In search of Lamarr Houston's market value

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In search of Lamarr Houston's market value
March 5, 2014, 1:30 pm
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Pro Football Focus rated Lamarr Houston as the NFL’s best 4-3 defensive end against the run in 2013. (USATI)

In 2013 Lamarr Houston played 1,049 snaps and registered 71 tackles, 6 sacks, 63 quarterback pressures and 2 forced fumbles. (USATI)

The Raiders and defensive end Lamarr Houston are still looking to agree on terms of a longer-term contract. It hasn’t happened yet, with just a few days before an exclusive negotiating window closes.

It’s increasingly likely that Houston won’t sign before then.

Other teams can contact and negotiate with Houston starting Saturday, and sign outside free agents beginning on Tuesday. It’s uncertain exactly what it would take to bring Houston to the table with pen in hand, but another recent deal could provide a ballpark estimate. Or perhaps more appropriately, a baseline. 

Negotiators frequently use contracts given to comparable performers as a guide in early talks, though open market competition should impact those numbers. That’s especially true with a $133 million cap, roughly $10 million higher than last season.

[RELATED: Raiders don't tag Veldheer or Houston]

When trying to find a comparable player among 4-3 defensive ends using NFLPA documents, a fine-tooth comb was used. Given the premium placed on sacks, those with significantly higher sack totals (i.e. St. Louis' Chris Long), those significantly older (i.e. Jacksonville's Jason Babin) and those with outdated contracts were eliminated. 

That left few remaining worthy comparisons. While Brian Robison's four-year ($26.9 million, $13.15 million guaranteed) extension with Minnesota was strongly considered, Cincinnati’s Carlos Dunlap might be the closest thing to a match.

Dunlap inked a five-year contract extension in July 2013 worth roughly $40 million. It comes out to approximately $8 million per season over the life of the extension, with $11.7 million in guarantees. The extension came after three accrued seasons.

A new deal for Houston comes after his fourth.

Dunlap/Houston stat comparison the year prior to a new deal*:
Carlos Dunlap (2012) – 655 snaps, 40 tackles, 6 sacks, 50 quarterback pressures, 4 forced fumbles
Lamarr Houston (2013) – 1,049 snaps, 71 tackles, 6 sacks, 63 quarterback pressures, 2 forced fumbles

Houston proved a quality pass rusher, with quarterback pressure on nine percent of passing snaps in 2013, but he made a significant impact against the run. Pro Football Focus rated Houston as the NFL’s best 4-3 defensive end against the run in 2013. Dunlap was No. 5 against the run.

Dunlap has 27.5 sacks in four seasons, and Houston has 16.

Stats aren't identical, but they're comparable. That’s why Dunlap's deal could provide a rough sketch in these talks, although Houston's number could go higher. One issue when looking at Dunlap or Robison: they were renegotiations without external competition. Houston’s value could be driven up on the open market, especially with the aforementioned salary cap increase. 

The Raiders have $64.667 million in cap space as of Wednesday afternoon and could afford to keep him at a higher rate, but general manager Reggie McKenzie remains committed to smart spending as he overhauls the Raiders roster. The team needs to upgrade most positions, and has 10 starters from 2013 headed for unrestricted free agency.

In short, he’s not going to sharply overpay despite a declared preference to reward his own players.

The Raiders remain committed to re-signing Houston and several other free agents, including left tackle Jared Veldheer, running back Rashad Jennings and safety Charles Woodson.

* Quarterback pressures and total snaps courtesy of Pro Football Focus. Conventional stats were taken from a Raiders team release.