Leonard Floyd continues to have “prove it” years in the eyes of many fans and pundits. Supposedly, he is a player who perpetually needs to step it up, or who is on the cusp of something great. The reality is that regardless of what the public thinks, the Bears are committed to him for two more years.
This panel on Floyd has already looked at his past with the Bears, and now we are trying to look ahead into the future. Panelists include Erik Christopher Duerrwaechter, Ken Mitchell, Jacob Infante, WhiskeyRanger, Robert Schmitz, EJ Snyder, and Josh Sunderbruch.
3). What sort of contract do you feel Floyd has earned moving forward? Why?
ECD: It depends on if he wants to stay with the Bears or not. Seriously, his value will drastically change depending on his intentions for free agency.
The NFL per season average for all edge players, at least according to data I pulled from OverTheCap, is approximately $3.2 million. There’s no way he should touch top 10 money, which currently amounts to contracts averaging $94.5 million total value, with the yearly average being just under $18.4 million and $37.1 million guaranteed. And who are the top 10 players, at least in yearly average? The list is as follows: Khalil Mack, Demarcus Lawrence, Frank Clark, Von Miller, Trey Flowers, Cameron Jordan, Dee Ford, Olivier Vernon, Chandler Jones, and Za’Darius Smith.
This is where it gets interesting. The top 25 contracts on a per-year basis average around $15.1 million, thanks to the top heavy contracts for Khalil Mack ($23.5 million), Demarcus Lawrence ($21 million), and Frank Clark ($20.8 million). Leonard Floyd sits at 50th with his rookie deal being $3.9 million per year. However, Floyd’s contract jumps to $13.2 million in 2020 thanks to the Bears picking up his contract’s 5th year option.
I think his monetary value will rise into the top 25 range.
If he’s looking to re-sign this year with the Chicago Bears, who already have rewarded Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, and Khalil Mack handsomely, then I see him being offered a 4-year $54 million deal. That averages into a $13.5 million per-year contract, which becomes a slight pay-raise for Floyd.
If he decides to wait, and has a big 2019 season, then I see Leonard Floyd’s asking price turning into a 5-year contract worth up to $72.5 million. The average would be $14.5 million, and that would likely be impacted by 1) how weak the edge position is projected to be in 2020’s free agency class and 2) a potentially big payday for Jadeveon Clowney. This scenario would be hard for the Bears to accommodate, but not impossible.
Likewise, if he decides to wait and falls short of expectations in 2019, a fair offer could be a 4-year deal worth up to $42 million ($10.5 million per year).
Ken: I think this year will be very different for Floyd, because Pagano won’t use him in coverage nearly as much as Fangio did. Fangio used Floyd in coverage A LOT. Barring injury, Floyd’s sack numbers will be way up this year. I expect him to earn a $12M per contract.
Jacob: I believe Floyd has earned a contract roughly within the ballpark of roughly $8-9 million AAV on a four-year deal. However, I think that he will end up getting much more than that: $12 million AAV, to be exact. The market for young, talented edge rushers is often a barren one, and a player like Floyd could become a premium target for some teams who don’t have a great pass-rushing unit. Preston Smith received a deal from the Packers that saw him earn $13 million AAV after tallying 24.5 sacks and 59 quarterback hits in four seasons with the Redskins. Floyd sits at 15.5 and 32 through three seasons, respectively, so barring a breakout year, he hasn’t earned more than that. However, given his athleticism, length and ability to be used in many different ways, he should come close.
WhiskeyRanger: Oof. That’s tough. I mean, he’s obviously not going to command top tier pass rusher type money, but he is a good overall player and a starter on a top defense. That’s worth something. So, somewhere in the neighborhood of 12-15 mil per year sounds about right to me, depending on how this season goes, obviously.
Robert S: It may sound like I’m being shrewd, but I think Floyd has earned himself a 3-4 year contract valued at 8-9M per year. While most edge rushers get paid big money, I don’t think Floyd should be thought of as an edge rusher -- he’s a linebacker, specifically an outside linebacker, so I think his next contract ought to be more like Danny Trevathan’s than Khalil Mack’s. Now I don’t think there’s any way that Floyd will sign a deal that low, certainly the market will likely offer him 12-15M, so I expect him to leave the Bears once his contract expires and bring us back a high-round compensatory pick. With Eddie Jackson, Cody Whitehair, and Mitchell Trubisky’s inevitable extensions to think about, I don’t see a world where Leonard Floyd fits into the Bears’ future plans.
EJ: This is where it gets really interesting. A lot of the hate I see directed at Floyd is due to an improper categorization more than anything. Fans wanted him to be Von Miller... and he’s clearly not. He can rush the passer but not at an elite level. What he can do is cover backs, TE’s, and even the occasional slot receiver in the short zone and do it very well. His length and athleticism make that possible where many “pure” rushers couldn’t dream of having the success he does there. He’s also technically sound against the run and very willing in that role. Many other “pure” rushers cannot say the same.
