Reviewing our Best And Worst Contracts of 2014

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Well it took awhile to complete but we have successfully finished our Best and Worst Contract selections for 2014 and I thought it would be good to summarize the series.  For those who have not read this yet I guess it is worth pointing out a few ground rules. No rookie contracts are considered for the best or worst deal unless the team did something extraordinary in the negotiation.  Why?  Draft salaries are basically slotted so it’s not the benefit or fault of the team it’s simply the system.  Secondly you don’t have to be a bad player to have a bad contract nor a great one to have a good contract.   These are simply contracts that stand out for a number of reasons ranging from structure to price to leverage at signing. Finally this is written from the team perspective and if we wanted it from the agent perspective simply flip it around.

For this post I’ll go division by division and give a selection for best and worst deal and then quickly select the two players that I think have the best and worst contract.

AFC East

Best- Cameron Wake. Wake is the runaway winner in the East. He is a superstar player now and was one at the time he signed a low priced bargain contract. It’s pretty amazing that Dolphins former GM Jeff Ireland was responsible for this contract as he left the team with a number of high priced duds which led to him being fired.

Worst- Mario Williams. Mike Wallace has a pretty terrible contract and David Harris and Logan Mankins were both grossly overpaid, but none came close to being the top paid player on the side of a ball despite never even being close to that level. This was the classic case of desperate team, with a desperate GM, seeing a former top draft pick and doing anything to get him.

AFC North

Best- Andrew Whitworth. I think it was a given that the best had to come from the Bengals as they are by far the most shrewd organization in the North. This was a terrific low risk high reward type of signing that had paid off extremely well for the Bengals.

Worst- Paul Kruger. Not the easiest selection as Ray Rice’s deal looks worse and worse each day, but this was a senseless signing. You never take a part time player, see a big season in a walk year, and anoint him a high paid starter. The Ravens have some really bad contracts on the books but even they knew the Browns were doing something that there was no justification to even consider.

AFC South

Best- Andre Johnson. The Texans have made a mess of his contract, but even in that mess they were able to hold Johnson’s feet to the fire this year when he wanted out or a new deal and withhold money from him due to a poor deal he negotiated years ago. This contract was one of the great heists in NFL history for a team.

Worst- Marcedes Lewis. One of the great mysteries in the NFL is how in the world Lewis is still playing on this inflated contract that he signed in 2011. This was an example of a team desperately wanting to believe a first round draft pick was a great player. He showed signs of being decent one time and got a massive pay day. This is a prime example why teams need to not let emotions and past scouting get in the way of more unbiased analysis.

AFC West

Best- Jamaal Charles. Charles signed a new deal on the day I wrote his blurb but even with the slight raise he is still dramatically underpaid. Charles had done more than enough to warrant an $8 million a year contract back in 2010 and instead took a deal worth just over $5 million with almost no guarantees. He carried the Chiefs offense the last few seasons at a next to nothing price.

Worst- Sebastian Janikowski. The only reason I can even come up with for this deal is the owner wanting Janikowski on the team at a huge price as a homage to his father. There is nothing good about paying a kicker big money especially when he is not one of the best players in the NFL and the Raiders made sure to protect Janikowskis status as the top pay guy and best protected kicker in the league.

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NFC East

Best- Jason Kelce. If ever there were examples of insider trading in NFL front offices it was this deal. Philadelphia wisely locked up Kelce hours before it became know that the salary cap would stunningly rise to $133 million. Philadelphia did a great job in also making sure this got done before any other extensions occurred as the position got higher in price after years of a flat market.

Worst- Jason Hatcher.  Tough choice as the Giants and Cowboys both had great candidates, but even without playing a down for the Redskins I am very confident that they will regret this one. You should never pay a 30 year old interior lineman like he is 26, but the Redskins did. Not just that but they don’t even run the type of defense that saw him break out last season and expecting a break out to continue at this age is nothing more than a prayer.

NFC North

Best- Jordy Nelson. Nelson signed an extension after I wrote this up, but his original deal was one of the best in the NFL and even his current contract has him underpaid based on what he typically brings the Packers. This is the model example of how to handle the contracts of young promising players who exceed even their own expectations.

