Free agency will officially open tonight at 6:01 p.m. ET and during the course of the day, over the weekend and likely next week as well, you'll be hearing all sorts free agent safeties being connected to the Cowboys.
Abram Elam, Michael Huff, Dawan Landry, Roman Harper and many more names will pop up as potential candidates for one of two spots in the Cowboys secondary. To help you stay on top the who's who in the safety market, we've compiled a little free agent safety primer with key stats for all the free agent safeties who played at least 25% of their teams' snaps last year.
After the break, we look at 25 free agent safeties, how they held up in pass coverage and against the run, how effective they were in pass rushing and how they ultimately graded out.
Obviously, stats are not the only thing that counts in evaluating free agents, otherwise the Cowboys would have re-signed Gerald Sensabaugh already. But stats do help a little to form a picture of a player you may have never heard of, or whom you've never watched play.
All of the stats below are highly contingent upon the scheme, position, number of snaps, type of defense and many other variables that affect a players' numbers. Just because one guy has a better defensive passer rating (to use just one example) than another guy doesn't automatically make him better. So don't take the rankings as gospel, rather, use them as an orientation as you navigate the Cowboys' options among free agent safeties.
Free agent safeties in pass coverage
Quick explanation of the stats we'll use below:
Burn rate: number of catches a defensive back allows versus the number of balls thrown at the receiver he is covering. For example, a burn rate of 80% would mean that opponents have completed eight of ten passes thrown at the receiver the cornerback is covering. The lower the number the better.
Defensive Passer Rating (DPR): uses the same data and formula used for the passer rating for the quarterback (i.e. completion percentage, yard per attempt, touchdowns and interceptions), but applies them to a defender, where they become completion percentage allowed (aka 'burn rate'), yards per attempt allowed, touchdowns allowed and interceptions made. The lower the number the better
NFL rank: DPR ranking among 85 safeties who played on at least 25% of their teams' snaps in 2010.
|Name||Team||Snaps||Targets||Receptions||Yds||TDs||INTs||Burn Rate||DPR||NFL Rank|
|Red indicates player has signed a new contract|
I've left Weddle, Mikell and Manning in the table, even though they are no longer available, simple to have some reference points of where some of the most sought after players in 2011 rank.
Pass rushing, tackles and stops
Again, just to get the definitions right:
Pass rushing points (PRP): Total Sacks + (Total Hits x 0.75) + (Total Hurries x 0.75) = PRP
NFL rank: PRP ranking among 85 safeties who played on at least 25% of their teams' snaps in 2010.
Stops: the number of solo defensive tackles that constitute an offensive failure
|Name||Team||Snaps||QB Sacks||QB Hits||QB Hurries||PRP||Tackles||Assists||Missed Tackles||Stops||NFL Rank|
Overall 2011 Safety Grades:
We'll use the Pro Football Focus grades for this last exercise. Once again, just to make sure we have the definitions right:
PFF Grades: PFF look at game tape, assign a grade for every play and then ‘normalize’ the data so that the average player for a given position is graded at zero. The higher the positive grading the better the performance and vice versa.
However, these grades are cumulative. Say you have two players who consistently are graded with a +1.0 per game. However, one is injured after eight games, the other plays the full 16 games. The result: one player gets a +8.0 for the season, while the other gets a +16.0 although they basically played the exactly the same.
Expected Points Added: EPA is a metric developed by Brian Burke at Advanced NFL Stats. It measures the impact a given player has on a given play by comparing the result of the play to the league average results on plays from that down and distance (details here). The result is calculated as expected points a team would score as a result of that play. The higher the value the better.
|Rank||Name||Team||Age||Snaps||Overall Grade||Pass Rush||Coverage||vs. Run||Penalties||EPA|
Say what you will about these grades, but they are easily the numbers that correlate the strongest with the signings that have already happened.
Now that you have all this data, who do you think the Cowboys should go after, and are there candidates here that you haven't thought about before?