Sign Hoyer now.

hoyer-horiz-brns-2013-jkjpg-9b3a4dd655f42e45

The time to pay Brian Hoyer is while the market is soft.

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.

jim-schwartz-alex-mack-nfl-preseason-detroit-lions-cleveland-browns

Let’s learn something from the Mack saga.

Smart?

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?

So within TWO DAYS of averting crisis at center2 I was surprised to read Grossi on Sunday:

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.

 

Pfft.  Are you kidding?  It’s like people have forgotten how Hoyer played last fall (and in case you’re one of those people I have Hoyer game reviews here and here).

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:

  1. Will Hoyer be an unrestricted free agent at the end of 2014?
  2. 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.

usa-kyle-orton-cowboys

Surely we can come up with a Kyle Orton scale signing bonus for our starting QB, no?

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
  • Contract value:3
    • median:  Brady/Stafford, 61M;
    • 19-20th-21:  Schaub-Tannehill-Locker, 12.7M.

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.

-0fc074279a70471b

If you want more of this into 2015, don’t wait to sign your starting QB.

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?

cutler_flacco_110912_WIDE

Sign Hoyer now or build a war chest for a contract on the Cutler-Flacco scale.

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.

 

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.

                        

  1. 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]
  2. 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]
  3. 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]
  4. Sure it’s that they won Super Bowls but contracts are payments for the services rendered over the course of the contract. [back]
  5. Which is REALLY SAYING SOMETHING. [back]

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  • Jim Nantz

    I agree 100% with you. He would come at a great price right now and at worst be a solid back up and confidant for a young superstar QB.

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  • bupalos

    I would definitely sign him to something, UFA next year simply can’t be allowed to happen. Hoyer is something of a lottery ticket, and you won’t be able to cash it if you don’t control him at least a little. But I do think your fervor here may abstract a little from the reality of the QB market. In theory, you can lock up a trial QB and hope to hit the jackpot. In reality, if you hit the jackpot, the pressure to redo the guy’s deal will be immense. It just doesn’t really fly to have your field general be disgruntled, and creates a political situation on the team. Cripes, the Browns had an overproducing kick returner successfully force his way out of his deal. But they’re going to capture a low-cost QB?

    In reality, if you signed Hoyer now to something like 3 years at 5 per and he started playing 15M football, you’d be redoing his deal for a longer term and more money the very first offseason. The original contract would definitely give you some control and leverage, as would Hoyer’s hometown roots and the marketing orgasm he could cash in on as the first hometown hero since Lebron and biggest since Bernie. But you aren’t just going to get lucky and steal all the cream here (supposing there is cream here.) Doesn’t happen. I am in favor of doing a deal like you suggest, but you might be overemphasizing the height of the ceiling and underestimating the depth of the floor at least a little.

  • actovegin1armstrong

    Well done jk!
    Hoyer is a terrific retread. The addition of Jake Matthews will help keep him off “injured reserve”.
    Haden and Verrett will keep the opposing points in a reasonable range, the Browns are in good shape to make the playoffs.
    Now, if there was a good way to pick up either Connor Shaw, or Jake Locker to be the future Frankensteinchise Quarterback I will be a happy guy.

  • At first blush is seems a little odd to give a new contract to a player who has only been on the field for 10 quarters of play. But the more you look at it the more it makes sense for the Browns to at least start the discussion with Hoyer on a new deal.

    Signing Hoyer would not preclude the team from drafting a quarterback next month, and it would protect the Browns from having to consider having someone like Matt Cassell, Ryan Fitzpatrick or any of the other dregs of the QB world on the roster as a backup.

    If Hoyer plays well this fall and the Browns have both him and a drafted QB under contract on the roster, that sounds like a good thing – depth is never bad, despite what some in the local media would have us believe. If Hoyer plays well this fall, the Browns suddenly have an asset to either keep for another year or two or they can trade him to New England (if we buy into the fantasy that Mike Lombardi actually has any say with the Patriots) and roll with the QB they develop this fall.

    One of the biggest mistakes Phil Savage ever made was not selling high on Derek Anderson after 2007, blocking Anderson from going to Dallas (and receiving two first-round picks in return) because the Cowboys were reportedly going to trade Anderson to Baltimore. Having Hoyer under contract gives Farmer the flexibility to make a move after next season if he desires. (Bit of a tangent, sorry).