Worst- Ndamukong Suh. This is one of the rookie exceptions because the Lions tinkered and tinkered with this contract multiple times to basically create one of the worst contracts in the history of the NFL. The team has been stripped of their leverage and stuck with a defensive tackle counting $22 million against the cap and millions of dead money waiting to hit the cap in 2015 when his contract expires.

NFC South

Best- Roddy White. Tough call between Junior Galette and White, especially since White signed a new deal that makes his old one obsolete, but White’s contract is like the anti-Lewis deal. White played well for more than just one year and the team was emotionally invested in him, but they negotiated a great contract with him. He’s been underpaid for almost his whole career.

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Worst- Jonathan Stewart. Maybe the worst overall contract in the NFL should be named the Marty Hurney award because he negotiated multiple contracts for the Panthers that are worse than most of the other deals on this list. Stewart was by far the worst of them all. I don’t know what they saw in Stewart outside of one season of decent play but they decided that he was one step below Adrian Peterson. Since then Stewart has about as many yards as I have in the NFL.

NFC West

Best- Anthony Davis. Another example of the great contract with multiple failsafes designed to protect the team. The Davis contract is littered with gameday active roster bonuses, weight incentives, and workout de-escalators. The Rams contract with Jake Long is very good as well and has plenty of team protections, but the Davis deal stands out even more due to the team protections.

Worst- Larry Fitzgerald. We had three big contenders for this with Percy Harvin and Jared Cook, but the Fitzgerald contract is just a death trap for the Cardinals. Maybe Arizona thought they did well when they put some late contract de-escalators in the contract but the way the deal was structured those would never come into play and the Cardinals have played right into his hands with the terrible contract restructures including one this season. This is the model contract for agents to study when trying to get one over on a team.

Overall

I’m sure I could change my mind about these selections but if I was forced to choose a best and worst overall contract I think I would opt for Cameron Wake and Jonathan Stewart. Wake is really a standout contract that is giving the Dolphins at least $3 million a year in value. There are some real bad ones to select from and last year I went with Mario Williams and Larry Fitzgerald’s restructures made him a strong candidate as well, but I can at least understand a little bit more overpaying those players. If you put Stewart out there as a free agent I’m not sure he would fetch $1 million.

Hopefully everyone enjoyed this series and as usual I got some good feedback on this.  Remember to keep checking back during the season to see what we have going on during the NFL season. Each week we’ll likely do our “stock up and stock down” posts, we will start our NFL statistical Power Rankings in week 4 or 5, I should be doing weekly nfl predictions as well as continuing our fantasy outlooks, and I’ll be mixing in contract stuff whenever there is time. Feel free to send in any suggestions for topics.

But before the season starts I will have a special look at the salary cap in what I hope will bring some interesting insights.

Here are the links to all our best and worst contracts:

OTC’s Best and Worst Contracts of 2014

1. Houston Texans

2. Washington Redskins

3. Jacksonville Jaguars

4. Cleveland Browns

5. Oakland Raiders

6. Atlanta Falcons

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

8. Minnesota Vikings

9. Buffalo Bills

10. Detroit Lions

11. Tennessee Titans

12. New York Giants

13. St. Louis Rams

14. Chicago Bears

15. Pittsburgh Steelers

16. Dallas Cowboys

17. Baltimore Ravens

18. New York Jets

19. Miami Dolphins

20. Arizona Cardinals

21. Green Bay Packers

22. Philadelphia Eagles

23. Kansas City Chiefs

24. Cincinnati Bengals

25. San Diego Chargers

26. Indianapolis Colts

27. New Orleans Saints

28. Carolina Panthers

29. New England Patriots

30. San Francisco 49ers

31. Denver Broncos

32. Seattle Seahawks

Best & Worst Contracts 2014: Seattle Seahawks

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We finish our best and worst contract series with the Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks

Best Contract: Max Unger

Max unger

I know this is going to be a complete rehash of last year’s post on Seattle but there is really no reason to change anything with this selection. Max Unger is one of the top centers in the NFL and one of the reasons the Seahawks offensive line continues to be a strength for the team.

Seattle has a tendency to jump high on certain players either with high value contracts or favorable contract structures. Unger did not get that. Rather than jumping up into the Nick Mangold/Ryan Kalil contract territory, which one may have expected, they signed Unger to a reasonable contract, one that only looks more reasonable in light of the Maurkice Pouncey and Alex Mack contracts. There were no outlandish guarantees as just his 2013 salary was fully guaranteed and at any point after that he could have potentially been released.

