The team at USA Today recently released their top 25 biggest bargain NFL contracts for the 2023 NFL season, with five additional honorable mentions listed.
This is a pretty interesting ranking article, as it shows an overlap of where NFL team moneyball financial planning, overall roster management, player sports management in negotiations, and low-risk high reward deals all overlap for the more successful teams and players.
In USA Today's ranking they outline the player’s approximate open market/free agency value while comparing it to their current salary level. This provides us with their “excess value provided" or what their surplus value is.
For the home team, having both our QB1, Trevor Lawrence, and our prospective WR1, Calvin Ridley crack the list of top 15 players is always a great thing for the team’s current and prospective future prospects. This is primarily the result of having two players on the roster at high-value positions, playing at a high level, while still being on a capped rookie contract.
The following is USA Today rated Trevor Lawrence’s salary in comparison to his current value:
Expected salary (Pro Bowl caliber rising young franchise quarterback): $52,000,000
Average salary: $9,198,372
Surplus value: $42,801,628
Trevor Lawrence is within the top three on this list, falling only behind Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert. This is mainly due to Lawrence being a number one draft pick, which increased his salary number in comparison to Herbert (who was drafted sixth overall in the 2020 draft) and Burrow. As a reminder, Burrow was the number one pick in the 2020 draft. The salary for Lawrence (2021) was slightly higher on the rookie wage scale and Burrow has played at a slightly higher level so far.
Next up, Mr. Ridley:
Expected salary (All-Pro wide receiver)*: $22,500,000
Average salary: $2,725,178
Surplus value: $19,774,822
*Ridley’s value was downgraded from All-Pro cash to Pro Bowl money after missing the entire 2022 season due to a gambling suspension. He’s probably still great, but this felt like a reasonable way to factor in the questions that he’ll face coming into 2023.
You may notice that Calvin Ridley is just one spot below Ja’Marr Chase. This would place the combination of Lawrence and Ridley as the second-best QB/WR value in the league behind the team of Joe Burrow, Chase, and Tee Higgins which sounds about right.
USA Today also identifies that the former Falcons receiver may potentially be an All-Pro caliber receiver, he has only earned comparable Pro Bowl money to date due to his suspension. In various ways, this may affect his coming negotiations and salary demands in comparison to similar receivers. In other words, he may be an All-Pro skill-level of receiver, but could only get higher level Pro-Bowl receiver money due to the suspension itself plus any acclimation period he needs to ramp up production in the new offense.
Where ever his salary lands, this would seem to be a great trade by Trent Baalke to add Ridley to this receiving core. It will be really interesting to see when and how the front office will navigate those negotiations over the next year.
With Lawrence reportedly petitioning for others on the team to restructure or be reasonable in negotiations to keep the team together this offseason, is there a chance that perhaps either player would be open to a hometown discount in their coming negotiations? What are your thoughts on Ridley and Lawrence’s projected values to the league and to the Jaguars?