We've located four defensive ends of similar age and production who signed contracts in recent years. To determine a more likely starting point for our numbers, we'll perform a linear regression of each contract breakdown listed below.
|Player||Length||Value||Avg. Salary||Age When Signed|
Note: A linear regression is a formula that plots the provided points of data for Length and Value of the contracts, and then generates the best-fit line for those points, resulting in a "slope" value that translates to an average annual salary.
View the list of Top Average Paid Defensive Tackles in the NFL
Because Heyward (26) is younger/older than some of our variables were at the time of their signings, we'll adjust the above contracts down to his age by adding to their overall years to make each variable player 26 years old. Once a linear regression is performed on these new numbers we're given the following terms to begin with:
|Length||Value||Avg. Salary (slope)|
Now let's analyze these players statistically in the year prior to signing their second contract by showing Games Played, Sacks, Tackles, Solo Stops, and QB Hurries.
|J.J. Watt (2012-13, HOU)||16||15.5||67||69.5|
|Mario Williams (2010-11, HOU)||14.5||10.5||19.5||28|
|Calais Campbell (2010-11, ARI)||16||7||49||42.5|
|Corey Liuget (2013-14, SD)||16||5.5||38||24.5|
|Cameron Heyward (2013-14, PIT)||16||6.5||35||27.5|
|AVERAGE PRIME %||-20.63%|
|MEDIAN PRIME %||-25.89%|
Heyward seems to be producing in the ballpark of Liuget and Campbell, but is quite a bit behind the likes of Watt (as all are). We'll carry through his Median and Average Prime Percentages into our formula below.
Heyward has been both consistent, and reliable since joining the Steelers in 2011, no concern in terms of guaranteed money.
Length of the Contract
Our base figures average out to just north of 5 years. At 26 years old, and with recent 6 year deals for major pass rushers already locked down, it makes sense that the Steelers signed Heyward through the year 2020.
Value of the Contract
Our base contract figures provided a deal averaging just under $13.5M per season, well above Heyward's statistical value. When including our prime percentages (both of which he achieved negative values for), we're given the following:
• Guaranteed: $18,000,000 (31%)
As you can see, our calculated forecast nearly matches the deal the Steelers and Heyward agreed on, once again proving that teams can find value with long-term contracts if they get out in front of the situation. As the great Andrew Brandt frequently says, deadlines spur actions, and by actions here, we mean added dollars. While the guaranteed portion of Heyward's actual deal has yet to be confirmed, we've heard that the initial bonus appears to be around the $15M mark, meaning it's perfectly likely that a fully guaranteed $3-4M 2015 salary will also be included. In all likelihood, the Steelers valued Heyward in a similar fashion here, realizing he's a Top 5 3-4 defensive end right now, and should be paid accordingly.