    As long as the deal is a fair one, not sure what the downside is for the Browns. Sometimes you have to take calculated gambles, and this seems like it could be one of those times.

    • it’s also insurance against the mike holmgren lunacy that ‘you have to take one.’

      what in all the fucks? it’s the ponder-gabbert-locker strategy.

      the guy who brought us trent richardson and brandon weeden in the first round still has old cronies sticking a mic in his face. what a racket.

      if you have to take one, i’ll take mine outside the first round. starting to like GRR’s guy aaron murray (and starting to doubt he’ll be there in the 4th).

      • nj0

        I’m surprised more hasn’t been written in Browns Town about Holmgren’s comments. Sure sounds to me like – “Just close your eyes and guess on somebody. Maybe you’ll get lucky!” And of course, Peter King tries to pass it off as wisdom rather than ridicule or question it.

        • mgbode

          It sounded to me like he was trying to pass the buck on the Weeden pick even down to the “you might not know what you have after year2” comment.

          Strange when we look back at his career that he NEVER had a QB that he drafted in control of one of his teams (Favre, Hasselbeck, even Young — and Montana was drafted before he joined SF).

          Not to say he didn’t develop QBs as Favre’s backups became starters across the league. Just that the guys he drafted never were the guys who started for his team.

  • MrCleaveland

    Nice analysis, Kanick. The Superior Man solves a potential problem before it becomes a real problem.

    Sure it could backfire, but there are no guarantees about anything. However, the What Have We Got To Gain vs. the What Have We Got To Lose ratio seems to favor your solution.

  • CLEVTA

    I think I would want to see Hoyer actually play in a game coming off a torn ACL before handing him any guaranteed money.

    • the ‘voluntary’ minicamp is 4/29-5/1. look him over there. avoid the ‘prove it in season’ scenario at all costs.

      the fact of his history as a backup and ACL rehab are why it makes sense to do it now: it’s affordable and low risk. we’re living in a world where andy dalton can look at 15M/yr extension with a straight face. imagine what a competent QB could get in as a UFA in a bidding war.

      • mgbode

        also of note: Hoyer was doing all of his rehab in Berea with the team. He obviously wanted to show the team how dedicated he was and that he was willing to work. If anyone knows where he is at with things, then it’s the guys in Berea.

  • GRRustlers

    I think it’s actually really simple.

    1. Sign Hoyer.
    2. Draft Aaron Murray.
    3. See how it all plays out.

    For the people who think that Hoyer is not worth the risk that’s fine…just follow the Dalton negotiations right now.

    Go ahead…I’ll wait.

    You back yet? Good. Have you stopped laughing?

    Go ahead Bengals…give that guy $15M.

    Two of our division opponents will have crippled themselves with dumb contracts for good not great QBs. (I struggle with where to put Flacco. He rolled the dice on himself and had a wonderful Super Bowl run.)

    • holy fuck.
      15M/yr for dalton.
      can you imagine?

      • GRRustlers

        Yeah…I think this is something that we have not really grasped in Cleveland because we have not seen it since Vinny. The current cost of COMPETENT QB play is staggering. Is Dalton going to get $15M? Maybe. Say the Bengals grab a playoff spot and he throws 2 TDs in a playoff win. You think the Bengals would let the first QB to win a playoff game in 24 years walk? Nope. He’s getting paid.

        Now if I was the Bengals I’m taking the best available QB at 24…setting up a rigged QB competiiton…handing the job to the rookie…and rolling under a rookie QB for 4 years and trying to win with that defense.

        • [looking to see if there’s a ‘featured comment’ plug-in for wordpress/disqus.]
          [found it.]

          • GRRustlers

            Thanks but this is the part where I flash back to my senior year of high school walking out of Municipal Stadium after watching Vinny and the Browns beat the Patriots…and start sobbing on my keyboard.

            An entire generation of kids in NE Ohio just have no clue what winning was like in this town.

            The Friday before the 86 AFC Title game the school played this over the PA instead of the morning announcements.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhXGWqSs5ss

          • mgbode

            in those days, schools didn’t even really need to have Brown & Orange days because we were all wearing the colors on Friday’s regardless.

          • actovegin1armstrong

            mgbode,
            Perhaps you mean “we were all wearing the colors on Friday’s dissirregardlessly.”

