compared to an open market bidding for a winning starting QB. We’ll get to that. But first I want to take a stab at approaching this logically or least try to lay the the logic I’m employing. In the Hoyer contract equation there are two variables, one is controllable and one is not:
- Will Hoyer be an unrestricted free agent at the end of 2014?
- Will Hoyer prove himself to be a winning quarterback in 2014?
Combined these lead to four scenarios. If we lay out the scenarios we should be able to come up with some direction on the controllable variable.
Assigning a dollar value for the sake of argument.
For the sake of argument, let’s assign some dollars to this exercise. I will propose paying above ‘market rate’ for Hoyer, after all he’s only had four starts. However he *is* your starter and he *did* look good before injured last year. Let me peg Hoyer’s dollars below medians at slot him as, say, the 20th ranked QB in these categories:
- 2014 Cap hit:
- median (of top 25): Brady/Palmer 13.4M;
- 19-20th-21: Griffin-Cassel-Henne, 5.8M.
- Guaranteed dollars:
- median: Flacco/Brady, ~30M;
- 19-20th-21: Gabbert-Ponder-Palmer, 10.2.
- Average salary:
- median: Brady/Bradford, 13.5M;
- 19-20th-21: Griffin-Cassel-McCown, 5.2M.
- Signing bonus:
- median: Newton/Luck/Griffin, 14.0M
- 19-20th-21: Ponder-Orton-Manuel, 5.0M
So I’m saying sign up Hoyer for:
Four years, 18M total, 5M signing bonus, 11M guaranteed, 6M 2014 cap hit.
For the curious, a six million dollar cap hit slots Hoyer between Kruger and Dansby and would be the sixth largest cap hit. Considering he’s playing this year for 1.25M, he just might go for that (modest) contract offer.
The four scenarios.
1. Hoyer is ineffective and a UFA.
If this is the net at the end of 2014: Congrats, Ray Farmer, I guess. You have shrewdly saved five million in cap space and likely just finished a six win season. Ohh-kay..
2. Hoyer is ineffective and under contract through 2017.
You carry five million in dead money through 2017 and you either swallow it in a big chunk in 2015 (probably not) or spread it out of the next three years. It’s not the dead money that Trent Richardson is costing us (6.6M) but it would be on par with Brandon Weeden and DQwell Jackson (4.2M each).
3. Hoyer is effective and under contract.
Congratulations Ray Farmer seriously. You have found your franchise QB and he will not cost you 20M/year in cap. So go ahead and sign Cameron and Haden and Groves and Skrine and Taylor and Sheard. Hell with the money saved on Hoyer you can take a swing at keeping Rubin.
4. Hoyer is effective and a UFA.
Well that was fun. Hoyer was just fine and we had ten wins and saw the playoffs. For the first time since Vinny Testeverde, cripes 20 years!, we have a quarterback! And a local guy too! Iggy grad! Not only that we have a core of young players so there’s no reason not expect a period of sustained winning and yes playoff football around here.
OH WAIT A SECOND: We now have to sign our QB.
In a new and uniquely Cleveland way, this scenario shows how finding your QB and having a winning team can be turned into dismal failure.
SO what would it cost to sign successful Hoyer? … Hmm… safe to say it’ll be above the median numbers shown above. Here’s the 2014 QB cap hit numbers again. Shit, Eli Manning will cost 20M this year, Roethlisberger 18.9, and they were .500 QBs.4 Cutler-Brees-Bradford round out the top five, all bunched around 18M.
What’s that? You don’t think Hoyer is as good as Cutler?
Welp.. it really doesn’t matter. You played UFA QB chicken and the price for losing is Jay Cutler. Now then, I understand that Cutler was a top-10 QB in a wide number of stats. But the net is that Bears pulled the same ‘prove-it’ gambit with him at the start of last year and wound up giving up a seven year, 127M contract (54M guaranteed). I say again:
Seven year, 127M contract (54M guaranteed) for Cutler in January coming off 8-8 season.
That’s the going rate for a decent QB. If Chicago hadn’t signed him for that Jax, Oakland, Tennessee, Minnesota, ,,, you get the idea. It matters not what YOU think a QB is worth, the market has been set, and teams line up for just a chance to pay it. 54M guaranteed for the never-won-a-playoff-game-8-8-30-year-old QB.
My point is not that Hoyer is or will be as good as Cutler.
My point not that QBs are worth a disproportionate amount compared to other positions and after all this is a team game.
My point is not that bad QBs are often overpaid.
My point is this: the risk of letting your starting quarterback play for you without a contract when your team is
likely probably surely in an ascendency is OFF THE CHARTS.
Can you imagine the negotiation with Hoyer’s agent at the end of a ten win Browns season?
Farmer: Nice year. We still think Brian throws some jump balls and his deep ball gets there slow and he benefits from having Josh Gordon …
Agent: Excuse me Ray, that’s Shad Khan on the phone, I gotta take this. Hold that thought, be right back.
Layer on to the basic market-rate-for-good-QB premise that fact of Hoyer’s Lakewood/Iggy background and the free agency of Brian Hoyer shapes up to be, incredibly, either a literal blank check for Hoyer or the worst PR disaster for the Browns since Modell.5
I say again: the risk of having to sign a successful QB is too great to allow it to happen. Ask Ozzie how his ‘hard-nosed’ negotiation with Joe Flacco worked out. Ask Alex Mack. Ask the Bears.
This is way way way way too easy. Don’t be cute. Get Hoyer under contract. Now. Before the mini-camps. Before the training camps. Before pre-season. NOW.
Post script, Josh McCown bullets.
1. Here’s a cautionary tale on how the Bears got penny-wise on Josh McCown last year and it bit them. The lesson, again, is: don’t get cute with key players. 2. Got a tweet suggesting to offer an incentive-heavy deal like McCown’s in Tampa.
— Brett Fisher (@fisherbw) April 15, 2014
2. It’s an interesting structure. As always, the guaranteed dollars are key. I’d go longer than two years but it does present an interesting way to attack this.
… $4.75 million in 2014-15 and $5.25 million in 2015-16, the sources told Schefter. The deal also guarantees $4.75 million, a source told ESPN.com’s Michael C. Wright. McCown’s agent, Michael McCartney, confirmed the two-year deal.
He can earn $5 million more in incentives — $1 million each year for playing time and another $3 million for reaching the playoffs, sources told Schefter.
- Browns had all the cap space and started doing some god-damn Sloan School analytical nonsense on the value of centers. You just know this to be true, right? [back]
- John Greco at center is not a solution. And if you’re one of those people who think center isn’t important, see the post-Birk Ravens. Take note of the Pouncey-less Steelers. Just stop. [back]
- A wholly bogus number. Like: I really don’t think Joe Flacco will all 121M of his contract not 20M in base salary and be a 31M cap hit in 2017. [back]
- Sure it’s that they won Super Bowls but contracts are payments for the services rendered over the course of the contract. [back]
- Which is REALLY SAYING SOMETHING. [back]