Unger’s contract, which was worth just under $25 million for 4 seasons, represented a 24% savings in annual value over Ryan Kalil’s contract with the Panthers. His $11.5 million in guarantees is less than Chris Myers of the Texans and Scott Wells of the Rams had at the time the contract was signed. The contract itself is also a well structured deal with no real peaks or valleys making the cap management job of such a player relatively worry free. His cap charges fluctuate from $5.6 to $6.1 million, though there is some room for small escalators to advance those numbers.

The contract figures are very manageable and with no spikes there is never a point where the Seahawks will be forced to renegotiate the terms of the contract for cap relief which has already happened multiple times with Kalil. This is the kind of deal that both sides should be happy with over the term of the contract especially if Unger continues to prove himself to be one of the best in the game. This is the type of solid veteran contract that allows the Seahawks to go out and take chances on some of the more questionable deals they have done over the years.

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Worst Contract: Percy Harvin

Percy Harvin

There are 11 receivers in the NFL who have contracts worth over $8.5 million a season. Of those 11 just one failed to produce a 1,000 yard season before signing a new contract. That one player is Percy Harvin, whose contract is worth a whopping $12.849 million a season.

There is almost no justification in the entire decision making process as it related to Harvin. Harvin was unhappy with the Minnesota Vikings and wanted out of Minnesota unless he received a new contract. Harvin had minimal leverage. He was coming off another injury filled season that saw him appear in just 9 games. Harvin was very productive in those games, but teams are always cautious with players who seem to miss at least a game each season.

Seattle came in and threw a number 1 draft pick at the Vikings to take Harvin. Believing that Harvin’s production was hurt by the Vikings lack of offense they assumed he would perform much better in Seattle. They put a big value on the fact that Harvin was kind of a jack of all trades that was a very good kick returner and could also run the football.  Kind of like what the Bears did with Devin Hester, except at 2.5 times the cost.

The team bought in at huge dollars and gave themselves no protection. There are no roster bonuses tied to health, despite the fact that Harvin was recently injured and you could pencil him in  for at least one missed game a season and a few late week decisions. Harvin received a $12 million signing bonus that likely protects his roster spot through 2015.

As a receiver Harvin has no additional negotiating leverage than Victor Cruz of the Giants and was statistically inferior to Cruz. Cruz had to settle for $8.6 million a year and a $9.5 million signing bonus. In fact of all the players who earn over $7 million a season Harvin is just one of three players to have not produced a 1,000 receiving yard season before signing. The other two were Pierre Garcon ($8.5M) and Mike Williams ($7.924M).  Harvin should have been paid in that $8-$9 million a year range, but somehow he made Mike Wallace’s $12 million a season contract look a bit less comical.

Harvin missed all but one game in the 2013 regular season, before making his return in the playoffs. He had three big plays in the Super Bowl, including a kick return for a touchdown. The Seahawks need to see a lot more of that to justify the contract that the signed with Harvin.

2013’s Best and Worst Seahawks Contracts:

2013 Best Contract: Max Unger (See above)

2013 Worst Contract: Zach Miller (Reworked contract to remain on team)

Click Here to Check out OTC’s other Best and Worst Contracts from around the NFL!

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Best & Worst Contracts 2014: Denver Broncos

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We are now down to the final two in our best and worst contract series…

Best Contract: Terrance Knighton

Terrance Knighton

While the Broncos have their fair share of good contracts, I think the contract for  defensive tackle Terrance Knighton now really stands out as the best contract on the  team. Knighton had a terrific 2013 season, was arguably the second best player on  the defense, and became somewhat of a household name through the latter part of  the season.  He became one of the best bargains in the NFL.

The most logical comparison to Knighton was Sen’Derrick Marks. Both were players  with some upside that were in the need of new homes. Marks was able to receive a  contract worth around $1.5 million all of which was guaranteed from the Jaguars,  Knighton’s old team. The contract was just one year in length.

The length of contract is an important one when realizing the strength of this deal.  Knighton would receive just $525,000 more than Marks in 2013, but in return for that contract gave up both guarantees and a year of free agency.  Knighton only had $500,000 of the entire $4.5 million contract guaranteed and could have been cut with almost no issues for the Broncos.

