Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

05 Mar 2012

Houston Re-Signs Arian Foster

$18 million in the first season (including the signing bonus) and $30 million over the first three years of the deal, according to Adam Schefter.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 05 Mar 2012

28 comments, Last at 08 Mar 2012, 6:08am by Mr Shush


by Mr Shush :: Mon, 03/05/2012 - 12:26pm

And $43.5m total, which given the structure of the contract and his age is probably relevant - it's entirely possible he could play out the whole deal at a high level.

Still, whether you view it as $10m a year or $8.7m, that is a lot of money for a running back, even one as good and complete as Foster. It's certainly better for the team than the Adrian Peterson deal, I suppose.

by Carlos :: Mon, 03/05/2012 - 12:45pm

What are the odds they don't regret this? Sure he's young, but he's an RB who's already had hammy problems. One can take the RBs-are-fungible argument way too far, way too easily, but Ben Tate sure did look good this year subbing for the injured Foster as the starter (in addition to coming off the bench).

You have got to go back a long ways to find a SB team that was led by a great RB, or even an offense that was RB-led, period. Maybe the 'hawks or Panthers with Alexander and Davis, though neither RB was actually great.

Not how I'd allocate my precious cap space.

by SFC B (not verified) :: Mon, 03/05/2012 - 1:45pm

I think the only thing which makes Houston regret this deal is Foster's health. Performance-wise I doubt he's going to disappoint. As a Texans fan I've gotten to watch Foster a lot, and it does make me a bit biased, but I think he really does have that "superstar" quality. Tate and Foster are, to my untrained eyes, very similar in their physical tools, but Foster sees the hole and reacts to it better than Tate does. Maybe it's an experience issue, but I think the Texans' window to compete has finally opened and they probably don't have the time to wait until Tate gets that experience.

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 03/06/2012 - 6:02am

I'm not sure I'd agree on the physical tools point: Tate is faster and more powerful, but Foster has astonishing lateral agility. Between the 20s, on conventional running plays, that coupled with Foster's superior vision seems to net out around even, but Foster is far better in every other situation - in the red zone (the Texans had horrible problems punching the ball in while he was out), in short yardage, on draw plays, and above all in the passing game. Foster is an excellent receiver, Tate an indifferent one; Foster is a pretty good blocker, Tate an absolutely atrocious one.

It's more money than I hoped they would have to pay, but on balance I still believe it's worth it if Foster stays healthy. Given the choice between keeping Foster and Williams, I'd keep Foster and it's not close - even though Tate is probably a better running back than Reed is an OLB.

by RickD :: Mon, 03/05/2012 - 2:48pm

Marshall Faulk?
Emmitt Smith?
The 2007 Giants were a rushing team, even though neither Bradshaw nor Jacobs is an alpha dog.

Teams have gone to pass-wacky offenses, but it's still very helpful to have a high-quality RB, esp. one that makes a lot of pass receptions.

by Independent George :: Mon, 03/05/2012 - 3:13pm

Especially since there's no guarantee that the league will remain a pass-happy environment in the years to come. Inevitably, teams adjust their defenses, rules change, and players adapt.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 03/06/2012 - 9:52am

Pittsburgh Steelers. Seattle Seahawks. (Did you think Elisabeth Hasselback's brother-in-law was the star of that team?)

by bubqr :: Mon, 03/05/2012 - 1:09pm

I do love Arian Foster, I really think he is one of the best backs in the league, and he seems to be a really likeable guy. But that kind of money to a RB, given Houston's cap space, I'm not really sure about.

by battlered90 (not verified) :: Mon, 03/05/2012 - 2:04pm

Texans fan. Seems like a lot of money to give an RB and a long deal to give to an RB. The tiny sound you heard was the door to resign Mario Williams that was open a sliver slamming shut.

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 03/06/2012 - 5:55am

That door was closed a long time ago. The team could have let Foster walk and not been able to match what cap-richer teams will be willing to pay Williams.

by Rootpeench (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 11:55am

Mario Williams will probably command elite top 5 $ for his position which he's never had an elite year and can't stay healthy and has about a 50% playing clip the last two seasons. Texans knows that Mario Williams will only be a Texan if he's willing to leave many millions off the table which is very unlikely so the signing of Foster doesn't factor into this.

by Mr Shush :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 12:45pm

Williams had a one-off serious injury which cost him 11 games in 2011 but should not impact his play going forwards. Prior to that, he'd missed 3 games in his entire career. Where do you get "can't stay healthy" from?

And if 14 sacks combined with solid play against the run, a 1st team all pro Sporting News selection and a 2nd team all pro AP selection doesn't constitute an elite year, you have a very stringent definition of "elite". He's going to get paid top 5 DE money because he's a top 5 DE.

by Gray Jay (not verified) :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 2:34pm

He's going to get paid top 5 DE money because he's a top 5 DE.

Is he really though, Shush? I guess a better question would be, "Who are the top 5 DE's in the League?" Looking at PFR's best seasons over the last four years, based on sacks, for D-linemen (thus leaving out OLBs), I see a lot of Jared Allen, JPP, Jason Babin, Trent Cole, Tamba Hali, John Abraham (thing of the past, probably.), Julius Peppers, Dwight Freeney, before I get to Mario. Maybe Chris Long too? I'd certainly agree with you if you said Top 10 DE.

Mario is better than most people have given him credit for in the past, myself included, but I'm not liking the downward trend in sacks for him (14.0, 12.0, 9.0, 8.5, 5.0; the last five seasons). On a per game basis, he was going great last year right up until the injury, unfortunately. I'll agree that he's a great talent, who is going to get ridiculous money from someone, and that someone was never going to be the Texans.

