Revisiting Eric Weddle's Contract

Donald Miralle

A look back on what everyone had to say two years ago, why Eric Weddle was such a safe bet for the San Diego Chargers and how he stacks up against Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu.

Remember when the San Diego Chargers signed Eric Weddle to a five-year, $40 million deal, which then was reported inaccurately as the most lucrative contract for a Safety in NFL history? Of course you do.

I'm sure you also remember that the general consensus at the time from around the NFL was that the Chargers massively overpaid for Weddle's services. Just in case you need your memory freshened up a bit, here's what was said after the news broke: (There's an underlying lesson here, by the way: the Internet is forever, folks.)

Score another one for Jerome.

It needs to be said here, so I'll say it: Jealousy is a basic human instinct, so I'm not too sure we should be putting much stock in what other players have to say, Jim.

Now, before we move on, I want to give credit where credit's due to at least one person.

Good for the kid; I'm sure Poppa Acee is so proud.

More importantly, however, Gehlken's tweet raises a question: what exactly made the Chargers so confident in Weddle that they were willing to bet $40 million on him taking "that next step." Let's explore it.

First, I should explain the stats I'm going to use before I get into it. (I know these might be self-explanatory and commonsense for some, if not most, of you, but I'd rather err on the side of caution.)

  • Cover Snaps/Targets: Amount of snaps a player plays in coverage relative to the number of times the receiver he's responsible for is targeted. The higher the number, the better.
  • Cover Snaps/Receptions: Amount of snaps a player plays in coverage relative to the number of times the receiver he's responsible for catches a pass. Again, the higher, the better.
  • Yards/Cover Snaps: Amount of yards a player allows relative to the number of snaps he plays in coverage. The lower, the better.
  • NFL Rating: The traditional QB rating for all the passes thrown into that player's coverage. The lower, the better, of course.

There's couple problems with relying on interceptions and passes defended alone to evaluate a defender's impact on the passing game. First, you can't intercept or defend a pass if one is never thrown your way. Second, interceptions can be a little fluky at times. These stats provide us with a more accurate and complete picture of a player's skill.

Here's two more that we'll talk about:

  • Stop % (T): Percentage of a player's tackles that constituted a defensive stop on running plays.
  • Stop % (8): Percentage of a player's tackles that constituted a defensive stop on running plays where he lined up within eight yards of the line of scrimmage.

Although it's often thrown around as proof of effectiveness, a player's total tackles isn't really a great indicator of their impact on the run game. The above two stats provide us with a superior alternative and tell us how many of a player's tackles against the run really, really counted. Simply put: a tackle made 40 yards down the field shouldn't be viewed the same as a tackle made at the line of scrimmage on third down.

So, again, why did the Chargers believe in Weddle? This might help to explain it:

Weddle_medium

Every single one of those numbers prior to the 2011 season were trending in the right direction - and they continue to do so. Now, I've omitted his "yards/cover snaps" data from this graph because it would be a little hard to see, but let me assure you that those numbers tell the same story: Weddle wasn't really a risky bet for the Chargers. They were seeing him improve every single season and it all suggested that things were bound to click sooner or later. And as we all know, it did in 2011.

Here's Weddle's rank amongst safeties who played at least 50% of snaps for each category in 2011 and 2012:

Season CS/T CS/R Y/CS NFL Rating RS % (T) RS % (8)
2011 10th 1st 1st 1st 35th 11th
2012 18th 21st 4th 15th 1st 1st

Not bad. Lots of first places. This impressive showing caused ProFootballFocus to give Weddle the third-highest and highest grade amongst all Safeties for the 2011 and 2012 seasons, respectively. In fact, their grade in 2012 for him was the highest they've ever given to a Safety.

So, is anyone still willing to raise their hand and say that Weddle is overpaid now?

I didn't think so. I'll leave you all with this:

Yeah, about that...

Bests_medium

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