With the season nearly complete I thought it might be fun to look back at what I consider the 10 worst contracts of 2013. I tried not to include players who never got a chance due to injury (Will Smith, Anthony Spencer) or players underperforming but still contributing in some manner (Dwayne Bowe) with time to recover. These are the deals that looked like bad decisions from day 1 and have cost their teams precious cap space now and in the future.
10. Mike Goodson– Goodson was signed by the Jets to be one of their prime runners on the season. They gave him a $1 million dollar signing bonus and a non-guaranteed $1 million salary as part of a 3 year contract. Goodson, who had some off the field problems in the past, made national headlines when arrested after he and a friend stopped their car in the middle of a highway early in the morning. The two were charged with multiple offenses including drug and weapons charges. Goodson would be absent from the team for almost all of training camp before being suspended for the first 4 games. He would see action for just 30 snaps over two games before landing on IR for the season. The Jets have already reworked his contract once and will likely hold onto him until his legal troubles are sorted out- if jailed the Jets can recover $666,666 of bonus money but he needs to be a member of the team to do so.
9. Derek Cox– Looking at former Jacksonville Jaguars for help may not be the wisest strategy to build a quality NFL team, but the Chargers did just that when they signed Cox to a four year contract worth $20 million. Cox was paid $6 million in 2013 and has over $10 million in guaranteed money. Cox has been awful this year with a QB against of 106 and allowing over 60% of his targets to be completed. In what seems to now be a trend, Cox starts, gives up a few big receptions and gets benched for the remainder of the game. The team finally decided just a few days ago that his starting spot may now be in jeopardy. Cox will count for $5.55 million in salary cap charges in 2014.
8. Isaac Sopoaga– Count me as one of the many surprised when the Eagles signed the former 49er Defensive Tackle to a 3 year $12 million dollar contract at the age of 32. The Eagles guaranteed Sopoaga $4.75 million with $2.75 million coming as a roster bonus this year. Sopoaga was a bust with the Eagles, producing just 10 tackles (just 7 solo) over 8 games and only playing on about 40% of the teams snaps, failing to be useful in any passing situations. The Eagles made the most of a bad situation by trading him after just 8 games to the New England Patriots, who needed interior line help. Philadelphia ended up paying Sopoaga $3.22 million for those incredible 10 tackles he produced for them.
7. Steven Jackson– The Super Bowl hopeful Falcons thought they were adding a major upgrade over Michael Turner when they signed the former Ram to a three year contract that contained a $5.25 million payout in 2013. Jackson would prove to offer little more than Turner did, averaging just 3.4 yards a carry, a career low. Jackson missed a few games due to injury and pretty much splits snaps with Jacquizz Rodgers who makes $555,000, about one tenth of what Jackson earns. Jackson earns $3 million in 2014 if he is in Atlanta next year. Most likely he’ll be released and leave Atlanta with a $2.3 million dead charge on their books for participating in a disastrous 2013 year where he most likely won’t even contribute 500 rushing yards.
6. Shonn Greene– Most Jets fans could have told you how Greene may have been one of the least impactful 1,000 yard rushers in the history of the NFL, but that didn’t stop the Titans from paying Greene $4.25 million in 2013 to become the “Thunder” to Chris Johnsons “Lightning”. Greene would miss a number of weeks with a knee injury before returning in week 7 against the 49ers. Greene played just 2 snaps in that game and has played in less than 19% of the teams’ offensive snaps since returning. Greene averages just 3.5 yards a carry in his sparing playing time and is pretty much a non-factor on the team. I can’t see the Titans keeping Greene next season as he carries over $3 million in cap charges, but they will have to carry a $1.67 million dead charge for him due to money paid but not accounted for in 2013.
5. Bryant McKinnie– The Ravens don’t usually miss too badly when they sign players but they missed badly on McKinnie. The Ravens seemed desperate for a tackle so they opted to bring the 34 year old Left Tackle back into the fold. McKinnie seemed to hedge on his return so the Ravens sweetened the pot by giving him a $2 million signing bonus and $400,000 in offseason bonuses to go along with a $1 million Paragraph 5 salary. By week 6 the Ravens traded for Eugene Monroe of the Jaguars and benched McKinnie, who had allowed 4 sacks and 15 pressures in 5 games. McKinnie was eventually traded to the Dolphins leaving the Ravens with a $2.9 million bill and a $1 million salary cap parting gift in 2014.
4. Fred Davis– Davis is a talented, but often injured, Tight End. The Redskins wanted to give him another look and paid him $2.5 million for his services, plus they added bonus money based on playing time. Had Davis gotten injured again it would have been a bad deal but maybe a risk worth taking, but Davis hasn’t gotten injured- he’s just never used. After playing 51 snaps in the first game of the season, Davis went right into the doghouse and was basically planted on the bench the next few weeks. The Redskins made him inactive for a number of games in order to avoid paying him bonus money tied to games active and playing time. All told Davis has played in just 102 snaps this season, just 51 of which occurred over the last 10 games. He has 3 receptions for 25 yards and had hoped to be either released or traded from the disappointing Redskins. At $833,333 per reception I don’t know if there is a less productive healthy Tight End in the NFL.
3. James Casey– The Eagles make it for a second time with their signing of Casey in the offseason. Casey was signed to be either a Fullback or Tight End in their offense, but what role he was supposed to play is pretty hard to figure out since he never actually plays. He’s not injured or anything, he’s just useless. The Eagles paid Casey $4 million in 2013 and for that he has been active for a grand total of 60 snaps. If that same use levels holds true he will earn around $46,000 a snap. On the bright side for the Eagles his contract contained no prorated money so the cost to cut will be minimal as he just has a $1 million guarantee in his deal. If he is on the team next season he will make $3.985 million. I can’t see the team doing that for another 8 or 9 snaps a game of action.
2. Ed Reed– The cap strapped Texans had Super Bowl aspirations in 2013 and thought that adding future Hall of Famer Ed Reed was going to help get them there. Reed signed a 3 year contract that contained $5 million guaranteed and another $1 million in per game active roster bonuses. Reed lasted just 10 weeks with the Ravens before being released. In those 10 weeks Reed was inactive for two games and benched for his final two games. He only played in about 63% of the snaps of the six games he was active for. He criticized the Texans organization before and after his release and placed the blame of his release on Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips. The Texans get some cap relief as the Jets signed Reed to play for the final 7 weeks of the year for about $387,000 a far cry from the huge salary the Texans paid him. Reed will count for $2.67 million against the Texans 2014 salary cap.
1. Matt Flynn– The Raiders traded a 5th round pick to for Flynn, who they penciled in as their starter. To show him how committed they were the Raiders guaranteed him an additional $4.5 million dollars on the year. By the end of training camp he was replaced by Terrelle Pryor, a supplemental draft pick in 2011, who had started just one game in the prior two years. Flynn got one opportunity to start with Oakland, a 24-14 loss to the Redskins. Flynn was released after just 5 games. He earned $6.5 million for those 5 games, working out to be $92,587 a snap and $26,423 a yard. By comparison Peyton Manning has earned about $6,700 per yard with 5 games to go! The Raiders will get a slight credit for money paid to Flynn by the Bills and Packers but he’ll still count for $2.625 million against the 2014 salary cap.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.