My final look for the week features the Cincinnati Bengals
Best Contract: Andrew Whitworth
Slowly but surely the Bengals have become one of my favorite teams to study for contracts. They have a reputation for being cheap but they have been able to field a good team for a few years now and the contracts are almost all very team friendly. They do a good job extending early and using cap room early to make players easy to move on from if they do not work out.
Andrew Whitworth remains, for me, the best value on this team. His contract is one where the numbers look higher than they are because the Bengals signed Whitworth to a two year extension back in 2011, but in reality it was a $6.2 million contract, which is bargain basement pricing for a quality left tackle.
This was a situation where the Bengals acted quickly and extended him after just two years in the NFL to set the stage for numerous good contracts down the line. This is the strategy that the 49ers, Eagles, and Packers often use and they are three of the best managed teams in the NFL. Not surprisingly the Bengals reworked the deal in 2011 by adding another two years to the contract. His cap number the next two years is just $6.2 million each season and the cut cost is next to nothing. In essence this was the contract model used for the recent Joe Staley extension in San Francisco.
What makes this even more impressive is that Whitworth was signed at a time when tackles were making obscene dollar figures. Whitworth’s contract has stood out as the best value at the position over that time. Most players have yearly cap figures between $8.5 and $9 million a season with the top end contracts often topping $10 million. The contracts were loaded with guarantees making cutting of a player difficult in the event of failure once extended. It was never the case with Whitworth whose been a great bargain at a very expensive position.
Worst Contract: Domata Peko
This is one of those teams where pointing out bad deals is more difficult. The contractual guarantees are all low. Nobody is really overpaid and the contract structures allow teams the team to exit whenever they want. I could see choosing Leon Hall since he has had trouble with injuries, had a larger signing bonus, and is paid as an elite cornerback, but at the time he signed the corner salaries were all high and he was playing at a high level. Instead I’ll go with Domata Peko simply because I think he wa overvalued even though he has a relatively decent contract structure.
Peko was another player who was initially extended early by the Bengals and was set to earn $4.325 million in 2014 due to the inclusion of some moderately easy to earn escalators. I’m not really sure what Peko did to earn a raise and a new contract but that is Cincinnati decided he did enough for one. The Bengals increased his salary to $5.9 million, $4.4 million of which was guaranteed, in exchange for the next two years at $3.7 million.
It’s not really a bad contract as much as it is an unnecessary one. Peko consistently grades as one of the worst defensive tackles in the NFL. Last year Pro Football Focus ranked him 66 out of 69 qualifying players. That should not be worth the 19th highest paid contract at the position. Peko received nearly as high a guarantee along with the same annual contract value as Sen’Derrick Marks, a younger and higher upside player at the same position. Marks signed recently as well and also has a team friendly contract structure.
2013’s Best and Worst Bengals Contracts:
2013 Best Contract:Andrew Whitworth (See Above)
2013 Worst Contract: Michael Johnson (Contract expired; Signed with Buccaneers)