The offseason is nearing, which means it’s time to start looking to the draft and free agency. One of the Colts key free agents is veteran guard Jack Mewhort. Mewhort has been a starter on the Colts offensive line since he was drafted in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft. He played collegiately at Ohio State and has experience at guard and tackle.
In order to determine Mewhort’s value in free agency, there are a few things that need to be defined. What will the salary cap be in 2018? A few projections say that the salary cap is expected to rise to $178,000,000, which is a 6.5% increase from 2017. Right off the bat, we can assume that the average NFL contract will rise by 6.5%.
Next is to analyze comparable contracts. The upper echelon of NFL guards make upwards of $9,000,000 per year. Mewhort does not belong at that level and he definitely won’t have leverage to demand that kind of money coming off of a season ending injury. At the next tier are contracts for good but not great starters. Players at this level include Brian Winters (Jets), Jeff Allen (Texans), Josh Sitton (Bears) and Lane Taylor (Packers).
Is Mewhort a part of this group? Let’s break down the numbers.
Mewhort has always been known to be a very good pass blocking offensive lineman. The Colts have suffered tremendously without him inside as Jacoby Brissett has been sacked more than any other quarterback in the NFL. Improving the pass blocking efficiency of the offensive line will be extremely important going into this offseason, so re-signing Mewhort will be important on that basis alone.
In 45 career starts, Mewhort has allowed 4 sacks. He allowed 44 pressures in 2015 (his only full season), but did not allow a sack that year. His Pro Football Focus grade for pass blocking in 2017 is 78.9, which would rank him in the top 25 guards in the NFL.
If we go back to Brian Winters, Jeff Allen, Josh Sitton and Lane Taylor, we see that they all signed deals in 2016 and 2017. Sitton and Allen signed deals in 2016, so when calculating the deals, we’ll increase their total values by 7.7% (the increase in the salary cap from 2015 to 2016). If we add all the contracts together, we get an average contract of:
4 years, $27,660,000 ($6.915M per year) with $11,780,000 (42.6%) guaranteed
Mewhort’s injury history won’t necessarily hurt his total contract amount but it will hurt his guaranteed money. Mewhort has or will miss 19 games in 4 seasons, including 17 in the past two seasons.
Because of his struggles with injuries in the last two seasons, I can’t imagine Mewhort getting a deal that’s longer than 3 years. If it’s a 4 year deal, I’d imagine the contract has all of the guaranteed money and prorated signing bonus money loaded into the first two years, leaving him “unprotected” in the last two seasons.
Based on comparable players’ contracts, his injury history and his production, I expect Jack Mewhort to get a deal that looks like this:
3 years, $21,300,000 with 7,400,000 (34.7%) guaranteed
Past (published) Contract Projections of mine:
Sources: Over the Cap and Spotrac