Tim Truemper, frequent commenter here on the P-F-R blog, recently e-mailed us with a question that had been bugging him: how much variance is there among teams with respect to roster stability in the free agency era?
Essentially, Tim wants to know if certain teams do a great job at retaining their guys and if certain teams do a poor job. That's a question that AV can help us answer.
I looked at every team from 1993 (the inception of free agency) to 2007, a fifteen year period. I recorded the AV of each player on each team for those fifteen seasons. Then, I noted whether each player was playing for that same team in the following season, was playing for no team, or was playing for another team. Generally, when a player is not on a team the following season, it's because of injury, retirement or lack of talent (and, occasionally, incarceration); that's not something that's affected by free agency, though, so I'm only going to focus on players who switch teams in the off-season. For simplicity's purposes, I've ignored the 1995 Browns as opposed to seeing if those players were on the '96 Ravens; I've also split the Browns into the old Browns and new Browns. I did not do the same things for other franchises that moved cities, and I don't have a terribly persuasive justification for that.
The table below shows the best 15 players to switch teams in the free agency era; obviously, some of these players will have left via trade.
Age Year Tm AV Newtm 27 2005 clt 19 crd Edgerrin James 25 1994 sfo 19 phi Ricky Watters 29 2006 rav 18 nwe Adalius Thomas 25 1998 clt 18 ram Marshall Faulk 34 1996 car 18 sfo Kevin Greene 31 2002 phi 17 jax Hugh Douglas 24 2001 phi 17 was Jeremiah Trotter 28 2000 sfo 17 rai Charlie Garner 27 1997 sfo 17 was Dana Stubblefield 26 1996 pit 17 sea Chad Brown 25 2007 kan 16 min Jared Allen 22 2003 den 16 was Clinton Portis 28 1997 pit 16 oti Yancey Thigpen 26 2007 nwe 15 phi Asante Samuel 26 2005 sdg 15 nor Drew Brees 32 1999 dal 15 was Deion Sanders 29 1994 cle 15 den Michael Dean Perry
So how do we measure roster turnover? There are lots of ways to measure turnover, and I don't claim that mine is the best one; just the one that's most intuitive to me. We care more about a guy like Marshall Faulk leaving than when a third string defensive tackle switches teams. So I calculated the total team AV for each team in each season, and then measured what percentage of team AV was credited to players who were on different teams the next year.
Twelve teams (out of 460) retained 97% of their team AV, led by the 1999 Colts. That team retained the players who accounted for 225 of the team's 227 points of AV in '99, losing only Bradford Banta and Tony McCoy in the off-season. Six teams retained fewer than 70% of their team AV, with the '01 Ravens being the only squad that fell below 60%. Two years after winning the Super Bowl, the '02 Ravens were decimated; six of the nine players who had 9 or more points of AV in '01 switched teams: Rod Woodson and Sam Adams went West to Oakland and made the Super Bowl again; Jamie Sharper went to the expansion Texans; Shannon Sharpe proved you can go home again; Corey Harris went to the Lions and Qadry Ismail went to the Colts. Additionally, Elvis Grbac retired, and he doesn't even count for purposes of this study. Further decimating the defense, Rob Burnett and Duane Starks went to Miami and Arizona, respectively.
I then averaged the percentage loss for each team over the 15-year period. The table below summarizes the results; the Texans and Bengals lead all franchises with the least amount of "voluntary" turnover. Things are very tight at the bottom, with the Eagles, Ravens, Saints and Browns having the most turnover. "Cle1" represents the old Browns; "Cle2" the new ones. For each franchise, in addition to the average turnover, I've listed the teams with the smallest and biggest turnover from '93 to '07. I've also listed the best player lost in the period by each franchise, as measured by AV in his last season with the team. I only listed one player for space reasons, and often there was a tie (three or four guys leaving with an AV of 9, for example); a player was randomly selected in that event.
Avg Smallest Turn Biggest Turn Best player htx 90.4% htx2003-95.9 htx2005-81.3 David Carr cin 89.6% cin1993-97.2 cin1998-79.7 Jeff Blake rai 88.4% rai1998-94.7 rai2003-73.1 Kerry Collins clt 87.9% clt1999-99.1 clt1998-74.5 Edgerrin James kan 87.7% kan2002-96.4 kan2007-76.9 Jared Allen nwe 87.4% nwe1995-98.3 nwe1994-76.2 Asante Samuel sea 87.4% sea2002-99.0 sea1999-79.5 Steve Hutchinson jax 87.1% jax2004-93.5 jax2001-71.1 Gary Walker pit 86.8% pit2006-95.5 pit1996-71.3 Chad Brown gnb 86.7% gnb1996-95.0 gnb2005-76.0 Brett Favre dal 86.5% dal2006-96.8 dal2003-78.5 Deion Sanders tam 86.2% tam2002-93.3 tam2003-74.7 Hardy Nickerson buf 86.0% buf1998-96.8 buf2000-75.5 Peerless Price was 86.0% was2007-98.1 was1994-72.0 Antonio Pierce sdg 85.9% sdg2004-98.3 sdg1993-73.3 Drew Brees det 85.8% det2000-93.7 det1993-73.1 Lomas Brown den 85.8% den1995-93.1 den1994-76.6 Clinton Portis car 85.6% car2006-92.8 car2003-79.6 Kevin Greene oti 85.6% oti2002-94.5 oti2004-72.9 Jon Runyan atl 85.5% atl2002-94.1 atl1993-71.7 Tony Martin crd 85.1% crd2005-95.5 crd1993-66.1 Calvin Pace nyg 85.1% nyg1997-97.6 nyg1993-73.4 Greg Jackson min 85.0% min2007-95.1 min1993-69.9 Chris Doleman chi 84.2% chi2005-99.1 chi1996-73.6 Jeff Graham sfo 84.1% sfo2006-94.0 sfo2003-69.5 Ricky Watters ram 84.0% ram2006-93.5 ram1998-69.4 Trent Green mia 84.0% mia1998-94.1 mia1995-70.4 Adewale Ogunleye nyj 84.0% nyj1996-92.9 nyj1994-65.7 Laveranues Coles cle2 83.9% cle2007-94.7 cle2004-70.1 Antonio Bryant rav 83.8% rav2007-97.6 rav2001-57.0 Adalius Thomas nor 83.8% nor2006-95.6 nor2001-61.2 Ricky Williams phi 83.7% phi2000-95.2 phi1995-65.1 Hugh Douglas cle1 82.6% cle1993-85.0 cle1994-80.2 Michael Dean Perry
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