Jumping into the AFC East with a close look at the Buffalo Bills
Best Contract: Kyle Williams
The Bills do not have many veteran contracts that would qualify in the “good” category, but one of the few that fits the bill is the contract signed by defensive tackle Kyle Williams back in 2011. Williams at the time was coming off one of his best seasons as a pro, notching 5.5 sacks and a Pro Bowl bid. At the time Williams still had two years remaining on his contract but the Bills took a proactive approach and locked him up for another four seasons. While things got off to a rocky start as Williams was injured in 2011, he made up for it with his play in 2012 and 2013.
Williams contract contained a small signing bonus of $4.75 million and no true guarantees beyond the 2011 League Year, giving the Bills various outs with minimal salary cap penalties. The cash portion of the contract was very modest with $5 million a season being committed from 2012 to 2015. Those numbers are not that outlandish for older players at the position considering the year by year nature of the contract in light of the low signing bonus. To maximize his value he would need to earn escalators and incentives.
On an annual basis Williams’ contract still ranks as one of the highest contracts at the position but due to the early extension the effective value against the cap is reduced. Most seasons he is just under $6 million a season with the largest cap charge, $7 million, coming in the final year of the contract. The value attached to that season is almost worthless. In general his cap charges in each year rank around 10th at the position due to the timing of the extension and he is far better than the 10th best player at the position.
Worst Contract: Mario Williams
There are a number of factors that can often lead to a bad contract for a team and in a few cases you get the perfect storm that pays off big for the player. Matching a desperate team with a premier position player that has a draft status cache is what led the Buffalo Bills to spend $16 million a season on Mario Williams in 2012. This is one of those entries in the series where people will say he isn’t a bad player (he isn’t) and the he made the Pro Bowl (he did), but plenty of good players can be on contracts that are bad for the team.
When the Bills negotiated the contract with Williams he was coming off an injury filled season that saw him only play in 5 games. The two prior years he failed to produce double digit sacks or significant pressure. Under almost any metric that you could have used to compare him to the other big contract players at the time (Jared Allen, Julius Peppers, and Charles Johnson) he trailed, yet his contract was worth significantly more. Williams has always been inconsistent and his best trait is that he has a tendency to turn limited pressures to sacks, but his pressures are not as high as others.
Williams earns nearly $3 million more than Clay Matthews of the Packers and $3.5 million more than Charles Johnson of the Panthers. Williams contract virtually guaranteed him $53 million, his first three years of cash payments, which was $7 million higher than Johnson received. By year 4 the difference was $66.6 million versus $55 million. One can argue how good Williams is compared to Johnson and others, but I don’t think anyone can argue that he is worth this much more a season than those players. On top of this if Williams is a Pro Bowl level player and the team is successful he can earn an additional $4 million in his contract.
The Bills used a large signing and option bonus to keep the initial cap charges low for Williams which has given the Bills few outs in his contract. Any attempt to move Williams in 2015 would cost the Bills $12.4 million against the cap and in 2016 there is still $7 million remaining. For Williams to ever come close to living up to the contract he needs to be a player that transcends the position and play at a MVP level which is doesn’t seem likely to happen leaving the Bills with one of the worst contracts in the entire NFL.
2013’s Best and Worst Bills Contracts:
2013 Best Contract: Stevie Johnson (Trades to 49ers)
2013 Worst Contract: Mario Williams (See above)
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.