FanPost

Branden Albert - To Pay or Not to Pay

That is the question:

Whether 'tis better tow'rds the goal of winning
To give the man a top-five tackle's pay
Or take back a second-rounder in exchange
And send him on his way: to Arizona,
To Cutler in Chicago, or the Jags

Ahem.

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A By-No-Means-Authoritative Look at Brandon Albert

Straight to it then.

Branden Albert's current value lies in what left tackles are "supposed" to be known for: pass protection -- protecting the "blindside" of a (right-handed) quarterback.

Prior to his injury last year, Albert was top five in Pro Football Focus' "Pass Blocking Efficiency" (PBE) stat, which measures QB hits, hurries, pressures, and sacks against total snaps in pass protection.

Even after his back injury affected his play, he still graded out top ten in PBE.

For comparison, he landed in the bottom 15 in 2010, and was top 10 in 2011. Improvement.

Pro Football Focus, aside from collecting valuable information to produce stats like PBE, also grades out every player on a per snap basis and renders a verdict of each play. The cumulative result at the end of the season equals a player's "Rating."

Albert's total 2012 "Rating" -- including snaps in both pass protection and run blocking -- was +13.8, which placed him 16th among left tackles.

It is important to remember, though, that PFF's Rating of every player is indeed cumulative. It is not an efficiency stat, per se. Whereas most tackles we would compare Albert to played over 1,000 snaps, Albert knotted 722.

If we grade out his +13.8 as if he had played 300 more snaps, he jumps about 5.7 points up, placing him 12th among left tackles.

If we get even more hypothetical, we could assume a full season of Albert at his pace pre-injury.

In his first 8 games, he graded out a +17.5. If we double it to 16 games, he reaches +35, placing him among the top three left tackles in the NFL behind Houston's Duane Brown and San Francisco's Joe Staley.

Before his back injury sidelined him and affected his performance, Albert was playing like an "elite" LT.

In spite of the injury, Albert managed to remain a good deal for the Chiefs thanks to his great start in 2012.

PFF released their "Performance Based Value" for the entire Chiefs team back in February. The thing to notice is men like DE Glenn Dorsey will appear "overvalued" because, if you miss time due to injury, the team still has to pay you.

When we see Branden Albert missing from the "overvalued" category, it means, despite his missing time, he still provided good value given his contract.

Of course, 2012 was the last year of Branden's "5-year, $15 million-ish" rookie contract; and, going ahead, he will be looking for "top five left tackle" money: something over/around $10 million per year.

Thus, we ask...

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How Much is #76 Worth?

Another #76 on another team -- the 49ers' right tackle Anthony Davis -- signed a 5-yr extension ($37.3 million/$17 guaranteed) this offseason that will make him the 12th highest paid tackle in the league.

Davis, much like Albert, has improved every year; but the biggest difference between them is that Davis is entering his 4th year at age 23. He played his first snap for San Francisco in 2010, at 20 years young.

The new contract will take Davis to his "peak year" as a tackle, 28, at which time the 49ers can decide what to do next. This is black-and-white compared to Albert's case, where any long-term deal would take him past age 30.

On top of that, the cap hit of San Francisco's entire o-line in 2013 will be an insignificant 15.9 million (estimated).

That is a fantastic price for such an elite group of maulers -- and they are a young group, to boot.

If your goal is to move closer to the best o-line in football at a lower cost, then signing Albert to a long-term, top five LT deal is a step in the wrong direction in my opinion.

However, that is your only option other than the "franchise tag while looking to trade" option.

Branden Albert will not, after all, move to right tackle. In part because left tackles get paid more, but also because he is a professional and, honestly, is a good enough left tackle that asking him to move to RT is a bit insulting.

Before Davis' 49er deal mentioned above, 13 of the top 14 paid tackles were on the left. For similar monetary/pride reasons, he will not move to guard. Nor should anyone expect him to.

Though it should also be understood that times are changing for LTs, such as those who entered the game during the old CBA and are still wanting big money. So while Albert has to do what's best for him -- seek elite money at a potentially league-wide overpaid position -- the Chiefs also have to do what's best for them: not overpay. For anything.

It's something they have struggled with as recent as last year; and part of saving money is being willing to let good players go if the price is too high to keep them.

For left tackles, Jake Long is the best recent example of this, as Miami chose to let him walk "without even offering him his $15.4 million franchise tag salary."

And Long's not alone. Via Pro Football Focus, Exhibit B, Washington's Trent Williams:

Another victim of the old CBA, Williams actually had a pretty good season where he ranked 19th among all offensive tackles with a PFF grade of +18.8. Coming out of his best season in the league hopes will be high for Williams, especially with him finishing joint 12th among players at the position with a PBE [Pass Blocking Efficiency] Rating of 96.1. Still, with that lofty cap hit he would still have had a negative value differential had he been perfect in pass protection and just didn't represent good value for money through little fault of his own.

According to PFF's "Performance Based Value", the Redskins overpaid for Williams by $7.1 million.

Therefore, while we can sit here and ask ourselves if Branden Albert is worth top five LT money, we have to ask a simultaneous question: "is any LT worth top five LT money?"

The latter may appear academic, but we can always fall back on the fact that Albert has played like a top five LT for a mere 1/2 season. Improvement is great, but consistency should be required before dishing out top dollar for anything over a long period.

