When the Oakland Raiders traded for quarterback Matt Schaub, many in Raider Nation were upset. Some were upset because they do not think that Schaub is an improvement at quarterback, but many others were upset about the cost. Not the sixth round draft pick, that is negligible, but the contract that he signed with the Texans which the Raiders would be inheriting.
The Raiders have reportedly re-worked that contract, but that should not make much difference at all to this discussion. While the details of the new contract have yet to be released, there is not a high likelihood that Schaub took much of, if any pay cut. The much more likely re-structuring would involve simply moving money around in order to lessen the cap hit this season.
With the addition of Schaub, and not including the new contract for Charles Woodson, the Raiders had a little over $15 million dollars in cap space. With at least $10 million of that being reserved for signing draft picks, that did not leave the Raiders with much room to sign more free agents. In order to continue upgrading the team, general manager Reggie McKenzie probably spoke with Schaub about lessening the cap hit his contract would have on the team.
Which conveniently brings us to the point of this piece.
For fans, the most important number to be concerned with is the cap hit. Why? Because this is the number that has the most direct impact on the team. A large cap number inhibits the ability of the general manager to sign additional or better players. All of the bonuses and extra money that does not count against the cap should only really matter to the owner, Mark Davis. That money comes out of his bank account, so he has a vested interest in it being spent wisely.
From the perspective of a fan, unless you have an obscenely high affinity for Mark Davis, it is hard to see why the additional money should matter to you. Overpaying a player always hurts the owner, but depending on their cap hit, it may not impact the team itself much at all.
Presumably, the Raiders fans upset with the Schaub contract were unhappy about the fact that it came with a cap hit of almost $11 million. The re-structuring should lower that number, giving the Raiders more to spend in free agency. But let’s forget about the re-structuring for a second.
Does $11 million represent an outrageous number for Schaub?
According to overthecap.com, Schaub’s pre-restructuring cap hit made him the 15th most expensive quarterback in the NFL. Included in those who have a bigger cap hit than Schaub are Sam Bradford, Jay Cutler, Tony Romo and yes, Carson Palmer. With 32 teams in the league, Schaub falls right in the middle of the pack.
But even that is misleading.
Among those who have a smaller cap hit than Schaub are a number of guys still on rookie contracts who are being underpaid for what they bring to the table. Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck all make less than Schaub but will easily be making much more on their next contract.
There has already been chatter about some of these guys re-signing with their teams. If any of them do, that would push Schaub’s cap hit into the lower half of the league for 2014.
Yes, $11 million is a big number. But in the world of NFL quarterbacks, it is no where near being elite money. There are two quarterbacks with cap hits of over $20 million and 10 with cap hits over $15 million. It is a passing league and the quarterback is the single most important position on the field. There is no getting around the fact that all teams are going to spend a lot of money at the quarterback position at some point.
But back to the question, is Schaub being overpaid? Last season was the worst year of his career and his stats fell far below the middle of the pack, but he also did not play a full season. Had he played the entire year at the same pace he had been, he would have ended up 23rd in touchdowns and 15th in yards. That puts him below the middle of the pack in touchdowns and exactly matching his cap hit in yards.
The worst year in his career resulted in being overpaid for what he produced on the field. But how did he do in the years before that?
In 2012, Schaub finished 11th in the league in yards and 15th in touchdowns. In 2011, Schaub again only played 10 games, this time because of injury. But he was again on pace to be top 15 in yards and was on pace to be top 10 in touchdowns. In 2010, he was 4th in yards and 12th in touchdowns. In 2009 he was 1st in yards and 5th in touchdowns.
Schaub’s numbers have not been as good in recent years, but even so, he has consistently found himself to be around the middle of the league with a couple of years where his stats were much better and two years where they were much worse, but he was on pace to be right there in the middle of the NFL had he played a full season.
If Schaub is being overpaid, it is only a minimal over payment based on how he has ranked against other quarterbacks in the league statistically. It is a lot of money to be paying any player, but given his position and the production he has provided year in and year out, it is not a gross over payment.