How Much Is Joe Flacco Worth?

Joe Flacco is finishing his 5th year in the league. It's a contract year for a QB who remains frustratingly difficult to assess. He shows flashes of brilliance in one game only to be followed by apparent ineptitude in the next. He has the size, the strength, the arm, the accuracy, but there's something missing.

Statistically, he's just as hard to figure out. Among all QBs since 2008, when Flacco entered the league and began his uninterrupted starting streak, his WPA has exceeded his EPA. Of the 30 QBs with the most attempts since 2008, Flacco has the 3rd highest ratio of WPA to EPA. Most observers would call him "clutch."

Based on the recent historical relationship between QB performance and salary, we can estimate Flacco's market value. But depending on how we value his production, we get very different salary values.

Flacco is remarkably consistent. Receivers come and go, and lineman come and go, but since his rookie year Flacco is a rock solid 70 EPA per year guy. Adjusting for team cap inflation, that makes Flacco worth approximately:

70 EPA * $1 million/16.8 EPA = $4.2 million (in yr 2000 $)

Adjusted for 2012 cap dollars, that's a salary of $8.3 million per year, hardly elite money.

But if we consider that Flacco consistently puts up about 3.0 WPA per season, we would estimate his value at:

3.0 WPA * $1 million/0.39 WPA = $7.7 million ( in yr 2000 $)

Adjusted for 2012 cap dollars, that's worth an annual salary of $15.4 million, which is in 'elite' territory.

The question is which measure is most appropriate for valuing a QB. We know that WPA is more volatile and more sensitive to game situations beyond the control of a single player. And EPA is less sensitive to unique game situations. Still, something should be said for a player who has a knack for knowing when to throw the ball away and when to force it into coverage. Like most things, the truth is somewhere in the middle, but I'd lean toward the EPA-based estimate.

$11 million in 2012 cap dollars feels right to me. That's a little more than half of what Brees got from the Saints last year.  Depending on how the league cap is projected to increase over the duration of Flacco's deal, it will come out a little higher in absolute dollar terms. The franchise tag would cost Baltimore about $14 million for one year. The question is how much guaranteed salary is part of the deal. And keep in mind, these estimates assume a somewhat liquid market for QBs. What are the alternatives for Baltimore? Flacco would have a number of suitors if he's not re-signed.

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14 Responses to “How Much Is Joe Flacco Worth?”

  1. Eric Peterson says:

    If he's going to garner $11MM a year, Baltimore should at least inquire about Alex Smith who's making $8MM and locked up for 2 more seasons, and is around the same age. that would give Baltimore a bit more flexibility with the cap and a QB who can at least complete a high percentage of passes with few mental mistakes.

  2. Anonymous says:

    One thing is for sure: He isn´t "worth" 8+ Mio. USD or whatever decadent sums owners are willing to throw after those kind of players.
    And even if we calculate in absurd NFL terms: As long as starting QBS just win approx. 1 more game (over a 16-game-season) than their NFL-minimum-salary-paid backups, none of the so called "superstars" is worth that kind of money. It´s just crazy...

    Karl, Germany

  3. Anonymous says:

    Can you do a similar analysis for Tony Romo please? He will be up for an extension in the off season.

  4. bigmouth says:

    @Eric: Alex Smith has never produced 70 EPA in a single season, let alone averaged it over several. He was on pace for slightly less than that this season. Can you really compare him to Flacco?

    I'm genuinely curious to see what the market demand will be for Smith. His traditional box score stats are certainly gaudy. But measures like WPA and EPA consistently suggest he's less efficient than traditional metrics indicate.

    I think the rest of the NFL is still skeptical, too, which is partly why he didn't get a single contract offer (not even from MIA) from anyone but the Niners. And getting benched for Kap certainly won't quiet teams' concerns.

  5. Martin says:

    I've always wondered just how many EPA one WPA is worth, and if there is a correlation. I plugged every set of EPA and WPA from this and last year into a Excel document, and added a line (I realise it's not too accurate, but stay with me). It turns out that 1 EPA is worth 0,0268 WPA, or 0,5 WPA (taking a game from tied to victory) is worth 17,38 EPA. By that messure, Flacco has 0,89876 WPA to much this year, 0,9166 too much last year. The player with most WPA too much, WPA added over expected, is Romo this year with 1,4 WPA extra. The one with the least is Rivers, also this year.

    Considering that many remembers the high leverage situations more than the rest of the game combined, and with 2 clutch season, in a row, I would say that Flacco will be overpaid. I would say that 9-10 millions is about fair, considering that a, at that point, maybe-maybe not crippeled Peyton Manning got 18 this year

  6. Anonymous says:

    Why on earth not? A player is worth whatever the owner pays for, and the owner makes a lot of money as a result of their efforts. The fans are more than willing to pay full ticket price and buy jerseys and NfL gear at the designated price, which pay for the players salery. The only thing absurd would be expecting him to sacrifice that, earning his owner millions, and work for free.

  7. Anonymous says:

    if the two measures of a qb's "value" give a result that is off by a factor of two, shouldn't the intelligent conclusion be that one (or both) of the measures is not a good representation of the "value" of a quarterback?

  8. David says:
    This comment has been removed by the author.
  9. Jeff Christy says:

    All of this and Tebow doesn't even see the field? At least McElroy looks like the reincarnation of Chad Pennington, original rotator cuffs.

  10. Anonymous says:

    "There are so many things wrong with this question it's hard to know where to start."

    Sorry to offend you David. Thanks for your detailed response, but it didn't point out where the question "was wrong", if in fact a question can be wrong.

    Bottom line is that the story reports that Flacco is worth either 8 mill/yr or 15 mill/yr. I guess the conclusion is that salary cannot be predicted via EPA and WPA, which is what you are stating in your response.

    However, the Ravens most certainly will derive a value for Flacco. So, if not via EPA and WPA, what measures are used? QB rating, total yards, TDs, INTS?

  11. David says:

    EPA and WPA are both valid predictors of QB value, or at least more valid than anything else. Occasionally two predictors disagree on an outcome; that doesn't mean they are invalid predictors.

    Intelligence (predictor 1) and work ethic (predictor 2) are both valid predictors of achievement. If someone is high on Intelligence and low on Work Ethic, does this make them invalid predictors of achievement for that person? They both contribute relevant information.

    And sorry for the earlier aggressive response, I misunderstood your post as questioning the validity of WPA and EPA as predictors of 'value' in general.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I think he saved himself one more week with the Giants game. If they go out lame duck in this last game and the wildcard game, Flake-o could be playing elsewhere in 2013. Hard to see him not turning up in Philadelphia, Buffalo, KC or something

  13. Voice of Reason says:

    It may be a liquid market, but any QB that you buy in FA is going to ask for that kind of money, or any QB that you acquire via trade is going to need that kind of money for an extension, and they won't know the system as well as Joe. It also sends out a bad message to the team when you lose a young, franchise QB.

  14. Unknown says:

    Wonder what his worth is now?

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