By accepting a contract year worth just $2.5 million in 2014, Knighton was essentially agreeing to the fact that the best he could do was be the same player he was in 2012 and that there was almost no room for improvement. There would be no contract escalation for his 2013 performance nor any other incentives to go further. Marks, on the other hand, received a big contract extension worth over $4 million a season to reflect his performance in 2013. Since he was not under contract to the Jaguars in 2014 he had a good deal of leverage to get a contract.

Following the completion of the 2013 playoffs Knighton made it known he wanted a new contract and felt he was underpaid. He was underpaid, but there was no incentive for the Broncos to rework his deal and the story about his contract quickly vanished. That’s the sign of a rock solid contract.

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Worst Contract: DeMarcus Ware

DeMarcus Ware

This is not the easiest decision to make as it came down to two players. One was  punter Britton Colquitt, who would get the nod for the same reason as Mike Scifres of  the Chargers- it’s a lot of money to spend on a punter no matter how good the player  is. But Colquitt’s total contract is smaller than Scifres’ and the Broncos were not cap  pinched the way the Chargers were when doing the deal.

I do believe that DeMarcus Ware could pay huge dividends for the Broncos, but a $10  million a year contract for a 32 year old pass rusher coming off injury seems  excessive. Ware received $16.5 million  in full guarantees and $20 million in  virtually guaranteed salary on this contract.

The best comparisons for Ware are Jared Allen and Julius Peppers, both aging  players who signed new contracts this offseason. Allen signed a deal for $8 million a  season, with $15.5 million guaranteed while Peppers received $8.67 million a year  and just $7.5 million guaranteed. Allen’s $15.5 million is his max two year salary while Peppers is $17.5 million, both significantly less than Ware.

Part of the reason I am also selecting this contract is the fact that they had a more economical and younger option on their team last offseason in Elvis Dumervil, who they released and failed to re-sign during the fax-gate episode. With pass rusher Von Miller coming off injury and one slip up away from a major suspension, I think this Ware signing showed a bit more desperation than the Broncos usually show when modelling their contracts.

2013’s Best and Worst Broncos Contracts:

2013 Best Contract: Wes Welker (Still on team)

2013 Worst Contract: Joe Mays (Released before 2013 season)

Click Here to Check out OTC’s other Best and Worst Contracts from around the NFL!

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Best & Worst Contracts 2014: San Francisco 49ers

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Examining the best and worst from the NFC runner up San Francisco 49ers

Best Contract: Anthony Davis

Anthony Davis

The 49ers are one of the more difficult teams to select the best deal on, not because there are so few, but because there are so many. For years San Francisco was the best run front office in the NFL and in many ways that continues to this day. The 49ers are always proactive with their contracts and with using salary cap space.

Last year I named Joe Staley as the best contracts on the team, but there were recently some changes to his contract that kind of changed my thinking on him. The largest benefit of the Staley contract was the absence of prorated money in the contract to go along with low salary charges. While the charges are still low compared to others at the position, it now becomes more difficult to move on in the future, as soon as the first option year is exercised. I think its still a good deal and it avoids any possible holdout issues in the future but in the end it was enough of a change to make me go with Anthony Davis as the best deal on the team.

Davis had signed a contract extension with the 49ers in 2013, coming off a season when he was probably regarded as one of the top two or three right tackles in the NFL. This was another of those proactive extensions by the 49ers in which they signed a player with multiple years remaining on his current contract to try to get the best terms and structure possible in the deal.  Davis would get locked up at $6.5 million a season all the way through 2019.

While that may not sound like the best contract in the world, since he is the second highest paid right tackle in the NFL, the way they get to that figure is what lands him there. The 49ers paid Davis $7.5 million in a signing bonus, which was, for the most part, the only truly guaranteed portion of the contract.  That figure on a yearly basis or percentage of contract guaranteed ranks around 10th. All his other guarantees don’t kick in until April 1 of the season in question, giving the 49ers ample time to move on.

