I came across an interesting article this week from PFF projecting contract extensions for the top players of the Draft class of 2019. These players have completed their third NFL seasons and are thus eligible to sign extensions. For players drafted in the first round, two years might remain on their rookie deals if their respective teams have exercised fifth year options. Players drafted in round two and beyond have one year left.
Quinnen Williams of the Jets is one of the players with two years left on his original deal, lowering the urgency level to get something done immediately. Still there was a projection in the article.
Williams didn’t get off to the blazing fast start that many anticipated after a remarkable final college season at Alabama, but he has shown plenty of flashes through three seasons. The Jets should remain optimistic that he can become one of the best players at his position in due time, particularly as an interior pass-rusher.
Over the last two seasons, Williams’ 73 quarterback pressures are a top-20 mark among interior defenders, and his 77.1 pass-rush grade ranks 15th. Now entering his second season under head coach Robert Saleh with more talent along the defensive line around him — such as edge defenders Carl Lawson and rookie Jermaine Johnson II — Williams could have a breakout campaign in his fourth season.
Free-agent addition cornerback D.J. Reed and 2022 fourth overall pick cornerback Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner also figure to keep the ball in opposing quarterbacks’ hands longer after the snap, which could help Williams get home more frequently.
All of that said, this deal may not come until after the 2022 season, which gives Williams a great opportunity to boost his value as much as possible before cashing in.
Contract projection: Five years, $102.5 million ($20.5 million per year), $65 million total guaranteed
Overall I think the article makes a strong argument that Williams has been a successful pick.
I have come to agree with this thinking. The expectations for Quinnen upon entering the league were sky high, and because he hasn’t become a top three interior linemen, some seem to view him as a failure. Those expectations aren’t really fair, though.
So does that make him worth the price? Well, according to Over the Cap, that type of contract would give Quinnen a top five salary among interior defensive linemen.
I’ll be honest. My first reaction was, “No way would I pay Quinnen $20 million a year.”
But then I started thinking about the trajectory of the salary cap. Because the league’s new TV deal which kicks in next year includes a huge increase in revenue, the cap is set to skyrocket in the years ahead.
You have to consider cap inflation when figuring out fair value for a player. Paying somebody $5 million a decade ago when the cap was $120 million is different from paying a player $5 million now when the cap is $208 million.
Fortunately Over the Cap has a page that calculates past contracts and adjusts them for increases in the salary cap over time. For example, Aaron Donald’s 6 year, $135 million contract in 2018 gave him an annual salary of $22.5 million, which was 12.7% of the cap that year. A contract worth 12.7% of the cap today would have an annual salary of $26.4 million. So saying a $20 million contract would pay Quinnen Williams almost like he’s Aaron Donald wouldn’t be quite accurate.
Rather this projected contract would put Quinnen with the likes of Jonathan Allen and Vita Vea.
I’ll leave it to you to figure out whether that’s fair value. But with the cap likely to rise at a very high rate in the years ahead, locking a player up early could prove to be a good value. The longer you wait, the higher the cap goes. The higher the cap goes, the more money you pay.