On Eagles' batting average vs. VORP

March, 11, 2014
3/11/14
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Philadelphia Eagles general manager Howie Roseman employed a baseball term to describe his team's 2013 approach to free agency. The Eagles tried to have a decent “batting average” by signing “a bunch of guys that aren't high-price guys.”

But batting average is so 1975. It would be more 2014 to look at the equivalent of the Eagles' VORP (that's Value Over Replacement Player for you football-only readers) from last year. That is a better way to analyze if that approach truly is more effective than making one or two pricier, higher risk/reward signings.

The Eagles signed nine free agents in March of last year. We won't count later moves, such as picking up running back Felix Jones -- only moves made in the primary free-agency period.

Four of the nine players were hits: linebacker Connor Barwin, punter Donnie Jones and cornerbacks Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher.

Five of the nine players were outs: strikeouts Kenny Phillips and Jason Phillips, groundout Isaac Sopoaga, popup Patrick Chung and line drive right at the shortstop James Casey.

Four-for-nine is a batting average of .444, which will get you in the Hall of Fame. But that basic metric doesn't tell the whole story.

Getting a good punter shouldn't count for as much as whiffing on a safety, let alone two of them. Williams and Fletcher were good, but not great. It should tell you something that virtually every offseason analysis and mock draft has the Eagles looking to upgrade the cornerback position.

Barwin was better than his stats said he was. His versatility inspired defensive coordinator Bill Davis to use him in different roles -- not all of which resulted in sacks or other easily identified big plays.

Sopoaga was paid $3 million by the Eagles before being traded away at midseason. Chung made $3 million to lose his starting job twice. Casey made $4 million to play special teams. Williams made $5.75 million and Fletcher $3.28 million while Brandon Boykin led the team with six interceptions for $480,000.

So it's not really about a .444 batting average. It's about what kind of value Roseman got for the money he spent, and whether or not it would have been better spent elsewhere. That's not VORP in the baseball sense, but it's an easy way to extend the “batting-average” analogy.

Is it better to drop $10 million on Chung, Sopoaga and Casey than to drop $10 on Jairus Byrd? Is it smarter to spend $9 million on two decent cornerbacks or the same amount on one Pro Bowl-caliber safety?

There may not be one right answer, but the questions are worth asking.

Phil Sheridan

ESPN Philadelphia Eagles reporter

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