I almost think this comes down the split at the position that we haven’t considered. There is nuance at OLB just like there is with WR. In the WR ranks you would never compare apples (take for instance Deandre Hopkins - a clear and dominant WR1) to oranges (someone like Golden Tate - a good WR2 but not an alpha to lead an NFL passing attack), but that is exactly what we do with OLB’s. We just lump them all together and if they don’t get sacks, we say they are not good. That is way too binary for my tastes. In reality very few teams trot out two alpha rushers at the OLB (San Diego and Denver come to mind). Almost every other team has a primary rusher and more versatile “OLB2” whose responsibilities are more varied. If we judged Floyd that we he’d be a lot closer to the top of the heap than we might think.
Given that I think if Floyd is willing to take more of Charles Leno or Bobbie Massie type deal (good money but not pushing the top of the market... the kind of contract that looks VERY good about a year later when the market continues to progress) then I would be happy if he remained a Bear after his option expires. If not? Then finding another worthy OLB to pair with Floyd will rise quickly on Ryan Pace’s to-do list.
Josh: I tend to think he will land around $12-14million range, mostly for the reasons that others have laid out. That’s a broad range, but it’s also not that much given the position he plays. Of course, this will leave the Bears some interesting choices to make about how they handle him.
4). Any last thoughts?
ECD: I find Floyd to be a rock-solid, humble player who deserves his chance at earning the biggest payday possible. I also believe the Bears have a better defense with him in the lineup, as opposed to being out. He also needs to prove himself as a player truly worth a top-ten pick, and dominate the opportunities he’ll receive from Hicks, Goldman, Mack, and even Smith commanding all the attention. That is, if he’s searching for the money.
If he’s not searching for the money, then he’s in the perfect situation in Chicago. All the pressure that was previously on him to becoming “the guy” on defense is now relieved. Instead of hoping for him to become Khalil Mack or DeMarcus Ware 2.0, we can reasonably expect him to become more like Alex Brown. And, quite frankly, having that type of player paired with Khalil Mack is more than good enough to dominate the edges for years to come.
Ken: I predict Floyd will have a breakout season this year, and may price himself out of Chicago’s long-term plans.
Jacob: With three seasons under his belt, Floyd likely isn’t going to be much more than he currently is at this point. He could see an uptick in production due to being in a Chuck Pagano scheme that is more aggressive than that of Vic Fangio, but the idea of a true “breakout” season is unlikely.
In regards to whether or not the Bears should bring Floyd back, I would truthfully pass if the market plays out as projected. The Bears have several key players with expiring contracts within the next two offseason. Cody Whitehair and Eddie Jackson are bound to demand contracts well into the double digits in terms of AAV, and the likes of Tarik Cohen and Allen Robinson could also be re-signed in 2021. The timing of the expiration of Floyd’s contract could make the Bears choose between him and a player like Cohen or Robinson.
Keep in mind the Khalil Mack effect here. Mack’s presence in Chicago’s defense makes everyone around him better. In Floyd’s case as a pass rusher, he is given many more one-on-one opportunities, something any competent starting edge rusher can do relatively well in. Factor in Akiem Hicks serving as a force up the middle, and the attention is hardly ever on the edge rusher opposite Mack. Would it be more salary cap-friendly to let Floyd sign a massive contract elsewhere and replace him with an early draft pick who would save them millions of dollars while getting similar, if not better results? We saw the Bears let Bryce Callahan and Adrian Amos walk in free agency when they got sizable contracts, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they did the same with Floyd.
WhiskeyRanger: I like Leonard Floyd. Is he what I hoped he’d be? No. Can he still develop into a dominant pass rusher? Probably not (though, we’ll have to see what Pagano does with him scheme wise, cause ya never know). But he is an important part of this defense and I’m glad he’s here. He’s not a superstar, but he’s not a bust either. As unpredictable as the NFL draft is, that’s a win in my book. I mean, we could have been stuck with Eli Apple.
Robert S: Leonard Floyd is and has been who he looked like he would be, but Bears fans always wanted more. We wanted Khalil Mack, but instead we got a versatile linebacker who could effectively cover tight ends but couldn’t consistently win 1 on 1 pass rushes. We misclassified him, expected him to become what he wasn’t, and after literally acquiring Khalil Mack his role made more sense than ever. He’s a complimentary linebacker that can rush the passer, and while I do think that’s useful I don’t think it’s worth what he’ll be paid as a free agent. I hope he succeeds next season, certainly I’d love for him to prove me wrong, but I now view him as a 2-year stopgap outside ‘backer with “3rd round compensatory pick” written all over him.
EJ: Injuries have to be considered with Floyd. He hasn’t been brittle exactly, but he has missed (or been limited in) a fair number of games. If he is able to put together a full campaign this season it will certainly boost his cause for a new contract sooner rather than later.
Josh: As I mentioned when talking about Floyd’s potential next contract, I think the Bears are in a good situation here. If they can hang on to Floyd with a team-friendly contract (call it anything under $11mil/year), then they have a nice utility player that they can afford. As Robert points out, tough, if Floyd gets offered more than that elsewhere, then the Bears will have gotten 5 years of decent value out of a first-round pick and they will be set up for what will likely by a 3rd-round comp pick (or a 4th at worst) when he leaves. The only way they can mess this up is if they chase him and pay him too much (anything over $13-14million a year) or if they let him go only to sign a high-priced free agent to replace him.
To review, most of the panel feels the market is going to pay Floyd at least $12million per year on his next contract, and that there’s a strong possibility he’ll get more.
Those are our thoughts on Leonard Floyd heading into his fourth season in Chicago.