Davis has millions of dollars tied into health, participation, and motivation. In each year of the contract Davis has $1 million in roster bonuses that are paid out for each game in which he is healthy enough to play. That’s around 15% of the contractual value. His base salary can de-escalate by $1.25 million if he fails to participate in workouts during the offseason or is not motivated enough to keep at his healthy playing weight. While such bonuses are not out of the ordinary for linemen, they are not ordinary at this amount.   This is around 19% of the contract value.

So you are looking at a player who has over 1/3 of the contract potentially as risk with dead money charges such that he could be released at anytime after the 2015 season without too much worry. His cap charges are more or less steady in the $6 million range so that he’ll never really burden the teams’ salary cap. These types of deals will almost always get the best value out of a player with the threat of a paycut or release always hanging over the head of the player.

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Worst Contract: Anquan Boldin

Anquan Boldin

This was an easy one for me to select as Anquan Boldin’s contract sticks out like a sore thumb on the roster. It has nothing to do with the quality of player that Boldin has been, but the type of contract that they signed him to. San Francisco’s usual MO is to craft relatively salary cap friendly and team friendly contracts. Twice we have recently seen them do that with important veteran players when they worked out contracts for running back Frank Gore and defensive end Justin Smith. I just don’t see any of the same with Boldin, especially in the roster bonus category where he only has $500,000 per year tied to being active. The others had at least three times that much tied to being active.

The pricing point they used for Boldin was that of Wes Welker at $6M a year, except Boldin is two years older than Welker was at the time he signed his contract. Welker had also been the more productive player, albeit on a very different offense than Boldin had played with in Baltimore for most of the past few years, leading into his contract. Boldin had a terrific year in 2013 with San Francisco, but with the expectation of a healthy Michael Crabtree, expecting similar numbers would not have seemed logical and that was before they traded for Steve Johnson to take away targets as well.

The big reason this one stands out, though, is the fact that they had to resort to the voidable year clause to make the contract work within the confines of their salary cap. These are techniques that maybe would have been associated with the 49ers over 15 years ago, but not today. I guess it was the only way they felt they could keep him under the salary cap this season without hassle. So now they are locked into either a $6.9 million active cap charge in 2015 or a $3.6M dead cap charge.  If he plays out the two year contract he still leaves the team with $2.7M on the cap in 2016.

While this is nowhere near as bad as other teams’ worst contracts, this is still a deal where the 49ers could have gotten a stronger contract if they waited him out a bit longer and getting the best deal possible is something many of us have grown to expect from this organization.

2013’s Best and Worst 49ersContracts:

2013 Best Contract: Joe Staley (Received extension with 49ers)

2013 Worst Contract: Carlos Rogers (Released)

Click Here to Check out OTC’s other Best and Worst Contracts from around the NFL!

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Best & Worst Contracts 2014: Arizona Cardinals

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We continue our look at the best and worst veteran contracts on each team with the Arizona Cardinals

Best Contract: John Abraham

Only four players from the 2000 draft remain active in the NFL. Three of them—Tom Brady, Sebastian Janikowski, and Shane Lechler—play positions at which longevity for high performers is not unusual. The fourth, Abraham, has been a model of health on the back end of his career, playing in 110 of his teams’ last 112 regular season games at a more physically rigorous position.

Last off-season, Atlanta decided that despite coming off a ten-sack season, and despite 32.5 sacks over the previous three seasons combined, Abraham did not merit his scheduled $7 million in compensation. Several teams showed interest, but he ultimately inked with Arizona for a meager $4.6 million over two years.

For that paltry investment, Abraham put opponent quarterbacks on the ground 11.5 times last year, the fourth-highest sack total of his illustrious career. Despite modest escalation of his 2014 compensation to $3 million plus makeable incentives—and despite a potential suspension due to pending DUI charges—he represents great value yet again if he can dip into that fountain of youth one more time.

Worst Contract: Larry Fitzgerald

Larry FitzgeraldBelieve me when I say that it breaks my heart to pick Fitzgerald in this spot. He was without a doubt the greatest athlete I witnessed as a student at the University of Pittsburgh, and when his NFL career finally winds down, the Hall of Fame surely awaits. Moreover, Arizona has doled out a number of iffy deals over the years, and I’d much rather write about almost any other.

