Best and Worst Contracts 2016: Cincinnati Bengals

The best and worst picks continue in the AFC North with the Bengals…


Best: Andy Dalton, 6 years, $96 million, $17M guaranteed

There are so many places to go with the Bengals who are one of the best teams, in my opinion, and consistently negotiating good contracts with their players. They are very unique in that they drive good deals that give the team major flexibility but unlike others they have almost every intention of honoring the entire contract when its signed. It makes for a different decision for a player and his agent when deciding if he should or should not sign a contract. For many players the two or three year cash flow is incredibly important because come year four the player is cut or asked to take a pay cut. The decision should come down to the more or less the entire Bengals offer versus the other teams up front cash and what you might earn after being cut in three years.

I selected Dalton for this category for a few reasons. First and foremost I think that the Bengals utilized the power of public perception incredibly well when it came to this contract. Quarterbacks that have any skill level rarely make free agency because teams simply roll over and pay huge sums of money rather than face the unknown of the draft. All the QB needs to do is show some potential and he gets a massive contract…except Dalton.

While all other QBs escaped the negatives, Dalton got swallowed up in them. The lack of ability.  The inability to win in the playoffs. The over-reliance on AJ Green. The list went on and on. Some of it was fair, but for anyone else it probably would not have been a concern.

The other big thing here is the guarantee. Dalton received just $17 million in guarantees at a time when every quarterback was signing for millions more in injury guarantees.  Daltons contract reflected no confidence in the player and that never happens when a quarterback signs a contract.  Even Colin Kaepernick received more protection than Dalton.  Just a year later guys like Ryan Tannehill were signing $19 million a year contracts. This contract puts the Bengals in a great position to maintain the depth on their team that has led them to be one of the better teams of the last five years.

Worst: Domata Peko, 2 years, $9 million, $4.4M guaranteed

There is not a lot to pick from here because of the Bengals consistency in their negotiating points. I thought about Adam Jones, whose contract is a bit generous for an older player, but there is no true commitment beyond this season. I considered AJ Green because the front end cash is so good, but then again so is Green and it was that concession that allowed them to maintain their contract approach which will only help them in the future with other players.

At the end of the day I decided to go with Domata Peko not so much because it’s a poorly structured deal but just because I felt he was overvalued and that the contract was somewhat unnecessary. Peko was still under contract at the time of the extension and the team increased his salary by about $1.6 million in 2014 to get two additional years at $3.7 million.

I kind of feel that this is one of those deals where they could have let Peko play his contract out and he would have found very limited interest in free agency and they could have signed him for $1 to $1.5 million less a season. He doesn’t play an expensive position and this would rank in the moderate price range, where you can find plenty of other players who are younger and have more upside. That said as far as bad contracts go on a team this is a pretty weak selection for the distinction.

  • McGeorge

    Jason,
    How long have the Bengals been so good at managing their contracts?
    Is this the GM?
    The cap specialist?
    Some Marvin Lewis influence?

    Other than OverTheCap.com, I don’t see this type of analysis of contracts and front offices league wide.
    Just like there is the spread of analytics, I’m surprised teams don’t study each others front offices. This seems like a less expensive way to get more bang for the buck.

    • Ghoston

      The owners daughter does all the negotiations. She has been doing it since the 90s. The Bengals don’t have a GM. The owner is the GM. They have scouts that do their drafts. They don’t do much in free agency. They just resign their own. But the daughter is the best at contracts .

    • As Ghoston pointed out its Katie Blackburn and she does an excellent job. the Bengals were pretty awful at contracts for a period of time. I always thought it was the Coles and Bryant back to back contracts that made them rethink everything they were doing, which was 2009/2010. They turned the corner the next year. They are pretty good at what they do,

      • Ghoston

        I still don’t know why she doesn’t win an executive of a year award probably not eligible. But I know why, the league is sexist and they don’t like nepotism. But shit she went to Dartmouth and has a law degree. And started in a sport at Dartmouth and a tough sport and the most important position. I think she made a lot of mistakes in the 90s. But that’s when the cap was new but she has this thing figured out now.