This is the time of year where teams start signing extensions and in about a week the official free agency madness begins and generally everyone is very excited as they sign players, but not all those contracts work out. Normally I do these “worst of” lists during the dead part of the NFL offseason, but thought it might make more sense to do a look back at 2017 as we ramp up to the start of 2018 free agency to see just the kind of risks that teams take with some of these contracts.
As for the criteria selecting the contracts I mainly tried to look at value vs production both before and after the contract. I also tried, for the most part, to not use players that missed the whole season, ala a Malcolm Smith, since we never even saw if they could or could not justify the deal.So here are our selections for the worst 30 signings of last season.
30. Brandon Marshall, Giants- 2 years, $11 million
Marshall played in 5 games before he was injured and just never seemed to fit in with the team. Marshall only had 154 receiving yards at a paltry 8.6 yards per reception while struggling with drops.
29. Latavius Murray, Vikings- 3 years, $15 million
Just about everything the Vikings did this year turned to gold, but they reached on Murray and it was never worth the investment. While Murray salvaged a completely wasted contract when injury got him back into the lineup he is still a low tier back making upper tier money.
28. Terrelle Pryor, Redskins- 1 year, $6 million
As a gamble this wasn’t bad and most, myself included, thought this was a good contract but as things turned out it was a nightmare. Pryor either never fit in or the Redskins coaching staff had no idea how to use him. In any event it was a bad marriage from day 1.
27. Kiko Alonso, Dolphins- 4 years, $29 million
Alonso is an ok player who has struggled this year in coverage. He probably still has a decent change to justify the contract. The issue here was more to do with the Dolphins failure to use the RFA process to see if Alonso could string two decent years in a row together, which obviously he would not have done. They cost themselves millions because of the decision to not wait.
26. Stephon Gilmore, Patriots- 5 years, $65 million
Earlier in the year this looked like a lock for top 5 worst deals of the year but Gilmore played better as the year went on. Still the Patriots had to be looking for more than what they have so far when they signed Gilmore to what was clearly the top free agent cornerback contract in 2017.
25. Marcus Cooper, Bears- 3 years, $16 million
I have to think the Bears thought they were getting more than 23% playtime and one of the worst plays of the year when they signed Cooper to this three year deal. Perhaps he can have more impact in 2018, but this contract was a bit of a stretch all based on his one year in Arizona.
24. Jamie Collins, Browns- 4 years, $50 million
What did the Browns see in Collins to pay him $2 million a year more than anyone else playing the position and a guarantee at signing that on a per year basis is pretty massive? Collins finished the year with 1 sack and 21 tackles through 6 games before his season ended with an injury.
23. Captain Munnerlyn, Panthers- 4 years, $17 million
Sometimes it’s best not to go looking to the past and bringing someone back after a few years away, which is what the Panthers did when they re-signed Munnerlyn after his three year stint in Minnesota. Munnerlyn struggled, never started a game, and finished with under 40% playtime for the year. The way his contract is structured he is in line to get another opportunity this year.
22. Datone Jones, Vikings- 1 year, $3.75 million
Guys with first round talent seemingly always get overpaid in free agency and the Vikings did that when they signed Jones away from the Packers. Jones pretty much bombed out in the preseason and was cut after the preseason wrapped up leaving the Vikings with nearly a $2 million cap charge for no games played.
21. Adrian Peterson, Saints- 2 years, $7 million
In the long run this won’t harm the Saints that much but there was never a match here at all and it showed when they had no clue how to use Peterson, leaving the Saints with a somewhat pricey, disgruntled player. Give the Saints credit for finding a way to trade him in the middle of the season.
20. Eddie Lacy, Seahawks- 1 year, $4.25 million
Hoping to catch lightning in a bottle the Seahawks made this move for Lacy. Lacy played less than 15% of the team snaps this year. For a team struggling with the cap this proved to be a complete waste.
19. Luke Joeckel, Seahawks- 1 year, $8 million
The Seahawks have had no cap room and a big reason why was the decision to spend $8 million on a bust first rounder. There was zero justification for this contract when similar players were signing for about 45% of this number.
18. Chris Baker, Buccaneers- 3 years, $15.75 million
I think the Bucs made the mistake here of reading too much into one season for a 30 year old situational player. Baker finished the year at his normal levels of about 40% playtime but with just 0.5 sacks. He was cut after the season ended.
17. Terrell McClain, Redskins- 4 years, $21.5 million
This was a deal I thought was awful from the start and with McClain finishing the year under 30% snaps I’d say I was right on this one. When certain teams who are generally bullish on their players are willing to let players walk it should always be buyer beware and that was the case here. They won’t gain much if they release him this season.
16. Dre Kirkpatrick, Bengals- 5 years, $52.5 million
Kirkpatrick seemed to get limited interest in free agency which allowed the Bengals to swoop in and re-sign him to a low tier 1 contract. Maybe they should have followed the rest of the league and not gone there. The Bengals defense fell apart this year and Kirkpatrick was far from a number 1 corner.