But that seven-year, $113 million extension is too nutso to overlook, and it was from the moment he signed it. At the time, the top of the wideout market touched maybe $11 million per year; Arizona not only reset the bar for the position by nearly half over again, but they managed to create a new class of contracts for all elite non-quarterback players. It’s one thing to do that for a player like Calvin Johnson just entering his prime, and another for a veteran with as much wear on his body as Fitzgerald. It seemed clear at the time that he wouldn’t play out more than a few seasons at best before the dollars grew out of whack with his ability to stay productive.

Yes, he possessed all the leverage in negotiations going back to his ill-configured rookie contract, which led to a no-franchise clause in his robust second contract, which led to the insanity of his current deal. Yes, following the 2010 season he put on display maybe the most dominant postseason performance that I’ve ever witnessed by any player at any position. Yes, he is the best thing to happen to Arizona Cardinals football since the founding of the State of Arizona, the invention of the sport of football, or the evolution of the cardinal. Those details fade when a combination of age and surrounding talent reduce his performance to the merely mortal, and the baggage of his contract looms heavy over the present and future roster composition of his team.

2013’s Best and Worst Cardinals Contracts:

2013 Best Contract: Daryl Washington (facing suspension)

2013 Worst Contract: Larry Fitzgerald (see above)

Click Here to Check out OTC’s other Best and Worst Contracts from around the NFL!

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Best & Worst Contracts 2014: New England Patriots

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We move to the Final Four with a familiar pair of selections for the New England Patriots

Best Contract: Sebastian Vollmer

Sebastian Vollmer

The choice for this came down to the contracts of Tom Brady and Sebastian Vollmer and I can easily understand why Brady would be considered a no brainer choice. Brady is grossly underpaid and has salary cap numbers that will allow the team to add talent (even another QB if needed) until he calls it quits. I had two reservations on the contract. One is the large guarantee that kicks in at the end of the 2014 season that locks him in through the 2017 season. The second is that I’m not sure if the Patriots organization should get the credit for the contract since Brady is simply cut from a different cloth when it comes to contracts.  I think if there was an award for most team friendly player it would go to Brady.

Vollmer’s contract I think is an exceptional example of how to handle a good, but injury prone, player. Vollmer is a terrific player who should have earned in the $5 to $6 million a year range, but instead settled for a contract that came in just over $4 million a season. The contract was not that unlike some of the recent QB deals we have seen with a large number of incentives that could increase or decrease the price of the contract. These incentives are all high level playtime and/or Pro Bowl incentives that are not often accepted by many others in the league.

The contract structure has already paid big dividends for the Patriots. Vollmer missed out on $1 million of his base contract value when he failed to reach 80% of the snaps in the 2013 season.  In fact in each season of the contract he will lose $1 million if he fails to hit the 80% threshold. In the 2015 and 2016 season he has $1 million in per game active roster bonuses in addition to the other $1 million in bonuses mentioned above.

If Vollmer stays healthy he can earn an extra $5.5 million on the remainder of his contract. While that may sound like a lot all it does is bring his contract value on par with a player like Michael Oher, the level at which Vollmer should have, at the least, been at before. Vollmer only received a $7 million signing bonus, making him an easy release in 2015 if the injuries continue or compromise his ability to play. This is just a strong contract for the team.

Worst Contract: Logan Mankins 

Logan Mankins

Like last season my options here really came down to Logan Mankins and Danny Amendola. Amendola was a bad decision from the minute they signed they contract, but the size of the mistake is so much smaller that I again went with Mankins, even though Mankins is the better player.

Perhaps Mankins contract was the fault of the uncapped season as a number of teams unwisely used the franchise tags which seemed to compromise their ability to negotiate better long term contracts in the season. Looking back at the 2011 franchise players it’s a who’s who of bad contracts- Mankins, David Harris, Marcedes Lewis, Kamerion Wimbley, Chad Greenway, Ryan Kalil, Haloti Ngata and Chad Greenway- but that doesn’t change the fact that these teams made bad decisions in the first place when they used the tags before the CBA expired.

Mankins ended up being paid as the top interior lineman in the league at a time when he was not the best at his position. Usually the Patriots don’t give in with such players, but they did here.  Mankins would receive $30.5 million in the first three years of the contracts, a total that was in a different stratosphere than Jahri Evans ($25.6M), Eric Steinbach ($23M), and Davin Joseph ($21.5M), other top compensated players at the position. The Patriots included a huge $20 million signing bonus that virtually guaranteed four years of the contract.