          • mgbode

            that might be my new favorite word 🙂

          • bupalos

            I listened just because I was intrigued by what the “additional sound effects” were. Then I kept having to bounce back to my email thinking I was inadvertently sending something out, bc the only “sound effect” is a moronic overlay of Outlook’s send-mail sound everytime they say “throw”. Took me 3 tries to figure it out. Naptime.

        • bupalos

          I think Cinci has pretty well proven that they are not going to overpay (or even pay market rate) for QB. That franchise is VERY money conscious. Unless Dalton shows significant improvement in consistency, I just don’t see 15M from them.

    • btw, in the kanick mock v1.0 derek carr went to the bengals at #24.

  • Petefranklin

    Jim, pretty sure the wise guys around here agree strongly with you. Browns over 6.5 was up to -160 yesterday. Hey tony, all the guys who put money out for a living think the browns must draft a rookie QB to change their fortunes…..L…O..L!

  • maxfnmloans

    5 mil a year for a guy who at worst becomes a competent backup? I’m down with that. I don’t think I’m as high on Hoyer as you are Kanick, but for the kind of money you’re talking about, it’s a no-brainer. With the cap on the rise 5 mil a year for a competent backup QB isn’t really too far out of whack. If he can get us to 10 wins, it’s a freakin’ steal.

    I’m not confident Hoyer can be the answer, but I’m willing to give him the first shot.

    • well this is the point. we’re talking about kyle orton money versus an unknown-but-probably-log-scale-higher number. i dont know, but i think slotting him around 20 among QBs in comp would be enough to get it done.

      • maxfnmloans

        it reminds me of the Tribe’s negotiating strategy- signing young players to guaranteed deals where they sacrifice a couple of their free agent years in order to get a guarantee now. I would hope quadrupling his salary would do it. You are correct though, the only time this is going to work is before the season starts.

        • mgbode

          I agree with both of you here. I am also nowhere near as high on Hoyer as Kanick is, but am very willing to have him pegged at $5mil+/year and likely structure it in a way where we only need to carry him for the next 2 season (in case he’s not effective).

          But, I don’t think Hoyer signs on for such a contract. I think he’s MUCH more likely to sign a shorter term deal that is basically the same contract but gives him an out for a bigger deal in case he hits it big-time.

          $12mil over 2 years contract, $10mil guaranteed, no signing bonuses. Basically, the Alex Mack contract (but we better make sure that we can tag him if necessary).

          • it’d be rod-tidwell-esque for him to play out his current 1.25 contract in the face of 11M gtd. i mean,,, he might but even jerry maguire would be advising him of the risks. if he turns it down you gotta know marcy is taking control.

          • mgbode

            I just think he wants some type of leverage, some type of out after 2 years. maybe he takes your contract, but puts a balloon payment in there if he starts 20 games over the next 2 seasons or something. but, if anything, we need to get this GIF in this thread:

            http://img.pandawhale.com/post-21975-Help-Me-Help-You-gif-ZIdQ.gif

          • maxfnmloans

            I think he’d probably like to have some type of out, but if his choices are play out the year and maybe get a better deal with more leverage at the end of the year, or take 10+ million guaranteed right now, I think he’d be hard pressed to turn it down

          • actovegin1armstrong

            Watched a few minutes of that junk….
            That is an amazingly bad movie! Zelleweger looks terrific as always, but that is a terrible movie.

          • mgbode

            it was so over-dramatized that it was hilarious. at least to me.

          • actovegin1armstrong

            Oh, it was a comedy. Now I get it.

          • bupalos

            I can’t see us ever tagging Hoyer no matter how successful he is. First, if he played well he’d be worth more here than anywhere else. Second, while I like him generally, I’m ruling him out of being a top-5 guy in the league, which is the only way you’d save money. Third, it’d just be bad form to tag your hometown guy–like, he’s a local guy and Browns fan, and we’re offering him top-5 money, but we still can’t get him to stay unless we force him. Just a terrible look.

          • mgbode

            if we don’t sign Hoyer before the season and he does a “1st year with Harbaugh Alex Smith” impression and we go 12-4, win the division and make noise in the playoffs, then, yes, we most definitely would be tagging Hoyer.

            note: I do not expect those things to happen.

            I also don’t think it’s a bad look. The tag is all about having leverage in negotations. If you tag a player that isn’t good enough, then you have no leverage because he’ll be happy to play for the top5 money. Otherwise, you have a tool to get a longer term deal signed.

            Finally, I agree that it would likely be a bad usage of $$$ and kanick would be referencing this thread about how the FO botched things.