Best Value Linebackers

Best Value Linebackers
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Best Value Linebackers

Between the 2010 and 2011 NFL Draft, 74 linebackers have been drafted (most by any position), and 27 linebackers were drafted in 2013 (3rd most by position). During 2010 and 2011, 120 linebackers were signed during free agency (most by any position), and currently there have been 70 linebackers signed in 2013.

We've decided to take a look at the top linebackers statistically across five categories (sacks quarterback hits, solo tackles, assisted tackles, and forced fumbles) and their value based on their cap hit.

Note: Team identification represents the team(s) the 2010 and 2011 statistics represent.

Sack Leaders

Both 2011 top 10 draft picks, Aldon Smith and Von Miller, top the sack leaders in the last two years. Still on their rookie contracts, San Francisco and Denver could still get great value out of these two linebackers if they produce sacks this coming season as they have in the past. Also noted that Clay Matthews was also on his rookie contract as well in 2010 and 2011. Three of the five of linebackers were on rookie contracts while producing sacks at a rate better than anyone else in the league. Moreover, four of the five linebackers in this list produced their results at the ages of young- to mid-twenties, showing that speed, agility and age has a factor in the value of obtaining sacks.

Player current Age Games Sacks (2011-2012) sacks/Game Average Cap Hit (2011-2012) 2013 Cap Hit (rank)
Aldon Smith
(SF)
23 32 33.5 1.05 $2,942,182 $3,922,909 (28)
Von Miller
(DEN)
24 31 30 0.97 $4,295,533 $5,727,376 (18)
Tamba Hali
(KC)
29 31 21 0.68 $9,125,000 $15,500,000 (1)
Clay Matthews
(GB)
27 27 19 0.70 $1,910,000 $6,710,000 (12)
Robert Mathis
(IND)
32 28 17.5 0.63 $5,725,000 $10,750,000 (5)

Honorable Mention: Ryan Kerrigan (16.5), Terrell Suggs (16)

Quarterback Hit Leaders

After realizing the young ages of the sack leaders, we were curious to see if there was a similar correlation with the quaterback hits - to see whether or not age had a factor in just getting to the quarterback and knocking him down. Once again four of the five were on their rookie contracts when hitting the quarterback the most between 2010 and 2011. Tamba Hali being the oldest in the list still produced while being in his late twenties and was fresh on this new 5 year / $57.5 million contract (second contract).

Player current Age Games QB Hits (2011-2012) QB Hits/Game Average Cap Hit (2011-2012) 2013 Cap Hit (rank)
Aldon Smith
(SF)
23 32 54 1.69 $2,942,182 $3,922,909 (28)
Von Miller
(DEN)
24 31 48 1.55 $4,295,533 $5,727,376 (18)
Clay Matthews
(GB)
27 27 45 1.67 $1,910,000 $6,710,000 (12)
Connor Barwin
(PHI)
26 32 44 1.38 $875,000 $1,300,000 (85)
Tamba Hali
(KC)
29 31 39 1.26 $9,125,000 $15,500,000 (1)

Honorable Mention: Robert Mathis (30), Dwight Freeney (28)

Solo Tackle Leaders
One thing to walk away from the solo tackle leaders is that teams are getting great value for individual tacklers in 2013. Four of the top five solo tackle leaders will have a 2013 cap rank of 30 or greater for approximately 6 tackles per game.
Player current Age Games Solo Tackles (2011-2012) Solo Tackles/Game Average Cap Hit (2011-2012) 2013 cap hit (rank)
James Laurinaitis
(STL)
26 32 222 6.94 $1,534,167 $12,400,000 (4)
Derrick Johnson
(KC)
30 32 213 6.66 $3,325,000 $3,500,000 (30)
Daryl Washington
(ARI)
26 31 201 6.48 $2,446,250 $3,418,750 (32)
NaVorro Bowman
(SF)
25 32 198 6.19 $1,420,562 $3,105,562 (35)
Karlos Dansby
(MIA)
31 32 190 5.94 $8,275,000 $2,250,000 (51)

Honorable Mention: Chad Greenway (186), D'Quell Jackson (179)

Assisted Tackle Leaders

London Fletcher continues to produce as a team player, leading the assisted tackles list. However, the greatest value of these five players is Curtis Lofton who averaged $1.356 million cap hit over 2010 and 2011, and will have the 36th highest cap hit in 2013.

Player current Age Games Solo Tackles (2011-2012) Solo Tackles/Game Average Cap Hit (2011-2012) 2013 cap hit (rank)
London Fletcher
(WAS)
38 32 132 4.13 $4,775,000 $6,200,000 (15)
Chad Greenway
(MIN)
30 32 114 3.56 $7,450,000 $8,700,000 (7)
Curtis Lofton
(ATL, NO)
27 32 101 3.16 $1,356,000 $3,100,000 (36)
D'Quell Jackson
(CLE)
29 32 96 3 $5,475,000 $6,400,000 (14)
Jerod Mayo
(NE)
27 30 96 3.2 $7,662,500 $5,900,000 (16)

Honorable Mention: Rey Maualuga (95), Nick Barnett (92)

Forced Fumble Leaders

Patrick Willis averaged $12.2 million between 2010 and 2011, but his cap drops significantly in 2013 making him the 47th highest cap hit - great value for his production.

Still a great value if his production remains the same in the forced fumbles category, Ryan Kerrigan has the 48th highest cap hit in 2013.

Player current Age Games Forced Fumbles (2011-2012) FF/Game Average Cap Hit (2011-2012) 2013 Cap hit (rank)
Von Miller
(DEN)
24 31 9 0.29 $4,295,533 $5,727,376 (18)
Terrell Suggs
(BAL)
30 24 7 0.29 $10,770,000 $13,020,000 (2)
Patrick Willis
(SF)
28 29 6 0.21 $12,178,304 $2,386,750 (47)
Ryan Kerrigan
(WAS)
24 32 6 0.19 $1,783,769 $2,378,334 (48)

5 others with five forced fumbles: Sam Acho, Tamba Hali, Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes and Aldon Smith.

 

2013 Best Value Linebackers

Based on age, cap hit and production on the field in the last two seasons, below is a list of the best valued linebackers going into the 2013 season.

Player 2013 Cap hit 2013 Cap Hit Rank Reason
Von Miller $5,727,376 18 Still on rookie contract and was 2nd in sacks/quarterback hits and 1st in forced fumbles
Aldon Smith $3,922,909 28 Still on rookie contract and was 1st in sacks/quarterback hits and 4th in forced fumbles
Ryan Kerrigan $2,378,334 47 Still on rookie contract and was 6th in sacks, 15th in quarterback hits, and 3th in forced fumbles
Patrick Willis $2,386,750 48 With a drastic cap hit reduction from $17.7 million to $2.4 million, 3rd in forced fumbles and 12th in solo tackles
Karlos Dansby $2,250,000 51 51st highest cap hit and has had the 5th most solo tackles
D'Quell Jackson $6,400,000 14 Still on rookie contract and was 7th in solo tackles and 4th in assisted tackles



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