The Kansas City Chiefs signed recently-released Stanford Routt, who had signed a big deal in Oakland in 2011, but didn’t live up to it. When Reggie McKenzie came in as GM, his first personnel move after letting Hue Jackson go was jettisoning the Routt contract. The Chiefs have now swooped in and paid Routt.
The move to sign Routt is seen as a way to now franchise Dwayne Bowe rather than CB Brandon Carr, and let Carr go in free agency. Scott Pioli has denied that the Routt signing will impact Brandon Carr, though that is impossible to believe. The financial details are inconsistent – John Clayton says here that it is a 3 year deal with $6.5 guaranteed and $11 million this year, while the KC Star calls it a $20 million deal for 3 years with $6 million guaranteed in 2012. Whatever the specific numbers, that is starter money, above average #2 CB or borderline #1 starter money. The Chiefs also have Brandon Flowers. Kansas City has cap room, but I don’t see how Carr signs for less than Routt, or they choose to pay Routt that much to be a nickel corner.
Opinion, of course, is mixed, with some calling Routt a “cover corner” who can pair with Brandon Flowers. The data would suggest that he’s probably going to give Brandon Flowers plenty of days off, because teams will opt to pick on Routt continuously. He’s fast and may look the part, but has never fared well in any advanced numbers or in his performance. Among cornerbacks, Advanced NFL Stats had him at #71 in 2007, #88 in 2009, #85 in 2010, and #51 in 2011 in WPA (Win Probability Added). Pro Football Focus rated him as the 19th best cornerback for coverage, but his overall grade dropped to #89 in 2011 because of things like penalties, run support and tackling. In fact, Routt led the league with 17 penalties last year, and was tied for 2nd worst in touchdown passes allowed.
I don’t take any of those numbers as gospel for cornerbacks, scheme plays a role, and also for something like relying on play by play results, it will not assess how a player causes the quarterback to throw elsewhere by having good coverage. From year to year, there can be fluctuation because of things like that. That said, the fact that Routt has served in both the #2 role opposite Asomugha, and as the #1 corner without Asomugha, and has consistently rated as at best mediocre is a concern.
More concerning, though, is the age. Routt is 29 this year, while Carr will turn 26. Most people think Carr is the better overall corner, though there is some disagreement on that. That 3 year difference may not seem like much, but it basically puts Brandon Carr at the front of the peak age for cornerbacks, and Routt at the back. I looked through every cornerback to be selected as a first team all-pro since the merger, and who had already turned 30 by the 2011 season. Then, I found the highest rated season by approximate value (assigning divided credit if there were multiple seasons with the same rating).
Only 24% of corners had peaked before age 26, the age Carr will be in 2012. 58% of them peaked between ages 26 to 29, meaning 82% had peaked before age 30. Those three years make a big difference. Routt hasn’t been an all-pro (and Carr hasn’t either), but the likelihood that Routt actually gets better starting at age 29 and over the next three years is not great. Carr, on the other hand, likely still has his best year ahead of him.
The Routt contract is probably overpaying anyway, based on performance. It will look worse if Carr’s deal isn’t significantly higher.
[photo via US Presswire]