The Denver Broncos just made an unexpected trade to acquire Jurrell Casey from the Tennessee Titans. To do it, Denver only had to send a seventh-round draft pick.
On the surface, that looks like highway robbery to nab the 30-year-old, five-time Pro Bowler, and a second-team All-Pro. However, we need to consider the future potential that Casey brings to the Broncos, not the past performance he provided the Titans.
What the Analytics Say
The analysis shows that Casey has performed significantly above the average Performance Value for his position in every season except one. In his second NFL season, he performed right at the average. That is great production over a nine-year career.
A deeper dive into the analysis shows that of any defensive lineman who started playing in the NFL at age 23 or younger since 1998 and played at least eight years, only 11 had a Performance Value total greater than Casey by age 30. Only 10 had a higher average Performance Value by age 30.
Those were names like J.J. Watt, Haloti Ngata, and Kevin Williams. That is incredible company. To say the least, Casey has performed incredibly well so far in his career.
That is the good news.
Now some news that is more disconcerting. First, my prior analysis, found here, indicates that defensive linemen fall into rapid decline in Performance Value at age 29 and by 31, they are typically playing at a level below their mean (average). Casey will turn 31 toward the end of the 2020 season. That does not bode well for future performance.
Of the elite company I spoke of above, only three of them were able to have a Performance Value at or near their peak for multiple years after age 30. It is more likely than not, Casey will not perform as well as he has in the past for more than two seasons of his remaining three-year contract.
Below is a graph with notable defensive linemen and their performance value by age to show in comparison to Casey.
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What it Means
The trade for Casey was predicated on past performance and not for future potential. He will likely have one or two seasons at best of above-average play, followed by a rapid decline.
With his salary structure, the Broncos can cut him with very little impact at any point in the next three seasons. To only give up a seventh-rounder to get him was a steal, though.
If I were to grade the cost to get him based on his past performance, it would easily be an A. However, the player’s future performance does not look as good, due to the likelihood of his decline beyond the position average. That is what is important for the Broncos.