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PFF Data Study: Examining NFL contract values

Foxborough, MA, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) looks to pass the ball as New England Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers (98) pressures him during the second quarter at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

Another offseason of spending is almost in the books, with a number of big-name players receiving pay raises for their services. Discussions around the value for both sides of these new contracts are rampant, though most opinions lack an explicit framework for valuing players and their contributions.

The foundation for assessing a contract value is player value. At PFF, we leverage our play-by-play player grading to construct our PFF WAR (wins above replacement) metric. An in-depth discussion of PFF WAR's intricacies is beyond the scope of this article but is forthcoming, so stay tuned. PFF WAR gives an intuitive and universal metric for measuring performance across season and position (wins) that is incredibly stable for each position from season to season and predictive of future on-the-field success. With a measure of player value across positions, we then juxtapose a player’s WAR and the money teams are spending to gain insight into which types of contracts have added the most wins per dollar.

In the coming offseason, we plan to detail much more for prospective player WAR and the values they should command. In this article, we’ll take a macro view and look back at the value landscape in terms of WAR and cap spending, with help on the latter from OverTheCap.com’s contract data.

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