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http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000934478/article/nfl-oddly-devaluing-safeties-baker-mayfield-should-sit-in-year-1

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For as long as I've been around football, I've heard coaches stress the importance of being strong down the middle. The sentiment is routinely hammered home: Championship defenses are built from the inside out, with middle linebackers and safeties acting as the traffic cops of the unit.

During my time as a player and scout, I was fortunate enough to be around some championship-caliber teams with elite defenders positioned at safety. From Henry Jones in Buffalo to LeRoy Butler in Green Bay, from the late Eric Turner in Oakland to Mike Minter in Carolina, I've seen how a dominant presence in the middle of the field can impact a defense and change how offenses are able to attack various areas of the field. I've watched those great players eliminate dangerous playmakers between the hashes and force quarterbacks come off their primary options in the passing game.

"In an ideal world, you would like one of your safeties to possess the athleticism and cover skills of a cornerback, but have the IQ of a quarterback and the physicality of a linebacker," a veteran NFL defensive backs coach told me. "You would like to be able to play your base defense against 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end and three wide receivers) and lock him up over the slot guy or the tight end, based on matchups."

In today's game, I'm seeing more and more safeties with those capabilities ... but they aren't valued at a rate that would appear appropriate based on their skills. Teams just aren't paying safeties big money, despite impressive statistics and invaluable versatility. Guys like Kenny Vaccaro, Eric Reid and Tre Boston -- fresh off contract seasons where they put in work -- remain unsigned.

Why?

Well, Reid, who knelt during the national anthem as a protest against racial injustice, has filed a non-injury grievance against the NFL, so his case is more unique. But that doesn't explain why the safety market was so tepid overall this offseason. So, what gives?

"It's hard to determine the value of safeties, based on the different ways that teams use them," a former NFL defensive coordinator told me. "You can't simply look at the stat sheet and figure out how much of an impact a player makes, due to the different roles that they're playing in today's game. Some guys are center fielders asked to play in the middle of the field, while others are playing down in the box as run defenders. Throw in the other guys who play as hybrid slot defenders and nickel corners, it's hard to put them in the right order when it comes to stacking the board."

Maybe that's why a 26-year-old stud like Tyrann Mathieu gets a deal (one year for $7 million with the Houston Texans) that seems beneath market value for a player with his accolades. It also might be the reason Earl Thomas is having a tougher time getting a lucrative extension from the Seattle Seahawks this time around. Sure, he's been one of the very best safeties in the game for almost this entire decade, as a six-time Pro Bowler and three-time first-team All-Pro, but few evaluators would cite him as a top-20 player in the league.

Even the players themselves appear to have a tough time determining the value of safeties in the league today. NFL Network is in the midst of revealing "The Top 100 Players of 2018," a list that is voted upon by the players themselves, with 51 through 100 already out. Well, a little birdie told me that the next batch, 41-50, will feature the two highest-ranked safeties. So the players don't have a single safety among the top 40 talents in the league today?

All of this seems quite disrespectful to the position, especially considering how teams are currently using safeties as do-everything playmakers. From rushing the quarterback off the edges to locking down slot receivers and tight ends to hammering running backs in the hole as quasi-linebackers, safeties are asked to do more than ever in today's game. Yet, they fail to receive top dollar for their skills. I just don't understand the disconnect here.

"People think that you can find safeties anywhere," the former NFL defensive coordinator said. "Listen to how people always talk about aging cornerbacks moving inside to safety when they lose their athleticism. Sure, some guys can do it, but there's a lot more that goes into the position than some realize. You have to be smart and a communicator to play in the back end. You also need to be a solid tackler in the open field.

"You can't just throw anybody in there and expect them to have success."

As I continue pore over this offseason's safety market -- and some of the big names still on it -- I'm beginning to think executives still don't have a clue about the importance of having a big-time playmaker in the middle of the field, despite what I've always been told by coaches. With the NFL continuing to evolve into a passing league driven by quarterbacks, I think many organizations could regret inexplicably devaluing the position when balls are flying all over the yard in the fall.

 

 

 

I think this is going to be part of the reason we dont extend Ricardo Allen or atleast right .... The safety Position is going thru the same thing the DT market went thru ... I thought guys like Vaccaro, Reid, and Boston would  make around 6-7 mil a year,.. Thats the territory i felt Rico would be in but David Boston said that instead of offering 7 mil what he thought the market would be ... Teams are offereing close to the vet min (they are offering around 3.5 mil...

