Moving on to a very unique team in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers…
Best Contract: Alterraun Verner
The Buccaneers are one of the few teams that employ almost a pure cash model for their contracts which brings about both positives and negatives. Usually the biggest negatives that I associate with their system is that, due to the lack of up front signing bonus, the team often ends up over paying or over guaranteeing for talent. Somehow they completely escaped both negatives when it came to locking Alterraun Verner up to a four year contract this offseason.
Verner, who is just 25 years old, was coming off a career season in Tennessee which had him projected as one of the top free agents at the position. The market was pretty well defined during free agency as three players (Sam Shields, Vontae Davis, and Aqib Talib) all signed contracts that would average over $9 million a year with double digit full guarantees upon signing. My feeling was that this was the range in which Verner would land.
Tampa Bay signed the young corner to a contract that really is closer to the third tier and pulls much closer to the contracts signed in 2013 free agency which saw teams pull back on spending at the corner position. Verner’s contract will average $6.375 million a year with just 31.4% of the contract fully guaranteed upon signing. That percentage guarantee trails other lower cost contracts such as the ones signed by Keenan Lewis (40.3% fully guaranteed), Tim Jennings (52.7%), and Sean Smith (45.2%).
The Buccaneers landed Verner on their terms. He receives no signing bonus and has no fully guaranteed salary beyond 2014, which could lead to a trade or release very early in the contract if he fails to live up to expectations. He can earn just over $12 million in the first two years of the contract which is a far lower number than Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie ($16 million) who signed a lower annual average contract like Verner, but received heavy front end cash considerations for doing so. Verner would compare more to the older Jennings who receives $12M in two years on a $5.6M a year contact. That is a very solid contract for Tampa Bay that should pay dividends for the next few years.
Worst Contract: Dashon Goldson
When we mention how the Buccaneers salary structure often leads to over-paying and over-guaranteeing contracts there is no better example to point to than the $8.25 million a year contract signed by Dashon Goldson in 2013. The Goldson contract was a shining example of everything that was wrong with the Buccaneers and the way the front office misread their team potential, opting to throw money at anyone that had a resume.
Goldson received $22 million in guarantees, all of the no offset variety, meaning they could not release him to find any relief in the event he did not play well. It made no sense given Goldson’s age (29) at the time and the fact that he was a primary beneficiary of the 49ers defensive schemes. At the time of signing the gold mark for the position was Eric Weddle of the Chargers who was an all around world class player who was just 26 years old when extended. Goldson surpassed that contract to earn his spot at the top of the market.
The best comparison I could come up with for Goldson was LaRon Landry of the Colts. Landry was also an older player when he signed with Indianapolis and also a big reputation player. Landry ended up earning $6 million a season with $11 million guaranteed on a contract that many thought was too high for what he brought to the game. Goldson’s salary is in a complete different class than Landry’s.
The Buccaneers were able to get by this season without restructuring Goldson’s contract which was a major concern I had last year. That will benefit the Bucs long term as a restructured deal would have made the contract that much harder to deal with in the future. But for now they are stuck with an overpaid player for at least another season.
2013′s Best and Worst Buccaneers Contracts:
2013 Best Contract: Donald Penn (Released with just $666,666 in dead money, signed with Raiders)
2013 Worst Contract: Dashon Goldson (Starting Safety-See above)