On the Foster contract, I've read Barnwell's column in Grantland that has it as a poster child for owners spending too much money this off season, and I couldn't disagree more. I was delighted when I saw the limited details that have been made public. In fact, I think you can make the argument that Foster and his agent left quite a bit of money on the table, fungibility of RBs, especially Denver-system RB's aside. Your thoughts?

by tuluse :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 5:42pm

Measuring an end by sacks is like ranking QBs by TDs thrown. Sure it's good that it happened, but it's not even close to measuring how a good a player is

I would definitely rank Mario Williams above Babin and Abraham, and at this point Freeney.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 6:44pm

It might be slightly better than QBs being ranked by TD since at least you can't accumulate a sack over the course of many plays which may or may not have involved you. But yeah, it misses an awful lot of their play to rank based on just sacks.

by Mr Shush :: Thu, 03/08/2012 - 6:08am

I'd hoped that the Texans would be able to sign Foster cheaper, but I agree that if he'd really played hardball he could probably have got more, and I'm very glad to have him re-signed. He's the most complete running back since Tomlinson was in his prime, and the Texans' red zone problems were acute while he was injured and largely evaporated when he returned, which should tell you something. He's a special player, and he's worth the money if he stays healthy.

Sack numbers, as others have said, are not a brilliant metric. Williams' persistently very high hits and pressures numbers suggest that he would have been getting a lot more sacks if his secondary hadn't been so God-awful, and that's without considering the Texans' lack of other credible pass-rush threats for opponents to account for. He is also a better run defender than most high end pass rushers. Actually, I think the one season where sack totals flatter him is 2011: he really is a much better 4-3 DE than 3-4 OLB.

Of the players you name, I would rank him clearly ahead of Abraham and Babin, and probably ahead of Freeney. Hali is a linebacker, not an end. Peppers is probably still better now, but for how much longer? Cole is a similar and perhaps slightly superior player, but he's three years older. Chris Long is younger and a better run defender, but probably not as good a pass-rusher. I'd certainly rather have Allen or JPP on my roster, as a 4-3 team. Maybe Long as well in the long term, or Peppers and Cole in the short term. But in a hypothetical total NFL redraft held tomorrow, I would expect Williams to be the 3rd-5th DE chosen.

by BroncosGuyAgain :: Mon, 03/05/2012 - 9:52pm

And Phil Emery weeps openly.

by Jimmy :: Tue, 03/06/2012 - 8:27am

Or....he tags Forte for the next three years and avoids having to shell out up front bonus money.

by tuluse :: Tue, 03/06/2012 - 11:18am

Can't you not tag the same player 3 times in a row now?

by Jimmy :: Tue, 03/06/2012 - 11:30am

To be honest I don't know but I thought you could for three years but it is prohibitive. I doubt it will come to that, or I hope not.

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 03/06/2012 - 2:40pm

Pretty sure you're right. You can, but if they're not an elite quarterback, or perhaps a Hall of Fame pass rusher in their prime, you'd be crazy to. Forget the details thought.

by Hurt Bones :: Tue, 03/06/2012 - 4:27pm

I don’t think there is a restriction, but franchising a player three years in a row is cost prohibitive.
Running backs
Year 1 franchise $7.7 million
Year 2 franchise $9.24 million
Year 3 franchise $11.09 million
Year 4 franchise $13.31 million
Year 5 franchise $15.97 million

by tuluse :: Tue, 03/06/2012 - 5:20pm

Plus those numbers should go up as guys like Arian Foster get deals.

If I've done my math right, that's about 28 million over 3 years, which is just slightly lower than Foster's 30. Of course that means you can't franchise anyone else during those years.

For those interested, the Bears released Omiyale and Adams, freeing up another 3 million in cap space. V Jack and Super Mario, here we come!

by Hurt Bones :: Tue, 03/06/2012 - 5:46pm

No, The numbers are based on 120% of the previous year's salary not what the franchise tender for running backs will be. If you franchise someone the following year, they get the new franchise figure or 120% of the previous year's salary whichever is higher. The numbers reflect a 120% annual increase which will be significantly higher than the franchise number, which is why teams generally don't franchise two years in a row much less three.

by tuluse :: Tue, 03/06/2012 - 6:26pm

Didn't think of that. You are right of course.

by BroncosGuyAgain :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 1:27am

I'm too lazy to look it up, but if my memory serves me correctly, teams may only franchise the same player in two consecutive years. This may very well be what the Bears do, but they would rather have a multi-year contract they can live with. Forte does not want to play year-to-year, so franchising him comes with a risk of a holdout. The Foster contract sets the bar much higher than the Bears want it, setting up an interesting game of chicken.

by The Hypno-Toad :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 2:54am

I'm not really sure where it comes from, as I can't actually remember anything he's said other than the "anti-awesomeness" tweet that landed him in some hot water, but I love Arian Foster, and I get the impression that he's a really good guy. Whether or not it's a great deal for the Texans, I think it's good enough, assuming he can stay healthy. If he *does* stay healthy, by the end of the contract the general view would probably be that this deal was a bargain.

by Mr Shush :: Wed, 03/07/2012 - 7:37am

Foster comes across as an extremely nice guy, but also as an eccentric and unique individual who is nonetheless a hard worker and a good team mate. He writes poetry, tweets amusingly on a pretty regular basis, celebrates touchdowns with namaste, played uncomplainingly for peanuts (by NFL standards) in a year he entered as league rushing champion, and once gave a press conference in which he insisted that reporters ask questions in Pterodactyl.

He's also a really, really good football player.