Mankins carries a $10.5 million cap charge this year, second highest among Guards in the NFL. It’s the 2nd of three straight seasons with a $10 million plus cap charge. There was nothing they could do with that number last year or this one. Next season they have more leverage but will still carry $4 million in dead cap if they need to move on. Not a great contract for the team by any stretch of the imagination.

2013’s Best and Worst Patriots Contracts:

2013 Best Contract: Sebastian Vollmer (See above)

2013 Worst Contract: Logan Mankins (See above)

Click Here to Check out OTC’s other Best and Worst Contracts from around the NFL!

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Best & Worst Contracts 2014: San Diego Chargers

Starting off the week by catching up on the San Diego Chargers

Best Contract: Danny Woodhead

Like last season I had a difficult time coming up with someone on San Diego for best contract. Because of the way the team had been managed for years there is very little that really jumps out at you as a strong contract and in many ways the current regime has not had a chance to put a stamp on their salary cap structure, good or bad. Arguably the best contract on the team is that of Eric Weddle. He is the best safety in the NFL and even at a market setting contract years ago he did not set things so on fire that it made people scratch their heads. Still it is a very player friendly contract structure that will likely force the teams hand on another contract at a time when he will likely no longer be the top level player he is now.

In the end I decided to stick with Danny Woodhead as having the best contract for the team. I was surprised that the Chargers extended Woodhead and actually thought he would have been a top trade target this summer in light of their signing of Donald Brown, but wisely the Chargers saw the value in Woodhead and kept him in the fold. What I like about Woodhead is that he is a situational type player and he embraces the situation. You never hear complains about wanting more touches, series, responsibilities, etc…He has a job that does extremely well and he doesn’t stray from that.

Now was there really a purpose to his two year extension this summer?  Not really. I mean it is a nice gesture by the team to give him a $2 million raise and pay him a $3 million signing bonus in return for two more seasons, but I actually think the Chargers had a better situation with him prior to the extension.  Still a $5.25 million salary over the next two seasons is very reasonable in a league where part time players are getting decent guarantees because teams think they can be a starter. They likely won’t be as productive as Woodhead despite getting the added snaps. A $2.25 and $2.5 million cap charge over the next two seasons is a relative bargain provided he stays healthy.

Worst Contract: Mike Scifres

The way I had a difficult time with the Woodhead selection above, I had an equally hard time with the worst contract selection. Last year this was easy, but they have begun to cut the waste from the team either by release or restructure, which limits the selections. In general the whole roster is filled with pretty bland contracts with nothing looking really good or bad. There are really few places to go. Jeromy Clary took a big pay cut to bring him to a reasonable level as did Eddie Royal. Jarret Johnson’s contract does not look great, but the team got a $1 million break and simply pushed a few dollars in dead money to 2015 for needed cap space in 2014.

Based on a suggestion of my friend Ian I went with Mike Scifres. Not because he is a bad player nor is his contract that out of line, but because it brings up the question of how much money should a team be spending on these positions when they have contractual and salary cap troubles, which the Chargers have clearly had for some time.  Scifres did receive a signing bonus and an option bonus which does push the dead money in his contract higher than some of his peers. The decision to use this structure, in order to remain cap compliant in 2011 and 2012, left Scifres with the highest cap charges at the position in 2014 and 2015.  He also provides the least savings in the event of release.

But in reality this selection is made to simply draw attention to roster management strategies. You did not need to be a genius to see where the team was headed based on a combination of payroll, age, and performance. Putting this much stock into a Punter is simply foolish. Scifres is the 8th highest ranked player by APY on the Chargers and 6th highest ranked player in terms of total contract value. He has the 6th highest and 8th  highest cap charges on the Chargers roster over the next two seasons. Id think if the Chargers had a few more million to spend on positional players they would not need to scramble to restructure contracts and instead would outright cut some dead weight and bring in better players to participate in more plays than a punter.

2013’s Best and Worst Chargers Contracts:

2013 Best Contract: Danny Woodhead (See above)

2013 Worst Contract: Robert Meachem (Released before 2013 season)

Click Here to Check out OTC’s other Best and Worst Contracts from around the NFL!

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