Look at the honey badger.. He went from signing a  five-year, $62.5 million extension (12.5 mil a year) to having to sign a 1 year deal for 7 mil ... Similar to wat Poe had to do with us last year.... Like the article said... Earl Thomas is even having trouble getting his money.

With the Qbs, guys who protect the QBs (O-Lineman) , Ppl who catch passes from the QB (WR) , Ppl who cover the pass catcher (CBs) , and pple who rush the passer (Pass rusher) prices sky rocketing .... The RB, DT (who are not pass rush specialist) ,off the ball LBs, or Safeties value has stalemate or decreased.

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Nice read.

Honey Badger has always been a bit overrated, IMO. Earl Thomas has pulled too many “I may retire” threats to get paid top dollar.

Rico is not elite, so he’s gonna get paid accordingly.

Eric Berry makes $13M per year. Best safety in NFL is Harrison Smith, who should break the bank his next contract. 

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40 minutes ago, Vandy said:

Nice read.

Honey Badger has always been a bit overrated, IMO. Earl Thomas has pulled too many “I may retire” threats to get paid top dollar.

Rico is not elite, so he’s gonna get paid accordingly.

Eric Berry makes $13M per year. Best safety in NFL is Harrison Smith, who should break the bank his next contract. 

Berry is fast enough to cover corners outright tho. Smith is a zone drop safety that reads and reacts. If the Julio deal can't be done simply o we is not having the cap, I could see a Berry/Jones trade. Of course we'd need one of their receivers also but who would t want Hill and Jones lined up together in the KC front office? 

We should've went after Berry hard. He single handedly beat us in 2016.

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5 minutes ago, GET-ME-A-DB-TD said:

Berry is fast enough to cover corners outright tho. Smith is a zone drop safety that reads and reacts. If the Julio deal can't be done simply o we is not having the cap, I could see a Berry/Jones trade. Of course we'd need one of their receivers also but who would t want Hill and Jones lined up together in the KC front office? 

We should've went after Berry hard. He single handedly beat us in 2016.

We supposedly did go after him hard.

Berry’s great when healthy. But safeties are like RBs, their bodies start breaking down once they hit their 30’s. 

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5 hours ago, GET-ME-A-DB-TD said:

Berry is fast enough to cover corners outright tho. Smith is a zone drop safety that reads and reacts. If the Julio deal can't be done simply o we is not having the cap, I could see a Berry/Jones trade. Of course we'd need one of their receivers also but who would t want Hill and Jones lined up together in the KC front office? 

We should've went after Berry hard. He single handedly beat us in 2016.

He also did a heck of a job fronting Gronk in their game last year prior to the injury. 

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2 hours ago, McMVP said:

This guy thinks Howie Roseman feels differently.  Good video.  I think his Safety/CB point is the third one...approx 6 minutes into the video.

 

I feel like philly is the wrong team to judge  by.... Philly Key to there teams are the O and D-Lines ..... But all this is made possible because they are paying there QB Pennies..... There team will look totally different in 2 years ... 

 

**** I think after this year there team look different... Burnett and Sweat will likely take over for Brandon Graham... Dude is a free agent and he has said he is looking to make top money...  Also with them kicking the can down the road..  Next year they are like 50 mil over the cap.. so dudes like Jernigan, Foles, Eritz, Jason Peters is most likely gone... 

 

But yea they are all in man

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Think part of the problem people have with evaluating safeties vs CB's is that a mediocre safety can mostly get by, whereas a mediocre CB will get picked on mercilessly.

Since you can hide a FS a little more than a CB, teams feel like they can plug a lot more guys in there and be ok.

The flip side, though, is a top flight FS is worth a ton.  A guy you don't have to hide, and who will make an impact and shut down the middle of the field/get turnovers.  I just think it's a bit binary...teams feel if you have that elite talent they're worth gold, but if they're the next level down...they're not that different than a lot of other players.

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4 minutes ago, takeitdown said:

Think part of the problem people have with evaluating safeties vs CB's is that a mediocre safety can mostly get by, whereas a mediocre CB will get picked on mercilessly.

Since you can hide a FS a little more than a CB, teams feel like they can plug a lot more guys in there and be ok.

The flip side, though, is a top flight FS is worth a ton.  A guy you don't have to hide, and who will make an impact and shut down the middle of the field/get turnovers.  I just think it's a bit binary...teams feel if you have that elite talent they're worth gold, but if they're the next level down...they're not that different than a lot of other players.

Agreed. Well thought out post. 

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