Every time a deal is signed it has repercussions around the NFL. The signing of Drew Brees over the weekend will have huge consequences for the Panthers when it's time to renew Cam Newton's deal, however we won't need to worry about that for several more years. Two deals were inked today that will have large impacts on the Carolina Panthers 2013 free agency plans as both Matt Forte of the Bears and Ray Rice of the Ravens signed new four, and five year deals respectively. These are important because of their respective age, but also Forte, Rice, and Stewart all share in common being from the 2008 draft class.
Matt Forte got a 4 year, $32 million deal, while Ray Rice received a 5 year, $40 million contract. Both will make $8 million per year on average.
It's easy to brush off Forte and Rice's huge contracts by believing they are featured backs, and therefore surely going to make more money that J-Stew, but after the jump we'll compare all three to see if they're as far off as you might think.
More after the jump
There seems to be a belief among fans that you can look at yards and touchdowns and assume that's the metric teams judge running backs by. The truth is, it isn't. Carries are almost more important than anything when looking at a free agent RB because there is a belief than an NFL back has a finite amount of carries on their body before naturally starting to break down. Now, obviously a guy with 100 carries doesn't immediately make himself more valuable, but when the numbers are somewhat close you'll see the guy with the least wear and tear getting the big contract.
- Matt Forte: 1,014 career carries, 223 career receptions-- 1,237 total touches
- Ray Rice: 959 career carries, 250 career receptions-- 1,209 total touches
- Jonathan Stewart: 725 career carries, 81 career receptions-- 806 total touches
On average Stewart has a two full seasons less on his body than Forte and Rice as a result of splitting time with DeAngelo Williams. Even after another full season it's likely J-Stew will be a shade over the 1,000 touch mark, not close to the 1200+ of Forte and Rice.
What did these RBs do with their carries and receptions? This is of vital importance when gauging their value.
- Matt Forte: 4.2 yards per rushing attempt, 8.9 yards per reception. 0.02 rush TD%, 0.04 receiving TD%
- Ray Rice: 4.6 yards per rushing attempt, 8.9 yards per reception. 0.03 rush TD%, 0.02 receiving TD%
- Jonathan Stewart: 4.8 yards per rushing attempt, 8.7 yards per reception, 0.04 rush TD%, 0.04 receiving TD%
Better on the ground, almost as good in the air, and has a better chance of scoring each time he touches the ball? This isn't looking too good for getting a deal on the cheap. It's unreasonable to think the Panthers will be able to retain Stewart for any less than $8 million per season, and even then he's giving the team a sweetheart deal based on the lack of carries he's taken in his career.
Realistically, a good agent will push for something close to $9.25 million for Stewart, and the Panthers will inevitibly push back to somewhere in the $8.5 - $8.75 million range. It's a difficult decision, and we'll wait to see how it pans out.