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Tuesday, February 24: An Optimistic View of Jason Taylor

Posted by Matt Terl on February 24, 2009 – 12:23 pm

So according to Jason Cole at Yahoo Sports, Jason Taylor will be back with the Redskins next season, with no apparent change in his deal. The money quote, from Vinny Cerrato:

“We’re not doing anything with Jason,” Washington vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato said. “He’s going to be with us and that’s it. That’s the plan.”

This has sparked some irritation and disappointment on message boards, in my email, and (according to Ryan O’Halloran of the Washington Times) among the folks at the NFL Combine. From O’Halloran’s Combine Insider:

“Ugh” and “Seriously?” were the responses of those at the combine when told the Redskins might bring Jason Taylor back. It makes no sense fiscally or performancewise. He made 37 tackles (according to the NFL) in 526 snaps (according to The Washington Times). Taylor said late in the season, “This dog can still hunt.” But what he wouldn’t admit is that the hunting conditions weren’t optimum.

What jumps out at me here is the “no sense performancewise” assertion. Did Taylor’s stat line earn him next year’s contract?

Not even close. No one on earth would claim that 29 tackles and 3.5 sacks are worth eight million dollars (let alone second- and sixth-round picks) — even Taylor himself agrees with that. But here’s the thing: he’s not getting the eight million for those stats.

He’s getting it for the numbers he put up in the years before last, and there are reasons to believe that those numbers provide a more accurate measure of the guy than last year’s do.

First, Taylor’s injury — exceedingly dangerous, but a freak accident and not the sort of thing that should cause lasting damage through this season. Before the injury, Taylor notched his first sack; he didn’t get another one for twelve weeks. But once he started getting sacks again, after multiple surgeries and a long recovery during which he still attempted to contribute to the team, he put up 2.5 more in his last three games.

So there’s reason to believe that even at 34, a healthy Jason Taylor can still perform.

Also, if you look at the top 20 sack leaders from 2008 (actually top 23, as there are a bunch of guys tied at 17), you’ll notice that twelve of them made substantial jumps from their 2007 numbers. (Click to enlarge.)

In fact, the last three times that Taylor himself had single-digit sacks, he followed up with Pro Bowl seasons. He’s got a full offseason to get healthy and work out (instead of competing in a reality TV show), and he’s got the kind of enormous personal pride that seems likely to drive him to prove that last season wasn’t the best he can do at this point in his career.

Is it a long-term solution? No. Would it have been nice, in an ideal world, if Taylor had agreed to a pay cut? Sure. But there’s a very straightforward argument that it does indeed make sense both performance-wise and, possibly, fiscally — if you think fourteen sacks or so is worth eight million

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