15. Christian Kirksey, Browns- 4 years, $38 million
I guess this was the concept of supporting your own and showing players that you make investments in your draft picks, because on the open market I’m not sure Kirksey would have been within $3.5 million of this number. He’ll rack up some stats because he is on a bad team and maybe he’ll be more impactful if the team is ever good but this was a reach.
14. Ben Ijalana, Jets- 2 years, $10.1 million
Rather than signing one expensive left tackle the Jets signed two players with the same amount of money. Ijalana has only seen action in 1.5% of the teams snaps making him one of the most expensive players in the NFL on a per snap basis. Needless to say the Jets are not bringing him back in 2018.
13. Lawrence Timmons, Dolphins- 2 years, $12 million
You know things are not going well when a player you sign in the offseason essentially goes AWOL the night before the season starts and then stories begin popping up that he wants to go back to his prior team. Miami effectively guaranteed the veterans entire contract and he failed to make an impact this season for them. Luckily they should be off the hook for his 2018 guarantee due to his leaving the team.
12. Dion Sims, Bears- 3 years, $18 million
Tight end contracts always seem to cause headaches for team. For some reason teams just get blinded by potential or something there and that’s what happened with the Bears. Sims had never even cracked 300 yards in his career and was not anything special as a blocker either. It should have been no surprise that Sims failed to crack even 200 yards.
11. Kam Chancellor, Seahawks- 3 years, $36 million
Everyone can write to me about how this latest injury had nothing to do with his prior ones, but the fact remains that the Seahawks had no reason to do this contract at all especially for a guy who has been banged up. Now they are stuck for the next year or two with large injury guarantees for a player many think should retire.
10. Menelik Watson, Broncos- 3 years, $18.4 million
The Broncos already had a problem at tackle because they went cheap in 2016 so rather than fixing it they doubled down and once again overpaid what should have been a cheap player. The Broncos ended up with a major investment at tackle with two players, neither of whom could play. Watson will leave a $2.7M parting gift when cut.
9. Jeremy Kerley, 49ers- 3 years, $8.4 million
This wasn’t a massive financial commitment but Kerley didn’t even make it to the 49ers season opener before he was cut. Kerley received a $1.7 million signing bonus and had $2.8 million in total guarantees. He signed with the Jets for the minimum before being released after a PED suspension.
8. Nolan Carroll, Cowboys- 3 years, $10 million
I’m not sure what the Cowboys plans were with Carroll when they first signed him to this contract, but they must have changed pretty quickly. Carroll played in two games, didn’t look particularly good, suffered a concussion and was then released a month or so later. The Cowboys paid him $4 million, including a $3 million signing bonus for that brief stint.
7. Andre Branch, Dolphins- 3 years, $27 million
I rarely understand why teams sign a player to a reasonable one year contract, get an ok year out of the player with one hot streak sprinkled in, and then turn around and make a big investment which was what the Dolphins did with Branch. I have to think the Dolphins thought they were getting more than 4.5 sacks and 12 tackles though I’m not sure exactly why since this isn’t far off his norms.
6. Jermaine Gresham, Cardinals- 4 years, $28 million
Apparently a 391 yard season in 2016 was enough for the Cardinals to double Gresham’s salary and give him the 7th highest guarantee at signing in the league among tight ends. It didn’t exactly pay off for the Cardinals as Gresham barely topped the 300 yard mark this season. He has $4M fully guaranteed next year.
5. Markus Wheaton- 2 years, $11 million
Wheaton was signed to help the Bears anemic receiving corps as the Bears hoped to strike lighting with a receiver who once looked like a true number 2. Wheaton responded with 3 receptions and 46 yards and didn’t top 20% of the Bears snaps, which is remarkably worse than Tavon Austin of the Rams.
4. Brian Hoyer, 49ers- 2 years, $12 million
Hoyer only lasted 5.5 games before the 49ers moved Hoyer to the bench despite close to a $10M financial commitment. Eventually the 49ers made the trade for Jimmy Garoppolo and when they were unable to include Hoyer in the trade simply released him allowing him to collect his full salary and go off and sign with the Patriots anyway.
3. Martellus Bennett, Packers- 3 years, $21 million
Bennett has always come with a buyer beware sign and unfortunately for the Packers they didn’t heed the warning. Bennett struggled to fit in with the team and seemed to check out once the Aaron Rodgers was injured. Bennett declared himself hurt and said he was done after this year which led to the Packers just giving up and cutting him after just 233 yards and 0 touchdowns.
2. Mike Glennon, Bears- 3 years, $45 million
Nobody could logically explain this one. Glennon was basically ineffective as a Bucs starter in the past yet somehow because a prized free agent. You would think in light of the Brock Osweiler mess teams would have learned better but the Bears still committed $18.5 million to Glennon. Glennon was replaced after 6 starts.
1. Kenny Britt, Browns- 4 years, $32.5 million
Britt has always been a talented player but there have always been a number of questions that surround him which is why no team has been willing to make a real commitment to him. The Browns must have assumed he figured it all out when they signed him to a $32.5 million contract with $10.5 million guaranteed. Britt ended up with just 233 yards in 9 games before being released.
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.