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PFF’s Best Contracts – Top 5 NFL linebacker contracts for 2018

To qualify for this study, a player must be at least one year into their second contract in the league, under contract for at least the 2018 and 2019 seasons and logged at least 1,000 snaps over the past three seasons.
Combining all of the data with PFF grades from Premium Stats 2.0, the question still remained: which NFL players at each position produced top-level WAR values, based on the amount of guaranteed money per season and the amount of money they’ll be due after the 2018 calendar year.
Are teams paying the premium for top-notch players at each position?
All contract data comes from overthecap.com.
Costing Washington just $2 million per year, with just $500k guaranteed, Foster had a career year in multiple areas in 2016.
An effective blitzer, Woodyard produced a pass-rushing productivity rating of 17.3, the highest among linebackers with at least 100 pass-rushing snaps.
Woodyard’s best season came in 2015, when he produced an 89.9 PFF defense grade, and while he hasn’t been at that level the past two seasons, he is still a player capable of making a big impact.
Only three linebackers in the NFL registered more tackles resulting in a defensive stop versus the run than the 59 registered by Wagner.
At just 28-years-old, Wagner has produced his two highest-graded seasons over the past two years, and he was elite in all that was asked of him last year.
Burfict was solid in coverage in 2017, finishing the regular season tied for eighth among linebackers having allowed an average of 0.7 yards per snap in coverage.

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Sep 17, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Dallas Cowboys middle linebacker Sean Lee (50) in the first quarter against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Every year, NFL teams sign marquee free agents at every position while they draft younger players to fill other holes in their roster. Contract language sometimes delays even the most “NFL-ready” rookies while other disputes in contracts take centerstage during the league’s offseason periods (see Roquan Smith, Le’Veon Bell, respectively).

With all that in mind, we at PFF have devised a method of looking at the league’s best contracts as we enter the 2018 NFL season. We wanted to know which teams have the league’s best players under the lowest amount of guaranteed, annual money and which of those athletes had been standouts at their respective positions. To do so, we utilized our data scientists Eric Eager & George Chahrouri’s recently revealed Wins Above Replacement metrics for every NFL player who has signed a contract after their rookie deal.

To qualify for this study, a player must be at least one year into their second contract in the league, under contract for at least the 2018 and 2019 seasons and logged at least 1,000 snaps over the past three seasons.

Combining all of the data with PFF grades from Premium Stats 2.0, the question still remained: which NFL players at each position produced top-level WAR values, based on the amount of guaranteed money per season and the amount of money they’ll be due after the 2018 calendar year. The formula developed was essentially that, and the results were very appealing. Are teams paying the premium for top-notch players at each position? Are there individuals who are currently outplaying their contract value?

All of that information granted us the ability to isolate a player’s three-year average WAR value over their guaranteed salary (both this season and remaining) to take a look at which players are signed to the best contracts at their positions, with respect to their peers. All contract data comes from overthecap.com.

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