Welcome to the Wednesday edition of The Cooler, where sometimes it’s nice when research confirms conventional wisdom. Let’s get to it:
*Pro Football Focus has a long and interesting piece about NFL quarterback spending and relative value. It’s built largely around the question of whether the Seahawks were wise to pay Russell Wilson a big-money extension but there is a lot of data included that gets to the heart of a big question in Minnesota: “The point of the discussion is whether paying quarterbacks top dollar leaves too little in the way of additional spending to compete – due to a lack of talent on the rest of the roster.”
The conclusion, while not surprising, is sobering: Paying elite quarterbacks big money is a good idea and translates into wins. Paying comparable money for good but not great QBs is a much bigger risk. Per the story: “Scarcity is real in the NFL; every dollar that is spent on one player cannot be spent on another, and while the quarterback is the most important position, there are even diminishing returns to paying them too much money. … If he’s a true superstar, pay him. If not, move on.”
This is, of course, the big question about Kirk Cousins. He ranked No. 14 in PFF’s rankings last season — better than average, but not great. The year before that with Washington he was No. 20. The year before that, he was No. 13. The Vikings of course were in a unique position last offseason. They craved QB stability and landed Cousins — the best QB on the open market.
They had to pay a hefty sum — $84 million guaranteed over three years — to get him. They likely knew that was a market-driven overpay at the time, but they either figured it was worth it anyway or thought Cousins with the right structure and team around him could move into another echelon and live up to the contract.
One year in, the results were mixed at best. Cousins put up good numbers and was durable. But you could also argue that his big contract kept the Vikings from being able to adequately protect him, negating his value. Unless the Vikings improve on the offensive line via the draft, free agency and internal improvement/coaching, 2019 figures to be more of the same.
Where the Vikings were smart was in the length of the deal. If Cousins moves into the top 8-10, say, of NFL QBs this season then the Vikings might be proven right and should consider a long-term extension.
If 2019 plays out similarly to 2018, the Vikings by PFF logic (and sound logic overall) should be ready to move on with a younger and much cheaper QB after the 2020 season when his deal expires. Doing so is a risk, as the Vikings’ quest for a franchise QB in past years has shown. But overpaying a good-but-not-great QB is an even bigger risk.
*The Blazers’ Damian Lillard has been dynamite all series against Oklahoma City, but his night Tuesday was otherworldly. He scored 50 points, including the game-winning 37-foot three-pointer as time expired to end the game and series. Then he waved good-bye to the Thunder after his follow through. That’s cold. Here’s a cool view of it:
*By the way, since I wrote last week that the NBA playoffs have been less predictable because the lower seeds were holding their own, the higher seeded teams have gone a combined 24-3. Five of the eight higher seeds have already won their series, and the other three are a game away from clinching.
*In the NHL, on the other hand, four of the seven first-round series have been won by the lower seeds — including the second wild card in both conferences. Only higher-seeded San Jose’s Game 7 win over Vegas on Tuesday kept the West from having a clean sweep of lower seeds winning all four first-round series.