While the Chiefs' franchise left tackle enters his "peak" year strong, has pass blocked over the last two years at a high level, and may be worth his near-$10 million price tag by the end of 2013, there is little reason to believe he keeps that level of play up into his 30's.

This according to Chase Stuart at Football Perspective, who (roughly) determined the "peak" age of tackles is 28, and that they plummet after that.

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Speculation on Reid's New System

This is something I noticed and thought could play a role. Take it for what you will.

New Head Coach Andy Reid will be bringing his own West Coast offense to Kansas City. Alex Smith has had his greatest success running a balanced offense with quick strikes on short/intermediate routes, play-action passing, and utilizing the run game well with audibles at the line.

Him and Reid should make a nice pairing, so where does Branden Albert fit in all this?

As mentioned, Albert's pass protection has improved every year for the last three, including last season where he was on pace to protect at an elite LT level.

The story with his run-blocking, however, is contrary: yearly regression, leading to his -3.7 Rating in 2012.

Does this affect his value in Reid's system?

Well, another awesome thing Pro Football Focus does is record the "time in pocket" for each quarterback. How long do they take to throw? How long was their average sack? And so on.

Out of 38 qualified quarterbacks, Alex Smith had the 11th quickest release time at 2.53 seconds. If no one was open, or Smith did not want to force a throw, he took a sack -- and all of his sacks came 2.6 seconds or more after the snap.

For comparison, Colin Kaepernick's average time to attempt a throw was 2.88 seconds -- the 2nd longest in the league. As we all already knew, Kaepernick was waiting for those deep shots more than Alex.

As for the Chiefs, Matt Cassel last year attempted a pass, on average, 2.66 seconds after the snap. Much like Smith, 90% of Cassel's sacks came 2.6 seconds or later, meaning his line was giving him time and he was either failing to make a play or his receivers were failing to get open (or both).

Given that his completion percentage on attempts after 2.6 seconds was 51.1 -- good for 30th out of 38 passers -- it seems Cassel was often inaccurate and often forcing the issue.

Smith's completion percentage on attempts after 2.6 seconds was the 2nd best in the league at 65.6 percent, behind the veteran Peyton Manning; though he was also taking late sacks at an Aaron Rodgers-esque pace (again, not necessarily a bad thing).

If Reid is going to utilize the short/intermediate routes of the WCO, then Smith will be getting rid of the ball quicker than Cassel did. If no one is open, then the Chiefs' new signal caller will be holding on to the ball and waiting for the right throw or taking a sack.

So why pay elite money for protection when you do not need elite protection? You need to give Alex enough time to let the short/intermediate routes develop, not enough time to hit the 60+ yard bomb.

Even further, given that Alex and Reid will want to utilize the amazing Jamaal Charles to full effect, why pay elite money for someone whose run-blocking is below average?

Reid may rather replace the protection Albert provides with a brutal mauler who will come to every snap with a huge attitude problem and take it out on the guy in front of him (see: Eric "The Red" Fisher).

That is what San Francisco's line is composed of: maulers with attitude problems (see: Anthony Davis on Twitter).

I do not believe this issue alone would affect contract negotiations with Albert; however it is possible that this issue, combined with everything else, is playing a part. If Reid and Dorsey were so quick to bring in the guys they wanted; the guys that they believe fit their system, then there could be a schematic reason for the shyness in committing to Albert.

Again, I feel that this particular section is a bit reaching; so if you agree or don't agree please comment so I can get a better grasp on things. Thanks.

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Pretentious Posturing

Branden Albert has played, on whole, above average for three seasons. His pass protection has been elite while his run-blocking has suffered. He was on pace for top three numbers overall last year until his injury.

He may or may not be ideal for Reid's system and, nearing age 29, any long-term contract may not pay dividends as he gets into his 30's.

So, what would I do?

I would prefer to sign him to a short-term contract that is top 10ish, rather than top five, money. I think Branden's steady improvement and recent record of quality play has earned as much. Plus, the Chiefs line was good last year -- arguably the best part of the Kansas City offense -- and on the rise; so to see it now being broken up willy-nilly is a tad frustrating.

But, if Branden refuses to back down on his demands for a big-money deal, then I would keep him for one year under the franchise tag and be aggressive in search of a trade at the right price. Which is exactly what the Chiefs appear to be doing.

Reid and Dorsey, after all, have a lot of options here, and they also hold the deck.

With a valuable LT and a valuable first overall pick, Kansas City is wise to play things safe. Either someone will "overpay" (in the Chiefs' eyes) for Albert, or he may capitulate on his monetary demands, or they will at least get his "peak" year out of him while he is franchised.

The fact that Dorsey/Reid have been very aggressive in getting the guys they wanted signed and signed quick -- yet remain coy with Albert -- tells us they may be waiting to see what value they can get for him before moving forward with the draft.

Therefore, unless the trade offer is excellent from another team, I would expect to see Branden Albert as a part of the 2013 Chiefs.

By the way, your baseball squad is "Fandangoing", and I mightily approve.

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follow the nonsense @liberty_JAC for article updates

i plan on getting Chiefs stuff up weekly

will have an all-22 post up at Niners Nation on potential Chief MILB Larry Grant in the coming days

i also write 49er stats/all-22 stuff weekly, if that at all interests you

cheers!

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This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Arrowhead Pride's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Arrowhead Pride writers or editors.

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