It has been reported by Joel Erickson (tweet below) that Kenny Moore II is not at OTAs because he is “upset with his contract and feels like he’s underpaid”. Moore is currently in a 4 year, $33,300,000 deal and is the 27th highest paid cornerback in the NFL. He is expected to receive $6.75M this season and 7.55M in the following season.
Kenny Moore II’s absence from OTAs this week is intentional, source says. Moore II is upset and feels like he’s underpaid, given his importance to Colts defense. Moore II is scheduled to make $6.75 million in ‘22 and $8.245 million in final two years of deal.— Joel A. Erickson (@JoelAErickson) May 25, 2022
So, the question needs to be asked? What is Kenny Moore currently worth and what can he expect to receive in a contract extension? The reality is he probably won’t get a contract extension with two years left on his deal, but could very well receive a deal during or just after the 2022-23 season. What can Moore expect at this point? Not much. he is making his intentions clear that he is unhappy, but it is extremely rare, especially with Chris Ballard to get a new contract this early in the process.
What is he worth?
In terms of evaluating cornerbacks, it’s important to look at a few metrics:
- Passer Rating Allowed/Against: Moore has been incredibly consistent in his career in terms of passer rating allowed; in his 5 years, his passer rating score has always been between 83.4 and 91.2. The average passer rating in the NFL was 90.8 in 2021 and has been around the number for the last few seasons. By this measure, Moore is about average.
- Yards per Reception: Of all qualified players (129), Moore ranked 17th in 2021 in terms of yards per reception, allowing 9.7 yards per reception. This ranks him in the top 15% of cornerbacks in the NFL.
- Catch Percentage: Moore’s catch percentage is 69.6%, which puts him in 95th and in the bottom 30% of the NFL. This shows that he allows a lot of catches.
- Penalties: Moore had 2 penalties in 2021, which puts him in a tie for 35th and puts him in the top 30% of cornerbacks in the NFL.
- Injury History: He has played in 75 of a potential 80 games over the last 5 regular seasons. By just about every measure, he is a healthy player who doesn’t have issues with major injuries.
- Play Against the Run: His missed tackle rate ranks 95th out of 129 cornerbacks, which is in the bottom 30% of the NFL. However, he ranks in the top 10 players in the NFL (top 8%) in terms of “stops” which are categorized as tackles that constitute as failures for the offense.
- Leadership/Intangibles: This one is tougher to access since I’m not inside the Colts’ facility, but by many accounts, Moore is a beloved player on the team and considered a leader in the locker room.
What can we take away from this? He is average to slightly above average in coverage since his passer rating score is on par with the NFL average, and although he allows a lot of passes, he doesn’t allow a lot of yards per catch and ranks very highly in that regard. Against the run, it’s also fair to call him average since he misses a good amount of tackles, but has a lot of tackles for negative plays. In my opinion based on the data and based on watching Moore over the last few seasons, Moore is a top 20 cornerback in the NFL.
What is a top 20 cornerback in the NFL worth? The Colts just signed Stephon Gilmore to the 20th highest contract in terms of average per year. He signed a 2 year, $20,000,000 contract with nearly half fully guaranteed. In terms of average per year, that’s just over 20% more.
So even though it’s not a substantial amount, Moore is being underpaid.
What a future extension should look like
The first thing we need to evaluate is what the salary cap is going to be projected at in his free agency year, which is 2024. The cap is set at 208.3M in 2022 and is expected to increase against in 2023. Over the past 10 years, the salary cap has increased, on average, by about 7.2% each year. If we use those that number, we can project that the 2023 could be around 223M and the 2024 amount could be around 239M. That means that we can expect the salary cap to increase by about 15% in the next two seasons.
If it’s believed that Kenny Moore should be making $10M per year in 2022, then in 2024 he should be making 15% more than $10M which is $11.5M per year. Moore will be 29 years old when he hits free agency in 2024, which is right in the middle-end portion of his prime. Stephon Gilmore won Defensive Player of the Year when he was 29 so there’s little reason to believe that we should see a drop off in play.
In my opinion, the Colts and Moore should negotiate a contract extension late in 2022 or early in 2023 and have it be a two year extension. If the Colts are to pay him as a top 20 cornerback in 2024, then he should a expect a contract extension that looks like this:
2 Years — $23,000,000 w/ $10,350,000 Guaranteed
This would lock up Kenny Moore through the 2025 season and he would become a free agent in 2026 where he would be 31 years old. So if I’m Chris Ballard, I would go to Moore now, ensure him that they will start contract extension starts in the latter portion of the season at the earliest and work towards a contract similar to the one listed above.
Moore is an integral part of the team and while it might be a bit risky to negotiate 1.5 years in advance, it’s worth it with a player of Moore’s stature who is one of the 20 best cornerbacks in the league and arguably the best nickel corner in the NFL, a league that has completely shifted to a pass heavy game in which defenses now require more defensive backs on the field which means more nickel base defenses. More nickel packages just increases the importance of a player like Kenny Moore. He is playing the best football of his career and should be kept around for the long-term and kept happy.