Comparing the 49ers 2011 Free Agents: Aubrayo Franklin

There's been a great deal of discussion the past couple of days at Niners Nation about the relative worth of the team's free agents. It seems that most of the discussion has been on two in particular--Nate Clements (who always seems to garner a great deal of discussion), and Aubrayo Franklin. What I want to do is take a look at several of the 49er free agents, compare them to other players at their position in the league, take a look at their contract situation, and then try to figure out if they're worth keeping, and if so what kind of contract I would offer them if I were the front office.

For reference, my top 10 list of free agents that I think we need to sign goes like this:

  1. Alex Smith
  2. Aubrayo Franklin (our options here are incredibly limited)
  3. David Baas (really he and Spikes are tied)
  4. Takeo Spikes
  5. Ray McDonald (give him his starting DE spot. He's earned it)
  6. Manny Lawson
  7. Dashon Goldson
  8. Nate Clements (redo his contract)
  9. Barry Sims (we need more veteran presence on the offensive line especially with Heitman gone).    
  10. Travis LaBoy
I'm not going to talk about Alex Smith at all--I think that everything that can possibly be said about him has been said about him and I don't want to go over it yet again. However I do want to talk about the others and why I listed them in the order that I did and why I think they need to be resigned. 

I'll be using Pro Football Focus and their premium stats to go over most of these rankings. I love PFF for a couple of reasons. First is that they review every single play by every player and judge whether it was a negative or positive play. Secondly they keep track of things like QB hurries and QB hits, something which more traditional stat sites don't. 

I'll only be comparing players with 400 or more snaps in a season, because anything less than that and I don't regard the player as being a starter, and it's not fair to compare a starter to a non-starter. If we go by PFF's overall rankings (which can be dubious sometimes but are nevertheless useful for overall comparisons), we find that the list of top 10 NT with over 400 snaps goes like this.

1.) Kyle Willliams (BUF)
2.) Haloti Ngata (Baltimore)
3.) Sione Pouha (Jets)
4.) Paul Soliai (Dolphins)
5.) Antonio Garay (San Diego)
6.) Aubrayo Franklin (San Francisco)

Of those 6 players Williams is in contract through 2012, Ngata, Pouha, Soliai, and Garay are all in contract through 2011. That pretty much leaves Franklin as the number one available nose tackle. The rest of the crop of nose tackles is pretty poor

Let's look at overall rankings for passing and running to see how Franklin stacks up

Vs the Run

1.) Kyle Williams (Buffalo)
2.) Aubrayo Franklin (San Francisco)
3.) Sione Pouha (Jets)
4.) Haloti Ngata (Ravens)
5.) Vince Wilfork (New England)
6.) Antonio Garay (San Diego)

 

Vs the Pass

1.) Jay Ratliff (Cowboys)
2.) Kyle Williams (Buffalo)
3.) Shaun Rogers (Cleveland)
4.) Antonio Garay (San Diego)
5.) Haloti Ngata (Baltimore)

Franklin is ranked next to last in pass rushing--but that's because of the way he was used defensively. He was not used as a pass rusher, but was used to clog up the middle to stop the run. In passing situations he was pulled out and we switched to a hybrid defense. 

Now on to individual statistics

QB sacks
1.) BJ Raji
2.) Antonio Garay
3.) Kyle Williams
4.) Jay Ratliff
5.) Shaun Rogers

QB Pressure
1.) Kyle Williams (Buffalo)
2.) Jay Ratliff (Dallas)
3.) BJ Raji (Green Bay)
4.) Amobi Okoye (Houston)
5.) Antonio Garay (San Diego)

QB Hits
1.) Kyle Williams (Buffalo)
2.) Jay Ratliff (Dallas)
3.) BJ Raji (Green Bay)
4.) Amobi Okoye (Houston)
5.) Antonio Garay (San Diego


Total Tackles
1.) Kyle Williams (Buffalo)
2.) Aubrayo Franklin (San Francisco)
3.) Sione Pouha (Jets)
4.) Jamal Williams (Denver)
5.) Antonio Garay (San Diego)

Offensive Stops (These are plays that are offensive failures--no ru sack, stopped short of 1st down, etc.)
1.) Kyle Williams (Buffalo)
2.) Aubrayo Franklin (San Francisco)
3.) Antonio Garay (San Diego)
4.) Jamal Williams (Denver)
5.) Haloti Ngata (Baltimore)

From these rankings on pass rushing you can see how different teams use their nose tackles. The Cowboys and Packers focus on pass rushing with their nose tackles, as does Houston. It's also interesting to see the fantastic year Kyle Williams had last season, as well as Antonio Garay.  Garay has been an under utilized player in San Diego, competing with Jamal Williams for playing time before Williams left for Denver. Last season was his first as a full-time starter and he did a great job. He's also being seriously underpaid by San Diego, making only $640,000 this year. If he doesn't get a deal done during the season expect a full out bidding war for him next year. 


Contracts

I now want to look at the contracts for each of the players mentioned in this article, to see what an average contract is for the nose tackle spot. Again I have to be somewhat selective here because we can't compare rookie deals to free agent deals, so I may have to cheat and dip outside this pool of players for a decent selection of numbers.

Kyle Williams--5 years $14.5 million (rookie deal)
Aubrayo Franklin--1 year $7.03 million (franchise tag)
Haloti Ngata--1 year $12.476 million
Sione Pouha--4 years $5.80 million (second contract when he was primarily used as a backup player and as a defensive end. He didn't start playing NT until this last season)
Paul Soliai--1 year $12.381 million
Antonio Garay--2 years $1.28 million (Garay was a 7th round pick who spent his rookie year on the Browns practice squad, played 2 seasons in Chicago as a DE, started in SD on the practice squad and then earned the starting job)
Vince Wilfork--5 years $40 million
Jay Ratliff--5 years $21 million
Shaun Rogers--1 year $4 million (includes $1.5 million in incentives)
BJ Raji--5 years $22.9 million (rookie deal)
Amobi Okoye--6 years $15.4 million (rookie deal--plus he has the distinction of being the youngest player ever drafted in the first round at only 19)
Jamal Williams--3 years $22 million with Denver (this was when he was 34 years old. He was cut last season after tearing his triceps)

So what does that tell us about contracts for nose tackles? To me it indicates two things. First, when a nose tackle is first starting out or unknown you can sign them for incredibly cheap relative to their value to the team. Secondly, once a nose tackle becomes well known or has some experience he can command high salary figures.  We only have two long term veteran deals here where the player signed as a starter, and those are Jay Ratliff's and Vince Wilfork's. Ngata's deal was done to avoid franchising him, but the Ravens are going to have to work out a long term deal for him or lose him. 

Even an average nose tackle can make $7-8 million per year in the NFL on a free agent contract. 

 

What teams are looking for nose tackles?

Redskins, Browns, Cardinals (if they stick with their 3-4 hybrid), Texans (there are strong indications that Houston will part ways Okoye rather than pay him a contract extension since according to the terms of the new CBA he will be an unrestricted free agent), Broncos. There are only two halfway decent nose tackles on the table, and one of them is Aubrayo Franklin who excelled against the run. The Broncos (if they don't resign Williams and if Franklin is available why would they?) and Redskins could both use a great deal of help against the run, and the Texans might get in the mix too.

Franklin should get at least a 5 year deal worth $40 million, with another $5 million in incentives built into it. I'd give him half of that in guaranteed money to sweeten the pot so he won't end up somewhere with an owner who's got deep pockets. The Redskins may be willing to spend big on Franklin, but they've got so many holes to fill that they can't afford to do that, plus they've already been burned once on spending big time for a defensive linemen. 

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